President-elect Donald Trump has taken to Twitter to directly promote specific businesses whose owner has supported his political campaign.
In a new move, Trump on Thursday tweeted out thanks to controversial donor, L.L. Bean heiress Linda Bean, for raising money for him during his presidential campaign and told followers to patronize the iconic retailer she has a big stake in as well as a lobster-themed business she owns in Freeport called Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine.
It’s not the first time Trump, who is set to take office next Friday, has singled out a business in a tweet to his now 19.6 million followers. But those have typically been threatening rather than supportive, such as recent tweets to U.S. carmakers raising the specter of high tariffs if they produce cars in Mexico. Last year, Trump used Twitter to urge followers to boycott Macy’s (M) after the department store chain dropped his line of clothing when he called Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers. He has also attacked Amazon.com (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos on Twitter.
L.L. Bean, famed for its iconic duck boot and other outdoor wear, has found itself facing the threat of a boycott started by Grab Your Wallet, a group that encourages shoppers to avoid certain retailers such as Nordstrom (JWN) and Macy’s, that have ties to Trump and his family, this week.
The controversy erupted after donations by Bean, granddaughter of founder Leon Leonwood Bean and a member of the company’s board of directors, made to a pro-Donald Trump political action committee came to light. Bean has long been longtime political donor and twice ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Republican. The Associated Press reported recently that Bean contributed $60,000 to the Making America Great Again LLC, citing the Federal Election Commission. The agency said in a letter dated Jan. 4 that her contribution exceeded the individual donor limit of $5,000.
L.L. Bean, which competes with the likes of Lands’ End (LE), Columbia Sportswear (COLM) and VF’s (VFC) The North Face, itself sought to distance itself from Linda Bean, saying she did not speak for the nine other board directors or 50 family members who also own a stake in L.L. Bean, and urged shoppers not to boycott.
“We are deeply troubled by the portrayal of L.L.Bean as a supporter of any political agenda,” L.L. Bean Chairman Shawn Gorman said in Facebook post on Sunday. “We stay out of politics. To be included in this boycott campaign is simply misguided, and we respectfully request that Grab Your Wallet reverse its position.”
The contretemps surrounding L.L. Bean is reminiscent of the one that swirled around New Balance last month after a spokesman said “things are going to move in the right direction” on trade policy with Trump coming to power. Angry protestors posted videos of themselves setting their New Balance sneakers on fire.
And it’s a reminder of how perilous politics are these days for brands, which risk the ire of consumers for any move seen as political. For example, Starbucks (SBUX) has faced boycott threats over its position on guns, while Kellogg’s is dealing with anger from some consumers over its recent decision to remove ads from far-right news web site Breitbart.