We regularly answer marketing questions here on Branding Strategy Insider. Today we hear from Karen, a Vice President of Global Marketing in Los Angeles, California who writes…
“Should brands support positions that discriminate against certain segments of society? Chick-Fil-A against Gay Marriage for example.”
This is a very interesting question Karen. I have said before that brands that stand for something, those that embrace certain values, will create greater emotional connection to those who share their values. Depending on what those values are and how offensive they might be to others, those values may also drive people who don’t share those values away.
Brands that take stands on issues that are important to specific market segments will increase the loyalty of people in those segments.
Brands are all about choices and very few, if any, brands appeal to all people.
For instance, Fox News will appeal to some people, while it will completely turn others off. The same goes for Air America. Some people will sing the praises of the Unitarian Universalist brand of religion, while others will steer completely clear of it. Conversely, some people will find great meaning in the Southern Baptist church, while others will avoid it at all costs.
The more interesting question is, “Should brands that presumably were designed to appeal to all people or at least a broad cross-section of the public take stands that discriminate against certain segments of society?” If the brands are privately owned and run, it is their prerogative, although I am not sure how wise that is from a business perspective, as many would argue against it from a moral perspective. Certainly Chick-Fil-A and Boy Scouts of America (B.S.A.) have done just this.
They have made decisions based on the values of their leaders or at least a plurality of their members. People that do not agree with Chic-Fil-A can choose not to eat there and people who disagree with B.S.A. can choose not to interact with that organization. And public funding sources will not be available to either of those organizations.
A more fundamental question is, “Why would an organization take a strong stand on a controversial issue when it doesn’t have to? Couldn’t the organizational leaders believe what they want to believe but continue to serve the public in a way that attracts the greatest number of customers?”
Have their discriminatory positions hurt these two organizations and others that have taken similar stands? Certainly. Witness the decline of the B.S.A. in Boston and other largely progressive East and West Coast cities. I would argue that it has become an organization that appeals to a significantly more limited segment of society than when I was a youth. Is that a bad thing? It depends on with whom you talk. Many would say, “Of course it is a bad thing” while others would say, “No, it reinforces my values.” While current science would indicate that sexual orientation is not a choice, 44% of the US population view homosexuality as a sinful choice. So, it comes down to beliefs and values. And depending on what you believe or value, brands that discriminate against certain segments of society may either completely turn you off or increase their cache with you.
As always, we welcome your view in the comment section below.
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