Targeting specific demographics and psychographics is nothing new to marketers, but one restaurant chain is taking the concept to a whole new level. Chick-fil-A successfully alienated about half of the U.S population recently when its arguably homophobic president, Dan Cathy, made several statements that made clear in no uncertain terms his stance on gay marriage. (As I’m sure you’ve heard, it’s safe to say that he’s not in favor.)
Whether or not you support gay marriage, at issue here is whether you want an individual’s personal values driving your marketing.
While Cathy didn’t advertise his position or offer discounts to heterosexual couples, he might as well have, given all the media exposure his remarks garnered.
The company long known for its ubiquitous cows urging people to “eat mor chikin,” Chick-fil-A may itself be eating more crow, as protests across the country have some mayors of major cities such as Chicago and San Francisco saying that they don’t want the chain in their cities. And there have also been protests springing up across college campuses. On the other side of the bun, staunch conservative politicians have expressed support for the chain.
You know things have gotten out of hand when a chicken sandwich becomes a political rallying cry, but given the state of politics these days, nothing surprises me anymore.
So, back to personal values driving marketing. While it’s tough to take a stance against companies that support things like better schools and fighting breast cancer, maybe we’re swinging the pendulum way to the right and left, and creating positions that allow people to support companies that line up with their own beliefs, biases, and values. Should we go to the Hetero Hamburger Hamlet or Gay Taco? Or maybe we should choose between the Catholic Café and Lutheran Luncheonette. Hey, what about the Mormon Malt Shop?
As the U.S. becomes more polarized, marketers may be forced to take a stance on more than their products and customer service policies—and that’s going to require some innovative footwork to avoid alienating potential customers.