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Why consumer activism now means business

Consumer activists are increasingly putting their money where their mouths are by buying into brands they approve of, with 82% saying they purchase from companies who “do the right thing”. This is according to a study from PR firm Weber Shandwick, Battle of the Wallets: the Changing Landscape of Consumer Activism.

Consumer Activist attitudes
(Strongly / somewhat agree with each statement)

Previous generations of consumer activists used to boycott firms they disapproved of, but this study shows that spending, rather than saving, is a growing way to show support for “good” brand behaviour. Weber Shandwick labels the new behaviour as “buycotting”. The study says that buycotting is expected to grow faster than boycotting in the future.

Consumer Activist attitudes
(Strongly / somewhat agree with each statement)

Key findings

  • 91% of consumer activists have engaged in boycotts, and 58% have bought brands they approve of
  • The group has boycotted a company on average 6.3 times in the past two years
  • The group has taken an average of 5.6 positive steps to buy from a “good” business
  • One-third (29%) expect to step up their “buycotting” in the next two years, one-fifth (22%) expect to boycott more regularly
  • Both boycotters and buycotters felt that social media makes campaigns more effective, with 76% and 79% respectively agreeing
  • Younger consumers are more likely to favour buying over boycotting
  • A parallel study of US consumer activists found a close correlation with the UK findings

Discussing the study, Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at Weber Shandwick, explains how brands should take advantage of the change in consumer behaviour: “Brands should anticipate potential boycotts and expect more buycotting in the future. When it comes to buycotting, brands should cultivate the buycotter community and leverage the powerful opportunity to embrace them as willing and active brand advocates.”

Gaines-Ross concludes that it is up to brands to push their positive credentials: “Buycotters intentionally support certain brands because they want to be constructive, less punitive in their actions than boycotters and like identifying with doing something positive instead of negative. Consequently, companies should make their values clearly known, easy to access and principled so that consumers can turn to them and their brands.”


The study from Weber Shandwick and its research partner KRC Research surveyed 1,000 UK consumer activists, who were screened on the basis of having taken some sort of action – with their wallets or otherwise – for or against a company or brand.

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