The President-elect threw a tweet on the fire at Freeport, Maine-based L.L. Bean yesterday by not only thanking board member Linda Bean for her “support and courage” but also by urging people to buy its products.
“The Tweet was a compliment, right? Effectively, it was anything but,” observesForbes contributor Cheryl Conner. “For L.L. Bean, the statement ‘Buy L.L. Bean’ connected the personal contribution to implied political support from the company, too, which has done them no favors. The fear that brands should feel about this situation is real.”
It also raised major ethical questions.
“Donald Trump just used his presidential power to advertise L.L. Bean,” Danielle Paquette posted on the Washington Post’s“Wonkblog” yesterday. “Katherine DeCelles, a Harvard business professor who focuses on ethics, said no White House leader in modern history has used his platform to hawk products.”
“It’s unprecedented,” she said, “for someone of his power voicing his support or being against particular companies.”
Paquette points out that “federal employees are legally forbidden from endorsing private firms. Though the President is exempt from the rule and the President-elect is not a federal employee, such endorsements are largely frowned upon in America’s highest office.”
If you’ve been trying to lead an existence free of social media — and all news generated in, on or about it — recently, here’s the context:
“Bean and the Freeport-based retailer have been targeted by anti-Trump groups since the Associated Press reported about her donations to the pro-Trump Making Maine Great Again PAC,” the AP’s Marina Villeneuve reports on Voice of America’s site. “The founders of #GrabYourWallet called for a boycott of L.L. Bean but said it would stop if the privately held company, known for its signature waterproof rubber-bottom boots, cut formal ties with Linda Bean.”
The company, in response, has tried to distance itself from Bean’s personal political views, pointing out that the member of the 10-person board is one of more than 50 family members involved in the business.
“No individual alone speaks on behalf of the business or represents the values of the company that L.L. built,” executive chairman Shawn Gorman wrote in a Facebook post Sunday. He asked Grab Your Wallet to reverse its position, asserting the 105-year-old company “does not endorse political candidates, take positions on political matters, or make political contributions. Simply put, we stay out of politics.”
Linda Bean “called the backlash against her ‘bullying’ and ‘un-American’ during Thursday morning interviews on Fox's news and business channels and vowed she would not step down from the company's board of directors,” writes the AP’s Villeneuve.
She also said that there had been a “slight uptick” in business and Bean’s stock price actually rose yesterday, the BBC reports.
“‘It’s bullying,’ Ms. Bean explained to Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business. ‘They want to control how we spend our money, what we buy, where we buy it. That’s wrong, it’s un-American,’” reports Daniel J. Flynn in a piece on the American Spectator site with the titled “The Blacklist Returns.”
“The campaign represents the counterproductive catharsis that makes partisans feel good but ultimately hurts their cause,” he writes, suggesting that the same reasoning applies to those who would boycott Meryl Streep for her anti-Trump remarks at the Golden Globes Sunday.
“Boycotting her hurts you, not her,” Flynn writes.
“It wasn't that long ago that the primary reason for making a purchase was whether or not you liked the product,” ruesEsquire.com’s Scott Christian. “… But in 2017, whatever was once considered normal has gone flying out the window.”
And there’s plenty of spite and/or boosterism to go around.
“Macy's, Amazon, L.L. Bean, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, New Balance — these are just a few of the companies that have been drawn into Trump's spindly web of political and existential divisiveness,” Christian writes. “Trump wants a battle line drawn. He wants war. And if you're not for him, you're against him.”
Moving along, this morning the President-elect was back to using Twitter to blast the intelligence community and denounce fake news, Politico reports. No brands in the crosshairs … yet.