What Chik-fil-A and Papa John’s Can Teach About Protecting Your Brand Image


In the wake of the Chik-fil-A debacle, another major fast food brand has made a similar controversial comment. Papa John’s pizza CEO John Schnatter was quoted as saying that costs incurred from the president’s new health care initiative would be passed on to customers in order to protect shareholders.

Papa John’s pizza CEO John Schnatter with Obama

“We’re not supportive of Obama Care, like most businesses in our industry,” Schnatter said, according to Politico. “But, our business model and unit economics are about as ideal as you can get for a food company to absorb Obama Care…If Obama Care is, in fact, not repealed, we will find tactics to shallow out any Obama Care costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders’ best interests.”

As shown by the graph below, a storm of critical Facebook and twitter posts for Schnatter and Papa John’s followed the release of the comment, both for speaking critically of “Obama Care” and for the company’s willingness to protect shareholders at the expense of customers.

Image taken from Alerti.com

Papa Johns’ and Chik-fil-A’s forays into political debates were pretty disastrous, but, their loss can be your gain if you use their poor example as a cautionary tale and a learning experience. What these companies demonstrated is the importance of staying away from sensitive political dialogue – especially when it isn’t relevant to your business. If any issue has two strong oppositional sides, any non-objective statement you make is going to rub a lot of people the wrong way. Rather than potentially alienating a large percentage of your customer base, instead choose to remain objective, unbiased, and maintain distance between your brand and any debate over politics.

In this week’s episode of the Future of Engagement, Murray Newlands talks about where Papa John’s went wrong, how to avoid similar mistakes, and why getting involved in politics is bad for your brand.

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