Would Your Customers Speak Out for You?

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I grew up in liberal-minded Wisconsin. I live in the liberal-minded Hudson Valley. I teach at a liberal-minded university. And a majority of my friends are liberal-minded, too.

That kind of “selective exposure” is dangerous for many reasons because it’s easy to think that everyone thinks like you do. (And anyone who doesn’t is just plain wrong.)

Typically, this dynamic affects political debates or arguments about issues, like climate change. But increasingly it impacts how people feel about brands—especially those with strong “red” or “blue” identities.

Chick-fil-A is one of those brands because it wears its Christian values on its sleeve. The CEO’s public opposition to same-sex marriage has recently stirred up a storm of commentary on my Facebook feed condemning the chicken chain. The unanimous theme: 

Anyone who supports Chick-fil-A isn’t just plain wrong, they’re plain dumb and intolerant, too.

Meanwhile, a far different narrative is unfolding among Chick-fil-A supporters, who are stuffing their social-network channels with their own like-minded message:

“I proudly support Chick-Fil-A and their stance towards marriage. Love a company that is bold, God-centered, and moral!” 

I’ve been following #ChickFilA on Twitter this morning and tweets supporting the company outnumber those against by at least 4 to 1. As I post this, more than 190,000 Facebook fans have signed up to attend Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day on August 1. 

Would your customers stand up for you as vigorously? Would they speak out publicly and risk being criticized themselves? Would they even know what you stand for? 

I don’t support Chick-fil-A’s position or politics. But marketers on both sides of the fence should pay close attention to this rapidly evolving story to understand the power (and pitfalls) of values-based brand loyalty, whether you Eat Mor Chikin or not.