“I’ve never seen a thin person drink diet Coke,” Donald Trump tweeted in 2012. He continued a week later, “Let’s face it – this stuff just doesn’t work. It makes you hungry.
Not that it ever stopped him from drinking it from the oceans. Trump loves Diet Coke so much that when he was President he would press a red button on a box on his desk, and an assistant would appear with a drink on a silver platter. Thank goodness that was the only red button he pressed.
The addiction has not gone away. What appears to be a bottle of this stuff was seen on his desk in Mar-a-Lago on Monday – despite his calls to boycott the soft drink giant and other companies for their criticism of Georgia’s new voting law. Critics say the law is designed to deprive black voters in Peach State.
Corporate giants are too big to care
“Boycott Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, JPMorgan Chase, ViacomCBS, Citigroup, Cisco, UPS and Merck,” Trump said in a statement on Saturday. “Don’t come back to their products until they give in. We can play a better game than them. ”
No, Mr. Trump, you probably can’t.
Corporate boycotts make activists feel good, as if they are actually accomplishing something. But these wellness efforts often don’t work. Want to bring Coca-Cola – a global monster with a market value of over $ 235 billion that sells more than 500 brands in more than 200 countries – to its knees? Good luck with that. The pharmaceutical titan Merck? Of course, stop taking your medication. This will show them!
In the past, corporate boycotts were (and still are) targeted at things like child labor standards, environmentally damaging practices, and the humane treatment of animals. But these days, the culture of cancellation has also crept in. Don’t like a bakery’s stance on gay marriage? Boycott. Angry, a store doesn’t allow guns on the premises? Boycott.
Are Republicans Angry With Coke? The other day I heard someone on the radio talking about switching to Pepsi products. Maybe this person doesn’t know that, for example, like Coke, PepsiCo also doesn’t look favorably on measures to restrict voting rights. Years before the Georgia controversy, Pepsi and Coca-Cola, for example, severed ties with a conservative organization that supports stricter election laws and “stand your ground” gun laws.
Stacey Abrams:US companies must choose side on voting rights and prevent repetition in Georgia
These types of issues can put businesses in a damn-if-you-do, damn-if-you-don’t-do situation. Trump and his MAGA supporters want to boycott Coke now, but two weeks ago it was black activists who urged a boycott of Coke, Delta and others for what a black church official called their “Deafening silence” on the right to vote.
“If Coca-Cola wants blacks and brunettes to drink their product, then they must speak out when our rights, our lives and our democracy as we know it are under attack,” said Bishop Reginald Jackson.
Doing what’s best for business
Large corporations spend a lot of money on consumer research and marketing and know their customers, employees and shareholders better than anyone. When making a decision, these constituencies are always in the foreground. The coca did not give in, as Trump and others claim. They are simply doing what Trump has always done himself: figure out what is best for the business and act on it.
But while large global corporations are unlikely to be hit by a boycott campaign, smaller targets can be. Few know this better than Tucker Carlson, whose prime-time Fox News show lost big-name advertisers like T-Mobile and Disney last year after Carlson trashed the Black Lives Matter movement.
Less prestigious sponsors have filled the void, without perhaps paying the same rates. Still, for many reasons, the financial damage this actually caused is questionable, notes Variety media analyst Brian Steinberg.
Boycott Georgia ?:Nine ways to thwart Georgia’s ‘voting rights’ boycott
Businesses would prefer not to get caught up in such a mess in the first place, of course. As Daniel Diermeier writes in the Harvard Business Review, “Being in a political fight is rarely good for a company’s reputation. Public debate is likely to create intense media coverage. And this can lead to strong internal tensions between employees who may wonder if the company is still a welcoming place to work.
Then there is what I call the Isaac Newton principle. In this hyperpartisan age, where just about everything is controversial, anyone leading a boycott campaign against a company may want to consider that their actions could have an equal and opposite reaction. Some citizens may decide that they agree with a company’s position on a particular issue and support them with deals they may not have previously given.
Boycotts? Good luck, Mr. Trump. In the meantime, why not open up a nice refreshing diet coke? You know you want it.
Paul Brandus is the founder and White House bureau chief of West Wing Reports and a member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors. Her latest book is “Jackie: Her Transformation from First Lady to Jackie O.” Follow him on Twitter: @WestWingReport