Marketing experts always applaud a company’s efforts to define its brand image in ways that appeal to its intended audience.
They just don’t recommend that management accomplish that objective by attacking the lifestyles and beliefs of millions of potential customers.
Target marketing probably wasn’t his objective, however, when Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy was quoted in a religious magazine saying, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ ”
In the wake of his statement, and additional comments made on a radio show, restaurant brand consultants are warning that the Atlanta-based fast-food chain, which had enjoyed a rather benign image due to a humorous ad campaign featuring cows holding signs reading “Eat Mor Chikin,” stands to lose millions in revenue if customers associate the company with polarizing political issues instead of tasty food choices.
Even a 1% drop in revenue for the privately held company, which reportedly earns about $4 billion a year, could be costly.
On one side, the outrage over Cathy’s remarks was palpable.
Gay and lesbian groups called for protests at a store opening next week in California and urged same-sex couples to kiss at Chick-fil-A locations on National Same-Sex Kiss Day next week.
Muppets creator Jim Henson’s company—a unit of Disney—severed a toy deal recently launched with the chain. A statement on its Facebook page noted that, “The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over fifty years and we have notified Chick-fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors. Lisa Henson, our CEO, has directed us to donate the payment we received from Chick-fil-A to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.”
News reports later revealed that Chick-fil-A personnel were telling customers the toys had been discontinued because of unspecified “defects.”
(And in a fascinating sideshow to toymageddon, allegations surfaced that Chick-fil-A’s PR people had attempted to quell the Muppet controversy by creating a fake teen-ager to refute the negative comments flowing on Facebook. The poster, named Abby Farle, admonished another poster who stated that the Muppet toys were dumped “because [Chick-Fil-A] were bigots” that, “They took back the toys weeks ago, Chris. Check your information.” Minutes later, other posters noted that “Abby Farle” had joined Facebook only hours earlier and under the subject line “Busted!” revealed that her profile photo was in fact a royalty-free head shot from image vendor Shutterstock.)