The Grapevine

Political Correctness on Your Shelves

March 1st, 2016

Would you stock a wine called “The Old Bloke and the Three Young Blondes?” [level-members]

Wine Searcher’s recent article on an Aussie wine with an irreverent name points out the dust that’s been kicked up over the wine’s name and whether it’s offensive or not.

Setting aside this specific example – click the link above to read more about that wine, though you may want to not do a Google search for it if there’s anyone looking over your shoulder – there are interesting questions to be thought through on topics about which people are sensitive. Certainly, there are examples at either end of the spectrum that are clearly either out of bounds entirely or are cases of overwrought sensibilities.

In between, though, there are a great many examples of product names or label designs that might be offensive to some, amusing to others, and not remarkable at all to still another group. How do you handle those cases?

As tempting as it is to grab a customer by the scruff and toss him or her for being too preachy and politically correct, that’s probably not good business. (And might earn you an assault charge.) Giving in to pressure from people whose values don’t align with yours though isn’t the path to an enjoyable day in the office, either.

So it’s usually in the alignment of values that you find your answer. You have to be comfortable with the products you are selling, and with how they reflect on you and your business. You also have to be aware of your audience. If you happen to have biker dudes as your primary customer base – do stereotypical biker dudes drink wine? – you’ll probably get away with more than you might if your audience is, say, the faculty and graduate students at a liberal arts college. (Again, being quite stereotypical.)

You know your audience well enough to know their sensibilities and whether a wine labeled, “The Old Bloke and the Three Young Blondes” is going to amuse, offend, or go unnoticed. You might also consider putting policies in place to guard against opening yourself up to harassment claims from employees. [/level-members]