Mike Lindell’s Political Pillow Talk Puts the Future of His Business at Risk
1/25/21 – – Viewers of prime time cable news programming are well acquainted with Mike Lindell, aka the MyPillow Guy. The folksy self-made entrepreneur has for years unapologetically pushed his bedding products, evangelical religious beliefs and conservative political positions. Despite his outspokenness, company sales have soared — until last week, when major retailers, including Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s and Wayfair, began pulling his pillows from their shelves.
Ignoring the super-charged post-election environment, he doubled down on politics.
Remaining fiercely loyal to President Trump — he was one of the last visitors to the White House before the Trumps flew off to Florida — Lindell jumped into the controversy regarding voter fraud in the presidential election and hinted that he may run for governor in his home state of Minnesota. Mike Lindell has never been everybody’s cup of tea. But he destroyed whatever delicate balance he had struck between business and politics.
Mike Lindell’s experience offers a cautionary tale — I guess you could call it an excellent bedtime story — for business leaders feeling pressured to weigh in on political issues. Proceed with caution, understanding that the world is evenly, bitterly divided between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals. Enter this minefield and you will offend as many people as you impress.
A 2016 Weber Shandwick survey of American consumers found 40% of respondents more likely to purchase from a company when they agreed with the CEO’s position, but 45% less likely to be buyers when they disagreed. A 2018 Stanford Graduate School of Business study (“The Double-Edged Sword of CEO Activism”) confirmed this important reality:
The most surprising result of the survey is that, while Americans claim to change their purchasing behavior depending on their agreement with an activist CEO’s position, respondents are significantly more likely to remember products they stopped using or use less because of the position the CEO took than products they started using or use more. Specifically, 35 percent of the public could think of a product or service they use less, while only 20 percent could think of a product they use more.
The Stanford researchers concluded:
CEOs who take public positions might build loyalty with employees, customers, or constituents, but these same positions can inadvertently alienate important segments of those populations.
Who are you more upset with . . . Mike Lindell or Bed Bath & Beyond? Are your delighted that the ubiquitous MyPillow Guy is finally getting what he deserves, or furious that major retailers would cave to pressure from the cancel culture? Are you more likely to buy from Wayfair because the company shares your views, or have you pledged to never visit the online furniture store again because they abandoned a patriotic U.S. manufacturer?
In the end, these self-inflicted storms are destructive for everyone. CEOs who avoid being dragged into politics can still do a lot of good, support important business-related causes, and get a good night’s sleep.