Chick-Fil-A Comments Put Brand in Jeopardy

Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy has discovered what some business owners already know, that what you say and do may have an impact on your brand not only in positive but also in negative ways. Cathy’s recent comments on gay marriage have landed his business in the middle of a contentious debate. The situation can be a cautionary tale for other business owners contemplating stands on controversial issues:

A Poor Choice of Words

Playing chicken with public opinion. Cathy’s comments about supporting the “biblical definition of the family unit” have angered gay rights activists, some customers, some political leaders and, yes, even the Muppets. Of course, business owners, like everyone else, have the right to free speech, but exercising this freedom may affect your business. CBS News

Having your waffle fries and eating them too. After Cathy’s remarks to a religious news site and over the radio angered customers and political leaders, some of whom are now threatening to block the company’s expansion plans, Chick-Fil-A is trying to disengage from the debate. But the question is whether or not it’s too late. The Los Angeles Times

The Seeds of Discontent

Brand runs afoul with customers too. Lest anyone think activists, political leaders, and business partners were the only ones offended by Cathy’s remarks, a marketing research company says the Chick-Fil-A brand has taken a hit with American consumers too, since Cathy’s remarks became public. YouGov

Trouble in the hen house. What’s worse, the Chick-Fil-A controversy has even encouraged a bit of brand co-opting. Witness YouTube chef and comedian Hilah Johnson’s creation, the Chick-Fil-Gay, a do-it-yourself home version of the chicken franchise’s popular sandwich, made for home consumption to show opposition against the company’s stand. The Stir

The Eye of the Storm

Chick-Fil-A appreciation day. Meanwhile, not everyone is on Cathy’s back, and some leaders are even urging support for the values he espoused during two controversial interviews that have angered some and energized others to defend the company. Former U.S. Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is advocating support for Cathy’s remarks and his business in a nationwide show of solidarity Wednesday. Facebook

Don’t mix business with religion. Of course, franchise expert Joel Libava points out in a recent post that the Chick-Fil-A president’s real mistake was not simply espousing a politically incorrect opinion. It’s that he made the mistake of mixing business with religion. Some say it’s unwise to discuss politics or religion with others. Maybe business owners should take the hint, too. The Franchise King

Amazon chief wades into debate. While controversy over Chick-Fil-A’s stand on gay marriage still rages, another business leader, Jeff Bezos, CEO at Amazon, has donated $2.5 million in support of a same-sex marriage referendum in Washington state. Some will question whether his stand also invites criticism from those on the other side of the debate. The Washington Post

Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 16 years. A professional journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional media and online media, he attended Waynesburg University and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He has held roles of reporter, editor and publisher, having founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press.