Walmart is under fire today after it came out that a line of "Impeach 45" clothing was available for sale on its website. Adult-sized shirts, as well as baby clothes, with the "Impeach 45" design, were available from a third party seller through the Walmart marketplace. (The number "45" refers, of course, to Donald Trump, who is the 45th U.S. president.)
According to media reports, after a social media storm, with some consumers calling for a Walmart boycott using the hashtag #boycottWalmart, the company pulled the clothing from its website.
When companies choose to include political messages on their products or in their marketing, they should expect to hear from consumers who disagree with them -- and they should have a well thought out plan for how to respond.
This controversy doesn't actually appear to be about a company that has made a choice to use a political message. Rather, the product was made available through a marketplace of third party sellers who sell numerous products through the Walmart platform. It's not at all clear whether Walmart even knew that the product was available for sale on its website. Consumers don't often appreciate that distinction, however. When companies make products available from third party sellers, or media companies run ads placed by other brands, they're often being held responsible -- at least in social media -- for the messages that are conveyed. Companies that host third party content, then, are going to continue to need to develop effective systems and procedures to help them ensure that they are comfortable with the content that they are making available on their platforms.