SASKATOON – The evolving communication landscape can make it easier to mount public outcry against a business or brand, like in the case of Vancouver-based Earls Kitchen + Bar, according to a marketing expert.
“It’s much easier to say negative things and positive things, it’s all real-time,” said David Williams, a marketing professor at the University of Saskatchewan.
“Before firms could wait, but now they have to respond and be prepared,” added Williams.
On Wednesday, Earls backed away from its decision to source its beef from the U.S., after stating a week earlier that western Canadian producers didn’t produce enough cattle that fell under a humane certification.
“We definitely made a mistake,” said Mo Jessa, Earls’ president, in an interview Wednesday.
“We should have worked harder with local ranchers to find beef that met our criteria.”
The moved caused a backlash after it was announced, with some promising on Twitter to boycott the restaurant chain for outsourcing their beef to the U.S.
“It’s one of those ground-swell things that doesn’t go away,” said Williams.
“Maybe they started feeling it a little more intensely and it didn’t die down.”
Wednesday’s decision was applauded by Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart, who said it was a “good first step” in the company’s plan to use Canadian beef.
“Our standards generally are very, very close to what Earls is talking about,” said Stewart to reporters in Regina.
“We have to do a better job of getting our message out, letting the public know that our beef is produced to the highest standards of anywhere in the world.”
However, doubling back due to public pressure is not always a move that would benefit a brand, according to Williams.
“Some brands love being the anti-brand and the bad image and it’s fine, but Earls is a bit more mainstream,” he said.
Outside of Earls’ Saskatoon location late Wednesday morning, Leanne Mazza said she didn’t “have a strong enough opinion to boycott,” but “it’s better to keep things local.”
“This restaurant has always been a go-to place for us,” said Mazza, before entering its doors.
“Whether or not I would have eaten the beef, I don’t know, I might not have.”