Guido Barilla, chairman of the Italy-based pasta brand Barilla, stated in an Italian radio interview that the company would never display gay families in their ads. This led to a firestorm on Twitter by gay rights activists sounding the call to boycott Barilla productions, including pastas, cookies and bread.
Barilla has apologized if the comments offended anyone but stands by his statement. He said that the company would not display a homosexual couple out of sensitivity to those who don’t support homosexuality. Barilla also stated that he personally supports gay marriage but opposes gay adoption because women play a “central role” in a family.
Will the pasta brand be forever associated with these comments? Can companies backpedal from offensive comments and boycotts? Do apologies and explanations band-aid up the wound or just make it worse?
Sasha Strauss, founder of Innovation Protocol, a management consulting firm focused on brand marketing; Professor at UCLA & USC