Cookie Schwaeber-Issan

Sales Suicide – Why Would Any Company Want to Cut Their Base in Half?

Anyone in sales is definitely in it to make money – that’s for sure!  So why would a company be willing to cut off their nose to spite their face, so to speak, by offending half of their customer base?

It’s a really good question to ask the ice-cream maker, Ben & Jerry’s, just one among other top companies which, in recent days, have decided to allow their toxic political positions to influence their business decisions.  What started with Ben & Jerry’s decision to weigh in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by announcing that it would no longer sell its products in Palestinian territories, defined by them as “occupied by Israel,” soon turned into a disaster for the popular company.  Not only were Israelis offended, but many Americans quickly decided that they would also take the opportunity to weigh in by no longer purchasing the brand.  As time has passed, it seems as if their stand to end sales of their ice-cream in Palestinian areas, which they claim is “inconsistent with their values,” has not only resulted in some immediate revenue loss but has also significantly hurt their brand.

You’d think this would be troubling to the company, but, oddly enough, it hasn’t stopped them from doubling down.  At a recent Axios interview with the company owners, they were asked why their “values” were not as vexed when it comes to selling their products in other areas where specific political policies also don’t line up with theirs.  Unable to answer, it’s clear that only Israel holds the distinction of crossing the line for the two owners gone “woke.”

Of course, we shouldn’t think that Ben & Jerry’s has a monopoly on hypocrisy.  Thanks to the BDS movement, companies such as Orange, Airbnb, SodaStream International, along with others, have all been bullied and pressured into withdrawing their business associations from Israel, although SodaStream fought hard against the efforts.  Of course, it was of no interest to BDS advocates that their strong-arming of the SodaStream was the cause of 500 Palestinians losing their jobs.  That minor detail may have stood in the way of justice being rendered.

Airbnb caved in to the mob, but quickly reversed their decision after having to deal with a backlash of highly offended customers.  Apparently their financial bottom line was still a consideration to them.

Coincidentally or not, Nike will no longer be doing business in Israel as of 2022.  In their recent statement, the company claimed that the continuation of a business relationship between Israeli store owners and the company “no longer matches the company’s policy and goals.” (JPost, October 4, 2021).

Although Nike does not cite the BDS movement as being the catalyst for their sudden odd business decision, the timing cannot be ignored since the announcement comes on the heels of the Ben & Jerry’s fiasco.  Whether or not the iconic sports manufacturer truly believes it has a higher earning potential by becoming more independent and cutting out the middle-man, the fact is that their sneakers will no longer be directly available, through Nike, in the Jewish homeland.

So here’s the question. When these disastrous decisions are made, does anyone consider that there is a two-way effect?  Do these companies think that their decisions to walk away from Israel or offend Israelis and Israel supporters are done in a vacuum?  As someone who loved Nike sneakers and exclusively purchased their brand for years, this announcement, along with a few other considerations in the last year or two, concerning other unacceptable Nike policies, have caused me to rethink my brand of choice.  Two can play this game!  I very much doubt that I’m alone in my choice to abandon them at a time when they are soon to abandon us.  My many pro-Israel European, Australian and American friends will likely end up doing the same thing, because their support for our country and her people definitely impacts their buying choices.  If they believe these companies are motivated by anti-Israel business interests, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a sharp rise in the sales of competitive sport shoe labels as a result.

Not alone in this phenomenon, these corporations are joined by yet another predictable segment of the population – actors and actresses who seem oblivious to the fact that their strong and condemning political stand could so easily translate into fewer sales at the box office, despite their already being a down spiraling industry.

Among those who have expressed their great dissatisfaction with Israel is Hollywood star, Mark Ruffalo, who, along with veteran actress Susan Sarandon used their Twitter accounts to repost Al Jazeera propaganda.  Ruffalo later apologized for one post which accused Israel of committing genocide during the May 2021 conflict when Hamas was launching thousands of rockets into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip.  In 2014, actress Penelope Cruz and her husband Javier Bardem both signed an open letter accusing Israel of “state terrorism” and denouncing Israel’s entry into Gaza, demanding an immediate ceasefire.  When pressed on the matter, Cruz, like so many others, admitted that she was “no expert” on the matter and merely hoped for peace among Israelis and Palestinians.

Even after her meager attempts at a major cleanup, does Cruz really think that supporters of Israel will be clamoring to buy a ticket to her next film?

These days, hurting your brand seems to be secondary to injecting your politics into the marketplace, regardless of whether or not you’re even educated on the ins and outs of the particular subject.

Aside from the Israel connection with corporations and Hollywood celebrities, other prominent people in sports, likewise, don’t seem to shy away from very controversial stands which could cost them money and support in their quest to stay on top.  One example is LeBron James whose disturbing tweet involving a police shooting, even before all the facts were known, had to be deleted due to the great backlash he was experiencing over it.  Football quarterback Colin Kaepernick became the poster child for “taking a knee” when the American national anthem was played before games, making him extremely unpopular with a great deal of Patriotic Americans who could not interpret that act as anything but disrespect for the country which afforded him tremendous opportunities of wealth and fame.

The list is endless of individuals and corporate entities which have chosen to be okay with diminishing their fan base, their purchasers and, in the end, their money-making potential.  None of this is understandable especially given their lack of complete knowledge and full exposure to the other side of whatever perceived social injustice they’ve decided to take on.

In fact, the list is growing so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up with the long tally of products and entertainment that is not worth supporting anymore.

If someone is so eager to anger, offend and alienate a significant segment of the public, they should also be prepared to suffer the cause and effect consequences of their reckless, ignorant and often shameful positions which, more frequently than not, are one-sided, prejudicial claims which have no basis in truth.  In general, they represent a specific agenda directed at those who are deemed to be unworthy and unredeemable.

Consequently, there should be no hesitation to also take a stand and end faithful patronization of those who have determined that halving their audiences is worth the loss of revenue to them.  Maybe if we lend a helping hand, as they strive to achieve what they believe is worth attaining, they may come to realize that it has only hurt them in the end!

But till then, if they’re foolish enough to be willing to commit “sales suicide,” perhaps, no one should stand in their way.

About the Author
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.
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