Hey General Mills, Make Pop Tarts, Not Politics

In this morning’s news, Best Buy and other corporations announced that they are joining a growing list of corporations pulling out of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) ).  The corporations are doing so because they were worried about their valuable brands getting muddied from fallout due to ALEC’s aggressive advocacy of “stand your ground” gun laws, such as the one at the center of the tragic Trayvon Martin murder case in Florida.

Best Buy’s decision is smart brand management.  Goodness knows, it has enough issues of its own to solve.  Best Buy doesn’t need to add to its woes by putting its  brand in the middle of the political knife fights over the most polarizing political issues of our times.

Which brings me to General Mills and its opposition to the marriage ban amendment that will be on Minnesota ballots in November.

As  a voter, I strongly oppose the marriage ban amendment.  I’m actively opposing it.  The idea that any loving, committed people are banned from getting married is an embarrassment.  So I wholeheartedly agree with General Mills’ sentiment.

What could possibly go wrong here?

But as a public relations guy, I find General Mills involvement in this ballot issue monumentally stupid.

General Mills should focus on what it was created to do– make and market packaged food.   It should stay out of ballot questions — all issues, all candidates, all the time.

Why?  First, it’s bad brand management.  You spend billions building brands over the years, only to put them in the middle of bitterly divisive political battles?  Really?

Second, it’s bad democracy.  To state the obvious, it is notable that President Lincoln described our democracy as “of the people, by the people and for the people.”  He didn’t go with “of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations.”  That comment might sound trite, but its true.  The “demos” (δῆμος ) in democracy aint Greek for “C-Suite.”

General Mills should leave democracy to the demos — its employees, customers and others.  That is who is supposed to decide societal issues in a democracy.   I admire General Mills’ leaders for wanting to stand up for equality for all of their employees.  It is making the mistake for all the right reasons.  But it is a mistake.

So please, General Mills, stay out of politics, even politics that I support.  To improve our democracy, give your employees ample time off to exercise their individual choices on Election Day.  Beyond that, make Pop Tarts, not politics.


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