When a Sandwich Becomes Offensive

Sometimes you just can’t win, so maybe you’re just better off not trying to play the game at all.

The latest example: A British supermarket chain, Marks & Spencer, created a new item, the LGBT Sandwich, shown here. The L is lettuce, the G guacamole, the B bacon, and the T tomato. And it is sold in a rainbow-colored package.

Silly idea? Probably. But probably also fairly well-intentioned. In this day and age, few companies are going to go out of their way to attack someone in the LGBT “community,” so you can pretty well safely presume that the supermarket folks thought this was a fun way to incorporate what has become a common acronym into their menu.

You can also safely presume that the reaction was not as they had hoped. Turns out quite a few folks in that “community” didn’t take well to the idea, complaining that the supermarket was “equating us to a sandwich” and “exploiting a marginalized community for profit.”

Odds are this little social media adventure will turn out to be a net loss for the company, since they earned themselves far more online thumbs-downs than they probably gained sandwich sales. By the time they issue all their apologies and make their requisite donations to the correct charities as a form of atonement, it will end up even more of a case study in backfiring good intentions.

It’s not hard to understand why companies are walking on eggshells today. And the supermarket probably felt reasonably safe. After all, how many restaurants have you been to that named sandwiches or dinners after celebrities, always in a complimentary way? It’s a common thing.

One of our favorite restaurants even right here in our small town does that, with the Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Clint Eastwood plates, along with several named for dearly departed favorites such as Elvis Presley and Bob Hope. To our knowledge, Jack, Arnold, and Clint haven’t complained about this on social media.

Best advice for when your company’s marketing and promotions people come up with an idea like this is a focus group. Better to have a contained group of a dozen people shoot it down than the avenging angels of Twitter.