Could legal action be brewing in the Coopers boycott?

15 March 2017

As Australian beer manufacturer Coopers faces threats of a public boycott, a Deakin University marketing researcher has called on the company to be clear in its association with the Bible Society or risk losing its entire market.

Marketing and Management lecturer Michael Callaghan said the Coopers boycott had potential to be far worse than the Australia-wide CUB boycott in 2016, which saw the company suffer significant brand damage and loss of sales and ultimately resulted in the reinstatement of 55 electricians and fitters earmarked for retrenchment.

“This boycott could be quite dangerous for Coopers as it targets the pink dollar, the LGBTQI community, which has an enormous public profile, powerful friends, and the ability to attract extensive media attention,” Mr Callaghan said.

“If they don’t actually come out with a very clear statement saying that they weren’t involved and take legal action to demonstrate that, efforts to placate those that might be upset are going to be viewed with suspicion and are very likely to make things worse.

“I find it hard to believe, on my understanding of the markets, that if you get a backlash from the LGBTQI community your brand isn’t going to suffer significantly.

“In associating with the Bible Society, Coopers is chasing a market that has limited potential profit, all for the benefit of publicity. When that publicity actually draws the attention of markets that may well be buying substantial amounts of your product, and those markets and interest groups have huge influence over people’s consumer spending habits, it’s just a ridiculously dangerous move.”

Mr Callaghan questioned the company’s claim that its products were used in the Bible Society’s video without permission.

He said that the two contrasting public statements released by Coopers after the advertisement aired last weekend and the company’s apology video released last night all raised questions.

“To be honest, if I was the Marketing Manager for Coopers and somebody put out that particular piece of media that appears as though it’s promoting my brand, I’d be actively hunting their hide through the courts and seeking punitive damages for my brand,” Mr Callaghan said.

“The fact that that legal action doesn’t seem to have happened, or have been mentioned by Coopers, I certainly find curious.

“It seems to me that they’ve realised they’ve kicked a hornet’s nest and they’re trying to roll back on it but their way of rolling back does not seem to me to be credible. The apology video was quite reminiscent of the Pistol and Boo apology that Johnny Depp and Amber Heard made last year.

“It’s one thing to support a particular political party – and let’s be honest, lots of brands do that on either side of the political fence – but I’d really like to see some substantiation of the fact that their brand wasn’t involved in that video.”

Mr Callaghan said that boycotts carried significant power, especially when the issue at stake is one as divisive and controversial as same-sex marriage.

“The marriage equality debate has been boiling away for the last two years and Coopers’ buying into the argument is brand suicide for the organisation,” Mr Callaghan said.

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Media release Faculty of Business and Law

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