Keurig says it regrets taking sides, but does not reinstate advertising on Hannity

At least judging by social media, the coffeemaker Green Mountain Keurig had some consumers feeling steamed over the weekend.

Some fans of the talk show host Sean Hannity posted videos of themselves destroying Keurig coffeemakers and started the social-media hashtag #boycottKeurig after the company announced on Twitter TWTR, -0.74%   that it would stop advertising on the show.

“It’s wise to do nothing that alienates a lot of people from buying their products,” said Charles Taylor, professor of marketing at Villanova University near Philadelphia, Pa. “It’s pretty smart to stay out of the fray.”

They were rallying in support of Hannity, who had spoken on his radio and Fox News television shows about the case of Roy Moore, 70, the Alabama Senate candidate who has been accused of making sexual advances toward teenagers when he was in his 30s. One woman told the Washington Post that he touched her inappropriately when she was 14 years old.

Hannity’s comments weren’t so clear cut. He said he did not condone Moore’s alleged actions, if they turned out to be true. He originally said on the radio it was a “he said, she said” situation and that he didn’t “know how you find out the truth.” He later clarified on television that if the allegations against Moore are true, “it is beyond reprehensible,” and “he should step aside and leave the Senate race.”

“A 32-year-old man pursuing a 14-year-old girl is disgusting,” he said. But he also said he is afraid to rush to judgment of Moore, and he wants to “pursue truth, which at times can be very difficult.” He also said in a tweet he apologized that he “misspoke and was not totally clear” on radio and TV. (Fox News-parent 21st Century Fox and MarketWatch-parent News Corp. share common ownership.)

When reached for comment by consumers, Keurig — which advertises on Hannity’s show — said it would stop advertising. In a tweet over the weekend, Keurig said it “worked with our media partner and Fox News to stop our ad from airing during the Sean Hannity Show.”

‘I don’t think Keurig anticipated this backlash. There’s always a risk analysis in situations like this for brands. Keurig probably meant to stop advertising, maybe permanently or maybe part-time until this blows over.’

Andrew Ricci, vice president at Levick Communications in Washington, D.C.

“I don’t think Keurig anticipated this backlash,” said Andrew Ricci, vice president at Levick Communications in Washington, D.C. “There’s always a risk analysis in situations like this for brands. Keurig probably meant to stop advertising, maybe permanently or maybe part-time until this blows over.”

Other brands, including, reportedly, the genetic-testing company 23 and Me and the vitamin company Nature’s Bounty, declined to advertise on Hannity’s show as planned, too. (Neither company immediately responded to MarketWatch’s request for comment.) But Keurig is now a trending topic. “The company’s mistake was to comment to Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters of America, which made it look like the company was taking a liberal position instead of a non-partisan one,” Ricci said.

On Monday, Keurig’s Chief Executive Bob Gamgort emailed colleagues at the company, according to the Washington Post, which published his memo. He said Keurig’s comments on Twitter “gave the appearance of ‘taking sides’ in an emotionally charged debate that escalated on Twitter … which was not our intent.”

Gamgort said he would require an overhaul of the company’s “issues response and external communications policies.” He added, “Our company and brand reputations are too valuable to be put at risk in this manner.” (Keurig did not immediately respond to MarketWatch’s request for comment.)

The company realized it took a beating online when other brands managed to avoid the fracas, Taylor said. “We’re in such a politically polarized environment right now, they should refrain from alienating Republican or Democratic figure,” he said. “They now run the risk of alienating both sides because Hannity’s fans still might be upset.”

Other companies have become embroiled in political debacles

This is far from the first time a company has found itself in a social-media fueled controversy recently. Some people called for a boycott of L.L. Bean, the outdoor-gear company, during last year’s presidential election after media reports that Linda Bean, an heiress to the family’s company and a member of its board of directors, donated thousands to a political action committee in favor of President Donald Trump.

And earlier this year, some people called for a boycott of coffee company Starbucks SBUX, -0.70%   when chairman Howard Schultz pledged to hire 10,000 refugees at the company over the course of several years.

But whether the so-called “boycotts” have an impact on the companies, beyond an initial social media outcry, is a different question.

‘We’re in such a politically polarized environment right now, they should refrain from alienating Republican or Democratic figure.’

Charles Taylor, professor of marketing at Villanova University

In some cases, it does seem to have impact: talk-show host Bill O’Reilly was fired from Fox News after reports that he and the company paid millions to women in settlements after they accused him of sexual harassment and verbal abuse. It’s unclear though if Fox News let him go because of his actions or because many of his show’s advertisers stopped supporting his program — or both.

And yet in many other instances, the boycott seems to be forgotten quickly. Consumers called for a boycott of the fast-food restaurant Chick-fil-A in 2012, when the president of the company said he was against gay marriage. But the chain remains popular, and customers gave it the highest satisfaction rating of any fast-food chain, by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, in 2016.

“This controversy over Keurig will last for a couple of days,” Ricci added. “People will go out and buy the Keurigs that they’ve just destroyed or other people who liked the position the brand took on the issue will go out and by one instead.”

Who, if anyone, will benefit from all this free publicity? “I don’t think Hannity gets new viewers out of this,” Ricci said, “but I don’t see more people buying Keurig either. It’s not a market maker for either side.”

It might energize Hannity’s base, though, said Erik Bernstein, the vice president of management firm Bernstein Crisis Management. “Part of what he sells is outrage,” he said. “Now his supporters have another cause to be outraged about, and that keeps them engaged.”

And Keurig may have bigger problems than whether or not it advertises on Hannity’s show. The company’s sales have fallen amid concerns about the expense and waste created by its “K-Cups,” which customers use to brew coffee and other drinks.

By 2019, North America is projected to see annual growth of 4% in coffee pods — a category Keurig has dominated — down from 82% growth in 2012, according to market-research firm Euromonitor International.

(Quentin Fottrell contributed to this story.)

Filed in: Top News Tags: 

You might like:

Encore: Yellen says inflation below 2% goal poses one of Fed’s ‘biggest challenges’ Encore: Yellen says inflation below 2% goal poses one of Fed’s ‘biggest challenges’
NewsWatch: If you like the FAANGs, you’ll love these three year-end melt-up candidates NewsWatch: If you like the FAANGs, you’ll love these three year-end melt-up candidates
Why nearly half of office Christmas parties won’t have booze this year Why nearly half of office Christmas parties won’t have booze this year
Personal Finance Daily: What’s at stake in ‘net neutrality’ debate and why nearly half of office Christmas parties won’t have booze this year Personal Finance Daily: What’s at stake in ‘net neutrality’ debate and why nearly half of office Christmas parties won’t have booze this year
The Wall Street Journal: 6 Citgo execs arrested in Venezuela, accused of corruption The Wall Street Journal: 6 Citgo execs arrested in Venezuela, accused of corruption
The New York Post: Uber paid ransom to keep data breach affecting 57 million users and drivers quiet The New York Post: Uber paid ransom to keep data breach affecting 57 million users and drivers quiet
Earnings Results: Salesforce earnings top Street estimates but shares back off record after hours Earnings Results: Salesforce earnings top Street estimates but shares back off record after hours
Market Extra: Goldman: ‘Rational exuberance’ to drive stock market in 2018 Market Extra: Goldman: ‘Rational exuberance’ to drive stock market in 2018

Leave a Reply

Submit Comment
© 2017 Stock Investors News. All rights reserved. XHTML / CSS Valid.