Influencer-in-Chief? Trump, Twitter, and L.L. Bean
January 18th, 2017
Thank you to Linda Bean of L.L.Bean for your great support and courage. People will support you even more now. Buy L.L.Bean. @LBPerfectMaine
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2017
Setting aside the ethical questions, the endorsement prompted TINA.org to wonder if this tweet should have included #ad. FTC guidelines require that anyone endorsing a company must disclose any material connections to the company, and that a sponsored post be clearly and conspicuously labeled as such since the information that it is an ad assists consumers in making better-informed purchasing decisions.
While Trump’s tweet discloses a connection to Bean in thanking her for her support, Twitter followers would actually have to do a quite a bit of digging to find out what support he is specifically thanking her for. Turns out it had to do with her financial contributions to a political action committee endorsing Trump, which then came under fire when the Federal Elections Commission said the amount she contributed was illegal. Last week, Bean went on Fox news to defend herself after Grab Your Wallet, a consumer group that has been initiating boycotts of companies that carry Trump products, added L.L. Bean to its list of more than 50 companies. Trump’s tweet followed Bean’s appearance on Fox.
We reached out to L.L. Bean for comment on whether its sales had increased or decreased since the tweet. The company did not respond.
But in response to the boycott, L.L. Bean Executive Chairman Shawn Gorman said in a statement on Facebook that Bean made her contributions supporting Trump as an individual, not as a company representative, noting:
We fully acknowledge and respect that some may disagree with the political views of a single member of our 10-person board of directors. Like most large families, the more than 50 family member-owners of the business hold views and embrace causes across the political spectrum, just as our employees and customers do. And as every member of the family would agree, no individual alone speaks on behalf of the business or represents the values of the company that L.L. built.
Gorman added that L.L. Bean does not endorse political candidates, take positions on political matters, or make political contributions.
So while it appears Trump’s tweet may not have needed #ad in this particular case, if he continues these unprecedented endorsements, best practices would dictate PEOTUS, soon to be POTUS, disclose his motivation.
For more of TINA.org’s coverage of Trump, click here.