Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Boycott - strategies and effectiveness

There have been several studies of the effectiveness of boycotts, primarily from the standpoint of consumerism and corporate targets. Pruitt and Friedman (not Milton), in 1986, wrote that, "...consumer boycott announcements appeared to have a highly significant negative effect on the stock prices of the target firms. Not only was there a significant statistical decrease in these prices following the announcements, but the overall market value of the target firms dropped by an average of more than S120 million (this is 1986, mind you) over the two-month post-announcement period."

A more modern academic, Brayden King from Northwestern, has pointed to the effectiveness of targeting a company's image, and not necessarily aiming to affect or decrease sales. His work speaks to the confluence of corporate standing, media attention and declining sales. He finds that a boycott will exert the most influence when there is a lot of media attention on it. However, declining sales have an insignificant bearing on the success of the boycott. The most important thing to target is corporate reputation. A company with a weak reputation is more likely to cede to boycott demands, whereas a company with a strong reputation is not likely to be affected, regardless of sales levels.   

Here is a laundry list of items to think about when organising a successful boycott:
  • Have a clear issue - keep them cognitively simple and emotionally appealing
  • Have a visible target - like...BP! Or not...??
  • Have clear alternatives to the boycotted products - when the Rainforest Action Network boycotted Burger King because of their "rainforest beef," people not only boycotted Burger King, but supported their competitors McDonald's and Wendy's. (I know, it's still sad.)
  • Make sure the violations are visible - Violations are visible in our kitchens, sidewalks and countrysides, and on highways. Check!
  • Have an organised effort - although many personal boycotts can have the effect of an organised one
Here is where I think my personal cultural boycott of trash rates with the laundry list. I think the issue is pretty clear, as I have delineated over the past eight months with pictures, guest bloggers, anecdotes and ethical and philosophical reasons. My targets are "consumerism" and "culture." Hmmm, these seem incredibly vague. Maybe I need to work on the visibility of the target. Since trash has been raised into consciousness, it is clearly visible to me. Although it is clearly visible to other people as well, they are desensitised to it. I have found incredible success in just talking to people, no statistics, no facts. Everyone knows trash. As I have mentioned in several posts (here, here, here), the alternative is to make use of what we have already - I am still alive, and I am still happy. I am still waiting to hear from people about their no-trash stories.

What does a pile of plastic bottles from just one section (of about 33) of a UM American football game look like?
 but Samantha is super cute.

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