Marketing rule #1: Know Your Customers. That might include knowing your history. It might stop you from doing silly things like handing out General George Armstrong Custer dolls in Happy Meals in Rapid City, where Native Americans constitute 10% of the population. The figurines are a tie-in with the new Night at the Museum movie. Tim Giago reports from the metropolitan hub of the Republic of Lakota:
Bobbie DuBray, Administrative Assistant for the Lakota Peoples Law Project was not only shocked by this apparent display of racial insensitivity, but also angered by it.
DuBray says, "I went through the drive thru at McDonalds on East North Street to get a Happy Meal for my five-year-old son. I got home and my brother opened the meal and found the Custer doll." She said he then asked her to come and look at what he found. To her shock it was Custer toy. Her son wanted the toy and she told him, "No. that's a bad toy." She said that her 10 year old daughter did not understand why the toy was bad. She and her mother, Betty Handley, then gave the girl a history lesson "My daughter was not taught about this in school. What are they teaching our children?" she asked.
DuBray, visibly upset by this experience, said, "I think it's insulting. It's like handing out KKK dolls in the south where there are a lot of Blacks" [Tim Giago, "Custer Rides Again in McDonald's Happy Meal," Huffington Post, 2009.06.09].
Interestingly, one observer lays blame on the very East Coast elites we like to think are the big liberals:
[Oglala Lakota Jason Wolters] added, "Most advertising agencies are in the east and the people who put the ads and flyers together have absolutely no idea about the demographics out here in Indian country. We Lakota never see an Indian in the flyers of Kohl's, J. C. Penney's or Wal-Mart. They never stop to consider that our Lakota children never see people like themselves in the flyers and ads they send out here and yet you can go to Chicago or San Francisco and see ads with African Americans and Asian Americans" [Giago, 2009.06.09]
McDonald's appears to have quietly pulled the figurines, which feature Custer riding a motorcycle, from Rapid City stores.