Boycott Watch  
August 3, 2012
Chick-fil-A Boycott Backfires
Summary:Visceral reactions and poor planning can backfire.
    Boycott Watch has often reported the inherent failure of businesses donating to hot-button political organizations, as it polarizes the customer base. That happened with Chick-fil-A, as the company president made a statement that he was against gay marriage, resulting in a boycott of the company. When the word got out, a massive counter campaign was formed, resulting in long lines at Chick-fil-A stores as people stood in line, sometimes for hours, to show support for the company. The reaction surprised some, but Boycott Watch sees a trend which puts political conservatives in the consumer drivers' seat.

    After Whole Foods was boycotted three years ago when the company president took a stance against the Affordable Health Care Act / Obama Care, Tea Party activists staged events to bring people into the chain to buy products, and it worked. What we saw in both cases was a positive consumer response countering a negative response - the overwhelming responses were to purchase products, sending a very strong message in support of the executives to exercise their free speech. As we wrote in the fore mentioned articles, being an executive in a company does not preclude one from exercising their free speech rights, nor should it be expected of anyone.

    In both responses, the counter-protesting consumers purchasing products were well mannered and upbeat. Contrast that with the Occupy Wall Street movement which had massive protests that were, putting it mildly, less than clean. All politics aside, the lesson here is positive movements such as buying at Chick-fil-A and Whole Foods have a more positive result in both the public eye and the to the businesses addressed.

    In order for boycotts to be effective, there must be a reasonably attainable goal. A boycott can ask a company to not carry a single non-essential product, but you cannot, for example, expect a fast-food hamburger chain to stop selling beef. Nor is it reasonable to expect any corporate executive to not express views some people may not like.

    Both of these boycott cases shared one objective, shutting down freedom of speech where it did not agree with the protesters. These boycotts inherently failed because protests and boycotts are not going to change the political or religious outlook of anyone. If anything, the boycotts which started without even a single phone call to discuss the situation or an end-goal would just strengthen the resolve of the people whose free speech is being protested.

    The real result for both cases was that both chains brought in new customers who have never tried either store, and thus now the stores have new customers. Considering the vast number of new customers at Chick-fil-A and the publicity the company received, there is no question the company will have increased sales for a long time to come. The boycott against Chick-fil-A was therefore not only a failure, but it actually helped the company beyond anyone's wildest dreams.

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