Macy's Brand Loyalty Falls Sharply After Trump's Gaffes

Macy's brand loyalty index takes a 45 percent nosedive as retailer refuses to @DumpDTrump.


Update: Donald Trump may have singlehandedly destroyed the "magic of Macy's" right before the holiday shopping season. Widespread support for the @DumpDTrump petition caused Macy's brand loyalty index among women to plummet 45 percent in just 10 days, according to the latest YouGov Brand Index. This time of year is the retailer's most critical, accounting for 60 percent of Macy's annual net income.

The report was released just two days after Macy's Chief Marketing Officer Martine Reardon publicly stated that the company would not drop Trump as a celebrity spokesperson, despite the real-estate mogul's history of sexist, racist rants and birther accusations against President Obama.

"We try to separate from that and we try to let the customer vote on that. ... As long as that customer is still voting by wanting to buy that product, then that's what it's all about," Reardon said during at Business Insider's Ignition 2012 conference.

Macy's originally had forecasted its sales would rise 4.2 percent during the holiday season between online sales and its 840 stores in the United States, which brought in higher-than-expected earnings last quarter, with sales increasing 24.1 percent. At the time of publication, Macy's had not replied to DiversityInc's request for comment on the impact the controversy may have on its sales.

Plummeting Loyalty? You're Obviously NOT Listening to Customers

Dump Donald Trump protest leader Angelo Carusone is leading the protest and determined to hit Macy's where it hurts—in revenue. Carusone, the activist who also led the successful large-scale advertiser boycott of Rush Limbaugh when the radio-show host called university student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and "prostitute," threatened Macy's that he'd urge the 670,000-plus people who've signed the petition to cut up their Macy's credit cards.

"The rapid drop of Macy's' brand reputation is, I believe, directly attributable to their insistence of defending Trump instead of listening when their customers told them that Trump's brand of bigoted bullying is inconsistent with Macy's," said Carusone in a statement.  "These latest numbers illustrate what we've been saying all along—Macy's should dump Trump. For brand loyalty to drop so rapidly over the course of this effort, particularly during the start of the holiday shopping season, is no coincidence, and the damage will only deepen the longer Macy's refuses to listen to their customers concerns."

The Dump Trump protest, which went viral on Nov. 19, is demanding that Macy's drop real-estate mogul Donald Trump as one of its celebrity spokespersons. The petition cites Trump's history of "unpleasant, nasty and despicable behavior," personal attacks and sexism toward women, including his own daughter, and perpetuation of the "racially charged birther conspiracy theory" against President Obama as a severe misrepresentation of Macy's corporate values.

Macy's issued this response to the protest:

Macy's marketing and merchandise offerings are not representative of any political position. Many of the individuals associated with products sold at Macy's—or at any retailer, for that matter—express personal opinions that are not related to the merchandise we sell or to the philosophies of our company.

Additionally, Macy's, one of DiversityInc's 25 Noteworthy Companies, told DiversityInc:

In our merchandise assortment, we strive to meet our customers' expectations for unique and interesting products across a broad array of styles, categories and brands. This allows our customers to choose what they prefer. A longtime focus of Macy's holiday advertising has been to celebrate the season's spirit of generosity and goodwill through our ongoing "Believe" campaign, and that is the sole message of our holiday television commercials.

Our company's philosophy of [diversity and inclusion] is well-known, and at the core of our approach to doing business. We expect our associates, our advertising and our in-store presentations, and the companies with which we do business, to mirror the diverse multicultural marketplace we serve. Macy's is a company that respects diverse points of view and welcomes all customers into our stores and online sites.

Macy's has featured Trump in advertisements and carries the Donald Trump Signature Collection menswear line, comprised of 65 items including dress shirts, ties and other accessories. Trump also is featured in the retailer's 2012 holiday commercial in which he plays a skeptic opposite footage of Edmund Gwenn from the 1947 Miracle on 34th Street film.

"Macy's says it has a strong obligation to be 'socially responsible' and that 'actions speak louder than words.' Indeed. It's time to act," writes Carusone.

Donald Trump's Rants: Racism & Sexism at Their Finest

Trump's most recent zinger, which triggered the petition, occurred two weeks before the election: He offered to pay $5 million to a charity of Obama's choice if the president released his college transcripts and passport applications, saying it "would be doing a great service to this country." This follows previous remarks contesting the president's credentials—including his ability to get into Harvard and Columbia—which CBS News correspondent Bob Schieffer called "code for saying he got into law school because he's Black" and "an ugly strain of racism."

Among the 673,000-plus who are fed up with Trump's overzealous tongue is singer and songwriter Cher. "I didnt [sic] know they sold Donald Trump's Line! If they don't care that they sell products from a LOUDMOUTH RACIST CRETIN, WHO'D LIE LIKE 'HIS RUG' TO GET SOME CHEAP PRESS ! I CANT BELIEVE MACY'S THINKS HE'S THE RIGHT 'MAN' 2 [sic] REPRESENT THEIR NAME !" Cher posted on Twitter (@cher), swearing to boycott Macy's until the store cuts ties with Trump.

Trump had berated Cher as "somewhat of a loser" and "very miserable" for posting an anti–Mitt Romney tweet back in May. Other victims of Trump's uncensored public tirades include:

  • Rosie O'Donnell and Cher: "Like @Rosie O'Donnell, a total loser!"
  • Arianna Huffington: @ariannahuff is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man- he made a good decision.
  • Barbara Walters: Barbara has become a sad figurehead dominated by a third-rate comedian … Rosie just pushed her out like a ('pathetic') puppet."

Trump seems unfazed by the petition. He's even leveraged the added publicity to plug his new fragrance:

"My fragrance—"Success"—is flying off the shelves @Macys. The perfect Christmas gift!" he tweeted.

Corporate Values & Clear Messaging

Macy's is the latest in a series of companies to fall under public scrutiny for its corporate decisions over the last year: Boycotts impacted sales at both Lowe's and Chick-fil-A, while Popchips was berated by social-media users for its racist ads featuring Ashton Kutcher in brownface.

In order for consumer-facing companies to be successful and genuinely connect with the marketplace, companies need to understand their customers, according to John Bryant, CEO of Kellogg Company:

"We have a very special bond with our consumers. Our goal is to help us understand our consumers so well that every day we're in even better position to bring our best to those consumers. And to do that, we need not just a diverse organization, but an environment which is inclusive, where the ideas of that organization can come into our products, so we can create even better products for our consumers," Bryant said at our event, where he accepted the DiversityInc Special Award for Top Company for Diversity-Management Progress. That diversity is key in meeting customer needs, increasing marketplace engagement and subsequently results in brand loyalty and increased sales.

Read more on the importance of clarity of values and consistent communication:

Ask the White Guy: Decision Making, Clarity of Values & What to Do When It Goes Horribly Wrong

Are Political Donations That Conflict With Your Diversity Policy a Shareholder Issue?

Lessons on Values From Ellen & jcpenney

 

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