|The Cathy Family / Chick-fil-A Website|
Privately-owned, Georgia-based fast food chain Chick-fil-A is apparently not afraid of courting controversy.
Company President Dan Cathy recently gave an interview to the Baptist Press in which he said he was "guilty as charged" in support of what he called the biblical definition of a family.
This was not a slip of the tongue. Indeed, on the Chick-fil-A corporate website, Mr. Cathy's biography confirms that his "personal passion" is "to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us."
As evidenced by these statements, Chick-fil-A represents a "red brand," that is, a mainstream consumer brand that appeals to some purchasers by openly espousing principles that tend to fall on the conservative/Republican end of the political spectrum.
According to a recent survey, which confirmed previous findings published by AdAge in 2010, political viewpoints strongly affect consumer loyalty and perceptions. And there are plenty of brands to go around, regardless of your particular political viewpoint.
Studies consistently show that "Blue brands," or those top companies favored by liberals/Democrats include Google, Sony, Johnson & Johnson, JetBlue and Ben & Jerry's.
|Ben & Jerry's "Occupy Wall Street" Banner / Ben & Jerry's Website|
Most of the time, these brands' outward expression of philosophical principles that overlap with political views still allow them to prosper by maintaining a strong customer base by remaining loyal to those principles without significantly alienating those who share a different viewpoint. The simple reality is that Ben & Jerry's viewpoints, no matter how controversial, simply haven't negatively affected overall sales of their popular flavors.
But sometimes, mixing consumerism with politics can turn ugly. And Chick-fil-A has become a case in point.
Mr. Cathy's interview led to the fast food chain's expansion facing significant, vocal opposition from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who has called the chain a direct insult to gays, and has informed the company that it is simply not welcome in Boston.
Putting aside the First Amendment implications of these threats, it is clear that when a brand wades too deeply into political waters, there can be undesirable economic consequences.