Iconic basketball phenom Michael Jordan once astutely observed that “Republicans buy sneakers too,” which underscores a salient point— taking sides in political squabbles is simply not good business. But for the thoughtful marketing and branding professional who understands the fickleness of brand loyalty, especially today, only disbelief can be attributed to the blunder made by Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola (Atlanta, Georgia based firms), and Major League Baseball by voicing opposition to the April 1, 2021, Georgia Voting Law.
This is not to say that airing one’s opinion should not be expressed. Timing and context matter. At another point in time which is less volatile, and by individuals not directly affiliated with the respective companies, could positive statements be made to calm the situation. From a marketing and public relations perspective, it is not good for business or intelligent for profit-based corporations to make such a pronouncement. Not smart interpersonal relations, either! From the business side of the equation, this misstep can best be understood by referencing the medical shibboleth of “doing no harm.” By applying this prescription to market share, which is the percentage of one‘s customers who are loyal to a brand compared to the total number of consumers who purchase a particular product category, one can see the error of these “woke” executive’s ways.
The result—serious erosion of customers, with long-term damage to the brand a very likely derivative. With that said, it should be no secret to results-driven executives that the goal in any business activity is attracting as many customers within the ‘selling space’ as one can. Committing an “unforced error” e.g., alienating a certain target market by taking a controversial position (not a position held by a majority of customers) is probably not the smartest tactic to use. This is especially true when long-term profit, market share, and positive brand perceptions are at stake. Even the best Public Affairs department (PA) fail many times to comprehend exactly what their respective corporation’s strategy should be—to make a profit.
Many PA types often come from the political arena where deals trump profit and market share is an unknown construct or merely a consideration for the marketing un-woke within the organization. To complicate things further, “Group-Think” is stronger here than anywhere else within the organization. Within these Public Affairs corridors of thought, “dug-in” opinions are the norm, and change in thought is a virtual impossibility. It is here that being on the woke side of an issue that counts rather than on satisfying the needs of customers who want to buy products (brands) that they have grown to love over the years.
On the interpersonal side, one would not even think twice about taking sides in a fight that two dear friends were engaged. For the thinking-oriented person who wants to appear neutral in the skirmish, sitting it out would undoubtedly be the best course of action. If only rational thinking rather than an emotional response like this (taking sides) be made. For a vociferous minority, the cause in question may not be negotiable. But others may not see it in quite the same way and is reason enough to simply stay out of the way. There is precedence for this neutral approach.
Just take a look at what happened in the past where there was a clear separation between business and politics. It was only recently where woke executives wanted to weigh in on the issues of the day when serious conflicts could be seen and a breach between customers and company leadership could be seen it’s almost like these executives forget to implement Oprah’s warning of staying in your lane. If only they would have remembered these wise words so that so much conflict could be avoided. Politics should be kept separate from business especially when two sides feel strongly about an issue and compromise is the only solution. This is where professional politicians can come up with the final bill. It’s why politics is not good business and why it is always easier when you have marketing and branding in mind.
Dr. John Tantillo is a Newsmax TV contributer seen every Wednesday at 1:45 pm EST, where he applies branding and marketing to the issues f the day. He is an Assistant Professor of Marketing and Management at Touro College for Men in Kew Garden Hills, NY. His helpful links to branding and marketing can be found on the link below: https://linktr.ee/DrJohnTantillo
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