“I think those are just good business decisions, and it’s the right thing for society, and it’s the great thing for our brand.” That’s how Target CEO Brian Cornell described his company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in mid-May, when conservatives objecting to flamboyantly pro-LGBTQ+ merchandise declared a boycott of the low-end retailer. Within just 10 days of Cornell’s statement, Target lost $10 billion, watched its stock price fall daily, and proved yet again that going woke means going broke.
Suffering an unmitigated sales and public relations disaster, Target removed some of the offensive merchandise—which included “tuck-friendly” swimwear—and moved other items to more discreet parts of its stores, walking back the supposed wisdom of marketing to a marginal fringe that advocates a radical gender ideology most Americans reject.
Target, of course, is not alone. Just before its debacle, Anheuser-Busch’s beer brand Bud Light cost its parent company more than $15 billion and over 23 percent of its stock valuation in just six weeks after it employed transgender social media personality Dylan Mulvaney to promote its product. Nike and Maybelline, companies for which Mulvaney also recently did promotions, were likewise targeted for boycotts—by feminists who objected to a biological male modeling women’s sports bras and cosmetics. Anheuser-Busch could not even give away Bud Light for free, and suffered the indignity of musician Kid Rock machine-gunning a case of it, declaring “F**k Bud Light and f**k Anheuser Busch” and removing the company’s products from his music tours. Anheuser-Busch’s marketing vice president, Alissa Heinerscheid, who spearheaded the campaign, was placed on leave, as was vice president for mainstream brands Daniel Blake.
Apparel manufacturer North Face removed controversial products from sale after critics objected to its “Summer of Pride” campaign launched by a drag queen.
As of this writing, the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team faces a $1 million boycott campaign funded by CatholicVote, the nation’s largest Catholic advocacy organization, which objects to the team’s invitation of a drag group that mocks Christianity. Chick-fil-A, a fast food chain once boycotted by the Left because its management opposed gay marriage, now faces a right-wing boycott after announcing that it will be “embedding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in everything we do.”
Last year, Disney tried to use its social and economic clout to defeat a Florida state law restricting sexual content in public education for children under the age of eight. The law passed anyway. For its trouble, Disney lost previously unquestioned tax and administrative concessions first granted by the state in 1967. It now faces a lengthy, expensive, and uncertain legal battle to preserve some of them; its opponent, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, was reelected in a landslide last November and is now a leading candidate for the U.S. presidency. Since August 2022, Disney‘s stock price has fallen by one-third with no sign of recovery. This month, it reported the loss of four million subscribers to its Disney+ online streaming service. It also announced 7,000 layoffs and a $1 billion reduction in planned capital investment.
When Netflix introduced politicized content on a large scale in 2021, it watched its stock price fall about two-thirds by September 2022 and saw more than $50 billion in market capitalization disappear. Also facing a disastrous decline in subscribers, Netflix laid off hundreds of employees who had been hired to produce woke content and sent a memo informing the rest that “you may need to work on titles you perceive to be harmful,” and that if they objected “Netflix may not be the best place for you.” Nine months later, content has improved, millions of subscribers have returned, and Netflix’s stock price has recovered nearly half of its losses.
In the final quarter of 2022, BlackRock, the behemoth asset management firm, reported losing $4 billion in invested assets after its management committed to ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investing, which underperforms strictly profit-driven investment strategies. Lost funds included assets belonging to eight U.S. states, and a larger number of states since opted to prohibit or limit ESG investing of public funds and have sought judicial intervention to block a Biden administration rule allowing it in public-sector retirement funds. In February 2023, the CEO of Vanguard, one of BlackRock’s major competitors, publicly announced that his firm would abandon certain ESG investments and focus on its fiduciary duties to clients.
Across the corporate world, the lesson is clear. Messaging support for radical ideologies antagonizes far more Americans than it attracts. Those who are offended readily spend their dollars elsewhere while woke executives shake their heads, lose their jobs, and watch profits flow to competitors smart enough to stay out of politics. Meanwhile, the progressive Left plots new strategies to bully and blackmail businesses into broadcasting their loathsome ideology. Contrary to their expectations, the consumer has the power to reject it.
Paul du Quenoy is President of the Palm Beach Freedom Institute.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.
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