The Scoop: How conservative activists targeted Tractor Supply Company on DE&I

Plus: EU accuses Meta of breaking rules with ad-free option; Cup Noodles releases S’mores flavor.

Tractor Supply Company has abruptly ended all DE&I activities after conservative outcry.

Less than one month ago, conservative activist Robby Starbuck “exposed” Tractor Supply Company. In a post on X to his nearly half-million followers, Starbuck decried the company for things that are standard practice for many large companies: having a DE&I council, holding LGBTQ+ trainings for employees and climate change initiatives.

But for many conservatives, including those likely to shop at a feed and tractor store, these activities ran counter to their values. Outcry begin to build.

Over the next few weeks, he continued to drip out information on the company. It was part of a concerted effort to bring change at Tractor Supply. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he said his plan was three-fold: choosing a company with a conservative base, slowly releasing his information to keep it in the public conversation and targeting a single company.

It worked.




In a statement posted to X last week, Tractor Supply Company announced that it would entirely eliminate DE&I in its organization, stop sponsoring Pride festivals and voting campaigns, and end its emissions pledges. In turn, it would now offer more “mentoring and networking” for employees, sponsorship of events involving veterans and agricultural education, and land and water conservation efforts.

Cue the counter backlash, with state representatives, queer organizations and large customers like an animal sanctuary all expressing disappointment in Tractor Supply’s abrupt about face.

Why it matters: Few of the initiatives Starbuck presented as shocking exposes would have raised any eyebrows in most corporations today. But the activist smartly targeted a business he saw as uniquely vulnerable to this kind of boycott and pushback: one whose customer base is largely rural, male and more conservative.

“If I started a boycott against Starbucks right now, I know that it wouldn’t get anywhere near the same result,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

At first, Tractor Supply thought perhaps the issue would blow over, as many social media controversies do. But Starbuck’s steady drumbeat of content was a well-waged PR fight that got the results he wanted.

But will this spread to other companies?

The ultimate message for companies of all kinds is: know your customer and know your own organizational values. Listen early and often on social. And create a plan right now for this kind of backlash.

After Target, after Bud Light, after Tractor Supply, there is no reason to be caught off guard by a campaign like this. Evaluate your efforts, what your customer expects from you and what you truly stand for.

You will never please every person. But by drilling down to core customers and core values, you can preserve what matters most, financially and ethically.

Editor’s Top Reads:

  • The EU continues to hold major tech companies accountable for violating its strict Digital Markets Act regulations. Just a week after Apple found itself in the crosshairs, Meta is joining it. The EU says that the social giant’s “pay or consent” ad model (you’ll be served targeted ads unless you pay for an ad-free experience) violates the DMA. The Verge reports that the EU seeks a third option that serves less personalized ads but which is still free to use. If found to be in violation, it could be fined as much as 10% of its global revenue. But do the economics of offering non-targeted ads make sense for Meta? The EU continues to change the game for tech companies – and the effects will ripple around the world.
  • On first glance, it seems like a joke: the iconic Cup Noodles packaging offering not chicken or shrimp flavored ramen, but Campfire S’mores. But Nissin is indeed offering the “treats” for a limited time, but online and in Walmarts for $1.18 a cup. “We believe this nostalgic flavor is going to start a lot of conversations and get people to remember those campfire moments that they had growing up or are still having,” Nissin Foods USA Senior VP of Marketing Priscila Stanton told CNN. It’s right there in the quote: Nissin isn’t necessarily trying to make something that’s delicious, but rather to spark conversations. And judging by its earned media, in outlets including CNN and Foodsided, plus social chatter, it’s working. Meanwhile in Japan, the company is rolling out a flavor designed to evoke poisonous pufferfish.
  • Boeing’s terrible year is being compounded by the S. Department of Justice’s reported decision to seek a guilty plea from the company tied to two deadly crashes of 737 Max Planes. In the wake of the blowout of an Alaska Airlines door earlier this year, the DOJ revisited their agreement with Boeing after the fatal crashes and now seeks to hold the company accountable. Not only could a guilty plea jeopardize future government contracts for the company, it also seeks to earn the ire of the families of those who died on the flights, some of whom have called even a guilty plea a “sweetheart deal.”

Allison Carter is editor-in-chief of PR Daily. Follow her on or LinkedIn.


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