An Open Letter to State Farm
Mr. Edward B. Rust, Jr.
CEO, State Farm Insurance
One State Farm Plaza
Bloomington, IL 61710
Note: if you would like Ed to see this letter, please e-mail it to him.
November 18, 2014
On behalf of concerned parents across the country, I’m asking you to reverse a recent business decision.
The resonance of your branding suggests that you should be responsive. State Farm is the ubiquitous “good neighbor,” trading on trustworthiness and integrity at the highest standard. You’re a corporate giant who claims to go beyond what’s legal to do what’s right.
State Farm grasps the power of cultural iconography.
Your pricey TV commercials are hip and funny. The latest, featuring SNL faves, are a “social branded content push” aimed at milennials and everyone else, too.
Your decision to ditch Rob Schneider shocked us.
When you dumped Rob Schneider as a spokesman because he believes parents have the right to decide what’s in the best interests of their children… our collective jaws hit the ground.
As reported in PR Week and widely covered, State Farm dropped Rob Schneider over his views regarding vaccine mandates after social media pages Food Hunk, Science Babe, and Chow Babe called on State Farm to help end the “anti-vaccination movement.”
Your public affairs director, Phil Supple, said the State Farm ad featuring the Richmeister “has unintentionally been used as a platform for discussion unrelated to the products and services we provide.”
(Make no mistake, it wasn’t unintentional.)
Bad move for a smart company.
It got me thinking…
Why on earth would the nation’s largest insurer of cars and homes choose to make such a big statement to the nation’s 150+ million parents over an issue that you admit is unrelated to your business?
And then why would State Farm double down by repudiating a world famous, much loved comedian and Emmy-nominated actor who’s also a conscientious and devoted father expressing an educated, courageous, and heartfelt opinion?
Insurance companies are conservative. I was a corporate vice president for a large insurer where I worked for ten years. It’s pretty clear to me why State Farm thought it was a good idea to pull Rob’s ad. A slam dunk, even. Maybe you were led to believe that concerns about parental rights, vaccine safety, and health freedom are radical and fringe.
Not even close. With your decision to unceremoniously cancel Rob, you telegraphed some very brand-damaging messages. Consider how many parents see it:
STATE FARM TOOK A STAND AGAINST PARENTS
You allowed your brand and ad platform to be co-opted for a highly visible and unrelated objective that parents find offensive. Are you really saying that parents shouldn’t decide what’s in the best interests of our kids? Do you truly want State Farm to come down on the side of censorship, suppression, and forced vaccination?
Rob was exercising his right to free speech, promoting an open discussion about a critically important topic, and your response was to give him a public spanking and send him to his room. You slammed the door and shut down dialogue. That isn’t socially responsible, good corporate citizenship. It’s corporate McCarthyism and a big part of what’s wrong with society today.
Sometimes, parents are presented with difficult options, each with its own advantages and risks. Children have different risk profiles based on family and medical histories, exposure history, lifestyle, geography, culture, and more. Parents are absolutely correct in rejecting one-size-fits-all diets, educational options—and medicine.
We parents do our best to make thoughtful, rational, informed decisions in the best interests of our families. It’s difficult enough without heavy-handed corporate interference.
STATE FARM VALIDATED A FALSE NARRATIVE
There is no “anti-vaccination” movement. Calling parents “anti-vaccine” is a distorted construct created for the express purpose of labeling and dismissing legitimate concerns. To represent parents as ideologically opposed to an entire category of medical procedures is absurd and irresponsible. All diseases are not the same and neither are all vaccines. Just because a certain antibiotic can cause severe injury to some does not make them anti-antibiotic, any more than deciding not to drive a particular model with defective acceleration makes us anti-car.
In firing Rob, State Farm took the bait. You were used for a purpose that has nothing to do with your brand.
STATE FARM BEHAVED LIKE A CORPORATE BEHEMOTH
Your decision was neither neighborly nor trustworthy. It was a unilateral cheap shot and an institutional power play executed without discussion or remorse.
Americans are fiercely independent. How we raise our children is our business. We don’t like it when powerful entities flex their muscles and tell us what to do. We don’t care if bureaucrats and executives think something is good for us. More than that, we don’t trust it. You’re a corporation. Your job is to make great products and deliver outstanding customer service.
When it comes to parenting our children, you don’t get a vote.
READ THE REST OF THIS RIVETING, FACT-FILLED ARTICLE HERE.
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