In case you have missed the big headlines – Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson has had a bit of fallout from his interview with GQ.  I mean… a LOT of fall out.  Yelling on both sides of the aisle – from freedom of speech to freedom of religion to bigotry and more… CNN.com has a good article about the issues in their article ‘Duck Dynasty’ reactions debate: Free speech or bigotry?
As an outspoken born again Christian Phil Robertson’s strong personality makes for popular TV – with 11.8 million viewers watching the season premier in August.

According to a fox news article, “Despite all the rhetoric you’ll hear, this is not a free speech issue. Robertson is entitled to say whatever he wants, as he did in the GQ interview, and A&E is entitled to pull him off the air if it deems the comments offensive. There is no First Amendment right to appear on a television show.”

But I’m not here to discuss what he said or what he, you or I might feel about it… I’m here to discuss the implications it could have in the licensing industry.

Wal-Mart has 343 Duck Dynasty products available online and who knows how many also in stores.  Duck Dynasty products are in many major chains across the country.  Being a hot commodity on TV often translates to sales at retails.  You can get bedding, watches, posters, t-shirts, shower curtains, and yes gentlemen… even thermal underwear and boxer shorts.

Similar to the Paula Deen outcry earlier this year, Phil Robertson’s opinions might cost him more than his tv role. (He has been let go from the show.)  CBS news published an article entitled: Will “Duck Dynasty” suffer the same fate as Paula Deen?  After Paula Deen’s racial slurs, she has lost over $12.5 million in earnings as of June in spite of her public apology.

According to Forbes, Duck Dynasty merchandise sales are about $400 million this year – half of which come from Wal-Mart.  What impact will this have on Duck Dynasty product sales?  Will the retailers and manufacturers be left with merchandise and lost sales because of the interview given to GQ?

There is obviously both an upside and a downside to hitching one’s wagon to a personality – and especially one that is popular because it is so drastically “unique” from the average American.  It will be interesting to see how this does or doesn’t affect consumer behavior and show ratings.  It is also another great reminder that we must be true to our brand and careful about what we put out there – while these seem to truly be his beliefs (so he is being true to who he is) – publicly stating them is definitely coming with some consequences.

Just a little food for thought… will be very interesting to see how this all plays out.

Here’s to your creative – and much less controversial – success!

– Tara Reed