I love L.L. Bean. If you read my 2016 favorites post, you would know that I love their boots. I feel like they lay pretty low when it comes to advertising and marketing because their name and reputation speak for themselves. It was surprising to me when they had to release a statement about one of their 50+ board members, Linda Bean, personally donating money to Trump’s campaign. Because of this donation, an organization called Grab Your Wallet added L.L. Bean to a list of businesses to boycott. You can read L.L. Bean’s statement here. Trump went on to tweet his support and endorsement of L.L. Bean, which has now raised the question of, “Is a Trump endorsement a death sentence for a company?”
This is a tornado that no business wants any part in. The political climate in our country right now is volatile and polarized. Just one person in company leadership supporting Trump has caused a PR nightmare. People are swearing they will never buy an L.L. Bean product again while others are placing orders just because of the Trump-supporting family member. I think L.L. Bean’s statement is very good, but I don’t think that the statement will change people’s beliefs. If they really are anti-Trump, they will do anything they can to not support him and hurt those who do. (Note: this goes for Clinton as well, but we’re talking about Trump today)
Anyone with any association to Trump seems to be given the public cold shoulder and the interpretation of our First Amendment now has become conditional. But, that’s a totally different topic that I won’t be discussing. This poses a problem for brands and PR because it adds a whole new element to crisis PR. L.L. Bean clearly stated that they don’t endorse political candidates, but it was too late. I doubt that Trump tweeting about them and bringing more attention to the boycott was something they were happy about either.
I think L.L. Bean has handled this unwanted attention as best they can. They were timely with their response, they communicated their messages and they had a call to action at the end. Linda Bean even went on Fox Business to confront it head on. Now, they must wait. I think that if they continue to go along with life like normal, this will eventually blow over. They may take a hit for a little bit (or possibly an increase in sales), but in the long run it will be all right. The last thing they want to do, from a PR standpoint, is keep bringing it up.
This case has so many different facets that make it very interesting and even unprecedented for PR practitioners. No political party is really that happy when the opposite candidate is elected, but this is a whole new beast we are dealing with. Practitioners must prepare a plan in case their client gets caught in a Trump PR vortex.
Holly Hoehner is a public relations senior at the University of Oklahoma. She considers herself more of a Russell Westbrook than a Kevin Durant and enjoys learning about and participating in the digital age, blogging about anything that comes to her mind and creating witty Instagram captions. Holly was raised a die-hard Sooner fan in Edmond, OK.