Posts Tagged ‘bigotry’

When brands promote a culture of bigotry

December 24th, 2013 No comments

cracker barrel

Recent comments by reality TV star Phil Robertson have provided yet another opportunity for Americans to learn what is and isn’t protected by the First Amendment, among other things. Here’s what he said:

On vagina and anal sex:
“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

On “blacks” of pre-civil-rights-era Louisiana:
They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
[What The Duck? – GQ Magazine – Jan. 2014]

Duck Dynasty’s host A&E promptly suspended Robertson who has made far worse comments. Whether you share his beliefs or not, most people reading this post understand the Constitution protects our choice of speech from government actions, not the consequences from private citizens. That fact hasn’t stopped a contrary perception from being the perennially memetic teaching moment it has become.

Yes America, if it is not obvious, you have the right to be a moron. What is new is how some corporate brands have been willing to embrace and promote bad messages out of a belief they are standing up for the United States Constitution or large groups of customers. The latest example is Tennessee-based Cracker Barrel.

“You told us we made a mistake. And, you weren’t shy about it. You wrote, you called and you took to social media to express your thoughts and feelings. You flat out told us we were wrong. We listened. Today, we are putting all our Duck Dynasty products back in our stores. And, we apologize for offending you.”

By pledging to keep Duck Dynasty products on their shelves, Cracker Barrel has chosen to use their brand to amplify a culture of bigotry. By further issuing an apology to angry customers who support Robertson’s comments, Cracker Barrel’s actions invested their entire brand into the content of Robertson’s character.

BRAND PROBLEM: The temptation brands have to resist in deciding whether to take sides on the social issues of customers nowadays is assuming the loudness of one message or another is somehow a measure of its morality or the justness of its cause. Another temptation brands have to resist is thinking customers are a monolithic “you” who share beliefs instead of sharing values.

BRAND SOLUTION: Most every successful American brand has a mission statement and expressed values that nearly always reflects the ideas of the kind of America we all want to see. No one would fault a company for choosing to echo their more established values over the angry noise of America working out what it believes along the way.

It’s too bad some brands find themselves with a calibre of leadership that doesn’t simply adhere to the wisdom and values of their own carefully crafted mission statements, but now that corporations are starting to act more like people it’s getting easier to discover just what kind of people they want us to know they are.

A&E TV with shit on itUPDATE 12-27-13: Well, that suspension lasted all of zero episodes. Phil Robertson is back on A&E resonating with ad dollars and America’s heart. Here’s A&E explaining why they changed their minds.

“But Duck Dynasty is not a show about one man’s views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family … a family that America has come to love.”
[A&E Welcomes Phil Robertson Back to ‘Duck Dynasty’ – The Hollywood Reporter – 12-27-13]

Why Gov. Bill Haslam should veto HB0600

Rep. Glen Casada was the Tea Party pick for House Speaker to lead their divisive charge through Tennessee government, but the state’s Republican Party wisely chose their best leader instead by electing the first female Speaker of the House in state history.

There is a reason Rep. Casada’s own party didn’t entrust him with that power, and it’s the same reason Gov. Bill Haslam should veto HB0600.

Republicans ran on a jobs agenda, but the video above clearly shows where jobs falls on the agenda of Rep. Glen Casada and how much time his politics takes away from serious issues. This session proved that point yet again to the voters of Tennessee.

Rep. Casada was so desperate to stop Nashville’s local city government from extending work place protections to its citizens that Casada convinced lawmakers that Tennessee’s most respected job creators wanted to defeat such protections as well.

Rep. Casada worked with friends at the TN Chamber of Commerce who willingly borrowed the prestige of some of their most innovative and successful brands creating jobs in districts across the state: FedEx, AT&T, Comcast, DuPont, Pfizer, Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Caterpillar, KPMG, Whirlpool, Embraer and United HealthCare.

But there was just one problem with that. As these brands are just now finding out this week, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce misappropriated and misrepresented their values to lawmakers, the governor and the voters of Tennessee. Here’s some of the statements released in the past few days:


“Alcoa provides equal employment opportunity without discrimination and supports state and local legislation protecting the rights of all community members. We do not agree with the chamber on this issue and would ask that the governor veto the bill.


FedEx did not lobby for SB632/HB600 – it is our policy not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. While FedEx is a member of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, we do not support every position proposed by the Chamber.


HB600/SB632 has become more closely associated with eroding civil liberties than fostering a strong business climate and this we do not support.

This is the kind of politics Rep. Glen Casada engages in. It’s the only kind of politics that makes good business distance itself from Tennessee, and it’s all that’s left for politicians who give up on serving their people.

Governor Haslam, don’t be the kind of governor that lifts up this kind of politics. Be Tennessee’s governor, and tell the legislature to focus on your jobs agenda by vetoing HB0600.

TAKE ACTION: use the following form to send a message to members of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce.

UPDATE 5-23-11 12:34pm: KPMG is now the latest major job creator in Tennessee to join Alcoa, Nissan, FedEx and AT&T in calling out the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce’s misuse of their brands. Tell Gov. Bill Haslam to embrace the pro-business politics of our state’s very best job creators and stop legislative efforts to push them away.

KPMG did not vote to support the Chamber’s adoption of a policy to back this bill, nor do we support the legislation, the effect of which runs counter to KPMG’s policies, core values and our long-standing support for diversity in the workplace in all its forms. KPMG fosters an environment of inclusion and we encourage our employees to share their views, sexual orientation and gender identity, broadening everyone’s awareness of individual differences. We are proud of our record and the fact that Diversity Inc recently named KPMG the top firm for LGBT employees.

UPDATE 5-23-11 2:08pm: UnitedHealth is the latest job creator in Tennessee to distance itself from the TN Chamber of Commerce in an expression of their much better values:

UnitedHealth Group believes in recruiting and retaining a workforce that mirrors the multicultural communities we serve. A mix of different backgrounds and perspectives helps us develop strong products and programs our customers need. As part of that commitment, UnitedHealth Group supports and offers domestic partner benefits. We did not lobby for nor support Tennessee SB632/HB600.

UPDATE 5-23-11 4:00pm: Comcast issues statement opposing this law saying it “sends the wrong signal across Tennessee and around the country”

At Comcast, we believe it’s simple: discrimination is wrong. Our policy of non-discrimination provides the same protections to all our employees, whether in Tennessee or any other state. Consistent with that, we don’t support Tennessee SB632/HB600. Comcast agrees with the NGLCC, “No one should be judged by his or her sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace. In this delicate economic climate, diminishing the rights of LGBT people sends the wrong signal across Tennessee and around the country.”

UPDATE 5-23-11 4:29pm: Whirlpool joins Tennessee’s most successful companies in opposing HB600 and the values expressed by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce.

Whirlpool Corporation opposes this legislation, which runs counter to our core values of diversity and inclusion. We are reaching out to the Governor’s office and the Chamber to inform them of our position.

UPDATE 5-23-11 5:27pm: Embraer “does not support the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce’s position.” Governor Haslam, let’s stand with the very best industries in Tennessee.

While we are members of the Chamber of Commerce, Embraer has not lobbied for the SB632/HB600 and does not support the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce’s position on this or any initiative that limits the principle of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

UPDATE 5-23-11 6:00pm: Gov. Bill Haslam has signed HB600, siding with a divisive political agenda over the pro-business values and policies of Tennessee’s best job creators. Gov. Haslam has chosen to lift a brand of politics in Tennessee that good businesses and the nation’s best job creators vocally oppose.

UPDATE 5-23-11 6:30pm: TN Chamber of Commerce President Deb Woolley issued the following statement well after the consequences of her decision to lobby against pro-business values and policies of Tennessee’s most successful employers. Woolley could have called the Governor herself and told him not to sign. She didn’t. The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce deserves a caliber of leadership that best represents the values and successful business practices of its very best members and job creators.

The Tennessee Chamber supports a standard regulatory environment at the state level as opposed to potentially conflicting local regulations covering employment practices. That principle was the only interest the Chamber had in this bill. Because HB600/SB632 has turned into a debate on diversity and inclusiveness—principles which we support—we are now officially opposing this legislation in its present form.

Adopted unanimously May 23, 2011


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