Many businesses have long realized that their target markets are passionate about politics, and that people tend to vote with their wallets. This can lead to political posturing in the commercial sphere, but this often backfires. At the end of the day, most consumers are going to care about and embrace your business for providing a quality product or service, not for wearing your political heart on your sleeve. Read on for some examples of ill-advised political PR disasters.
In response to new immigration restrictions, Starbucks pledged to hire 10,000 Syrian refugees over the course of five years. Then came the fallout: A large majority of people hit social media with #BoycottStarbucks, deleted their Starbucks app and got in line at Dunkin’ Donuts. This backlash led to Starbucks releasing another statement that they had set up a plan to hire 10,000 veterans over the course of five years. But it was too little too late – the damage was done. Starbucks should have realized that as a business with a large share in the coffee market, any political stand was bound to alienate a percentage of consumers.
During a taxi strike and major protest surrounding immigration bans, rideshare company and bane of taxi businesses Uber disabled their surcharges. A vast amount of people perceived the move as an attempt to profit from the anti-immigration situation. Coupled with the fact that Uber’s CEO was on the President’s economic board, social media users created the hashtag #DeleteUber and the boycott began. Uber took to their own social media to remedy the situation, which only drew more public ire. To make things even worse, their major competitor Lyft donated $1 million to the ACLU, rubbing salt in the Uber’s wound, making them look even more like corrupt “bad guys” purely motivated by profit.
Unfortunately, when you get caught in the fire, you are going to feel the burn. These companies made the choice to go down politically charged paths and there were consequences that will change the structure of their businesses.