Consumer boycotts

A positive approach to organized consumer action: the "buycott" as an alternative to the boycott


Friedman M. 1996. Journal of Consumer Policy 19(4): 439-451.


A survey of the consumer research literature revealed few instances of “consumer buycotts,” i.e., efforts by consumer activists to induce shoppers to buy the products or services of selected companies in order to reward these firms for behaviour consistent with the goals of the activists.

The few cases did however prompt some thoughts on the development of a conceptual framework for understanding the place of buycotts on a consumer activist agenda. The framework is briefly described and examples presented of prospective uses to be made of buycotts by consumer groups.

Also presented is a set of basic research questions concerning buycotts which should be of interest to scholars as well as practitioners. (Friedman, 1996 p.439)




Ensouling consumption: a netnographic exploration of the meaning of boycotting behavior.


Kozinets R. V. and Handelman J. 1998. Advances in Consumer Research 25(1): 475-480.

Full text available here.


Boycotting behavior has been theorized as a collective effort to coerce corporate change. In this exploratory netnographic research, we analyze 14 cyber-interviews and 68 Usenet postings with the aim of understanding the subjective meaning of boycott participation.

Two themes emerge to challenge traditional views of boycotts. First, boycotters see their involvement not merely as part of a collective effort but as a complex emotional expression of their individuality. Second, boycotting serves as a vehicle for moral selfrealization. (Kozinets and Handelman, 1998 p.475)




Consumer Boycotts: Effecting Change Through the Marketplace and the Media


Friedman M. 1999. New York: Routledge.

Book preview available here.


Despite the increasing occurrence of consumer boycotts, little has been written about this form of social and economic protest. This timely volume fills the knowledge gap by examining boycotts both historically and currently.

Drawing on both published and unpublished material as well as personal interviews with boycott groups and their targets, Monroe Friedman discusses different types of boycotts-from their historical focus on labor and economic concerns to the more recent inclusion of issues such as minority rights, animal welfare, and environmental protection.

He also documents the shift in strategic emphasis from the marketplace (cutting consumer sales) to the media (securing news coverage to air criticism of a targeted firm).

In turn, these changes in boycott substance and style offer insights into larger upheavals in the social and economic fabric of 20th century America. (Google Books, 2010)




The boycott puzzle: consumer motivations for purchase sacrifice


John A. and Klein J. 2003. Management Science 49(9): 1196-1209.


A boycott is never far from a firm's exchanges with its customers. Researchers in marketing need to understand consumer protest behaviour, both to aid nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) who wish to organise boycotts, and to assist managers who wish to develop appropriate strategic responses.

Boycotts, like many other instances of collective action, are subject to free-rider and small-agent problems: there appears to be little or no motivation for an individual to participate. Yet they assuredly occur. We take an economic and psychological approach to the study of boycotts.

Our approach is to develop a typology of motivations for consumer boycotts, to embed these motivations explicitly in a dynamic economic model, and thus to offer explanations for the extent of boycott participation. (John and Klein, 2003 p.1196)




Why we boycott: consumer motivations for boycott participation


Klein J. G. Smith N. C. and John A. 2004. The Journal of Marketing 68(3): 92-109.


Although boycotts are increasingly relevant for management decision making, there has been little research of an individual consumer's motivation to boycott. Drawing on the helping behavior and boycott literature, the authors take a cost-benefit approach to the decision to boycott and present a conceptualization of motivations for boycott participation.

The authors tested their framework during an actual boycott of a multinational firm that was prompted by factory closings. Consumers who viewed the closures as egregious were more likely to boycott the firm, though only a minority did so.

Four factors are found to predict boycott participation: the desire to make a difference, the scope for self-enhancement, counterarguments that inhibit boycotting, and the cost to the boycotter of constrained consumption.

Furthermore, self-enhancement and constrained consumption are significant moderators of the rela-tionship between the perceived egregiousness of the firm's actions and boycott participation.

The authors also explore the role of perceptions of others' participation and discuss implications for marketers, nongovernmental organizations, policymakers, and researchers. (Klein et al., 2004 p.92)




Rebel, Rebel: The Protester's Handbook


van der Zee B. 2008. London: Guardian Books.


Journalist and activist Bibi van der Zee reveals just how easy it is to launch, publicise and fund a campaign and to put pressure on politicians and fund a campaign and to put pressure on politicians and businesses using tools ranging from letter-writing and boycotts to protest marches and direct action. If all that's holding you back is a feeling of 'what difference can I make?', then this book will shake you out of your apathy once and for all. But if uncertainty about what you can do or say without landing yourself in jail is all that's inhibiting you, you'll find jargon-free explanations of your legal rights, as well as inspiring interviews with veteran campaigners. Above all, you will realise how much you can achieve, and how rapidly the barriers to action fall away.




Consumer boycotts: the impact of the Iraq war on
French wine sales in the U.S.


Chavis L. and Leslie P. 2009. Quantitative Marketing and Economics 7(1): 37-67.


The French opposition to the war in Iraq in early 2003 prompted calls for a boycott of French wine in the US. We measure the magnitude of consumers' participation in the boycott, and look at basic evidence of who participates. Conservative estimates indicate that the boycott resulted in 26% lower weekly sales at its peak, and 13% lower sales over the 6 months period that we estimate the boycott lasted. Although theory suggests consumers would not participate in boycotts due to a free-rider problem, these findings indicate that businesses should be concerned that consumers may boycott their products. We also find that neither political preferences nor media attention are important determinants of boycott participation.




Politically motivated brand rejection


Sandikci O. and Ekici A. 2009. Journal of Business Research 62(2): 208-217.


This paper introduces the concept of politically motivated brand rejection (PMBR) as an emergent form of anti-consumption behavior. PMBR is the refusal to purchase and/or use a brand on a permanent basis because of its perceived association to a particular political ideology that the consumer opposes. Specifically, the paper discusses three distinct sets of political ideologies that can lead to rejection of certain brands by some consumers. These ideologies include predatory globalization, chauvinistic nationalism, and religious fundamentalism. The target of PMBR can be both local and global brands and consumers who engage in PMBR do not expect any change in marketing practice.




Exploring consumer boycott intelligence using a socio-cognitive approach


Farah M. F. and Newman A. J. 2010. Journal of Business Research 63(4): 347-355.


Despite a worldwide growth in the number of boycott campaigns, the results of studies are inconclusive as the motives behind individual participation are still largely ignored. Drawing on a socio-cognitive theory, the theory of planned behavior, this research investigates whether the direct variables of attitude, subjective norm and perceived behavioral control, help predict consumers' boycott intention. Conducted in Lebanon, this work employs a survey design administered to a randomized systematic sample of 500 Muslim and Christian consumers. Results show that although the Muslim participants appear more prone to participate in the boycott, still attitude, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control are all significant predictors of intentions in both communities with the attitudinal component carrying the most weight. This application of a social psychology theory to the consumers' passive resistance to purchasing yielded significant contributions at the theoretical, empirical, and managerial levels.




Boycott or buycott? Understanding political consumerism


Neilson L. A. 2010. Journal of Consumer Behaviour 9(3): 214-227.


This research addresses the question of how boycotting (punishing business for unfavorable behavior) differs from buycotting (rewarding business for favorable behavior). This analysis of 21 535 adults from the 2002/2003 European Social Survey (ESS) compares the effects of social capital, altruism, and gender on different categories of political consumers. Logistic regression analyses reveal that boycotters do indeed differ from buycotters. Specifically, women and people who are more trusting, involved in more voluntary associations, or more altruistic are more likely to buycott than boycott. These differences support the inclusion of both boycott and buycott measures in future studies of political consumerism.




What motivates consumers to participate in boycotts: lessons from the ongoing Canadian seafood boycott


Braunsberger K. and Buckler B. 2011. Journal of Business Research 64(1): 96-102.


Despite the tremendous growth in consumer boycotts, marketing has paid relatively little attention to consumer boycott motivations. Addressing this deficiency, this study uses netnography to investigate boycott motivations and perceived boycott participation costs by analyzing consumer comments submitted to an online boycott petition. The results show that boycott pledgees explicitly express their desire for the target to abolish its egregious behavior, their anger about the behavior in question, and their desire for punitive actions. Signatories also pledge participation for moral reasons and identify with the cause reflected by the boycott. Boycott motivations also include the belief that consumers have the power to impact the boycott target's bottom line and/or behavior as well as the belief that the boycott will succeed in forcing the target to cease its egregious behavior. Signatories, however, rarely refer to the costs of boycott participation.