Earlier this week, FedEx launched a multimillion-dollar campaign, Brown Bailout, directly attacking its competitor United Parcel Service (UPS) for supporting legislation that could make it easier for some of FedEx's workers to unionize. FedEx argues that the bill, currently making its way through Congress, is tantamount to a government bailout for UPS, because it would stifle competition.
The campaign includes a slick Web site along with videos and a snappy tagline, “Brown Bailout,” playing on UPS' trademark brown color. Yet its messaging is confusing, and the tone seems out of step at a time when “happy campaigns” are all the rage. And in an economic environment when workers are losing their jobs left and right, a consumer-facing anti-union campaign is not the way to win favor with consumers. Additionally, the company has raised the ire of the Teamsters union, which has planned a campaign against it. If FedEx is opposed to this legislation, it would serve them better to launch a campaign specifically related to the issues it presents, rather than singling out its largest competitor.
FedEx, of course, is pressing its point on Capitol Hill, reaching out to legislators. It should have placed all of its attack methods on the Hill and stopped there. A successful public affairs campaign will try to mobilize constituents to speak up to their representatives, but a confusing and negative campaign is unlikely to affect consumers in a positive way.