Is Your Business Playing Chicken?

August 10, 2012

What happens when your brand gets tied to the latest social movement?

There’s only one Chick-fil-A in New York state. It’s hidden within the NYU campus a few blocks south of my apartment and closed for the summer. I’ll never go there. It’s not because of their CEO’s stance on gay marriage, there are just plenty of other options for a quick meal in my neighborhood that are easier to find, and probably healthier. I’m also not going to Starbucks to make a statement with my coffee either, Crumbs is closer and they have great iced coffee, though resisting the cupcakes is a challenge. The consumer movements to support or protest Chick-fil-A, Starbucks and other companies represent a dangerous game of chicken for marketers and their company’s brand image. The media attention and brand impressions from these movements will temporarily increase awareness for these brands, but they’re not helping them meet their customers core needs in the long run. And, for each individual that sees a company more favorably due to their political stances, there are many others that no longer want to consume their products at all.

Political grandstanding, trending social media mentions and the related media coverage are fleeting, but the brand associations remain. Chick-fil-A is in business to sell chicken, just like Starbucks is in business to sell coffee. When you let social or political messages creep into your marketing, you’re playing chicken with your brand. Businesses of all size would be smart to keep this in mind the next time they’re tempted by the transitory spotlight available by attaching your brand to the latest social movement. Now, what’s for lunch?