Times have significantly changed, now when a company shifts away from its core values or fails to deliver on basic consumer expectations, they are instantly put under the spotlight. Enabled by the astronomical rise of social media, a company's unexpected decisions and questionable actions can be scrutinised at the touch of a few buttons.

When an issue resonates with several consumer groups, it could build enough momentum to create a boycott; whereby consumers abandon using or buying a company's products/services.

Interested in consumer mindsets, OnBuy analysed findings from YouGov, who interviewed more than 2,000 U.S. adults to better understand the reasoning behind the phenomena of brand boycotting.


The research revealed the number one reason American consumers boycotted a brand was due to its affiliation or endorsement of a politician/party/movement (51%) that they did not support or agree with. Thereafter, a product(s) with negative consequences on consumer health as well as racism within a company's culture/practises were the joint second most citied reasons as to why consumers boycotted a brand at 44% each.

Unfair practises related to market dominance was the lowest-ranking factor which led to consumers boycotting a brand at just 24%. Despite it being well-documented that tons of companies have had their critical functions compromised due to insufficient cyber security measures and engaging in dubious financial practises - only 25% of consumers remarkably boycotted a brand due to data breaches or tax avoidance/evasion.

Mary Barker, a Consumer Analyst commented:

"Social media has really been a game-changer. Before its existence, when a brand slipped up, it was easier for them to exercise their reputation management protocols as the scrutiny was not as instantaneous. The shareability of content and real-time nature of social media has provided consumers with multiple avenues to directly engage and judge a brands actions. So, when they feel a brand is in the wrong, they will not be scared to state and share the opinion with the rest of the world. Within that context, a real possibility for the occurrence of a brand boycott".

Dustin Bridges, a Retail Analyst commented:

"The internet and social media have enabled consumers to become more influential than ever before. It's a monumental shift in dynamics whereby consumers have the platforms readily available to them for expressing their concerns about a brand without any real restrictions. So, when brands for the better choice of words, mess up, they have nowhere to hide. In the case and aftermath of consumer boycotts, brands need to quickly react by clearly communicating the steps they are taking to rectify the decisions or actions which have contributed to the 'issue' at play".