Skip to comments.Chick-Fil-A Gay Flap A 'Wakeup Call' For Companies
Posted on 07/27/2012 4:25:08 PM PDT by nickcarraway
Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A has long stood by its Bible-based roots, keeping stores closed on Sundays and donating millions to Christian causes. But when its president, Dan Cathy, went public to defend his company's stance against gay marriage, he set off a considerable controversy that has everyone from politicians to puppets weighing in.
First telling the Baptist Press his company supported the "biblical definition of the family unit," Cathy then told the radio program The Ken Coleman Show, "I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about."
The backlash spread swiftly. Boston's mayor pledged to block the chicken sandwich stores from opening in Beantown, a Chicago alderman said he'll try to stop a franchise from opening in his ward and the Jim Henson Co. cutoff its Chick-fil-A collaboration. Because it's a private company, it will be difficult to measure the bottom-line impact of all the attention.
Social Media Spread
Americus Reed, a marketing professor at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School who studies brand loyalty, says Cathy underestimated what might happen once his comments to a niche religious publication and a syndicated radio show spread to a wider audience.
"I think this is part of the wake-up call for companies to understand that social media makes these decisions very, very risky," Reed said, "because it's much easier now for these messages to get out to consumers and consumers to virtually organize."
Support For Gay Rights
But other companies see the risks of going public on controversial issues differently. This year, a handful of big brands have made headlines for taking the opposite side supporting same-sex rights and benefits.
"From time to time we are going to make a decision that we think is consistent with the heritage and the tradition of the company that perhaps may be inconsistent with one group's view of the world," Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO, said at a shareholder meeting in March.
He explained the coffee giant's pro-gay positions were about making its employees proud and aligning with its corporate values.
"Since we made that decision there has not been any dilution whatsoever in our business, and as you can see, shareholder value has increased significantly," Schultz said, citing revenue growth in the face of efforts like DumpStarbucks.com, led by pro-family organizations.
The lure of dollars from a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender market is another likely motivator for taking certain social stands. Marketing firm Witeck-Combs estimated the LGBT market's buying power at $800 billion last year.
"I think it's a sign of the times to try and speak to other groups that potentially one has not had a connection with, and that's just part and parcel with trying to grow your market," Reed said.
But beyond the big bucks, corporate reputation specialist Sekou Bermiss says companies may be motivated to contribute to community good.
"More and more, you see firms that are trying to or feel obliged to certain issues in society, [to] do some greater good in society," Bermiss said.
Boycotts And Bottom Lines
Starbucks, Target and General Mills all stepped into the same-sex marriage issue by supporting gay marriage legislation in their home states. Each face ongoing boycotts led by the American Family Association and the National Organization for Marriage for doing so. The National Organization for Marriage said it's uncertain whether its boycotts are having an impact on businesses.
And after JC Penney hired Ellen DeGeneres as its spokesperson, the socially conservative group One Million Moms called for her firing.
"They wanted to get me fired and I'm proud and happy to say that JC Penney stuck by their decision to make me their spokesperson," DeGeneres said on her show. The retailer also started running Mother's Day and Father's Day ads featuring same-sex couples.
But Reed says companies that make a social argument for business gain should be prepared to change course if an outcry leads to longer term losses.
"Most brands are keeping their heads down because these are very controversial sorts of strategies. And it probably makes sense good business sense to not weigh in on these issues," Reed said.
That's a lesson Chick-fil-A seems to be learning quickly.
It declined requests for an interview, but in a statement said, "Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate to the political arena
You know, I WOULD love to see what happens if npr doesn’t receive public funding.
To think, he’s taking heat for standing up for traditional marriage WITHOUT condemning anything.
Black is white, up is down, etc.
Chick-Fil-A sales are way up, and J.C. Penney common stock has TANKED.
This idiot prof is right by being wrong.
Chick-Fil-A is going to prosper like never before.
My family stopped shopping at JCP after they went gay. There’s other places we can go that don’t put deviants in their advertising.
I have added them to my weekly lunch rotatation, beginning today. I am but one meal a week, but I suspect I am not alone.
Unless they lose business licences, leases, etc. They could be forced out of business.
Add Amazon to the fray. It will be interesting to see how this works out.
I rarely frequent fast food joints, but I am going to make an effort to eat more chicken from now on. They just got four new customers from my immediate family.
“It declined requests for an interview, but in a statement said, “Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate to the political arena.”
Because we’re raking in tons of cash and serving so many people this week, we don’t have time to talk to the press.
I am hitting the local one tomorrow for lunch, I am sure I will not be alone
I have now - as of yesterday two within 5 miles & I never eaten at them. Starting this week they will see me - that's for sure.
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Why is it OK for companies to state support for a political position but not against it (rhetorical question, I know the answer)? I barely remember a peep when Starbucks supported gay marriage, didn’t even know about Target and General Mills. Oh well - thanks for the article, need to start my list from this of those places I won’t shop at anymore - Starbuck’s coffee pretty much sucks and is too expensive anyway.
I bet they scare away ALL of their customers and force them to shut their doors.
Won't they be PROUD?
“That’s a lesson Chick-fil-A seems to be learning quickly.”
That’s some darn crazy spin as Chick-Fil-A is laughing all the way to the bank. I can’t wait to get my beach towel from them. I wish they could ship their chicken.
Defunding NPR and PBS should be one of the first things on the agenda in the next congress ... Along with defunding ObamaCare, Education, DHS, TSA, HHS, Commerce, Ag, Energy, EPA, HUD and every board and commission that has an ethnic name in it. (btw, that is just the short list off the top of my head.)
National (Anti-American) “Propaganda” Radio
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