Wall Street Journal: Consumers Force C-Suite Transgender Retreat

Bud Light Boycott Continues After Company Partnered With Transgender Influencer A sign disparaging Bud Light beer is seen along a country road on April 21, 2023 in Arco, Idaho. Anheuser-Busch, the brewer of Bud Light has faced backlash after the company sponsored two Instagram posts from a transgender woman. (Natalie …
Natalie Behring/Getty Images

The Wall Street Journal is warning C-suite executives that their daytime adventures in woke politics can cost them their annual bonuses.

“In most of these C-suites, they’re like, ‘We don’t want to be next,'” Jim Fielding, a former top retail executive at Claire’s Stores and Disney Stores, told the newspaper for a June 6 article, headlined “Companies That Embraced Social Issues Have Second Thoughts.”

“One step can turn a social-media storm into a corporate crisis that cripples businesses and wrecks careers,” the article says, adding:

Over the past decade, companies have become more vocal on causes such as immigration, voting accessabortiongay rights and racial equity, often taking stances shared by progressives. Many executives said they felt pushed by employees or customers to express an opinion on issues rippling through society.

What is changing now, executives and corporate advisers said, is that conservative groups and political leaders are pushing back against companies more forcefully. Consumers are also more openly expressing frustration that companies are airing views in ways some don’t welcome.

In the last month, the social-media storms have helped to kill roughly $10 billion in stock market value at “tuck friendly” Target retail stores and roughly $20 billion from Dylan Mulvaney’s Bud Light partners at Anheuser-Busch.

The huge losses will slash corporate bonuses for all C-Suite executives and managers — not just for the few executives that championed the populist boycotts.

The ordinary shareholders were pushed off the economic cliffs by politically active middle managers, usually working hand in glove with woke CEOs and pro-diversity investors on Wall Street.

But some companies are dodging the consumer pushback, partly because they are niche sellers to mostly progressive buyers.

For example, outdoors retailer North Face touted a joint marketing campaign with a “drag queen” female impersonator but has not precipitated a backlash. The backlash has not appeared likely because consumers who would oppose the marketing already shop at other stores, such as Cabela or Carhartt.

Those dodges are being cited by the networks of political advocates to call for even more Fortune 500 political advocacy:

“It’s not the end of LGBT marketing. It’s the end of amateurism in LGBT marketing,” said Fabrice Houdart, who consults with Fortune 500 companies and directs an organization for LGBT board members. He said senior leaders should consult with marketing, legal and communications teams, and also with employee resource groups, such as an LGBT employee group, along with human-rights advisers, if they have them.

“I can see that my [corporate] clients are more cautious,” said political advocate Houdart.


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