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Boycotts Are Many Layered, Can Hurt More Than the Brand

building a brand navigating boycotts or other brand adversity

(Otmar Winterleitner/

John Tantillo By Tuesday, 16 April 2024 11:35 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Bud Light Boycott Hurts Everyone

It's been said before that marketing is all about satisfying customer needs; it is not about you, it is all about the customers, and finally, sometimes those who are not buyers of the brand are still affected by management missteps — Think Bud Light.

In a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article: "Lessons from the Bud Light Boycott, One Year Later," (March 20, 2024),  the authors (Jura Liaukonyte, Anna Tuchman, and  Xinrong Zhu) offer some advice regarding taking positions that may alienate those who disagree with the controversial issue of the day.

In their concluding remarks, they write: " . . .  not all boycotts are equal" and that . . . "several factors affect how significant they can be.

"For brand marketers, it is essential to know your customer base and align your messaging accordingly, assess your vulnerability to close competitors, and avoid actions that will prolong negative attention in the media."

Their research found that Bud Light purchases fell in Republican and Democratic-leaning counties in 2023, most likely due to trade effects, namely, that supermarkets had less shelf space for the beleaguered brand and that drinking establishments had a similar bias.

This means that a boycott has many layers that marketing executives must consider when taking on controversial progressive issues that could eventually estrange many more than its core customer base.

The simple remedy is adopting "marketingnomics," the belief that companies should be driven to satisfy customer needs by placing a company's profits above politically popular policies (Tantillo, Newsmax, 2023).

This simple policy can be applied by assessing how a company's customers feel about a specific current issue and that not all enterprises must engage in the same way.

An excellent example of this customer needs assessment approach is Nike.

Nike's customer base is significantly younger (under 30) and dual gender and, therefore, more prone to agree with progressive causes.

On the other hand, with an older, more blue-collar male demographic, Bud Light is more likely to be more conservative in its politics and opinions.

Therefore, if a company wants to weigh into a popular policy that will resonate with its customers, it should proceed with the policy which will satisfy its customer's needs.

This is a warning to corporations who want to get their feet wet when taking a controversial position.

It's probably better to "say nothing than the wrong thing," the golden rule in psychology and human interaction.

As many a grandfather once warned, "never discuss politics and religion in polite company." And then there's Oprah Winfrey's "Stay in Your Lane" ("I know where my lane is, and I know how to stay in my lane . . . ") prescription, and let's not forget Rhianna's lyrics, "Shut up and Drive."

All four maxims warn us of the importance of knowing when to speak out and be quiet for the greater good and a better brand.

Another issue to consider, which was suggested by the HBR piece, is the number of competitors within the market.

The more there are, the more likely customers will respond to a boycott. And if the brand is unique, then all bets regarding the embargo's effectiveness are off.

Another consideration for the activist market is customer appeal, which is the size of its customer base.

The larger the number, the more cautious one must be regarding what they say concerning controversial topics.

If one's brand is purchased equally by Democrats and Republicans, then silence is the golden rule and the policy that should be followed.

However, suppose there is pressure within the organization to do something. In that case, a good research study to assess the customer's opinions regarding the matter in question should be implemented to determine whether it would be a wise strategy to engage the brand in the cause.

In this way, the marketing team can assess the worth of the tactic.

If one proceeds with this thinking, one can be sure it's always easier when one has marketing and branding in mind.

Dr. John Tantillo is a Marketing Professor at Lander College For Men at Touro University and the author of the popular book, "People Buy Brands Not Companies." Read More of his Reports - Here

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

A boycott has many layers that marketing executives must consider when taking on controversial progressive issues that could eventually estrange many more than its core customer base.
bud, light, oprah
Tuesday, 16 April 2024 11:35 AM
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