December 11th, 2012
Clarence Otis, CEO of Darden Restaurants, owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster, recently experienced negative brand and earnings consequences from knocking Obamacare — as did the CEOs of Applebee’s and Papa John’s. They backpedaled afterwards.
In the wake of this blowback, some pundits warned CEOs that mixing politics and business is bad for business. To wit: Rick Ungar, self-proclaimed lefty at Forbes magazine, gloated that these restaurateurs got their just “desserts” for politicking.
Really? Companies should, like sheep, accept in silence whatever Big Government dishes out — to protect their brands and earnings? Isn’t silence the conduit to tyranny?
In January, Google and Wikipedia led a spirited protest against SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act), a law intended to hold them liable for their users linking to stolen content like movies and songs. They didn’t want government interfering in their operations and enlisted their users to blast Congress. Such “politicking” was politically correct and successful.
In September, hoteliers in Lumberton, NC, publicly complained that the city council’s doubling of the room-occupancy tax a year prior has hurt their bottom lines — they’ve had to lower rates to keep the total tabs below the $50/night threshold. Did anyone damn these CEOs for mixing politics and business? No evidence so far.
Know Your Customers
What is going on here? Why the inconsistency? What’s a CEO to do?
Google and Wikipedia “appeared” to be for consumers, while the restaurants “appeared” to be against them. In fact, all the businesses were fighting for their bottom lines — anathema to anticapitalists. Perception rules.
Run your business, in every storm, to enrich shareholders: raise prices, eliminate products, fire employees, shutter factories, lobby your pols. But, before opining publicly, first know the mentalities and behavioral tendencies of your customers.
We live in an era of the infantile, entitled voter. The entitlement attitude begins in childhood. Let’s examine some dialogue between divorced father Alan Harper and his son Jake Harper, from an episode (“A Pot Smoking Monkey”) of Two and a Half Men:
Jake: Hey, Dad, how come you don’t give me an allowance?
Alan: Because your mother gives you an allowance.
Jake: It doesn’t seem fair that Mom has to pay me and you don’t.
Alan: Let me explain something to you: Every cent your mother has comes from me. So, when she gives you an allowance, it’s really me giving you an allowance.
Jake: I don’t need to know how it works; I just need more money.
By examining the last election, we know that most Obama voters share or condone Jake’s attitude of entitlement and indifference to fiscal mechanics. They don’t want to understand deficits and debt, don’t care that 46 cents of every federal dollar spent is borrowed, and are unaware that the latest unemployment rate reflects a shrunken workforce: I don’t need to know how it works; I just need more money.
Moreover, it’s tough for the voter to “know how it works” if she spends most of her waking hours texting her artificial friends — an infantile behavior — as in Toyota’s commercial below:
Parting Advice to CEOs
If your customers, regardless of age, have infantile attitudes of entitlement, and you are planning to tamper with their expected candy intake (e.g., eliminating Obamacare), you will create a branding firestorm by announcing it. Remember: Honesty works only with adults.
Obamacare should be knocked — and eliminated. The costs of this ill-conceived monstrosity will destroy many businesses, including hospitals, and family budgets. CEOs should be able to knock Obamacare and score branding victories, a la Google and Wikipedia. But, in our infantile, entitled culture, their customers and employees don’t need to know how it works; they just need more money.
About the Author
Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
© 2012 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.
Tags: Applebee's, Big Government, branding, CEO, Clarence Otis, Darden Restaurants, Forbes Magazine, Google, Marc Rudov, marketing, Obamacare, Olive Garden, Papa John's, Red Lobster, Rick Ungar, Toyota, Two and a Half Men, tyranny, Wikipedia