The hovering dread of a presidential comment about your brand isn’t something that really existed before 2017, but it’s certainly been a common concern for marketing managers ever since.
From Amazon and Boeing to Nordstrom and Toyota, Trump has often targeted brands via his tweets or public comments when he’s unhappy with their leadership, corporate decisions or just what he sees as veiled slights. The result is typically a brutal news cycle and litany of boycott threats from Trump’s fans.
Tuesday night’s unexpected addition was Bumble Bee Seafood, the 120-year old brand based in San Diego and famous for its canned tuna. Describing the alleged weapons of choice for violent protesters—whom Trump previously accused of stockpiling canned soup to throw at police—Trump told a Pittsburgh rally that cans of tuna are also popular Antifa armaments (a claim unsupported by any credible reports).
Despite tuna fish cans all being pretty consistent in their shape and potential to be weaponized, Trump notably called out Bumble Bee as a specific brand favored by supposed insurgents.
“They go out and buy tuna fish and soup,” he told the crowd, according to NBC News. “You know that, right? … Because they throw it, they throw it, it’s the perfect weight, tuna fish. They can really rip it, right? And that hits you. No, it’s true. Bumble Bee brand tuna.”
Within a few hours, the brand’s Twitter account—with a follower base of less than 2,000 at the time—had tweeted a response that was practically effortless in shrugging off the president’s commentary:
Overnight, the tweet circulated widely on Twitter, generating over 13,000 likes in 12 hours. The brand’s Twitter following also grew more than 50%, swelling past 3,000 by mid-day Wednesday.
Some questioned the validity of the Twitter account, which isn’t verified by the platform. However, the account is linked from the Bumble Bee Seafood homepage and has tweeted nearly 2,800 times about corporate updates in the 11 years since the account was created.
So why did Trump target Bumble Bee specifically?
No one knows for certain, but there are a few theories that might explain the specific brand mention.
It’s unlikely that the answer lies in Trump’s usual stance of “America first,” since almost all major players in the packaged seafood industry are owned by overseas companies. Bumble Bee’s parent company is based in Taiwan, while StarKist is part of a South Korean conglomerate, and Chicken of the Sea’s owners are in Thailand.
But Trump has been known to hold grudges, and Bumble Bee’s executives were vocal in their concerns about his administration’s 2018 proposed tariffs on imported Chinese seafood, which the company said could be “devastating” and slow its manufacturing expansion plans in the United States.
Recently, the financial impact of the tariffs on seafood importers was estimated at $300 million a year.
StarKist—whose North American operations are based in Pittsburgh, where Trump was speaking Tuesday night—supported Trump’s tariffs in 2018.
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