Did You See That Sign?

The following appeared on a local business marquee the day after the 2102 presidential
election
: "My Country Was Born in 1776. It Died on November 6, 2012." The owner states that he was hoping to inspire debate and to
"get people into the store." In this, certainly the most contentious
presidential election in my life time, the country was bitterly divided.
Neighbors versus neighbors, friends versus friends, wounds have been inflicted
that will not soon be remedied. We have been barraged by negative campaigning,
repeated phone calls, Facebook rants and so on and so on. But tell me this- is
it really a good idea to mix business and politics (at least our political
views)? I have heard about not mixing business and pleasure but I think this is
another thing to add to the list. More specifically, is it a good idea to
express our sentiments so vividly when we know that controversy and polarization
will result?

Surely, those who feel as he does, that the election
results were a major defeat for this country will bond with him in angst, anger
and resentment. Likewise, those who are appeased by the outcome will reject his
beliefs and might well incur bitterness, disgust or offense. But when all is
said and done just what type of impact will declarations (yes, we do have the
freedom of speech) such as this, have upon a business? I suppose that would be somewhat
difficult to quantify but I am speculating at the very least it will polarize
customers and lead to second guessing.  

I am of the mind that situations such as this pose a
significant risk to the business as a whole. I firmly believe that we should be
free to express ourselves. When a lively debate ensues between friends and
acquaintances it does indeed afford the chance to learn new perspectives and to
become more tolerant and accepting of our differing opinions. When it comes to
business I feel our core efforts are best devoted to promoting the business in
a customer-oriented fashion. Sure, my personal opinions exist and judiciously
expressing them is important as long as they are relevant to my business goals.
On the other hand there are some things that my clients and the public just
don’t need to hear.

Whew, that was a departure from my usual approach.
Typically I try to inspire thought and while I may have done that I admit I got
carried away with this topic. Yes, I not only felt the business owner went too
far but I also take offense to what he said. Come to think of it I gues a response like mine is just what I was worried about.

Any thoughts? I promise not to
bite.

The
Water Trough is taking a break next week to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday. I
hope you and your families are able to celebrate the thankfulness for having
each other.

5 responses on “Did You See That Sign?

  1. I would likely bypass the shop.
    There is a school of thought that says put your personality, beliefs and whatever counts as a boost to your celebrity out there… as part of your brand… to attract the kind of people that will like you and that you will enjoy. You want to put your authentic self on display to find the people you want to serve and that will be pleasant to work with.
    You do run the risk that your authentic self might be kind of a jerk. Well, not YOU, Ed! You know what I mean. For instance, I don't think it is working very well for Donald Trump at the moment.
    I think that there is room to be as expressive as you want to be if it has some relationship to your clients, your products or your services.
    If the business owner you mention was selling liquor, perhaps the marketing reason was to attract people who wanted to drown their losing side sorrows after the election. (Not that it would necessarily be a good strategy, but there is some kind of match of the nature of the product to an ill conceived idea of the negative banner.)
    In most cases, political divisiveness, is not going to serve your clients, your marketing niche or your business interests.
    As a general rule, I agree with you that if the sentiment expressed is extreme, angry, and negative, the business owner is more likely to turn away a lot of potential customers. Whatever you express as part of your business is more likely to be effective if it is positive and inclusive. You want to provide a warm welcome.
    Hospitality, not hostility.

  2. mary mcdonald says:

    It was a disgusting thing to post on a marquee. I suppose if you are a business and you can afford to lose customers by exposing your blatant racism and intolerance of people with differing opinions, then freedom of speech is yours. Congratulations. You live in an America that will continue to exist. I would certainly NEVER shop at that store. I would take my American dollars elsewhere for good.

  3. Catherine, funny you mentioned liquor store because indeed it is a liquor store owner in Plainville, MA that posted this sign. And when I say sign I mean 40 feet in the air and for all to see. But I digress. I suppose perhaps he might have been hoping to draw in the despondent in an effort to increase sales. My thought is, it was not a wise choice but…
    This is an instance where The Small Business Doctor would prescribe a bit of restraint.

  4. Nancy Thomas says:

    I love political banter….probably heralding me back to my college political debate class. But, yes, in business, it is a bit different. I belong to a business group which is decidedly conservative and my liberal coattails are sometimes flapping in the wind. I also belong to a "private" group on Facebook, where, with respect for each others opinions, and group rules, we go at it trying to "seek to understand", etc. After all, when election time comes, and four years stretch ahead of us, we all must work together and put our disappointments and glee in focus. The election IS over – isn't it? Please? Can we all just get along? THAT would be my sign….

  5. Ah Nancy, I hear what you are saying. Debate is good but alas the forum matters. By the way, I wish no ill on this business owner; after all I too am merely expressing my opinion. Right?

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