Tag Archives: do boycotts work

Impact of a Consumer Boycott That Target Business or Group of Businesses: Righteous Anger is Wildly Over-Rated…

A consumer boycott is organized, nonviolent, disruptive efforts that targets an organization, company or group of companies, country or group of countries… to bring significant change in behavior… The target entity is often about individual policies, practices, products… and signifies social or political causes, e.g.; environment, inequality, civil rights… But research shows that in most consumer boycotts there are no winners– it seems for every boycott there is a counter-boycott from the opposite-side… hence, a boycott target is minimally affected; and the activists, from both-sides, are in stale-mate…

What factors determine whether a boycott can succeed in changing the behavior of its corporate target? According to Brayden King; activists seeking to create corporate change are partly dependent on conditions of the company they’re targeting… the company or entity must be vulnerable to change to have any transformative effect… A consumer boycott has been described as the weapon of the weak… But if by chance a boycott actually does damage to a company; ironically, those most likely get hurt the worst are workers, not the executives, employed in the business…

In the article Does Consumer Boycott Really Work? by Bruce Watson writes: Boycotts have become the preferred tool for consumers hoping to make their feelings known. But how effective are they– and what separates an effective boycott from an ineffective one? A quick search reveals that, at any given time, a seemingly endless list of companies, e.g.; movies, TV programs, actors, business executives, events… are shunned by consumers for many different reasons…

The basic narrative of boycotts is familiar, i.e.; group of consumers are angry about an issue, event, person… and refuse to spend money and buy a company’s product or service, they enlist like-minded consumers, and the boycott grows, and presumably the target suffers and changes behavior… While these sorts of campaigns are useful for expressing displeasure, they aren’t all that successful when it comes to changing behavior or company’s policy…

In a 2011 study that compared successful boycotts to unsuccessful ones, it was suggested  that every day in which a company’s boycott was in the news, its stock price declined. But while companies want to resolve boycotts quickly, activists often have opposite aim… For many activists, the goal is not to change behavior or policy but rather to change public opinion… They often regard the target as a visible, public stage that they use to draw interest, and they change and evolve tactics to keep the spotlight on their cause as long as possible…

In the article Does Consumer Boycott Work? by Daniel Diermeier writes: Internet and social media has created a broader platform for activists, and making it more difficult for companies, groups, people to maintain control of their own messaging… Activists have given-up on government and focus instead on boycott targets as main engine of social change… And as expectations are raised for better corporate behavior, such as; pay equality, fair labor standards, the environment… more businesses are put-in the cross-hairs of frequent boycotts…

Although these tactics have been around forever, boycotts are still unfamiliar territory for many executives who lack an understanding of how activists operate and what makes boycotts successful… In most cases companies are well-advised to stay out of polarized issues, if at all possible. Being in a political dog-fight is rarely good for anyone’s reputation… Public debate is likely to create more media coverage, which may lead to severe internal tensions among employees, who may ask themselves whether the company is still a welcoming place to work…

But the if you cannot stay out of the fight, how can you assess the likely success of a consumer boycott? The first thing to note is that while a boycott can be effective, most fail to have any noticeable impact… And among the factors that determine a boycott’s success, the following are most important:

  • Customers must care passionately: For customers to participate in a boycott they must passionately care about an issue. The main driver is moral outrage…
  • Cost of boycott participation must be low: Smart activists make it easy for customers to participate in a boycott. They target a single company so that customers have plenty of alternatives…
  • Boycott Issues must be easy to understand: Activists often fail to communicate objectives in an effective and simple manner…
  • Mass media is essential for consumer boycott success: While social media platforms have made it easier for activists to gain support, activists need coverage in the mass media for a boycott to be successful. Such coverage can then steer viewers to the relevant social media sites… Media coverage requires strong audience connection with issues customers passionately cares about…

Consumer boycott has played an important role in U.S. History– they are form of protest and technique to bring about significant economic, social, political… change. In a recent nationwide survey, business leaders said boycotts have more impact on business than any other consumer action including; class action suits, letter writing campaigns, lobbying… The thing to remember is that the threat of a boycott can’t be ignored; and any response must be– well-thought out and sharply focused on the allegation. Remember– it’s a reputation issue, not financial… 

The approach must be the same as any other issue that threatens the well-being of the brand image… According to Ashlee Kieler; the key is being proactive with a crisis plan, in place, and a team that is ready to deal with whatever reputation threats may arise. Like any threat to a brand’s image or reputation, the sooner you address it and move on, the less damage that can be done…

According to Brayden King; there’s no disputing the media’s role in a boycott’s success or failure.. in a study of 188 boycotts it was found that companies that were more likely to give-in to a boycott’s demands is when the controversy generated a lot of press… And the research also found that fear of damage to a company’s ‘reputation’ was a greater determinant of caving into a boycott than the fear of financial loss…

Also, when a boycott reflects real public anger about serious social issue, a well-organized and funded boycott can become a strong wind and do real damage… Hence the threat of consumer boycott must be taken very seriously… According to Stephen J. Dubner; evidence suggests that a typical boycott is more smoke than fire and, in most cases, it does little damage… Does a consumer boycott make a difference? Short answer: Probably not…