Friday, April 13, 2007

Tea for two? No, thanks.

I'm having a major disconnect with one of my favorite brands, and as a marketer (and consumer), I'm having serious heartburn over it.

I love tea. Have it almost every day. It's a staple of non-mocha mornings. I am a fan of Earl Gray, but mostly stick to green tea due to the antioxidants and other good stuff. I'm learning that oolong tea has even more, but I have yet to branch out to that.

After years of Lipton tea, basically because I didn't really know any better, I found Bigelow. Bigelow teas are wonderful, and inside the boxes the tea bags are all individually wrapped in these little foil-lined pouches to ensure that your tea tastes fresh and delicious. I've tried other teas, Republic of Tea and Celestial Seasonings and Tazo Tea, but I keep coming back to Bigelow.

But this morning, I had problems when I went to steep my little Bigelow Tea bag.

You see, Bigelow Tea has been a sponsor of Don Imus, and continued to remain a sponsor even after all this hoo-haa about his latest racially insensitive comment.

Now, I don't listen to Don Imus. I absolutely hate shock jocks, who I feel simply use insults and bigotry to gain fame and fortune. They are disgusting and crass for no good reason other than to intentionally piss people off. And that's just rude.

Because I don't listen to Don Imus, I had no idea that my beloved Bigelow was a sponsor. I might not have cared because although I knew Don Imus was a shock jock, I wasn't aware of just how crass he was. As soon as a DJ is labeled "shock jock," I turn them off/tune them out. They pop back up on my radar only when they really blow it and make a colossal mistake along the lines of Imus'.

In fact, when all this stuff blew up with Imus, I still didn't know Bigelow was a sponsor. Even after all his "big" sponsors started peeling away, Bigelow remained under the radar.

However, I heard on NPR the other day (or was it just yesterday? This Imus thing has virtually exploded in a relatively short amount of time) that Imus took the time to publicly thank Bigelow on the air for sticking by him and remaining a sponsor.

Suddenly my tea doesn't taste so good.

Sponsorship of a particular program or person implies consent, approval, endorsement.

How on earth can I continue to purchase products from a company that doesn't think what Imus said was wrong? Or that all the horrible things he's said before now was okay?

I try to rationalize it by going back to business basics: Imus in the Morning was indeed a popular radio and cable TV show, and had a consistent and dedicated audience. Tea is, in America anyway, by and large a morning beverage. Therefore, it makes sense to advertise on a morning program with a large, consistent audience.

Where do you draw the line, though? Where do you say, "I'm not going to compromise my values just to sell more tea bags?" Shouldn't it be a conscious decision to elect not to have "Bigelow Tea, the tea for bigots!" as your tagline? Maybe they should change their name to Bigotlow Tea.

Ugh. Not only does my tea now have a tainted taste, but I'm embarrassed to be seen drinking it.

Not good for a brand. Not good at all.


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