Try and think of the least political product you can. Take your time. Close your eyes if needed. What product did you come up with? If you came up with a product seemingly less political than Tiki torches, I am impressed!
Yet somehow, the Tiki torch briefly became a symbol of white nationalism and the battleground of an American culture war. I know this seems like forever ago, so I will refresh your memory.
In the summer of 2017, White nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia organized a “Unite the Right” rally to show their opposition to city officials removing statues of Confederate Generals. Of course, nothing screams “White Nationalism” quite like Polynesian tiki torches, so these fine individuals went to their local Target, bought out the store, and instantly made Tiki torches – that’s right, Tiki torches – a political flashpoint.
Democrats were throwing away their Tiki torches like they were post-Cleveland Lebron James jerseys.
Republicans were ridiculing our overly sensitive cancel culture and began buying Tiki torches in droves.
The official Tiki torch company, Tiki Brand, tried to stay out of it altogether.
But their desire to stay out of it didn’t matter. They were caught up in a good old American Culture War, and they couldn’t stop it.
Was this entire episode good or bad for Tiki Brand? It’s hard to say. But the point is clear. Whether you are a shoe, a fast food chain, or yes, even a tiki torch, your product - and certainly your customers - are more political than you think.