A Man's Mission
By, Dan O'Brien
In a recent blog post I characterized “the hot air emanating from Washington DC” as more dangerous than the smoke from California’s devastating forest fires. (I was talking about some of the tragic proclamations coming from the White House, not the comedy of the even more recent government shutdown.) Because Wild Idea Buffalo Company is first and foremost a conservation minded company, I was, of course, referring to the United States’ abandonment of the Paris Climate Accords, the opening of our public lands to the extraction industries, and the reduction in size of protected lands across the west.
That blog post elicited a thoughtful response from one of our good customers who, I am sure, had our best interests in mind: “…Great products, philosophy, photography and all around company with whom I feel good about supporting. One thought, please let this be a politics-free zone…specifically, statements like “dangerous hot air from Washington” have no place and moreover ruin the tranquility of your brand."
Here is my email response: "Thanks for your support. Sorry if my comment offended you. Certainly don't want to be too political. I respect your comment about keeping things apolitical, but please understand that conservation has been my life for 70 years. I don't consider defending our natural world political, I consider it survival for my grandkids. Very best regards."
I’ve been thinking about that benign exchange for a couple weeks and have grown embarrassed with my weak response. What we do at Wild Idea is not a game of commercial strategy. We feel that we are playing for “ALL the marbles.” We are engaged in a great, existential struggle that none of us can afford to ignore. We are doing, through our actions, what most people can’t do directly or won’t do, and what most of creation has no voice to do. Though it is soothing to think that our brand is tranquil, it is not so. Wild Idea Buffalo Company is about underscoring the destruction that out-of-control capitalism has visited upon the natural world. The suggestion that it is all a marketing strategy is insulting; though I’m sure our valued customer did not intend any such thing.
Between the time of that initial blog post and now I went to see the movie The Darkest Hour. If you haven’t seen it, go as soon as you can and watch Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Winston Churchill in front of the English Parliament. Churchill is, of course, surrounded by politics as he strains to make England see that opposing Adolph Hitler is much more than a political stance. Notice the look on the face of Ronald Pickup who plays Neville Chamberlain as he realizes that his efforts to appease Hitler have been little more than the a scolding finger in Churchill’s face – the equivalent of saying, “Now, now Winston, let’s keep the language kind and civil.”
Or consider Major Buttric of America’s infant Continental Army. Imagine him in 1775, standing at the Concord Bridge commanding the rag-tag group of common men, much like most of us. On the other side of the bridge stands lines of red-coated invaders. Major Buttric and his men are facing down the most powerful army the world had ever known. If you’ve ever been to the Concord River Valley, you know it is one of the most idyllic and peaceful places imaginable. You also know that even after 250 years, the air is still thick with the tension of that day in 1775. Now imagine Major Buttric turning to the embattled farmers who stand shoulder to shoulder with him and saying, “Now boys, let’s keep this place a politics free zone.” No. What Buttric really said was: “Fire, for god’s sake fellow soldiers – Fire!”
I do not mean to minimize those battles fought to protect our civilization or our freedom. Quite the opposite. I only mean to elevate the importance of defending our environment and to point out that victory often comes through uncomfortable words and actions. The stakes could not be higher. We are fighting for life itself.
You are so right, Dan! Thank you for sharing…
Brands, to be effective, must make a consistently believable promise. Wild Idea Buffalo’s brand promise, for me, is restoration of the Great Plains with sustainably grown, humanely harvested buffalo. A website picture or video of buffalo grazing tranquilly on a restored small piece of the Great Plains shows only, I am pretty sure, the consistent work of mind, body and soul of each member of the Wild Idea company. Part of that work, certainly Dan’s writing, has to be political because convincing more and more and more people of the worthiness of restoring the Great Plains and of the strength and intentions of forces against that restoration has been a consistent part of the company’s brand promise from the beginning. Now, all those years later, we know there is a company, a group of dedicated people, wiling to build and support the Wild Idea Buffalo brand, and that actually does give some tranquility to me. So thank you to all the employees — past, present and future — of the Wild Idea Buffalo company for a brand promise I believe.
Once again, I find your blog to be spot on topic and very well communicated. While I understand your desire as a businessman to not offend a single customer, you seem to realize that one of the goals of any business is to promote their business and its philosophy with any communications they make. A blog, therefore, should in my opinion be more slanted toward the philosophy of the business and less towards the nuts and bolts of marketing. You handled it just right, and much better than most of us who do not have your writing skills.
I don’t know if you consider yourself a member of the “left” or not. Recently I responded to a social media comment that the “left” was using fascist tactics to deny our current administration the right to express their views. I had to respond that speaking out against false statements that are tweeted out on a daily basis is not using fascist tactics at all: It is registering honest resistance to statements which are put forth against the hard won principles and freedoms that were initiated by the founding fathers of this country when they created and fought for our republic. We, as Americans can do no less. Of course, not everyone in any country agrees on every issue. I happen to agree with everything I have read from you and I celebrate and enjoy your skill in expressing those principles and feelings.
Highly commendable “non-strategy.” If we compromise our soil so monoculture agronomics fueled by corporate chemical interests are able to continue to contaminate and deplete the very lands that sustain us, we contribute to a non-sustainable food industry for our grandkids, as well as dance upon the graves of the Plains Indians who died during the New World holocaust.