Fast-food giant Chick-fil-A has been tagged with the unfortunate phrase "corporate bully" after attempting to prevent an artist in Vermont from printing the phrase "Eat More Kale" on T-shirts. Chick-fil-A believes the slogan is too close to its own "Eat Mor Chikin," and sent the artist, Bo Muller-Moore, a cease-and-desist letter this fall, according to the New York Times.
The end result: a petition on Change.org called "Stop Bullying Small Business Owner" that is now approaching 20,000 signatures, increased engagement on the EatMoreKale.com Facebook page and a boom in Muller-Moore's T-shirt sales.
The message for communicators is clear: If a company chooses to take legal action against an individual or small business or tries to silence an individual, it must be aware that the individual or small business is also a publisher and all actions will be played out in a public forum.
Did Chick-fil-A understand that its attempts to prevent a small businessperson/artist from printing "Eat More Kale" on T-shirts and selling them would be broadcast online and even end up in the Times? Probably not. If it had understood that all communications are potential fodder for Facebook campaigns, angry petitions and coverage by major media companies it would have likely ignored Muller-More and focused its attention on selling more chicken sandwiches.
On Muller-Moore’s petition “Chick-fil-A: Stop Bullying Small Business Owners,” he says, “[my company] is not confusing Chick-fil-A’s ‘chikin eatin’ customers. Nor am I diluting their ad campaign or affecting their profits. This is simply a case of Corporate Bullies.”