business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yahoo Finance reports that in a panel discussion at the 2019 meeting of the International Trademark Association (INTA), Dunkin’ Brands VP of brand stewardship Drayton Martin tried to draw a thick line that was neither red nor blue between how his company operates and how rival Starbucks does.

““We are not Starbucks, we aren’t political … We don't want to engage you in political conversation, we want to get you in and out of our store in seconds,” she said.

At another point, Martin said, “We don't want people burning their Munchkin boxes,” which Yahoo Finance says “is a reference to multiple instances, over the last two years, of consumers burning or destroying products - from Keurig machines to Nike socks - to protest the perceived political views of those brands.”

Yahoo Finance notes that “Starbucks in the past has occasionally used its cup designs and baristas to attempt to start cultural conversations on issues like race,” and writes that “in a country that is increasingly divided politically, consumer-facing brands are finding themselves drawn into political debates, even at times when they have tried to avoid commenting on such issues. It has happened to Tic Tac, Tiki Brand torches, Papa John’s pizza, and Under Armour, to name just a few.

“Of course, even in saying that it does not wish to be political, and in accusing Starbucks of being political, some see Drayton Martin’s comment as being just as political. Twitter users, in replies to tweets about Martin’s comment, pointed out the irony.”
KC's View:
I think that Dunkin’ is perfectly within its rights not to publicly adhere to any political agenda … a lot of people and companies would suggest that this is the smart move, especially in a highly polarized and divisive political environment.

But … a lot of companies that have been more engaged in politics would argue that they felt it was entirely consistent with their brand values to do so … or that it is important to be involved with public discourse, that responsible citizenship is not inconsistent with private business.

I am reminded of the passage from “A Man For All Seasons,” Robert Bolt’s play about Thomas More, in which he says that sometimes one has to do the right thing:

“If we lived in a State where virtue was profitable, common sense would make us good, and greed would make us saintly. And we'd live like animals or angels in the happy land that needs no heroes. But since in fact we see that avarice, anger, envy, pride, sloth, lust and stupidity commonly profit far beyond humility, chastity, fortitude, justice and thought, and have to choose, to be human at all ... why then perhaps we must stand fast a little, even at the risk of being heroes.”

Next year will mark six decades since “A Man For All Seasons” was first performed on the London stage, but those words strike me as being rather current.