Politics, Shopping And How To Avoid A Brand Boycott

It’s 2018 and, even though its early in the year, people are already starting to talk about what November will hold for the mid-term Congressional elections. While outcomes could significantly affect our environment, healthcare and many more important points, elections and politics also influence shopping behavior. Shoppers have seen their boycotts and social media activism change the way brands are operating. They are becoming aware of their power, and that should put all brands on notice.

Multiple studies last year unveiled some specifics surrounding this behavior. Just a couple of examples include an Ipsos study, which showed that 25% of Americans stopped using a brand’s goods or services based on perceived political leanings. A multi-country study by Edelman found that 57% of global consumers buy or boycott products because of a brand’s stance on political or social issues. These are substantial chunks of the population, and brands need to address these issues head-on, or be forced to give a concession speech. 



As people begin to recognize the power of spending on national discourse and policy, this behavior promises to increase, especially in light of the coming election. The unprecedented protests in January 2017 were matched, and some areas surpassed, in 2018. Politics is not retreating from the public consciousness. Stakes have never been higher, politics will take center stage from a distraction standpoint, and this will surely impact economics in the form of retail spending. 

Brands have to be very aware of who their audience is and how their political views or lack of views will impact their customers. Putting a plan in place to help proactively combat loss due to boycotts can help avoid a disaster:

  • Understand yourself. Brands that slap on some politically popular message that doesn’t resonate will be at best ignored and at worst derided. You only have to look at last year’s Super Bowl ads to see how many tried for a humanitarian tone that fit poorly with their brand. Consumers didn’t spark to this; they found it pandering. Find the truth of your brand and the human component of that truth. The human side of your brand essence is what will resonate with consumers. Whether it is how your product brings joy or safety or comfort to buyers or how your brand supports the disadvantaged through charitable giving, find that humanity and promote it. Don’t fabricate it.
  • Understand your customer. Today’s demographics don’t mean what they used to. Twenty years ago, you could assume most adults ages 35 - 45 shared a common experience – parenthood, mid-level careers, home ownership, etc. Today, that demographic can include older Millennials struggling with “adulting” to free-spirited global travelers to entrepreneurs to stay-at-home dads. Smart brands go beyond the demographics to understand what drives their customers, what they need, and how their brand can align with those needs. When you connect your brand’s human truth with your consumers’ needs, the message will resonate and change minds.
  • Do more. Consumers are expecting more of their brands. They don’t just want them to signify quality or luxury, but also some sense of corporate responsibility. Brands that give back, share their profits, put their money where their mouth is — consumers will favor them. The halo of goodwill generated from supporting a company that does more than nurture its stockholders is a powerful consumer motivation.
1 comment about "Politics, Shopping And How To Avoid A Brand Boycott".
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  1. PJ Lehrer from NYU, March 13, 2018 at 11:45 a.m.

    Money talks and boycotts work.  More here...

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