Christensen: 'Chikins' come home to roost

rchristensen@newsobserver.comAugust 4, 2012 

Apparently it’s not just the cows who want you to “Eat Mor Chikin.”

So does Mike Huckabee, the former presidential candidate turned TV host, who started a run on chicken sandwiches and waffle fries last week when he encouraged people to show support for Chick-fil-A restaurants.

If you thought Chick-fil-A was a just a cow/chicken thing, you were wrong. It is now part of the nation’s culture wars.

War of words, wallets

It was prompted when Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy was quoted saying he supported “the biblical definition” of marriage, and the mayors of Chicago and San Francisco, among others, publicly criticized him.

Huckabee called Aug. 1 “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” and the company said it set a record in sales.

The left’s intolerance of different views is matched only by the right’s. The American Family Association has led a boycott of Home Depot, another Georgia-based company, because it sponsored gay pride festivals.

The evidence that political mau-mauing can influence consumer taste is inconclusive at best.

Efforts by Democrats to boycott the chain of stores owned by Raleigh businessman Art Pope, a major donor to conservative and Republican causes, had no effect, Pope said.

“In two years, we had a local high school with about four or five friends demonstrate in front of one of our stores twice, for one hour each time, with no affect on sales,” Pope said. “Back in December, I had about three reports of the NCAE (N.C. Association of Educators) and/or Democracy N.C. putting fliers on cars in the parking lot where we had stores, but again, no impact.”

But Bob Page, the founder and chairman of Replacements Limited in Greensboro, who actively opposed the constitutional amendment that passed in May defining a marriage as between a man and a woman, recently told The New York Times that he received some negative feedback from customers because of his activism. His comments suggested that it had cost him some business.

‘Faith-driven consumers’

Chris Stone, CEO of the Stone Agency in Raleigh, believes faith-driven consumers can be a powerful positive force in the marketplace.

Stone’s agency specializes in connecting companies with a niche audience of those Christians who are willing to target their spending on those companies that reflect their values – or what he calls “faith driven-consumers.”

Stone, who is the national expert on the issue, said there are 46 million Americans who fit that category.

“What this incident (Chick-fil-A) shows is that this market segment can be motivated to action and is highly loyal to brands that respect their values and world view,’’ he said.

But, of course, companies often don’t fit into nice neat world views. Whole Foods Market is probably a favorite of many liberals given its pro-environmental record and a bit of a counter-culture ambience. But John Mackey, its co-CEO and founder, was also an opponent of President Barack Obama’s health care plan.

Gary Pearce, the veteran Democratic consultant from Raleigh, writes in his blog that two of his guilty pleasures are Chick-fil-A and Snoopy’s hot dogs, which recently gained national attention by criticizing Obama.

Pearce noted that some Democrats once thought about swearing off Big Macs because Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, was a big contributor to Republican Richard Nixon’s campaign. But Kroc died in 1984, and his widow, Joan, gave the Democrats $1 million in 1987.

“The lesson: Eat up,” Pearce writes in “Talking About Politics. “Enjoy the hot dogs and chicken sandwiches. Good karma will come around.”

Christensen: 919-829-4532

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