Business and Politics don’t mix
As Target and Best Buy have so aptly found out, donating large sums of money to political candidates can backfire. I know why companies wish to donate. They want to be able to call in the candidate on local reform when necessary. The issue, though, is that while this may be the goal, the candidate may not stand for what your customers do… especially if you are a retailer. Retailers must sell to the public. The public are the people who support the retailers. However, when these same businesses choose to contribute to (aka endorse) candidates who may have agendas that a vocal part of your buying public opposes, then your company can get into hot water. And yes, Target and Best Buy have found this out the hard way.
Target And Best Buy
Both of these companies contributed over $100,000 that ended up supporting advertising for a local Minnesota gubernatorial candidate who opposes gay marriage and who advocates violence towards gays. While that wasn’t the crux of that candidate’s platform, it was a the part of it that caught the wrong attention from these donations. This set off a firestorm of negative publicity for both of these companies. Gay activists are now calling for boycotts of these stores.
This is cause and effect. This is why companies have no business contributing funds that go to specific candidates. In fact, companies have no business in politics. Yes, I know they want to have hip-pocket legislation, but at the same time, these companies also need to understand the direct relationship of any direct candidate donation to the bottom line. It’s very likely that Target and Best Buy have spent more than their donations in managing this publicity nightmare. This issue also proves that if a company feels the need to donate to politics, they need to do it directly to each local democratic or republican top level coffer. That way, the money is spread out among the candidates rather than going to a single candidate. Even still, politics is a sticky wicket and any contribution may backfire.
Oil and Water
Business and Politics don’t mix and this situation is the prime example of why. If companies want to contribute to political causes, they must understand the negative outcome of those decisions and weigh it carefully against the cost of a PR fallout. Worse, it could alienate customers whom you depend on for your bottom line. Being in business is already difficult enough without making such huge mistakes.
If company executives feel they must have hip-pocket legislation at their fingertips, then they need to find other ways to do it… like, for example, lobby groups. Send these groups to Washington like everyone else and get legislation made in a more generic way.. not by endorsing specific local candidates where their political agenda might conflict with the buying public.
Could be any cause involved..
Note that any donation could have gone to support some other problematic issue. So, any direct political candidate donation is not a good idea for any company.
So, how does Target and Best Buy deal with this issue? Well, clearly it’ll be difficult to get that money back. It’ll also be difficult for them to weather this storm. The best idea is to, obviously, issue a sincere apology regarding the donation. State that they didn’t understand the candidate’s platform and state that they won’t do this again. But, the deed is already done. Of course, a statement that they won’t do it again is probably a lie. It’s only a matter of time before they donate to some other cause that may get them into hot water again.
Companies like this never learn and are destined to make the same mistakes. As a consumer, you need to make your choices about whether you want the money you spend at those companies to go to supporting those causes. Just something to think about.