It’s Friday and I’m headed up to St. Louis for the SEC men’s basketball tournament so I’m cranking on the mailbag late at night on Thursday.
Hope to see several of you guys in St. Louis. I’ll be in The Home Loan Expert suite for all four games on Friday and then both games on Saturday as well.
At the top of the mailbag I want to share this clip with you from the Disney annual shareholder meeting yesterday.
Disney CEO Bob Iger was absolutely grilled about ESPN’s decision to embrace left wing politics and what it means for the overall brand. In particular he was asked why ESPN had turned into a political network and why Jemele Hill was able to call Donald Trump and all of his supporters white supremacists and receive no punishment.
I believe this entire clip is a fascinating window into modern politics.
As you heard yourselves in the above clip, Iger attempted to sidestep the question — how, exactly, did he deal with Jemele Hill’s comments and her reiteration that she stood by those comments? By doing nothing at all? — but I think this raises a larger question that I’ve been thinking a great deal about lately as I work on my new book which will be out in stores this September — why do CEO’s feel compelled to get political with their companies in any way?
Embracing left wing politics at ESPN has been disastrous for their brand and their company’s standing, but it’s a mistake that I see playing itself out everywhere, most recently with the CEO of Delta in his bungled response to the NRA discount provided by his airline. If you aren’t familiar with this story Delta allowed discount for members of the NRA to fly on its airlines. The most recent discount had been used by 13 people to travel to the NRA’s annual meeting.
Let’s presume that discount, which couldn’t have amounted to much, led to Delta taking $200 off the listed airfare for each of these customers. (That’s probably too high, but let’s presume it cost Delta a grand total of $2600.) In the wake of the school shooting, Delta probably fielded a couple of media inquiries about the NRA discount and it’s likely that left wingers on social media and the blogosphere circuit started to speak out about the discount and ask why it existed.
Fearful of the stories that might emerge and the existing social media blowback in the wake of the school shooting, Delta panicked and said it would no longer provide any discount to NRA members.
The backlash to Delta’s decision was immediate and substantial, politicians in the state of Georgia, Delta’s home state, removed a tax subsidy that would have saved the airline $50 million. Fifty million! And all because Delta felt compelled to weigh in on a contentious political issue.
If I were a Delta shareholder, I’d be furious.
All Delta had to do was say it provided discounts for individuals from a variety of political organizations across the political spectrum. And if it wanted to end those discounts for political organizations it could have easily removed all of them at once the story died down. Or, in what would have probably been better business, it could have just left things as they were and not changed anything and maintained that it was being content neutral in offering discounts to major political organizations from all walks of American life.
Instead, it tried to avoid “bad news” and social media discord and cost itself $50 million.
And what did Delta gain from the decision?
There isn’t a single person in America who was going to change their travel plans because Delta gave an NRA discount to members who flew the airline and there isn’t a single person who wasn’t flying Delta that now is going to start flying Delta because they ended the NRA discount.
I honestly believe that.
Moreover, if you are losing business because some people are changing their airlines over your NRA discounts, are those really customers who are going to stop flying your airline in the future? Even if there are a tiny, tiny subset of people adjusting their behavior, are they really going to adjust their behavior forever? (Remember that United Airlines saw zero impact on its earnings after it dragged the Asian doctor off the plane.)
I don’t believe there is a single person in the country who would choose not to fly Delta or to fly Delta over this issue. This story is completely manufactured outrage with no actual impact.
That’s especially the case if Delta offers the cheapest and/or more convenient route to where you want to travel. In other words, that’s especially the case if Delta does its job.
If you fly non-stop to where I’m taking my family and you offer a cheaper fare, I don’t care what political organizations you provide a discount to, I’m taking your airline. Hell, I wouldn’t even care if the CEO of Delta had come out and said, “I hate Clay Travis and hope his business fails.” I’d still fly Delta if they were cheaper and more direct and otherwise I was going to have to change planes with another airline and spend all day traveling somewhere that would have otherwise been an easy non-stop trip.
Who in their right mind cares what Delta thinks about the second amendment and, more importantly, who in their right mind is advising these CEO’s that they should worry about what customers think about the second amendment? Here’s what I wish Delta’s CEO cared about — ensuring that Delta had the best goddamn wifi of any airline on the planet.
Instead of worrying about gun rights, how about you make it so the wifi actually works on your airplanes? Make it so I can write an article on Outkick and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can publish that article while I’m flying across the country. Because right now not one airline in America’s wifi is good enough for me to be confident I can pull this off.
My point on this is simple — focus on what your business does and leave politics by the wayside.
The vast, vast majority of American consumers do not care what corporations think about contentious political issues. We just don’t. We care about whether you deliver the best possible value to us as consumers. I feel like companies everywhere are falling victim to social media activists and media inquiries about non-stories and overvaluing what those people are saying.
I get it, it can be terrifying if you get 100 people all making threats to you in the same day on social media. But, guess what, that happens to me every single day. And it doesn’t matter what opinion I’ve shared. I guarantee I have been told thousands and thousands of times that (insert person here) will never read, watch or listen to what I say because of (insert opinion here).
And then guess what happens?
Those people don’t actually stop reading, listening or watching Outkick. At least not as long as I continue to be smart, original, funny and authentic. That’s because social media isn’t real life, it’s just a place for people to vent and pretend to all be WWE listeners. What’s more, those 100 people might well actually be 10 people with ten different accounts each trying to manufacture outrage to make you believe it’s more substantial than it actually is.
Much of social media is completely fake.
And the truth of the matter is this, as long as you do a good job at your core business your audience is never going to leave over things that don’t involve your core business.
Chick fil A is a great example. Do you know how many people changed their behavior at Chick fil A over politics? ZERO. Do you know why? Because Chick fil A’s chicken sandwich is so good. (You can also argue Chick fil A had no business getting involved in politics either, but when you aren’t open on Sundays you’re kind of branding yourself as a religious company. So are people really going to be surprised when a religious company has religious political opinions. If anything this actually helped Chick fil A’s overall brand because it served as evidence that they actually practiced what they preached.) Plus, there are thousands of gay people every single day who eat at Chick fil A. Do you know why? Because they love the product.
My advice for every company in America is this, find out what you do and do it better tomorrow than you were doing it today. And then repeat that every day for as long as you can. That’s how you go from good to great. And if something in America isn’t connected to your goal of making your company better at what it does? DON’T WORRY ONE IOTA ABOUT IT AND IGNORE ALL SUGGESTIONS THAT YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT IT.
And, by the way, fire all your PR staff and just put me on retainer to answer every question your CEO might have. Because I guarantee I’m better at it than they are.
Dave F. writes: