Will Friedman, special to WTOP
WASHINGTON - What do Kermit the Frog, Andy from "The Office," and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino have in common? None of them will be frequenting Chik-Fil-A anytime soon.
The Jim Henson Company - the company behind Kermit - joined actor Ed Helms, Menino and others last week in publicly excoriating Chik-Fil-A for its gay marriage stance, and ended its commercial ties with the Atlanta chain.
The Henson Co. formerly provided toys for Chik-Fil-A kid's meals.
"The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over fifty years and we have notified Chick-Fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors," the Henson Co. said on its Facebook page.
The question becomes, then, exactly how effective can corporate boycotts be? According to Brayden King, it depends.
King, a professor of management at Northwestern University, has written extensively about the topic. He says that the most successful boycotts are the ones that receive the greatest amount of press.
"The more media attention a boycott gets, the more damage it does to the company's reputation," he says. "This makes it far more difficult for the company to do business."
This is why the Chik-Fil-A boycott has been so effective.
"It's brought LGBT issues to the general public," he says. "It's hard to turn on the news without coming across the name of Chik-Fil-A."
It appears that Chik-Fil-A has taken the bad press to heart, diving head first into damage control mode. The fast food giant released the following statement on its Facebook page.
"The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect - regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena."
Recent accusations that Chik-Fil-A created Facebook profiles of fake supporters has only added to its public relations nightmare, King says. Despite it all, however, the sandwiches and fries won't be going away anytime soon.
"People tend not change their behavior, even when they ideologically support a boycott," he says. "If you like Chik-Fil-A sandwiches, you might feel guilty eating it. But chances are that it won't have a extreme effect on (your decision.)"
As a result, he advises boycotters temper their expectations.
"Will it get Chik-Fil-A to change its position on gay marriage? I doubt it," King says. "But it certainly is going to prompt other companies to reconsider their own stands."
This may be as close to victory as Kermit the Frog is going to get.
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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
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