Attention boycotters: Your #boycott brand-of-the-day efforts may not even matter.
Especially these days, since the boycotts, experts say, are constantly changing and unlikely to impact a company’s bottom line unless its name remains in the headlines.
One day it’s #boycottNordstrom, the next, #boycottStarbucks and #boycottNetflix.
Most recently it was #boycottUnderArmour, after Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank said in an interview with CNBC last week that Trump is an “asset” to the country. In a separate interview, Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry, a paid brand ambassador for Under Armour, responded to Plank’s statement with his own negative assessment of the new president: “I agree with that description, if you remove the ‘et.’” Later, the company issued a statement denouncing Trump’s travel ban.
The political split in the country is playing out in the marketplace as companies’ outspoken stances for or against the new administration have launched firestorms on news sites and social media.
Nordstrom stock rises, breaking the curse of the Trump tweet
Uber CEO leaves Trump post after #DeleteUber backlash
Uber found itself up against boycotters with #deleteUber when it appeared to support Trump’s immigration ban and CEO Travis Kalanick took a spot on the president’s economic advisory council. Kalanick later resigned from the council. New Balance was called “the official shoe for white people,” on a neo-Nazi site when the company made a statement in support of Trump. (The company denounced the “white people” title.)
Experts say boycotts are unlikely to dent sales or ding stock prices unless the media attention drags on. Last week proved they also can have the opposite effect. The stock prices of both Nordstrom and Under Armour rose.
But what about public perception and a company’s reputation?
“It’s really difficult for the public to keep their attention on any one of these things,” said Brayden King, an assistant professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “If you have so many boycotts competing for the public’s eye, you’re diluting the effect of the boycott.”
Consequently, companies can sit it out and wait until the brouhaha blows over or take it as an opportunity.
In the 1990s, Nike’s decision to change its labour standards in its factories after a slew of protests on college campuses also led the company to take a leadership role in that movement.
In today’s political and social media climate, “If somebody boycotts you, 50 per cent of the country is happy and the other 50 per cent is upset. You can either get through it or put a flag in the ground and make that happy 50 per cent be fervent about your product,” said Steve Gaither, CEO at JB Chicago, a marketing and advertising company.
Chick-Fil-A, whose CEO Dan Cathy stuck to his guns after making it clear that he believed in “traditional marriage,” energized a part of his customer base, Gaither noted.
Still, consumers are unlikely to change their buying patterns, boycott or no boycott, experts say.
As an example, Gaither said, “I may not share Netflix’s beliefs, but they keep my kids happy and out of my hair. Most people don’t care about the issues, but the product.”
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