Lots of companies are in hot water and in the public eye lately, and I think it boils down to one thing: not accurately defining their target customer.
Hobby Lobby (a craft and hobby chain) was recently in the news for not carrying Hanukkah items. And when asked why, people were basically told their CEO is a Christian so their company “doesn’t cater to you people.” People who called up were told that Hanukkah wasn’t on Hobby Lobby’s list of holidays. This was after they got some press for not wanting to cover contraception in their female employees’ health plans thanks to their CEO’s religious views.
Barilla pasta famously put foot in mouth recently when the CEO talked about how his company was for “traditional family values,” and said that LGBT people can “eat other pasta.” When LGBT started eating other pasta, this guy couldn’t backtrack fast enough. Unsuccessfully.
And who can forget Chik-Fil-A, who made their not-gay-friendly stance very clear.
That’s just a few who have made the news in 2013. There are many more!
Decide Who Your Target Audience Is
To me, the most interesting thing about each of these cases is the immediate backtracking. When I am proud of my stance and sure of my stance, I don’t backtrack. If I’m not proud or sure, I’m unlikely to blurt it out as my stance. So what is happening here?
I’d love to see the personas someone drew up for these companies.
If Barilla pasta wants to be the pasta of “traditional family values” and feels that LGBT people should choose other brands, then stick with that. You can decide that your target audience is the heterosexual pasta eater. Run with that. Be proud of that and stick with it.
Hobby Lobby can be the Christian craft store. That could even be their new slogan. Let the Jews, Muslims, and everybody else go to Michaels and JoAnn Fabrics. Hobby Lobby. Your Christian Craft Store, where you won’t find any of “those people” there.
At least Chik-Fil-A barely backtracked. I’ll give them that. They stood by their stance, and barely tried to bother making it look like they’d be cool with the LGBT thing.
And I should mention that I’m rather liberal myself, so if I weren’t gluten free anyway and a non-fast-food-eater, I’d be boycotting some of these places right now.
Don’t forget the definition of discrimination (before you say you don’t discriminate)
Discrimination is the “treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.”
If you decide your store or product isn’t for blacks, Jews, gays, lesbians, Muslims, fat people, or any other group, you ARE discriminating. I say if that’s your company’s style, make it official. Bake it into your user personas and everything your company puts out there! That way we all see a wolf even when wearing apologetic sheep’s clothing.
If your target audience is inclusive, then get on the Inclusive Bus and off the Discrimination Tram
If you want your pasta to cater to all pasta eaters, then guess what. That’s all pasta eaters. That might include people of colours, religions, and sexualities that you grew up fearing or disliking. That means you don’t come out publicly and poop on any part of your target audience.
If you are a CEO or high level exec at a company, and you are NOT sure if you should poop on some of your target audience, please go ask your marketing department and PR people. They will be happy to help you not say something before you say it.
PS: All of the above also goes for celebrities and sports figures. You’re welcome.