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).
- We found that just over one in four US consumers had either buycotted or boycotted a brand for reasons of corporate social justice. Overall, 28% had either made buycott purchases to support a brand or stopped purchasing from a brand over its social or political activities. A significant share reported both buycott and boycott decisions.
- Conversely, 72% of respondents had made no changes in purchase decisions as a result of brands’ corporate social justice activities. A significant majority of US consumers in our study did not alter their purchasing over brands’ social and political statements or actions.
If you are a Gartner for Marketers client, you can learn more about social justice research in the report, How Consumer Expectations for Social Justice Create Risks for Brands.
We’ll continue this series tomorrow and share what social and political stands drove the most buycotting and boycotting actions.