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Kiss my political buns



Mike Laham, Mike's Hamburgers
Photo: Mark Hancock

On the national front, Chick-fil-A and Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby got their conservative feathers ruffled when it came to social issues that opposed their owners’ personal views: same-sex marriage and birth control, respectively. In both cases, the controversies stirred up sales and customer support. Yet what happens when the political firebrand is a small, private business and not a big, corporate brand?

Cordell Johnson, an adjunct marketing and public relations professor at Oklahoma City Community College, tells his students, “In business, there is no right or wrong, good or bad — only what you choose to do. The market will always tell you [if] you suck.”

How do you know when to crow? Knowing your market is a key to success, and making a conservative marketing message in a predominately conservative state isn’t exactly going out on a limb business-wise right now, said Johnson.

“These businesses have every right to choose this strategy, and I have no doubt it is a successful move,” he said. “Politically touchy comments and marketing messages can and do garner support from agreeing customers, but businesses also need to cautiously look ahead in what is a constantly dynamic and fickle marketplace.”

For small businesses, it may not be so much a conscious marketing choice as it is simply venting frustrations. The historic Meers Store & Restaurant in Meers, long known for its popular Meersburger, recently posted on its tables a lengthy reason for the burgers’ increase in cost — namely, its bun manufacturer’s compliance with Obamacare. The page-long explanation appeared under
the heading “The World Is Changing!” Clearly, businesses raise prices
all the time without the need for explanation or the-sky-is-falling
credos, so why do it?

Winkeler, owner of the local advertising firm Robot House Creative,
said, “While private businesses definitely have the right to promote
whatever religion or political beliefs the owners follow, I don’t find
it to be particularly appropriate or professional. I believe that
businesses should definitely focus their message on their target
audience. Anything out there that risks making a potential customer feel
unwelcome strikes me as foolish and shortsighted.”

In other words, talk about your big, delicious burger, not your gripe with the government.

Little controversy 

recent Obama-related brouhaha happened at Little Mike’s Hamburgers,
6724 Northwest Expressway, where the restaurant routinely uses its walls
to promote its owner’s right-wing views, including political cartoons
that offended some patrons to the point that the place earned a visit
from the U.S. Secret Service.

owner, Michael Laham, shared the story with fans on Little Mike’s
Facebook page, which brings another element to political opinions:
social media.

suggests business owners do what he does himself: Have a personal
account to share personal views and a professional account that ignores
the political. Beware that even retweets and shares can be construed as support of that message.

Businesses often
must utilize social media as their mouthpiece when stories break — to
defend or explain — such as what happened at Grandad’s Bar, 317 NW 23rd
St., in April after Jim Roth, Oklahoma County’s first openly gay elected
official, was attacked by three men who had made anti-gay slurs earlier
inside the bar.

Seal, co-owner of Grandad’s, ran an ad after the incident that condemned
the ugly behavior: “Hate is not on tap at Grandad’s.” The ad went
viral, and the story got more attention than it would have if the ad had
not been placed, but it did give the business an opportunity to share
its tolerance policy.

Edmond resident J.D. Shaklee said he finds businesses who share political views to be a turnoff.

a state that is so predominantly right, I am suspicious of those that
advertise views. Example: What harm could it do to bash this president
when this state voted, more than any other, against him in the last
election? You’re playing the odds — pandering, maybe.”

a consumer, Winkeler says if a business states its agenda, he exercises
his right to visit or not visit the establishment. What we are drawn to
or repelled by is a primitive “flight or fight” function; marketers,
proceed with caution.

Waldo Emerson once said, “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of
dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”

Pass the ketchup.

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