Should Wineries Get Vocal About Their Politics?
The winery chose to be very vocal about their opposition to President Trump’s immigration policy, going so far as to put a “Resistance” symbol on their label, being vocal in the media about their opposition, and announcing their opposition to the President’s various policies on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They took a principled stand.
The upshot was that they lost the support of a small number of important customers located in Texas, Florida, Missouri and Georgia who, together, purchased over $120,000 in wine in 2016 and had a lifetime value of more than $320,000. The loss of future value is of course unknown, but it couldn’t be small.
The monetary support for their brand that resulted from mixing their politics with their business was but a small fraction of the monetary support they lost.
Did the winery do the right thing?
The only way to answer this question definitively is by looking at it purely in terms of dollars and cents. But if that dollars and cents equation mattered to the winery, they would not have taken the public stand in the first place.
For quite some time the vast majority of businesses stayed away from getting involved in politics. This changed in the past decade. You saw the change most prominently on the issue of LGBTQ rights, where hundreds of companies signed an amicus brief supporting same-sex marriage and many more came out publicly in favor of full marriage rights. You are going to see this trend of businesses being vocal about their politics continue.
But the legitimate question is still, is it a good idea?
One thing to take note of is that almost no businesses ever get too far out ahead of an issue. You didn’t see many companies publicly campaigning for LGBTQ rights more than a decade ago. The reason they don’t is that the downside is simply too great. And if any company was in the vanguard of an issue, it is usually quietly, either through campaign donations or charitable donations, but nothing loud.
This is almost always smart.
By all measures, it appears that the next four years, at least, will be politically polarizing and both the temptation and the pressure to speak out as a company will be strong. My advice to clients will be to consider the consequences carefully before embarking on even a modest effort to weigh in. My advice will be to consider if the good you think you can do by weighing in on one side or another of an issue through your company’s brand voice can’t also be achieved by taking actions through a private voice or through private action.
While it is entirely possibly for your company to grow and succeed through the devoted support of a small minority of the consumers who might otherwise be willing to support your brand had they not been turned off by your company’s activism, it’s even more likely that your company will grow and succeed by attracting the support of a larger group of consumers who aren’t forced to choose another over you.
Of course, then, there is the principle.