Here’s What Executives Need To Know Before Responding To Consumer ProtestsFebruary 22, 2021
It is not the first boycott of a company or organization and it will not be the last. But an ongoing protest against Publix Super Markets— a multi-billion dollar grocery chain with 1,200 stores in southeastern U.S.—has an interesting plot twist that created international headlines.
The boycott is unusual because it was not sparked by anything the corporation did or said, but by the actions a member of the family that owns the company. How and why Publix responded to the boycott raises issues other organization should consider before reacting to a crisis caused by consumer protests.
As reported by The Guardian, “Families are boycotting Publix after a member of founding family donated $300,000 to the Trump rally that preceded January’s deadly Capitol attack.”
Setting The Record Straight
Publix sought to distance itself from the actions of Julie Jenkins Fancelli, a daughter of the man who founded the company in the 1930s.
According to the Miami Herald, “Publix’s communications director Maria Brous released the supermarket chain’s response to the Miami Herald: “Mrs. Fancelli is not an employee of Publix Super Markets, and is neither involved in our business operations, nor does she represent the company in any way. We cannot comment on Mrs. Fancelli’s actions.”
“Publix’s statement continued: “The violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was a national tragedy. The deplorable actions that occurred that day do not represent the values, work or opinions of Publix Super Markets.” Publix posted a similar message on Twitter.
Advice For Business Executives
Corporate officials should take several factors into account before responding to any protests against their companies or organizations. Depending on the nature of the protests and your business, there may be no clear-cut answers on how — or whether — to respond.
Christopher Newman, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Mississippi, said, “Companies should be primarily concerned—and arguably only concerned—about what their own customers think about their position in any given controversial situation.
“To a lesser degree, companies should also consider the reactions of customers that they may potentially target in the future as they grow. Otherwise, companies may be pressured into compromising their core values or changing their strategies based on the actions of consumers who are not, and likely would not be, their customer in the first place.
“Companies should [focus] on aligning their values with their primary customers’ and execute their strategies accordingly. The rest is noise—and often short-lived, at that—in today’s…