All these elements are tied to the message, the First Amendment and commercialism. Most of us believe in free speech. But, this latest round of spasms in entertainment, the media and restaurant industry is a doozy! Let’s take a look.
A&E runs a very successful reality television show, called “Duck Dynasty”, about a Louisiana family, who live in the bayou and have a lucrative business selling duck calls and associated goods. The patriarch of the family, Phil Robinson, made some remarkably insensitive and unsettling remarks about gays and blacks in GQ magazine, which started this cascade. He is still unapologetic.
A&E stated that they would suspend him indefinitely from the series (although he shall still appear in the upcoming years’ production). Sponsors and supporters immediately did what they do – cry outrage, pull advertising, praise or condemn. Cracker Barrel Restaurant and Old Country Store, a chain of 625 restaurants in 42 states, informed their customers and fans that they would remove any products representing the “Duck Dynasty” from their stores, for many of us an appropriate act. However, in an outpouring, their readers clamored, and within a few days, Cracker Barrel relented and kept the product placement. As noted in the LA Times, "You told us we made a mistake," the company said on its Facebook page. "And, you weren't shy about it. You wrote, you called and you took to social media to express your thoughts and feelings. You flat out told us we were wrong. We listened. Today, we are putting all our Duck Dynasty products back in our stores."
I thought Phil Robinson’s comments were despicable, divisive and just plain ignorant. But, I would fully support his right to say them. I support A&E’s action to censure Mr. Robinson, although the result appears less than satisfactory. I hail Cracker Barrel’s initial response to clear the cupboards of duck calls, and, although dismayed with their reversal, understand market forces. After all, we are always saying listen and react to your customers. You would hope we could bridge rather than divide. For me, I shall dine at Stuckey’s, that Southern roadside oasis.
John Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog 'A Guy Walks In'. LRA is a leading research and consulting company in the emerging discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM). We work with our clients to help them design and deliver consistently exceptional customer experiences in order to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, and company growth and profitability. We have built a range of quality assurance, mystery shopping, research, training and consulting solutions to help them do so.
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