As much of the country, including nearly all political commentators and media personalities, were watching the virtual Democratic National Convention, President Trump was watching a news trend that has been gaining steam online. Eventually, the President added his clout to the #BoycottGoodyear slogan.
The US-based tire company got on Trump’s bad side after stories circulated, claiming that the company’s official dress code allowed staff to wear clothing supporting social issues such as Black Lives Matter but disallowed political speech such as MAGA hats. Responding on Twitter, the President of the United States urged his followers to boycott tires from Goodyear.
Goodyear responded by arguing that they never actually, specifically banned MAGA hats. That their company rules indicate that employees should “refrain from workplace expressions involving political campaigns…” as well as “forms of advocacy that fall outside the scope of racial justice and equity issues…”
Trump’s attack sent the company’s stock price down, before a brief uptick, and the price ended the day down about 2.4%. According to an anonymous source, supporters of his comments blame a screenshot of a slide in Goodyear’s diversity training program that supports LGBT and BLM but bans MAGA and Blue Lives Matter.
In a response, Goodyear said Trump and those angry about the dress code had a misconception about company policy, saying that “Goodyear has always wholeheartedly supported both equality and law enforcement and will continue to do so…”
Goodyear added that the text captured in the screenshot was “not created or distributed by the company’s corporate offices” nor was it part of any company-sponsored diversity training, though the company did ask workers to “refrain from workplace expressions in support of political campaigning for any candidate or political party, as well as similar forms of advocacy that fall outside the scope of racial justice and equity issues…”
While it’s common for corporate entities and brands to ask employees not to “talk politics” with customers or otherwise engage in political activity at work, many activists on both sides of the political spectrum have made it a habit of drawing companies into political fights due to position statements or perceived biases.
While this complicates consumer PR messaging, it’s the present reality for brands across most industries, and brands need to be aware and prepared for potential fallout based on perception, even if that perception doesn’t exactly match reality.
After Trump said “a lot of people (are) not wanting to buy” Goodyear, his press secretary doubled down, calling on the company to “further clarify” its official position.
Meanwhile, Goodyear is likely wondering how its company, which is based in a city battling 11% unemployment, suddenly got dragged into a national political campaign. At this point, from a PR perspective, the “how” or “why” is less important than what they do next.
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