A lesson to be learned from Barilla chairman's remarks

Barilla, a leading Italian pasta brand, has become the subject of an international boycott after company chairman, Guido Barilla, made remarks during a radio interview that critics have characterized as disparaging gay people.

While everyone is entitled to having a personal opinion, this is lesson 101 on what not to say. If you want your brand to reflect your personal opinion — which you are, of course, entitled to — don't be surprised if people who don't share your opinion don't want to share your brand experience either.

In response to the backlash, Barilla posted a statement on its Facebook page that reads: “At Barilla, we consider it our mission to treat our consumers and partners as our neighbors — with love and respect — and to deliver the very best products possible. We take this responsibility seriously and consider it a core part of who we are as a family-owned company. While we can’t undo recent remarks, we can apologize. To all of our friends, family, employees and partners that we have hurt or offended, we are deeply sorry.”

However, judging by the consumer comments posted on its Facebook page, the damage has been done.

One post reads: “I'm Italian, I'm gay, I'm married legally to a man, I have three adopted children. I had Barilla pasta for dinner last night. Today, tomorrow and forever more I will choose another brand of pasta. Good bye Barilla! You lose!!!”

Another post reads: “And we who disagree with the CEO comments, even as we uphold the value of free speech, are also very free to never purchase his product again while it serves to benefit his pocketbook. Plain and simple.”

And another post was a photo of a garbage can filled with unopened boxes of Barilla pasta.

This is going to cost Barilla big time, and it is unlikely that any marketing effort, social outreach or social media campaign will fix this.

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