Colin Kaepernick, Chick-fil-A, and That Huge American Flag

“Don’t offend anyone.”

This is “common sense” advice that most business owners hear with regards to their marketing and branding. 

Don’t take political stances, don’t talk about religion, don’t risk offending anyone. 

Here’s the truth:

You can offend people – you just can’t offend the wrong people. 

Two things to keep in mind before we dive in:

  • I’m not asking you to go around offending people just for the heck of it. Please keep reading so you don’t miss the point. 
  • Second, this is an advanced-level strategy that you need to use with caution. It’s not for everyone or every business. 

Let’s break this down.

Fact: controversy is a great way to generate attention. People are drawn to controversy and “drama.” How else can you explain the rise of reality TV… or cable news… or basically everything on the internet?

Fact: When you take a controversial stance, some people will respect and appreciate you for it, and other people may think you’re a fool.

FactWhen you take a controversial stance that aligns with the values, beliefs, and/or priorities of your target clients, you capture their attention AND you create strong affinity.

It’s OK to offend people – as long as they’re not your target customers and clients.

Example #1: When Nike made Colin Kaepernick the face of their latest ad campaign, there was outrage from coast to coast. People were burning their Nike apparel and posting the videos all over the internet. Armchair pundits declared that this would be the end of Nike… how could they be so stupid… how could they offend so many people.

But then something funny happened…. Nike’s market value grow by $6-Billion after launching the campaign, reaching an all-time high.


Because the people who were offended by Nike’s decision were not their core demographic. Generally speaking, the people who were angry weren’t Nike customers anyway.

Meanwhile, Nike’s core market (young, urban) generally admire Kaepernick and appreciated Nike’s stance.

Nike isn’t stupid – they knew what they were doing. It was a calculated decision, and it’s paid-off for them.

Example #2: Chik fil A is known for their religious, family-friendly values. They’re more subtle than Nike was with Colin Kaepernick, but they take plenty of controversial political stances.

They offend people. They are on plenty of “boycott” lists. But their core demographic loves and appreciates them for it. That’s a big part of the reason why they make more money per restaurant than any other fast-food chain… despite being closed on Sundays!

They’ve taken a stance and aligned their values, beliefs, and priorities with those of their target audience.

Example #3: Gander RV is making headlines here in North Carolina because of the huge American flag outside their store.

They fly a flag so large that it violates a Statesville ordinance. The city demanded that they take it down, Gander refused, and now the city is filing a lawsuit.

The issue has generated constant news coverage locally, regionally, and even nationally.

I for one had no idea the store even existed – but now I hear about it daily.

The store is facing a fine of $50 per day for refusing to remove the flag – which is probably the best advertising money they’ve ever spent!

$1500 per month for constant media exposure! It doesn’t get much better than that.

And the best part of this example is… Gander is barely offending anyone in this case.

They found a way to generate “controversy” – casting themselves as patriots and warriors for the flag – in the Bible Belt! I imagine they’re more than OK with that proposition.

They’re earning massive exposure and brand loyalty, at very little cost. And it’s because they found a way to drum-up some controversy.

So, let’s talk about application. 

✓ If you have a very good understanding of your target market – including values, beliefs, frustrations, philosophies, etc…
✓ If your values or beliefs genuinely align with theirs…
✓ If you’ve carefully thought-through the repercussions…

Then don’t be afraid to take a stance and create some controversy.

It doesn’t have to be political.

You can create controversy by calling out the industry leader in your market if you feel they’re misleading customers.

You can create controversy by “going to battle” for your customers and clients against whatever force is wronging them… maybe the IRS, or “big business,” or excessive government regulation.

You can even create controversy just by doing things radically differently than most others in your industry.

Don’t be afraid to offend people. Just make sure you don’t offend the wrong people. 

Want some help taking your marketing strategy to the next level? Let’s talk! 

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Danny Decker

I work with business owners to create real, practical marketing plans – and create systems to make sure the plan actually gets executed. I’ll help you put a strategy in place to create predictably positive cash-flow, to generate new leads consistently, to create more referrals and word-of-mouth marketing, and much more.

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