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My Favorite Midwestern Spice Chain, Quietly Fighting Fascism

jennifer boynton headshotWords by Jen Boynton
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Have you tried Penzeys' spices? My mother-in-law introduced me. The flavor, freshness, variety and price point are top notch and make this brand beloved by home cooks and bakers all around the U.S. Look in the stores or at the company's primary-crayon colored logo, and you'll see a brand rooted in family, the home, the hearth, the kitchen. In a time of deep political division, #fakenews, Red Teams and Blue Teams, most marketers would advise Penzeys to steer very clear of politics.

Traditional advice would say there's a lot to lose and very little to gain from getting political. Of course, we don't live in traditional times, and we do have case studies from brands like Ben & Jerry's and some exciting new research from Daniel Korschun's team at Drexel that consumers will reward companies that make a political stand with their purchases -- so long as the brand is consistent in its values.

Still these are early days in the #BrandsTakingStands movement and no one would fault a company like Penzeys, a private company based in the midwest, for steering clear of politics.

But that's not what has happened. Penzeys founder and CEO Bill Penzey has long shared his liberal views in the company's weekly newsletter and active Facebook page. And he's not holding back punches in the Trump era. Just take a look at this post from last Friday:

The posts are shared via newsletter and Facebook -- you won't find them on the company's web page. The company hasn't made a Twitter post since 2017 and as you can see, the copy is on the long side and could seriously use an edit (call me Bill -- I can hook you up!).

In this most recent diatribe he even notes that Facebook has marked the company's fan page as political:

And since we believe cooking is all about taking care of humanity, our posts now fall into the new political category. Your shares, likes, and comments really now mean more than ever, as they help overcome the extra barriers our posts face. Thanks for your help.

All of these signs lead me to believe that Bill's activism are rooted in his heart and passion for the cause -- not business.

And yet, he's killing it.

 

Bill explains: ...Standing up against everything the Republican Party has come to stand for is really, really, really (+76 more reallys), really good for business….

This chart is our weekly online sales this year vs last year starting with the week of April 1st. It mostly is the tale of just two offers. The first was calling out the President for claiming that he was above the law; he isn’t, this is America where no one is above the law. No one can pardon themselves.

The second came with us pointing out that whatever the results turn out to be the President only has himself to blame for the Russia probe….

That second offer, that big pyramid there, just ran for eighteen hours over a Thursday night. With that offer we received an eighty-fold increase in sales over the same time period last year. Along with those orders we get comments like: “Don’t mix business and politics, Bill. It’s bad for the bottom line.” “I was taught years ago, you don’t mix politics or religion with your business.” But look at the chart. This is not 80% growth, this is 80 times as much in sales!


He uses his success to call for other business owners and marketers to do the same:
If you are involved in a business that has been uncomfortable with the attacks on human decency the Republicans have been committing, there is really no better time to share those concerns with your customers than now. Your country needs you.

And if you are a marketer, please be aware that the times are changing. Maybe it's time to stop saying young people can’t be reached and instead try to get your clients to look into the values young people demand. At some point some breakfast cereal maker is going to celebrate the bravery of Colin Kaepernick by putting him taking a knee on the cover of their box. In that moment they will lose a third of their customers over 55 for what I imagine might be another year or two. In that moment they will win all of the younger generations for all of the rest of their lives.


For Americans of all political persuasions, these are scary uncertain times. Fortune favors the bold, and we all must use our platforms -- wherever they are -- to fight for the causes of civility, decency, kindness and respect. Bill Penzey shows us the way and is an example many business owners can learn from.

To join his cause and get some delicious spices, sign up for his newsletter here.

Jen Boynton headshotJen Boynton

Jen Boynton is the former Editor-in-Chief of TriplePundit. She has an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School and has helped organizations including SAP, PwC and Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. She is based in San Diego, California.

When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA (court appointed special advocate) for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.

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