business news in context, analysis with attitude

Advertising Age reports that Buitoni, the Nestle-owned pasta brand, has responded to the controversy over comments made by Guido Barilla, chairman of the competing Barilla pasta brand. Barilla, in comments made on an Italian radio program that quickly went viral, said that his company's commercials would never feature a homosexual couple because he disagrees with same-sex marriage, that he believes in traditional family units where women play a "fundamental role," and that if gay people don't agree with him, "they can go eat another brand."

While Buitoni is not commenting directly on the statements, Ad Age notes that its Facebook page pasted the following message: "A remarkable dish can bring people together," while quoting the late legendary food writer James Beard, who was gay: "Food is our common ground, a universal experience." And, its Facebook page also features a graphic showing gender symbols made out of pasta with the message, "Pasta for all."
KC's View:
This illustrates the ultimate point I was trying to make last week when this story first broke ... that senior executives, who have the right to think, feel and say anything they want, really have to be careful in the current environment, lest they disenfranchise a significant portion of their customers. In this case, that's not just people who are gay, but also people who feel strongly about gay civil rights.

And when they do so, they run the risk of being targeted by the competition, which can take advantage of the moment.

Let me add something here. I've gotten a few extraordinarily personal emails over the last couple of days attacking me for my personal beliefs, questioning my morals and my values, and accusing me of being "militant."

To be every one of my comments, I have used some variation in the following phrase:

People - even senior executives - have a right to their opinions, and even have a right to make statements like these. But they have to know that if they make comments that a segment of their customer base will find demeaning, there likely will be consequences.

I think this is demonstrably factual. Not a matter of opinion. And executives who do not realize this may lack the basic knowledge of how the world works may lack the capacity to be 21st century executives. (If they understand all this and do it anyway, then fine. They've made a choice. And then it is up to the marketplace to decide.)

I am transparent about my beliefs in this matter only because my biases inform my opinions, and it seems only fair to be up front about them. I would only suggest that it is amusing to be seen as militant, since I actually find ideologues on both side of the political aisle to be annoying. I've often quoted the great Pete Hamill on this issue: "Ideology is a substitute for thought."


I did get an email yesterday from MNB reader Beatrice Orlandini, who happens to live in Italy. And she wrote:

I never thought the Barilla controversy would reach to other side of the ocean so fast and be so big there as well.

Guido Barilla apologized openly.

His brother criticized him.

He was widely ridiculed since his last TV ad had Antonio Banderas talking to a chicken ... Anyway, just a note to all the pasta lovers in the USA: Barilla is definitely NOT the best Italian pasta!

De Cecco is better.

Garofalo is better.

I don't know Colavita; it's not widely sold so I will hunt for it and give it a try.