For shrewd corporations, wars can offer opportunities. Our national “cold Civil War” is no exception. A few years ago, for instance, when Chick-fil-A found itself a prominent target of Progressive pressure, it benefited enormously thereby, as customers rallied in support. Today while cultural hostility sometimes blocks the restaurant’s expansion into new areas, it also adds a bit of spice for the loyal base, who feel a bit of extra satisfaction with each bite of waffle fry.
But Chick-fil-A, while it navigated its crisis wisely and, for the most part, bravely, never actually picked a fight with the Left. Activists who were looking to find the faith-influenced business offensive, unsurprisingly, were able to take offense. Still, the business did nothing to provoke the attacks—it simply weathered them intelligently.
By contrast, the recent trend of big corporations deliberately antagonizing the half of the population that is culturally to the Right, is not a responsive strategy. It’s a unilaterally aggressive, first-strike approach. To many, that seems an odd way to go about doing business.
“Conspicuous activism” by companies like Starbucks, Levi-Strauss, or Nike seems hard to explain in rational terms. Don’t traditional patriotic types, those fond of guns and flags, still buy coffee, blue jeans, and sneakers, as we always have?
Well . . . perhaps not the same coffee, or blue jeans, or sneakers. And not because of boycotts, either.
Some of those iconic-logo, deep-pocketed corporations seem to be marketing as though they assume their market appeal today is exclusively to conspicuous consumers. They presume that the affluent and/or rash are the only ones who’d be motivated to pay for their brand—and perhaps they’re correct. They’ve concluded that the customers they need to reach are those willing to pay too much money for a designer label on a pocket or a rubber shoe or on a disposable cup full of frothy, caffeinated self-righteousness.
If the marketing is clever enough, these companies are no longer merely selling vacuous “status” with their overpriced products, but now also offer cheap self-esteem and in-group affiliation. They’ve infused the old “status symbol” with an equally faux meaning. Thus, a bit of blue dye in the form of leftist political posturing is scientifically added into the marketing mix.
And it’s almost always leftist political posturing, from the big corporations (at least, until Black Rifle Coffee can be counted as a “big corporation” . . .) After all, politically speaking, who are the easily persuadable? What part of the population makes its decisions based on passion, instead of reason; follows its impulses recklessly; craves novelty over practicality; is plagued with insecurities about its identity? That’s right: the 21st-century American Left, an advertiser’s dream target demographic.
As an added bonus, lefties have had a whole lifetime of training in denying any form of economic cause-and-effect. Thus seeing any downside to over spending for the sake of a few warm fuzzies on behalf of “righteousness,” is not just a foreign concept to them. It’s very nearly a thought-crime. “Don’t talk to me about economizing when Social Justice is at stake!”
Naturally, then, marketers pursue them avidly. Some do so in ways which make it clear that they’ve decided families like mine were out of reach in the first place. Levi’s, Nike, and others must have done the math and concluded, “We simply don’t offer the best value for their money, and no emotional pitch of ours will win them over. We need to drop any idea of winning them away from lower-cost alternatives, and concentrate on the suckers.”
Perhaps this makes some mercenary economic sense, in the short term. After all, there’s not much immediate damage since a company can’t actually “lose” customers who were not buying their products in the first place.
Utah-based “Polygamy” beer is one nonpolitical example, of that marketing dynamic. As a beer company, “Polygamy’s” brewers rightly figured that they could write off the teetotaling Latter Day Saints in their home state. Garnering extra attention, then, by poking fun at Mormon history, had a negligible financial downside.
However, politicized attempts to employ the strategy can sometimes backfire. Well-known companies which should have known better, have chosen to antagonize customers whose favor they really had enjoyed. Levi’s and Nike probably should have looked more closely at Marvel Comics and the National Football League.
The NFL’s coddling of unpatriotic displays by spoiled superstars hasn’t done its bottom line any favors, and Marvel Comics conversion to a Control-Left propaganda platform effectively has killed it. The NFL misjudged its audience enough to sacrifice quite a bit, financially; but Marvel Comics seems stubbornly determined to keep “believing in something enough to sacrifice everything”.
Marvel was once a company which both exemplified and expressed American greatness; now, guided by the “America was never great” paradigm, its comics would be likely to make their readers doubt that Marvel ever was a marvel—if anyone bothered to even look at them anymore.
Levi-Strauss’ greatness was associated with that of the American West—like Colt’s, or Winchester’s—but in its repudiation of gun rights, Levis loses any share of Western heritage it retained. As for Nike, if its corporate success were to be determined by ability to inspire derisive memes, then buying Nike shares right now would be a great idea. But it won’t be—so it’s not.
If your business is sneakers, make sneakers
For those who stand on their own two feet.
Don’t try to sell them pre-odorized,
With the stench of a bitter athlete.
Yes, you claim to believe in . . . ”something,”
But circumstances will spoil it,
When “swoosh!” is the sound of your profits
Swirling down, down into the toilet.
So pencil this onto your dollar bills,
Near the space where “In God We Trust” is:
“Get Woke, Go broke!”—for you cannot serve
Both Mammon and “Social Justice.”
Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images