Media Watch: Can Companies Bounce Back from a Boycott?

Equinox and SoulCycle are the latest targets of celebrity and activist fueled boycotts, according to a recent Marketwatch story. Many consumers and celebrities are encouraging boycotting the luxury fitness brands after the majority owner of Equinox Fitness’s parent company (Related Companies) hosted a recent fundraiser for President Trump. With the brand being popular among the LGBTQ community, the fundraiser felt out of left field to some customers and misaligned with their perception of the company’s values.

The Equinox boycott is just one of many recent examples of how companies can face backlash over the owner’s stance on a polarizing topic. Nike and Chick-fil-A have both faced criticisms in their public navigation of political and social issues. According to Drexel University’s Daniel Korschun, PhD, an associate professor of marketing in the LeBow College of Business, while boycotts may be hard to sustain, one factor that helps drive them is the consumers’ perception that a company has been hypocritical.

“It’s not just that they’re reacting to whether they agree or not,” Korschun told MarketWatch. “They’re looking at how honest they feel the company is being, and they’re extending that to the rest of the consumer relationship.”

In the case of Equinox, Korschun said, “we have a company that is giving to opposite sides of the political spectrum at the same time. That inconsistency is very problematic to people, because they don’t know where the company stands.”

In order for companies to survive a boycott storm, according to Korschun, they need to reconcile inconsistencies by explaining their reasoning or taking action to rectify the situation.

“People are surprisingly tolerant of companies taking stands, even on things they disagree with,” he said. “I think we overemphasize the importance of agreeing with brands. What really bothers people is dishonesty.”

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