Spilling the Beans on Political Consumerism: Do Social Media Boycotts and Buycotts Translate to Real Sales Impact?
42 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2022 Last revised: 22 Jul 2022
Date Written: January 11, 2022
Brands increasingly face pressure from consumers to take a stance on political issues, but there is limited empirical evidence about the effect of political consumerism on sales. In this paper, we quantify the consequences of a brand taking a political stance. In July 2020, the CEO of Goya, a large Latin food brand, praised President Trump, triggering a boycott and a counter ``buycott” movement supporting the brand. Using consumer-level purchase data, we measure the net effect of the boycott/buycott movements on sales. Boycott-related social media posts and media coverage dominated buycott ones, but the sales impact was the opposite: Goya sales temporarily increased by 22%. However, this sales boost fully dissipated within three weeks. We then explore heterogeneity in the sales response with the goal of understanding which households are most likely to engage in political consumerism and what factors serve as frictions to participation. We document large sales increases (56.4%) in heavily Republican counties but do not find a strong countervailing boycott effect in heavily Democratic counties or among Goya’s core customer base – Latino consumers. Finally, we show that brand loyalty and switching costs are potential explanations for the limited evidence of boycotting amongst experienced Goya customers.
Keywords: Political Consumerism, Boycott, Buycott, Social Media, Switching Costs
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