L.L.Bean is in a tough spot today. The brand is struggling to maintain its political neutrality while also being praised by Donald Trump for the campaign support he received from one of its board members.
In a tweet thanking L.L.Bean heiress Linda Bean—granddaughter of founder Leon Leonwood Bean—for her support, President-elect Donald Trump told his Twitter followers to "buy L.L.Bean." He also linked to a small newsletter account run under Linda Bean's name.
The president-elect's tweet was clearly a direct response to Linda Bean's appearance this morning on Fox & Friends, where she said she was being "bullied" by Trump critics over her support of a pro-Trump PAC.
"It's very much a case of bullying—bullying me, bullying the companies I own and bullying the one that I partly am on, the L.L.Bean Company, which I've owned since I was a child," she told the hosts of Fox & Friends. "My grandfather gave me the first share of stock the day I was born."
Trump soon after posted this tweet:
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
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) January 12, 2017
While an endorsement from the incoming president to his nearly 20 million Twitter followers might sound good to some businesses, it only complicates the difficult situation L.L.Bean has found itself in this week.
On Sunday, Shawn Gorman, L.L.Bean's executive chairman, responded to a boycott campaign with a Facebook note, saying: "We were disappointed to learn that Grab Your Wallet is advocating a boycott against L.L.Bean solely because Linda Bean, who is only one of 50+ family members involved with the business, personally supported Donald Trump for President."
"We fully acknowledge and respect that some may disagree with the political views of a single member of our 10-person board of directors," he wote. "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."
He added: "L.L.Bean does not endorse political candidates, take positions on political matters, or make political contributions. Simply put, we stay out of politics. To be included in this boycott campaign is simply misguided, and we respectfully request that Grab Your Wallet reverse its position."
In turn, Grab Your Wallet has said it will remove L.L.Bean from its boycott list if Linda Bean is removed from the company's board of directors. Updated filings for Making Maine Great Again LLC also list another Bean name: Diana Bean, reported to be Linda's sister, though it's unclear if she has any direct connection to the company.
The brand has not yet responded to Trump's announcement of support. A spokeswoman for L.L.Bean did not immediately respond to Adweek's request for comment.
On Twitter, Trump's endorsement sparked both his intended applause for the brand and vocal criticisms about whether the incoming president should be promoting brands specifically because their executives have financial relationships to his campaign.
Wtf, @realDonaldTrump? Is the presidency an ad agency now?
— David G. McAfee (@DavidGMcAfee) January 12, 2017
@realDonaldTrump so now you're starting to advertise through your account????
— Christoph A. Karlo (@chkarlo) January 12, 2017
— Fusion (@Fusion) January 12, 2017
@realDonaldTrump I'll do the exact opposite, thanks for the heads up
— Calvin (@calvinstowell) January 12, 2017
— Kris Reese (@krisreese) January 12, 2017
— Matt Rasnick (@TheMattRasnick) January 12, 2017
Here's the full video of Linda Bean's appearance on Fox & Friends: