JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: It has become a routine question. What kind of separation there is between the president, his family and the promotion of their businesses?
Kellyanne Conway’s comments today about Ivanka Trump fueled a new round of criticism and concerns for the companies involved.
So, how should businesses navigate these news waters?
Our economics correspondent Paul Solman explores that with his weekly installment of Making Sense.
PAUL SOLMAN: The Super Bowl, politicized this year through ads, Airbnb branding itself as immigration-friendly, Coca-Cola recycling a 2014 ad that also suggests an alternative definition of American patriotism.
And in the larger world, backlash from Uber customers over President Trump’s immigration ban, #deleteUber, that ultimately forced its CEO to step down from a White House advisory panel.
Nordstrom dropping the first daughter’s clothing line back in January, with Neiman Marcus following suit, prompting a tweet from President Trump yesterday: “My daughter has been treated so unfairly by Nordstrom. She is a great person, always pushing me to do the right thing. Terrible.”
So are we seeing the rise of a new partisan consumerism, echoing the country’s polarized politics?
We invited two Harvard Business School professors, Nancy Koehn and Len Schlesinger, to answer the question.
NANCY KOEHN, Professor, Harvard Business School: What we’re seeing now is, I think, the culmination or perhaps the next logical step of a long series of events and trends among consumers, many of them previously alienated from the political process, where they use their dollars to vote on social, political and economic issues.
LEN SCHLESINGER, Professor, Harvard Business School: And relative to today’s administration, there are countless examples of how that’s being played out on a daily basis.
So we have the scenario of the Ivanka merchandising line, which has now been essentially removed from Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, a hashtag, #boycottNordstrom, hashtag #boycottNeimanMarcus for actually tossing our Ivanka out of the store, and the same on the other side of the equation.
PAUL SOLMAN: So, boycotts, consumer boycotts have been used to express political beliefs and to try to affect political outcomes for…
NANCY KOEHN: For at least 50 or 60 years, right, and probably going back farther than that.
What, again, is new, I think, Paul, is the reach and the speed. And that’s all running on the high-octane fuel of social media. And I think the other thing that’s new and different is the emotional energy that social media allows. These are all businesses that have a very big word of mouth component to them. They have a big ego or identity component to them.
So the ability of these boycotts to affect those aspects of business success, consumer loyalty, word of mouth, brand power, that’s a big deal.
LEN SCHLESINGER: And the interesting thing is seeing where it really is a big deal and where it isn’t. So, in the context of Uber, it is a service that people hate to love or love to hate, OK?
LEN SCHLESINGER: And the CEO announces he’s going to join the president’s business advisory council. In the midst of everything that was going on at Uber and everything that was going on in the administration within the immigrant community, he had no choice but to withdraw from being on the president’s advisory council.
You wonder what got him possessed to actually join in the first place.
PAUL SOLMAN: Because he ought to have anticipated the uproar that that might cause.
LEN SCHLESINGER: Given the population…