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You Know Who Can Ruin Your Marketing? Obama.

By November 25, 2013July 1st, 2015Marketing Insights & Strategy
You Know Who Can Ruin Your Marketing? Obama.

Ok, calm down. This isn’t a political rant about Obama or any other political figure or party. However, it’s not a stretch for me to say that the politics of our nation have become more and more toxic. Politics has become less about democracy, cooperation and compromise and more about a professional sports-level desire to win.

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to show my hand. I’m not a partisan person. I don’t belong to a party. I have voted for Republicans. I have voted for Democrats. I have praised both sides when merited and condemned both sides when deserved.

But this isn’t about them. It’s about you.

It about you, the folks on the right and you the folks on the left who turn your businesses into a forum for political speech.

Before you get yourself all riled up, I believe in freedom of speech. I believe that every person can and should voice their opinion. It’s a right, not a privilege.

However, the consequence to voicing your opinion is that some people may not want to do business with you. And not because they disagree with you, but because they don’t want to be attached to someone who is making public statements that could be controversial or turn off existing or potential customers.

Does Hate Sell?

A few days ago, I visited the site of company that offers business coaching. They offer to help people run and market their businesses better.

Their latest article featured a condemnation of the government’s failures. However, it quickly devolved into an attack on Democrats. A few days later, the same blog published another article about “hate.” I’ll spare you the pretense and boil it down for you.

*Point #1: The Democrats are driven by hate.
*Point #2: Don’t be a Democrat.
*Point #3: Democrats suck.

After reading these two back to back articles, I decided to check the archives. The list of articles posted on the site was a mix of business and marketing articles that I would expect. Right up until the government shutdown. At around the date the shutdown hit, every article was a blog-based-meltdown by the author pointed at the left.

While I’m not condemning the author for writing whatever he chooses to, it is up for debate whether or not the business website is the proper forum for these comments.

Can content like this harm this business?

Will Democrats who run businesses want to hire this business?

Will Republicans who run businesses want to wear their ideology on their sleeve?

Seeking Attorney? Find Jesus.

Some time ago, we were hired to do some consulting for an attorney that specialized in bankruptcy law. I started doing my standard begining-of-project reasearch and found a competing local bankruptcy attorney. That competitor offered the same basic services as my client except with one caveat. If you wanted them to represent you in your banrkruptcy proceeding, you needed to accept Christ.

This was on their website.

I can’t speak to how this message affected their business, but I’m sure that any local Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Atheists, Hindus, or Scientologists seeking a bankruptcy attorney weren’t going to bite on that offer.

To be fair, that business may not care. Maybe they want to service Christians exculsively and they are happy about that. But that’s not the typical business. Most businesses don’t want to turn away dense segments of the population.

Nothing Motivates Like A Decapitated Head

Then there was the time right before Obama was elected the first time that a client of mine decided (on their own) to send an email blast to all of their clients asking them to consider not voting for a “Kenyan Born Muslim” who had “clear ties to Al Quaeda”.

Regardless of the politics, I’m sure what people took most offense to was the attached photo of a decapitated American soldier in Iraq with the words “This is what Obama wants” Photoshopped on it.

There were two consequences to this email.

First, many people reached out to my company and condemned us for the email. We were fortunate to be able to cleanly distance ourselves, but we promptly “fired” the client.

Second, our former client’s company lost investor funding and went out of business in a handful of months.

We can debate whether or not some on that list agreed with the sentiment, but they also liked their businesses running and making money so they kept their mouths shut and distanced themselves as well.

The Flip Side

The flip side to this whole conversation is that ideological speech may be good and helpful to your business if that speech is positive. If you want to support local or national causes that make your business a positive part of the community then that can amount to tremendous benefits both from a business and personal perspective.

There is a big difference between “we support our troops” and “American troops are murdering children overseas.” Only one of those statements has a remote shot of endearing the general public to your business.

Politics And Business

Ok. So you think the Democrats are awful. Or the Republicans are terrible. Or the Tea Party are kooks. Or the Founding Fathers were space aliens.

Keep it to yourself. Or more specifically, away from your business. If you have employees and need to keep making payroll, you have a much bigger obligation to those folks than you do to bashing [insert politician here].

We’ve seen major national brands get bad press, boycotted or worse because someone had to comment on gays or liberals or conservatives or health care or socialism or whatever.

Is it really worth it to the health of your business?

Be Loud And Proud

Here’s an alternative. If you really need to get your feelings out, do it in a way that is detached from your business and your employees. Start a separate and distinct blog. Use a separate personal Twitter account. Start a personal Tumblr.

Anything. The tools available to you are limitless. And no matter what your ideology is, you’ll find listeners. Your voice will echo into eternity with your fellow ideologues.

As a precaution, consider adding a disclaimer to your site that the thoughts presented are your own. You’re entitled to that. It’s your right.

But enjoy your right without hurting others and that includes your business.

Have you put your political ideology up for public view at your business’ expense? I’d love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments.

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Ashley Faulkes says:

    Hey Ralph,
    After seeing the Triberr email I realised I had not been over here for a while.
    This blog post is crazy! I cannot believe these things actually take place and from quite sane individuals.
    What a way to jeopardize your business. Go on a rant to everyone you know including your customers. And expect impunity. Not to mention that everyone will agree with you.
    Very interesting read

    • Thanks! This post almost didn’t make it into publication for the very same reason. We din’t want it to be read as a political rant, but as a rant against political rants.

  • Sylviane Nuccio says:

    Hi Ralph,

    I want to say to those people, please, do yourself a favor and stay away from politics and religion. Those are two very touchy subjects that you shouldn’t share publicly, because it’s the best way to make some potential customers flee from you.

    Now how crazy do you have to be to send such a frightening picture in an email? I guess they know now how stupid that was.

    What about staying far away from all of that and run your business peacefully attracting all the right customers and clients? That’s how I like to do business.

  • Adrienne says:

    Hey Ralph…

    I’m like Sylviane, I’m very opinionated and I definitely have got a LOT to say about politics and religion but I don’t. Why? Because people will believe the way they want to believe and not one darn thing I say will change that. Do I want to get in an argument with people over something like that and jeopardize my opportunity to work with them in the future? Hell no.

    It amazes me though that so many businesses do just that. I’m sure they’re very passionate about their beliefs and when they’re so upset over something it’s obvious that they can’t help themselves.

    What they have to remember though is once you put it out there you can’t take it back. I’d rather rant in the comfort of my own home and do what I can from my end without it folding over into my business life.

    Huge wake up call for many and I’m sure several of the businesses that have taken these steps regret them now. Or maybe not, who knows.


  • Andi-Roo says:

    My hubz worked for a local pet supply chain {Complete Petmart} for many years, and the president made no effort to hide his blatant racism {no blacks or other minorities hired across the board, along with commentary and jibes shared with office staff who had to keep quiet about it if they wanted to continue working for him.} My hubz was scared to even put a pro-Obama bumper sticker on our car because if the company prez saw it, my hubz would get fired. How do we know all this? One of the office staff was none other than my hubz’ own mother, who served as the company’s HR person and personal assistant. My MIL read to me several inner-office emails which were pretty crazy and far Right-leaning. The one time my MIL spoke up on the topic, the prez yelled at her and they didn’t speak for a week, and she was frightened she might have just lost her 20+-year career. So we got to experience THAT end of political silencing through business posturing.

    As for losing customers, I have to believe he simply didn’t give a crap. If the company is doing well enough, which it clearly was, since the prez sold it for millions to the national chain Petco, I don’t guess that minority or non-Christian customers are really a concern for those who feel as though they are on the moral high ground.

    Ultimately, I think your rant against political rants is going to fall on deaf ears. Much like my rants do. People who want to rant have hot tempers and they don’t think before they speak. Or if they do think, the consequences seem worth it at the time. I doubt anyone learns their lesson in this. If the prez of that company ever really got called out, he might act contrite in public, but at home he’d still be going on and on about those damn crazy Liberals who ruined his business and his life. He’d never have attributed blame to his big mouth. And if he went on to open a new business, he’d act the same damn way. Because that’s just what people do.

    Take Barilla, for example. His anti-gay / pro-traditional family values stance caused some serious fallout for the pasta company that isn’t going to be easily repaired. His apology fell flat because it wasn’t even an apology so much as an insinuation that the fault of the bad feelings lay mostly with those who took offense to his offensive statements. But at the end of the day, is Barilla really going to lose business? No, I just don’t think so. For every 10 customers who ban them, 20 more will purchase their product out of {a} support for the anti-gay / pro-traditional family values position; {b} pure spite {including some gays who just weren’t offended, although I don’t understand that at all}; or {c} ignorance of the actual case but possessing of an off-handed interest in a product that’s been in the news so much lately. My point is this: Barilla will be just fine, it’s poor political / religious / lifestyle positions aside.

    I think that companies who state their position are actually brave and good for doing so, even if I don’t agree with their stance. I want to know where my money is going. If I am going to buy an expensive coat for my teenager, I want to know that the CEO of that crap-tastic mall store Abercrombie & Fitch is an ass-hat so I can avoid giving him my dollars. I want to know that Chick-Fil-A is run by some seriously backwards gay-bashing jerk-faces so I can buy lunch somewhere else. I want to know exactly which companies are run by assholes. I’m always grateful when their personal positions come to light. I say, let the political rants continue, so I know where to shop.

    It’s not the customers who suffer from all this, and it’s not the CEOs or business owners. It’s the employees who are stuck under it, afraid for their jobs. And maybe if it keeps happening, enough underlings will get sick enough of the nonsense that a revolution will start. It would be nice to see capitalism take a nice punch to the chin due to its idiotic leaders being unable to have kind hearts, and further, their inability to keep their mouths shut about it.

  • Linda Rastelli says:

    politics can be dangerous.