Whole Foods Facing PR Nightmare after CEO’s Health Care Remarks

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August 20, 2009 – It’s never a good idea for person in an upper management position of a brand that relies almost entirely on its image (basically every brand) to piss off the vast majority of its customer base, but in a time when social networking gives consumers a worldwide voice to respond to said offense, it’s just nonsensical.

That’s what Whole Foods founder and CEO John Mackey is now discovering in the wake of an op-ed piece he wrote last week for the Wall Street Journal that stated his personal position on health care, a position that he is entirely against universal health care, which goes directly against the views of the majority of the progressive shoppers that frequent his stores.

Now those shoppers are taking to the Internet to start Whole Foods boycotts, especially across social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. A quote from the Boston Phoenix states, “Whole Foods has built its brand with the dollars of deceived progressives,” organizers wrote on the “Boycott Whole Foods” Facebook page, which boasts more than 13,000 members. “Let them know your money will no longer go to support Whole Foods’ anti-union, anti-health insurance reform, right-wing activities.”

It’s perfectly acceptable and common to have opinions that may run contrary to those of your customers, however, writing an article about them and then publishing said article in one of the most highly viewed newspapers in the U.S. is not the best business strategy. Be on the lookout for more social media spread boycotts and negative PR.

Didn’t they learn anything from United Breaks Guitars? While this isn’t necessarily a customer service problem, the Whole Foods debacle represents the same online retaliation issues that can severely impact the reputation of a brand, especially a brand that has worked hard to create a brand image based on typically left-leaning, progressive values.

We’ll have to wait and see how Whole Foods responds, since they do have one of the most active and successful corporate Twitter accounts around.

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