Friday, May 20, 2022

What Brands, Companies and Leaders Do That Encourage Buycotts and Boycotts: Social Justice and Marketing Part 4

In the prior blog post in this series, we discussed how corporate social justice stands are not significant drivers of net-positive or -negative consumer purchases (buycotts) or boycotts. In this final blog post of this series, we will explore what corporate and brand activity tended to attract consumer attention and alter purchasing behavior.

It is interesting to note that, in many ways, all of your corporate social justice activities attract attention from consumers. We studied thirteen activities that brands, companies, leaders and employees do that cause consumers to notice and then buycott or boycott. All thirteen activities were selected by between 7% and 10% of U.S. consumers as reasons for buycott purchases, and all thirteen were chosen by between 5% and 9% of respondents as the cause of their boycotts. No one activity was conspicuously more powerful (or weaker) than the others. In short, everything you say and do matters.

Once again, I cannot share all of our data, which is available exclusively to Gartner clients. But I can reveal what activity drove the most buycott purchases and which drove the most boycotting:
  • An advertisement from the company or brand was the top answer for what dove “buycott” purchases. One in ten consumers cited advertising as to why they purchased from a brand in support of its social justice stand. Interestingly, ads were the lowest driver of buycott purchases among Gen Zers but the highest among Gen Xers and Boomers.
  • Brand’s political contributions to candidates or parties were the top driver of consumer boycotts. Overall, 9% of respondents cited this as their top reason for abandoning a brand from which they previously purchased.
To learn more about the one corporate social or political activity that drove both buycott and boycott actions and what it means for brands and marketers, please read my complete article on the Gartner blog. 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Corporate Social Justice Has Little to No Net Impact on Consumer Purchases: Social Justice and Marketing Part 3

In the prior blog post in this series, we explored how Gartner sought to overcome flawed research on corporate social justice with its own proprietary study. We started not by asking whether people would or wouldn't purchase from brands that took a stand on social or political issues. Instead, asked consumers to name brands they had already buycotted or boycotted due to their corporate social stands.

We found very little difference between the percentage of U.S. consumers who said they bought, or "buycotted," (18.7%) and those that said they stopped buying, or boycotted (19.2%). This data may, at first, seem surprising given the number of studies that have suggested consumers have a strong preference for brands that take action. But because we studied these divisive issues from a balanced perspective, asking about stands on both sides of the issue, it is perhaps not surprising that we’d find equal numbers of buycotters and boycotters.

To find how corporate justice stands drive consumer purchases, we need to examine each stand individually. Our study allows us to compare the number of U.S. consumers who made buycott purchases as a result of a brand’s social or political actions versus the number who stopped buying and boycotted the brand for the same reason. I can't convey all of the data from this study since we must reserve it for Gartner clients, but I can share the two corporate social justice stands that drove the most net-positive and net-negative purchase behavior:
  • The biggest social justice driver of net-positive purchases was an anti-racist stand that denounces discrimination against people of color. Overall, 6% of US consumers in our study had purchased from brands because of this stand, while 2.3% boycotted for the same reason. Brands taking anti-racist stands enjoyed a four-point net positive impact of buycotters over boycotters.
  • The biggest driver of net-negative purchases was corporate support for former President Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Overall, 5.6% of US consumers boycotted a brand for supporting Trump, his administration, or the GOP; conversely, 3.5% of respondents purchased from brands due to this support. Overall, brands perceived as supporting Trump and the GOP saw a two-point net decrease in purchasers with more boycotters and buycotters.
If you wish to see more, including a word cloud of the brands cited by buycotters and boycotters, please continue reading on my Gartner blog. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

How Gartner Produced Groundbreaking Research on Consumer Purchases and Corporate Social Justice Activities: Social Justice and Marketing Part 2

 In part 1 of this series, we explored how marketers feel increasing demands from consumers, leaders and other stakeholders to bring social justice topics into their marketing communications. We also discussed how many studies conducted on this topic are flawed and may exaggerate the need for action. So, what did Gartner do differently? 

In 2021, we conducted studies of U.S. consumers that we hoped would provide our marketing and communications clients with original and distinctive insights. We conducted this research as part of Gartner’s Fellows program, which is designed to identify and sponsor high-impact thought leadership that keeps Gartner on the cutting edge of research and advisory insights.

To avoid the issues discussed in the prior post (social desirability biases and the impact of topic polarity), we conducted our research in a way unlike other research on consumer preference and corporate social justice: 

We first asked consumers to name brands they had purchased or had stopped purchasing from because of a stand on a social issue. Our approach required consumers to identify brands where they knowingly changed their purchase habits due to brands’ social justice activities. By focusing on past purchase decisions, we sought to minimize social desirability bias and were able to identify two nonexclusive groups of consumers: “buycotters,” who purchased brands because they took a stand on political or social issues, and boycotters, who stopped buying from a brand over their social or political stands.

We then asked buycotters and boycotters what brand communications and activities drove their change in purchase habits. Rather than focus on issues, we sought to understand the stands that brands took that increased or decreased purchases. Since these issues are so polarizing, we provided a balanced series of answers that permitted consumers on either side of these contentious issues to pick a positive answer aligned with their values and choices (see below). 

A list of answers Gartner used to study both sides of issues, such as "An anti-racist stance that denounces discrimination against people of color" and "A stance that focusing on specific racial or ethnic groups at the expense of others is unfair or harmful"

If you continue reading this post on my Gartner blog, you'll learn what percentage of U.S. consumers reported buycotting or boycotting a brand for reasons related to corporate social or political activities. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

What’s Wrong with Research on Consumer Preference on Corporate Social Justice? Social Justice and Marketing Part 1

Photo by Corey Young on Unsplash
Marketers face a growing demand for their brands to have a voice on contentious social justice issues. As a result, marketers must navigate challenging questions of consumer expectations, stakeholder demands and brand health in an era of corporate social justice. There is no commonly understood definition, but corporate social justice encompasses the organizational values, attitudes and behaviors that contribute to the fair, equitable treatment of all stakeholders within and outside the organization.

Pressure has been rising for marketers and brands to “take a stand.” Some marketers have done so with decidedly mixed results for their brands. We’ve seen Nike bring social justice into its advertising and succeed, while Pepsi faced quick and considerable backlash when it leveraged social justice topics in its advertising.

We explored US consumers’ purchase decisions, both positively and negatively, about brands taking (or not taking) stands on today’s most contentious social justice issues. Before diving into the data, it’s important to note that, regardless of if and how corporate social justice drives customer preference, there are many reasons why your organization should embrace social justice issues.

Gartner researches the topic of social justice from many different perspectives, and we’ve found that embracing social justice issues can improve your culture and help you attract and retain talent. For example, 60% of employees reported improved engagement among peers after witnessing employer involvement in societal issues. And 68% of employees would consider quitting their current job and working with an organization with a stronger viewpoint on the social issues that matter most to them. But with the growing call for marketers to bring social causes into their brand voice, we felt it was essential to study how corporate social justice affects consumer purchases.

Why study this when so many studies of corporate social justice (and related topics like corporate social responsibility) are readily available? We evaluated studies of corporate social justice – many produced by agencies and consultants who wish to earn business helping brands become more active in these topics – and found they are flawed for two reasons. To learn these reasons, please continue reading this post on my Gartner blog.