It’s always a good thing to speak your mind – as individuals, we are entitled to unique thoughts and beliefs. But when you’re the voice of a brand, you should know when to shut up.
We’ve seen CEOs make mistakes before. They make an offensive statement, and people boycott their brand. Dan Cathy, for example, the CEO of Chick-fil-A, with his negative stance on gay marriage a few years ago – I still know people who refuse to eat at Chick-fil-A because they disagree with his beliefs. (I strongly disagree with him as well, but I have to admit I’ve pulled through the Chick-fil-A drive-thru a few times in the last year.) Starbucks has even caught some heat recently in response to its “Race Together” campaign.
Fortunately for Chick-fil-A and Starbucks, the opinions of their CEOs haven’t made much impact on sales. Chick-fil-A is a southern chain, and its followers are pretty loyal no matter what. Starbucks is, well… it’s Starbucks.
So when I heard about the #boycottDolceGabbana campaign on Twitter, I didn’t think much of it. Elton John started a boycott of the Italian fashion house when founders Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce spoke out against non-traditional families and in-vitro fertilization. The two men, gay themselves, said it was wrong for gay couples to adopt children, and also referred to IVF as a way to produce synthetic children.
Elton John, father of two IVF-produced children, immediately spoke out on Twitter, and many celebrities followed. The hashtag #boycottDolceGabbana was trending on Twitter soon after John called for the boycott.
I think the D&G scandal is even worse than the Starbucks and Chick-fil-A scandals, and here is why:
D&G, a high-fashion label, has a very specific audience, and the majority of this audience consists of celebrities. Hollywood is made up of liberal millionaires and billionaires who have powerful voices, and are often looked at as voices of the LGBT community. Chick-fil-A’s audience, southerners, already lagged behind on progressive views about gay marriage. And like I said, Starbucks is basically a coffee monopoly. They aren’t going anywhere.
So do I think CEOs should be able to speak their minds about things they care about? Yes. But do I think they need to be smart about who their audience is? Even more yes.
Celebrities have been tweeting about the incident since it happened about a week ago. I’m no Anna Wintour, but I’m pretty sure the D&G statements against gay adoption and IVF will have a huge impact on which celebrities represent the brand. I love D&G designs, but I will never look at the fashion house the same way again.