Faith Driven Consumers lead Chick-fil-A “Buy-cott”


Competing Starbucks “buy-cott” raises the issue of inclusion as a marketing goal for brands

On Wednesday, August 1, Chick-fil-A experienced what is reported to have been its single most successful business day in company history.  Patrons flooded stores nationwide in support of the embattled company after CEO Dan Cathy made remarks affirming his support for the traditional definition of marriage.

The “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” Facebook page sponsored by Gov. Mike Huckabee signed up more than 660,000 attendees and more than 735,000 were estimated to have attended. We’ve all seen the photos from across the country showing cars queued up in drive-thrus with people happily waiting in long lines to support the fast-food restaurant chain in a powerful display of a consumer “buy-cott.”

But did Chick-fil-A just catch lightning in a bottle or is this special connection between a brand and its consumer base replicable? That’s a question gay activists attempted to answer with their own “appreciation day” of Starbucks on August 7.

The giant coffee chain has long been an outspoken supporter of the LGBT political agenda. LGBT activist leaders were determined to show that they can have the same economic impact on behalf of Starbucks as supporters of Chick-fil-A had shown.

Results from the Starbucks “buy-cott” were modest  by comparison—with nearly 38,000 who signed up to participate. Given that the LGBT community has many members and allies, why did this particular “buy-cott” effort seem to lack wheels?

Perhaps it was for lack of sympathy. The attack on Cathy and his family-owned, privately held company by elected officials undoubtedly created public sympathy for Chick-fil-A. Or perhaps it’s simply that Chick-fil-A has done a better job of connecting with a core audience that feels especially passionate about the brand.

While both groups have previously proven their passion, one of the most significant factors distinguishing the two “buy-cotts” is the size of the interest groups involved. People who self-identify as gay or lesbian comprise only 3.4 percent of American adults, whereas Faith Driven Consumers constitute 17 percent of American adults.

Despite their larger numbers, however, the passion of Faith Driven Consumers is likely fueled by the fact that there are currently very few places where they feel welcomed as consumers. Our research shows that Faith Driven Consumers are actively seeking to do business with brands that respect their values and worldview.

The point in comparing the Chick-fil-A and Starbucks “buy-cotts” is not to say that one group of consumers should be more widely embraced by brands over another. Rather, it is to note that the American marketplace is driven by brands seeking to connect with compatible segments.

Is your company reaching out to specific segments with determined efforts to craft messages that resonate?  While brands can’t be everything to everyone, it’s curious that in a society oriented toward the goal of inclusion Faith Driven Consumers feel marginalized by the actions and choices of so many brands.

What the Chick-fil-A “buy-cott” so powerfully demonstrates is the viability of the Faith Driven Consumer segment for inclusion in the marketing mix by retailers looking to expand their sales reach and market penetration into untapped, appealing and compatible niche markets.

After all, the Faith Driven Consumer segment is larger and more economically powerful in terms of annual spending than most other viable niche markets routinely embraced by retailers.

Is your brand making plans to include and engage Faith Driven Consumers – a group that spends $2 trillion annually?  Is your brand compatible with Faith Driven Consumers and willing to give them serious consideration?

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