In the same week that the Company made FORTUNE magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” for the 13th year in a row, it was rated the most highly valued brand among the world’s 250 largest retail companies in an annual study by Deloitte Research, besting the likes of L. L. Bean, Amazon.com, Land’s End and Nordstrom.
So why does Publix merit our sympathy?
Because the kind of gaffe that happens at some time to almost everyone in public relations has caused them to dump the lovely art calendar they’ve produced as a thank-you for South Florida customers since 2005.
The Gaffe: Pearl Harbor Day was not included – but the Islamic New Year was. The fact that most calendars don’t include Pearl Harbor Day, and Publix’s never has, didn’t prevent certain folks from overreacting. A right-wing candidate for Congress called a talk-radio queen, who ranted on the air, and the game was on.
According to the Publix PR people – who were very responsive to our request for information – the undistributed calendars were pulled and will be recycled. But some of the information we asked for is considered proprietary (e.g. the quantity and cost of the calendars), so we have to speculate on a couple of issues. To me, the most interesting one is how the other dates were decided.
That’s because while a number of other holidays and observances that frequently appear in calendars also are not included (e.g. Washington’s Birthday/President’s Day, Groundhog Day, April Fool’s, Tax Day, Ramadan and Election Day), fully 29 of the 72 dates that DO appear celebrate independence days for Hispanic or Caribbean countries.
Since the calendar is distributed by Publix’s Miami Division, it’s fair to speculate that it was produced by a vendor in that heavily Hispanic metroplex. There’s a logo on the back of the calendar that could belong to a printer or publisher, but the Publix PR people declined to confirm whether that was their vendor, and an extensive Net-search yielded no conclusive results.
So the question goes unanswered for now, and the calendar joins our collection of unique marketing pieces, which includes the famous “Miami: See It Like a Native” poster. Produced in 1979 for an international tourism campaign, it raised feminist hackles; was deemed too risqué for distribution; and all but a handful of the 25,000 printed were destroyed.