Here is a key passage in the story:
Many gay rights groups called for boycotts, and company executives seemed to be put on the defensive. At the same time, supporters of the Atlanta-based chicken chain held rallies outside stores. The national media couldn't get enough of it.
So much for "bad" PR. Consumer use of the chain was up 2.2% in the third quarter compared with the same period in 2011, says the Sandelman survey of more than 30,000 fast-food consumers conducted in markets where Chick-fil-A is located. Market share was up 0.6%, and total ad awareness was up a hefty 6.5%.
In a social-media-crazed world, any PR can be good PR — particularly if it has strong appeal to a group of ardent supporters. Witness the recent jump in contributions to LiveStrong Foundation at a time Lance Armstrong, the organization's founder, was forced to step down in disgrace.
Chick-fil-A, too, seems unstoppable. "There was a lot of talk that this would hurt Chick-fil-A, but it actually helped the brand," says Jeff Davis, president of Sandelman. During the third quarter, Chick-fil-A broadened its regular customer base in 28 of 35 media markets, he says.
Like the Livestrong Foundation (which I know has no "product" but a very solid message independent of Lance Armstrong's cycling achievements or not), Chik-Fil-A has a product that appeals to people. People like it and people buy it. I have no doubt that the gay rights protests and the counter-protests of massive invasions of customers this summer exposed people to the franchises and their product, maybe for the first time. Which helps, of course with Chik-Fil-A's goal--to sell chicken.
When all the hubbub of Dan Cathay's remarks hit the social media circles, lots of my liberal friends started calling for boycotts. That of course is their right, just as it is my right to ignore their entreaties and do what I want. My family frequents Chik-Fil-A (maybe a little too much sometimes) and I for one will be voting to permit gay marriage in my home state of Maryland.
So how can I vote for gay marriage and still frequent Chik-Fil-A? Mostly because I don't associate politics with my product choices. I believe that lost of people support Livestrong Foundation's anti-cancer mission and probably don't give a toss about whether Armstrong was doping or not (if he was, it is not like he was the only one doing it--not that it is such an excuse). I think Livestrong will, well, live strongly despite the tarnish on Lance Armstrong.
I like Chik-Fil-A's product and I really like their customer service at my local franchise. Even when they are monster busy, they make sure every guest gets their full attention. I have never met Dan Cathay, but I will say this--he speaks his mind and what he believes. Even if I don't agree with what he believes, I have to respect and admire a man who is unafraid of doing that--even if it might have cost him his business.
Turns out though, speaking your mind without fear and equivocation might actually earn respect and customers. Who would have thought.
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