Dollars and Eyeballs

While everyone else on the conservative side of the blogosphere today is marveling over the concurrent train wreck of the Biden-Trump “debate” last night, and the “deer in the headlights” reaction from the Establishment Media over their horrible realization that they can’t possibly pull any kind of media veil over the wreckage – I just thought that I might wander off on another tangent. I’ll meditate and marvel a little on there on how a national retail corporation pulled decisively back from the brink of a Bud Light-like, company-wrecking disaster. I speak of the Tractor Supply turn-around. I should like to have been eavesdropping in the C-level suite of Tractor Supply’s headquarters, when everyone concerned there realized that going all out for progressive causes like DEI/DIE, the Pride Mafia and open borders was about as popular with their rural and suburban fly-over country market demographic as a case of genital warts. I would assume that the meeting where they realized “Oh-krep-on-a-biscuit-we-gotta put a stop to it now before we lose our phony-baloney jobs!” was pretty epic.

All props for even coming to that realization, and another round of props for acting decisively in putting out a statement strongly emphasizing action steps, instead of one of those sniveling and mealy-mouthed ‘we’re-so-sorry-that-you-stupid-proles-were-offended’ non-apology apologies. The current retail and entertainment landscape is littered with the still-twitching corpses of entities who went all in for DEI/DIE, the glories of randy Pride parades and free-lance gender-bending, and expecting their customers/audience to sit still for wokie lectures. In the future – if university marketing courses even have a future – likely there will be a couple of compare-contrast chapters on how Bud Light and Tractor Supply handled the fiasco resulting from dissing their customers.

For myself, I’ve always been a bit embarrassed about rolling up to a Tractor Supply store, or any other local feed and seed outlet driving a small sedan. One really ought to be in a slightly battered not-quite-new pickup truck with a layer of dirt on the paint and mud on the tires. While I don’t live on a ranch or farm, we have kept chickens in the past, and the spoiled avians preferred chowing down on the brand available there. They also have a pretty good array of pet foods, deer corn, sundry dry goods and work clothing, garden and outdoor items and country kitsch. We’ve bought a chicken coop there, a dog crate, plants, seeds and large-capacity mason jars for home canning … and when we start with chickens again, we might just go regularly again.

Still, though – there are independent, non-chain farm and ranch supply stores, and genuine old-style feed stores around here. Like this one, or this one. Or this small local chain, which has an outlet just up the road from us.

24 thoughts on “Dollars and Eyeballs”

  1. Had an interesting small discussion on Facebook about a WSJ article yesterday. The gist of it was that the hard progressive stance at Ben and Jerry’s hasn’t hurt them a bit.

    I compared this to Bud Lite (and does anyone know if they have recouped much of their customer base? All is quiet).

    Someone made the point that their base has known about their politics for years. and their politics fits with a lot of that from the base.

    Bud lite really angered their base.

    Maybe it all comes down to the customer base.

    Then you have large corporations like Target with a mixed base that angered a sizable portion. I’ve read that their sales have been down for some time.

  2. As far as Ben & Jerry’s, they baked that “groovy”, counter-culture vibe into their image from day 1 as evidenced by “Cherry Garcia.” I don’t think anyone thought twice that they have a Stephen Colbert or Jimmy Fallon-themed flavor but not a Greg Gutfeld. They have taken a more confrontational side with climate-change and then the banning of sales in Judea & Samaria, but that still coincides with their key market and even with that new edge I see no diminution in shelf space

    To SGTM’s point, it’s about corporate response. It’s not surprising the Mulvaney caught the Bud Light people by surprise; they have been micro-targeting the LGBT Alphabet People for years with Pride-themed marketing material for receptive bars and other establishments. The image that kept being associated with the boycott was a picture of Mulvaney holding a can with his image imprinted on it, but those cans were never produced for the market. What happened was that not only were the marketing people dismissive of their core market and therefore slow to recognize the danger, but they had trapped themselves with their previous efforts because any backing-off the Mulvaney endorsements entailed alienating the Alphabet People.

    I think the boycott worked out well, sending a clear message, and the Tractor Supply situation was a direct response to it. Provides a foundation to build on which is important because that mentality is still prevalent in corporate America; it may be chastened but it still exists, ready to re-emerge like a viral plague.

    Personally I think we should ask everyone to do away with Pride-themed bonanza and all that, after all don’t they just want to be accepted like everyone else? Why do they need to be set apart? Seems discriminatory. Accordingly I think we should be fair and have public “celebrations” for other parts of our rich cultural stew, such as Lent with themed merchandise sold in stores, banners to hang from public establishments, and demands that all eating establishments offer fish and other Lenten-friendly meals on Fridays. I cannot wait to see the Bud Light cans. What they won’t? Bigots.

    Cannot wait for “Bill of Rights Pride Month”, especially the merchandise celebrating the 2nd Amendment. Every Democrat and corporation better be celebrating that too, with “pride” parades and floats for each of the ten amendments, after all that’s my truth. Anybody who won’t celebrate should be accused of being an insurrectionist.

  3. Leveraging what Mike said above, perhaps it’s time the government stop recognizing demographics with official proclamations. Stop recognizing Pride Month, and Black History Month, and Asian-American Month, etc. Just get out of that. Not a function of government. In some parts of the government (especially the military), such recognition also includes mandatory, all-hands briefings and struggle sessions.

    Similarly, stop proclaiming “days.” We don’t need the feds proclaiming National BBQ Potato Chip Day.

  4. Yeah, it looks like doing things that anger your base customers is now going to have consequences. I’m glad the pushback happened. And worked.

    We don’t have TSC in Flyover Falls, in Deepest Oregon, but the two regional farm and ranch supply outfits will happily take money from people in the newest Honda Civic to the grungiest F350 with loaded horse trailer. (Said load containing cattle…) One has a somewhat more urban-garden section, while the other has a really good camping/hunting/shooting section, but there’s a lot of overlap.

  5. I have noticed a new ad series by Black Rock, the investment fund that was all in on ESG for a while. ESG was the corporate equivalent of DEI. Everything was to be “green” and “sustainable.” The returns on those investments sucked and somebody noticed.

  6. Tractor Supply:
    LGBTQIA+ training for employees
    * Funding pride/drag events
    * They have a DEI Council
    * Funding sex changes
    * Climate change activism
    * Pride month decorations in the office
    * DEI hiring practices
    * LGBTQIA+ events at work

    It’s not that they just “went woke”. They’ve been woke for years. Do I believe they’re going to change course?
    No.

  7. Omae Wa Mou Shindeiru

    Tractor Supply…t’s not that they just “went woke”. They’ve been woke for years. Do I believe they’re going to change course?
    No.

    I doubt that the Woke people ever constituted a big part of their customer base. As such, it was unnecessary or counterproductive to pander to the Wokesters.

  8. That McKinsey report is interesting. I’m not a big fan of consultants; it’s not that they outright lie but rather what they say is shaded by implicit boundaries. He article points to all sorts of problems typical of consultants, the big one being the correlation/causal. I’m going to guess that this report wasn’t commissioned by a client, but rather was used by McKinsey to make a market for diversity consulting services.

    From my experience, consultants feed on the insecurities of management, especially when it comes to risk management which manifests in 2 ways. First there is the risk to both the company and c-level suite reputation of being left out of the next big thing; think the buzzword bingo of business reengineering or Internet in the 1990s or Net Zero/Climate Change/Green. Just watch ads for companies and listen to how they try and describe themselves.

    If you’re a CEO you don’t want to be caught short of the hot new thing; I know I don’t want an article in the WSJ asking if my company is the next Blockbuster of the 2020s. The other risk is more of legal protection. You don’t want either the PR or financial hit of legal action on some toxic issue. Maybe it’s pollution. Keep in mind while BLM had yet to fully gear up by the time of this report (2015), MeToo was hitting its stride. Ending up in legal action, the courts will look in part to see if your company had engaged in “common practice(s)” regarding the issue say by setting up policies to fight discriminatory practices and harassment. If you don’t have basic policies in place and you are up on sexual harassment, good luck. I would imagine when MeToo started to hit the headlines, a lot of corporations panicked, realized their risk and looked to call “Ghostbusters”… and there was McKinsey with their groundbreaking report waiting to scoop up business.

    You can imagine how it went from there, the CEO called the C-level folks in, asked what they were doing to protect the company on this matter and somebody suggested setting up a dedicated DEI office within HR, afterall wasn’t HR already staffed from bitter left-wingers? In other words for business leaders it was about risk management, making the problem manageable and much like the Aztecs did with the Sun Gods, by offering a sacrifice to the Gods of Diversity with hiring practices and training seminars.

    Alot of money was made, by consultants and otherwise unemployable internal diversity managers. It’s a protection racket and for corporations it is initially seen as a cost of doing business, just like working with unions or Chicago Machine.

  9. You can rest assured that anything McKinsey puts out, especially for free, is because McKinsey thinks it will make them money. The same for what they put out for pay. As long as the check clears, they’re on to the next sucker. It only needs to sound vaguely plausible, if the management had a clue, they wouldn’t be there in the first place.

  10. I rather think that Mike has the right of it – that corporations wanted to armor themselves against Me Too/BLM, etc., and were rushed into setting up such programs … and now, they are receiving the blow-back.
    For me, personally – when we take up backyard chickens again, we’ll make an effort to do business with Jupe Mills, or Struttys – even make the trip all the way to New Braunfels, to the local feed’n’seed there. Not because we’re such fans of Tractor Supply – but we want to support local, first and foremost, rather than a national corporation.
    It was a point that my daughter made, when we drove up to Bandera this week, to meet a new client. During the height of the Covidiocy, when it was “Close All The Things!”, it was the small towns out in the backwaters who weren’t having any of it – bars, restaurants and shops were defiantly open, because it was a matter of economic survival to stay open. They were far enough out in the country that they could ignore the authorities insisting on the Covidiocy’s stupid and counterproductive rules.

  11. A couple of recent books address the issue of Woke corporations and their suicidal advertising campaigns as manifestations of the managerial state, first described by James Burnham in his “The Managerial Revolution,” published in 1941. One is “The Total State” by Auron Macintyre. According to Macintyre, the managerial elite alluded to by Burnham and others before him are now calling the shots and consider advertising campaigns more a vehicle for virtue signaling than selling products. If they damage a company in the process they don’t really care, because their expertise is in management. They can manage one company as well as another and can just jump ship to another host if things get too bad.

    The other book, “Woke, Inc.”, is by former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. As CEO of a Pharma company, he gained a lot of insight into the symbiotic relationship of corporations and Woke NGO’s. His insight is that corporations pose as champions of assorted Woke moral crusades. For this the Woke outfits certify them as morally pure. In return, the corporations supply the Woke grifters with fat donations. He describes Wokism as a secular religious movement similar to Communism. I agree. The Woke are basically the same people who would have been ardent Communists in the 30’s and 40’s.

    Classic workers vs. bourgeoisie Communism is now basically defunct as a compelling ideology for would be saviors of the world. Wokism is currently the leading candidate to take its place. It is certainly threadbare enough as secular religions go. It lacks anything close to the theoretical underpinning of Marxism and consists of a hodgepodge of moral truisms that are concocted on virtually a daily basis out of thin air. The interesting thing about Woke morality is that it lacks any source of moral authority whatever. It supports its claims purely by appealing to the moral emotions of its followers. It’s certainly annoying enough, but I doubt it will ever have the ideological heft to kill anything close to the 100 million victims of
    Communism. Perhaps we should be grateful for that.

  12. Helian/Doug Drake may be too optimistic. If the Climate Change theocracy succeeds in imposing their full penance on the rest of the world, it would make the toll of Communism a rounding error.

    In more heartening news, it seems the hamasnicKs went after the pride parade in NYC and other places, hilarity ensued as politicians were presented with a conundrum; which side to take.
    https://www.jpost.com/bds-threat/article-808494

  13. I notice that WSJ author takes pains to CYA by noting that diversity of executives has many good social roles like providing role models and demonstrating a commitment (?) to hiring the best people regardless of race, hue, sex, etc. even if it doesn’t make more money.

    Why do they always assume no one ever unpacks this?

    If you have a commitment to hiring the best regardless of those factors, you will probably end up with more diversity over time. If you end up with a whole lot of diversity tomorrow, you have hired specifically for those factors, not for the best, and have certainly excluded better people who did not meet those criteria.

    Also, I don’t want companies promoting to provide role models, presuming role models can only ever be found among those with matching diversity features. I want companies focusing on, in I think approximate order, profit, quality of goods/service, and customer service, while practicing underlying good behaviours regarding conditions of employment and legal compliance.

  14. You need to understand that the spread of ‘woke’ in businesses far and wide isn’t concerned with making the clientele happy. It’s about making points with the large, institutional investors that control the stock price, and thru that the market capitalization.
    They gotta protect their stock options. It’s where the big mucky-mucks get their money.

  15. The mention of “The Total State” reminds me of Thaler & Sunstein’s “Nudge” which advocates the use of psychology to “nudge” people toward making “better” choices. Back when it first came out I thought it was just an innocent example of libertarian paternalism, that people who thought they knew better than you would “help” you make “better” choices. Now I see it as the start of something darker.

    Advertising over the past 10 years or so has been much more than just a product; it’s about social messaging, once you recognize it you start to see it everywhere from the words, the images. Oh it still sells status and feel-good, but as part of a larger set of beliefs You want in with the in-crowd of the world? Believe this, do this, buy this. It’s soft, non-coercive, a nudge… but nonetheless it’s a conscious effort through psychology to establish social norms.

    Doesn’t have to be just advertising because it’s all based on psychology; high school was like that, you learned who were the cool kids and what was socially acceptable. These days it’s about that pride flag your company put up in the lobby that somehow stays up through the year

    Our famous Bud Light VP of Marketing, Alissa Heinerscheid, claimed she was trying to expand the customer base into new demographics. Dig a little deeper into her comments, the way she was dismissive of the traditional demographic, and you see it was also about getting those people to know their place and “behave” accordingly. It looks they did behave accordingly, just not in the way she expected

    Personally I take a great deal of pride that despite all of the advertising and social pressure placed on me that I much prefer a full-size with a V8 and a blonde in the passenger seat than an EV with a soy latte in the cup holder. Only you know what’s best for yourself, though I would recommend 7.62

  16. TSC is now lavished with credit for “seeing the light” and reversing course; that TSC embraced wokeness initially, seeking salvation among its practitioners, advocates and claimants, abandoning it only when it proved less advantageous than hoped, is ample condemnation of its shallowness and lack of integrity. Had the financial spreadsheets not shown a reversal would they have continued to use “woke” as a structural component of their business platform, in continued denial of “how things really work on this planet” ?

    Humans value salvation; some manner of “born again” is a widely accepted positive demonstration of virtue, “hate the sin, love the sinner” will overcome all. Never mind the debasement that desire, needfulness, judgmental error, corruption, disrespect and woeful disregard of reality drove one to sinfulness originally, a heartful mea culpa, mea maxima culpa will set it right.

    I’m not suggesting that TSC should fall on its sword and commit corporate seppuku as atonement for its errors, but nowhere in the statement is there a direct admission of responsibility; “We have heard from customers that we have disappointed them.” is hardly an admission of how seriously the company misjudged its position, why the error occurred and upon whom, or what corporate practice, the responsibility lies, and, specifically, what correction will be applied to prevent reoccurrences. “You caught us at it, and we’re sorry” is not a magic elixer, and the thief caught in the act is always sorry.

    In the overall scheme of things, what happens with or to, Tractor Supply is small beans; our national media is in the same boat, having been caught red-handed selling its country and its citizens down the river with years of deliberate, impassioned, egregious lies about national leadership and the government the country depends upon to maintain, and improve, itself. As pointed out by numerous scribes, the media is not sorry they lied, they’re just sorry they were caught at it, and they’ll be all better now. Just like Tractor Supply. And, like Tractor Supply, the probability that major players and managers in the media will have to walk the plank is well below zero.

  17. “…our national media is in the same boat, having been caught red-handed selling its country and its citizens down the river with years of deliberate, impassioned, egregious lies about national leadership and the government the country depends upon to maintain, and improve, itself.”

    Jimmy Dore just put together a great collage of talking heads all spouting the “Biden is sharp as a tack, sharp as a tack, sharp as a tack, sharp as a tack,” talking point like so many parrots. This was combined with much finger wagging at those on the “extreme right” who suggested otherwise “without evidence” for such immoralities as ageism, etc. Without evidence?! Let’s see, how many Biden gaffes have we seen with our “lying eyes” in the last four years? I note in passing that their fellow robots in Germany were repeating the “Trump told many lies” talking point as if the script had been handed down to them from their puppet masters in the US. None of them ever describes a single one of these “lies” for their listeners in detail or bothers to mention the many egregious lies told by Biden. Of course, in all fairness, he probably didn’t realize they were lies.

    It’s interesting to speculate about how many of these “journalists” actually believe their own lies. Solzhenitzyn mentions what I believe he called a “sharashka” in his “The First Circle,” a lie so big that even those who tell it believe it. We live in a “sharashka” world.

  18. Similarly, stop proclaiming “days.” We don’t need the feds proclaiming National BBQ Potato Chip Day.
    While I agree, I would much rather have congress spending their time passing resolutions like that than spending more money, creating bureaucracies, and “doing” things they otherwise shouldn’t really be meddling in.

    I’m glad TSC saw the light. It isn’t that they’re now going to hide any of that – they stopped even talking to Human Rights Campaign (which, if truth in advertising were applied, would actually be “Pervert Rights Campaign”). It was HRC that was demanding they do these things to get a “good corporate” rating. And they figured out nobody cared about that rating very much. They figured out the hedonists and such don’t really have all that power they claimed.

  19. Lots of things to remark upon…
    Cannot wait for “Bill of Rights Pride Month”, especially the merchandise celebrating the 2nd Amendment.
    I have lots of 2nd Amendment shirts. I wear them frequently. In Denver, I got some nasty looks, but no one ever said anything. In South Dakota, people like them – and say so.

    the media is not sorry they lied, they’re just sorry they were caught at it, and they’ll be all better now. Just like Tractor Supply. And, like Tractor Supply, the probability that major players and managers in the media will have to walk the plank is well below zero.
    You’re not wrong. However, take a moment and enjoy the “win”. It’s arguable that leadership that follows the wind is actually doing a good job and should not be fired. Admitting that mistakes were made and changing course is to be applauded. Ticker-tape parades may be a bit much, but so is firing everyone involved.

    There is much hyperbole swirling around this issue. I looked at the “TSCO lost $2 BILLION ZOMG!!!” headlines. There’s not much there, there. I think that makes the CEO’s reaction look even better. He acted BEFORE things went down the drain.

    there are independent, non-chain farm and ranch supply stores, and genuine old-style feed stores around here.
    I have no idea what’s around here. This is a good reminder to find out.

  20. I’m still waiting for the celebratory months for lust, greed, envy, sloth, wrath, and gluttony.

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