Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Selling During Boycotts, Buy-cotts and Disinformation

Two jobs I really wouldn't want this week.  One, being the manager of the Mar-A-Lago Club and the other is being the sales manager at Goya, the privately held Latino food products company.  Mar-A-Lago for environmental reasons, and Goya because their CEO, Robert Unanue, has a hobby of sharing conspiracy theories and disinformation with all who will listen.  His disinformation campaigns have not only generated threats of violence against the owners, but have also inspired bean "boycotts" from Democrats, and "buy-cotts" from Republicans plus increased calls to fire him.  If you were the bean sales manager at Goya, how would you possibly forecast demand in this chaotic environment?

Last week I published an article titled Mixing Business and Politics Requires a Strategy.  In the article I posited that companies should have a strategy and carefully consider their purpose, brand, reputation, board, workforce and market before deciding to possibly share disinformation and disputed conspiracies.  Businesses should also decide if they want their executives speaking on controversial topics without board approval.  It's a quick way to chaos without a plan.

In the case of Goya, the board ordered their CEO to stop talking about two specific items - conspiracies and the company!  How can you act as CEO if you are not allowed to speak for it?  The reason for all this chaos was his advocacy of conspiracy theories and disinformation.

Also this week the CEO of MyPillows Mike Lindell, was banned from Twitter and retailers have stopped carrying his products.  The purveyor of fluffy pillows had championed disinformation and conspiracies in support of the former president.  In this case as with Goya, it has meant chaos for his business and his workforce, and now an uncertain future. 

Controversy, however, is not always bad for business as many social media influencers have demonstrated.  Many professional agitators have made millions by inspiring anger in their audience.  Anger has been found to open pocket books.  It is a great motivator and inspires people to buy a lot of products. 

The former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and now media pundit is being sued by the voting technology firm Dominion for $1.3 billion.  Dominion claims Giuliani made a great deal of money selling products and services through his media work by spreading disinformation about their company and products.  The more Giuliani promoted disinformation, the larger his audience grew.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the courts.

Now let's move down south.  Last week the Texas Supreme Court allowed three defamation cases filed by Sandy Hook survivors against conspiracy and disinformation purveyor, Alex Jones.  The law suites claim he promoted disinformation to sell merchandise to his conspiracy vulnerable audiences.  It might be easy to share disinformation and make money off it, but it's not always easy to keep it.

In all of these cases, the choice to spread and promote disinformation impacted their businesses.  The problems now faced by these companies are not about the quality of products and services.  They aren't about pricing, customer experience or customer service.  They are about making a choice on what kinds of information or disinformation to promote.

Read more on the Future of Information, Truth and Influence here:
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Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist | Leadership Strategies at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.