[Note: this is part of our annual Guest Writer Series. Meet guest writer #13.]
Let’s start today’s discussion with a few definitions (which I looked up as I was writing).
endorsement: the act of giving one’s public approval or support to someone or something.
morals: a person’s standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do.
backlash: a strong and adverse reaction by a large number of people, especially to a social or political development.
During my lifetime there have been various instances of consumer backlash due to a company’s or organization’s endorsement of a principle or a social cause. This has been happening since the Florida gay rights activists boycotted orange juice in 1977. The most recent example wasn’t even an endorsement of a cause, but the acknowledgement of what a high-ranking marketing executive considered an accomplishment and an opportunity to promote how inclusive their brand is. OOPS… this case may end up being the biggest financial backfire… ever.
Endorsements, regardless of whether they are implied or explicit, are the double-edged sword corporations must take into account. Publicly traded companies cannot lose sight of their brand’s customer base when considering ANY promotion or collaboration. In light of the recent brewery incident, I’ve been ruminating over several questions surrounding the situation. Maybe you have had similar thoughts.
- Should companies publicly endorse potentially controversial issues?
- Can a company “safely” support one tenet and be sensitive to the opposite viewpoint? If so, how?
- If a corporation chooses to promote a cause, does it matter if it is backed by stockholders? Should it?
- Should I/my family/society look to corporations as our moral compass?
- Should corporations simply concentrate on making the best widgets possible?
There are probably other questions I haven’t even considered. Feel free to add them to the “respectful dialogue.”
Inevitably, I started thinking about my beliefs and the “causes” I stand for…
I am for America! I believe in free speech. I favor the traditional family — parents staying together. I respect the flag. I love God! … and I love people… all people! … no matter what causes they are for.
If a person/company “stands” for a cause, does it preclude them from being loving/accepting of anything outside of that? For people, I humbly suggest that we can and should respect everyone…period. However, I also believe that just because I love you as a human being, it does not mean I must also agree with your viewpoint or that I must embrace your belief. Inclusivity is a sticky subject and a difficult mine field to navigate. I don’t have all the answers, but I think our society could greatly benefit if everyone was more willing to genuinely talk with someone who challenges their beliefs.
I’m sure you have witnessed or maybe experienced the staunch polarization between people who are on opposite sides of the current political spectrum. Heck, you can hardly watch or read the news without seeing something where the 2 sides are pitted against one another or 1 position is highlighted. Why can’t we have conversations with our neighbors, friends, family who do not share the exact same beliefs or convictions as we do? Didn’t we used to do so?
Over the past few years, a good friend of mine and I have had many exchanges about the current political climate. He and I are on opposite sides of the spectrum. We have come to the consensus that the majority of the US population is likely in the center — 40-60% of the scale — and, more significantly, that those at the extreme ends of each side (and the media) negatively influence our country’s ability to engage in dialogue. The tone typically takes on a us vs. them posture with very little opportunity for seeking understanding, expressing empathy, or extending comfort with our fellow humans. In my humble opinion, it discourages communication, participation and relationship.
If each and every person would consider the possibility that personal perspective matters, we might endeavor to connect, instead of shouting in dissension, “I am right, you are wrong!” The old phrase “walk a mile in my shoes” comes to mind.
I have heard it said before, so I’m going to leave you with this thought. If we would genuinely desire to get to “know one another,” I have no doubt that we would come to recognize that we have more in common than not.