Warning: brand boycotts live long in the memory

By David Burrows

- Last updated on GMT

“While it is not as straightforward as saying that every time a brand is seen to misbehave it will lose customers, there is a distinct proportion of consumers who will vote with their wallets.” ©iStock/
“While it is not as straightforward as saying that every time a brand is seen to misbehave it will lose customers, there is a distinct proportion of consumers who will vote with their wallets.” ©iStock/
Tax evasion is the number one reason consumers will boycott a brand and it’s not always easy to win shoppers back, according to new research. 

The poll by YouGov found that more than one in five UK consumers (21%) have shunned a brand following a scandal. Of those, just 26% went back to the brand but use it less than before, whilst a meagre 1% returned to their pre-scandal purchasing levels.

The research, published in a new report “Inside the mindset of a brand boycotter”​, showed that tax avoidance and evasion is the number one reason for boycotting a brand (48%).

Unethical supply chains are a major turn off too. Four in 10 (40%) people have stopped using a brand because staff are treated unfairly (for example, unfair working hours), whilst just over a third (36%) have boycotted one in which workers in the supply chain are treated badly.

Social media-driven boycotts

Interestingly, faulty products and product recalls came further down the list (35%).

Whilst the research doesn’t consider food brands specifically, the findings will resonate with those to have attracted headlines for the wrong reasons. The horsemeat scandal, for instance, or more recently the exposés involving child labour in the palm oil supply chain​.

“There have been a number of cases of brands getting in hot water with consumers over the past couple of years over issues such as tax avoidance or not treating staff well enough,” ​explained Stephen Harmston, head of YouGov reports. “While it is not as straightforward as saying that every time a brand is seen to misbehave it will lose customers, there is a distinct proportion of consumers who will vote with their wallets.”

Indeed, using data from a variety of sources, YouGov also discovered that boycotters are “good with managing their money, so if they think your brand is not worth it, they will not put their money down”.

Social media has become a powerful tool in driving boycotts. And once convinced, the boycotters tend to dig their heels in: more than two thirds (67%) still don’t use the brands they’ve shunned.

The bad news doesn’t end there. YouGov’s report​ also suggests that although some consumers do come back eventually, rarely do they use the brand as much as they did before. Still, it’s worth the effort given that boycotters tend to be loyal: 74% will stick to brands they like.

So how do brands go about winning consumers back? Over a quarter (28%) returned because the company changed its practices, whilst 24% did so because the brand’s product or service improved. However, brands should expect boycotters to check the facts – they are well educated and will research your brand, the report explained.

Some companies can afford to sit back and do nothing: 29% of returning boycotters started using the brand again because it had become too inconvenient not to, whilst 18% felt it was necessary to use the company in their work or family life. This means companies need to make their brands a “necessity”​ Harmston noted.

Related topics: Market Trends, Marketing

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1 comment

Apple and tax evasion

Posted by Fred,

So why is apple so popular amongst consumers despite its huge tax evasion scheme?

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