There are no Chick-fil-A outlets in Canada, so I have been watching the fall-out from the Company President’s recent explosion of mind-numbing theoconservative assholery from a safe distance. It’s quite the interesting spectacle.
I say ‘interesting’ rather than ‘amusing’ because the issue has laid bear what to my mind is an emerging, possibly worrying, trend in American society: namely, political ideology is increasingly becoming just another “market segment.” This trend was called-out a while ago by David Frum* with regards to the media:
Over the past two decades, conservatism has evolved from a political philosophy into a market segment. An industry has grown up to serve that segment—and its stars have become the true thought leaders of the conservative world.
Now in the wake of the recent comments, we have seen a very curious thing. While American liberals are predictably withdrawing their patronage from the chain, American conservatives are increasingly rallying around it. Now, if I were a soulless, amoral person (in particular, a marketing executive), it might occur to me that the company could actually turn this situation to its advantage, by playing up its opposition to marriage equality and doing everything that it can to make itself into the fundamentalists’ go-to choice for poultry products. Sure they would lose their liberal customers, but surely there’s something to be said for having a lock on a particular (depressingly large) chunk of the market.
But this isn’t limited merely to Chick-fil-A. The CEO of Amazon has recently come-out in support of gay marriage, corporations in general have started taking sides on various social issues, and practically everything under the sun is now being read as ‘politically divisive’: to me, it seems like it’s just a mtter of time until “niche marketing” based on political ideology becomes common, even for major corporations. We’ve already seen the emergence of two parallel and antagonistic American cultures; could we see the same when it comes to markets?
*I don’t particularly like Mr. Frum mind you (from an ideological standpoint, though I’m sure he has a great personality), but I prefer it when my opposites are sane rather than insane.