Boycotts like the Equinox and SoulCycle events empower consumers to live their values and vote with their pocketbooks. Or at least to look like they are. We’re living in a new age of consumerism where customers have a true say in your business outcomes.
Despite the uproar, it’s unclear the effect boycotts like this actually have. A company spokeswoman declined to provide information on the number of customers who have quit the gym. (SoulCycle does not offer memberships.)
But in an age where social media and the influencers who dominate it hold incredible sway over public opinion, even a boycott that’s mostly talk damages reputation that could have an impact on longer-term customer loyalty.
We can expect more flare-ups as the 2020 Presidential Election approaches. Interest in political contributions and campaign financing is growing among the general public. Consider the popularity of groups supporting transparency. No matter which political side you take, business leaders should at least be aware of the potential outcome.
- OpenSecrets.org maintains a public and searchable database of donors to political campaigns, giving every customer the opportunity to discover who’s giving to whom.
- #GrabYourWallet, which emerged on Twitter after the Access Hollywood tape came to light, keeps a list of companies supporting the President and his family and encourages consumers to boycott them.
- Sleeping Giants, founded after the 2016 elections, takes aim at brands supporting “racist, sexist, anti-Semitic and homophobic news sites” with advertising. (Thanks to programmatic advertising, your products and services may be showing up on these sites unbeknownst to you.)
As more consumers expect corporate accountability and social responsibility from their favorite brands, any company board, investor, c-suite executive or leader should expect activism and political involvement as a big part of PR issues that can bring on a true failure and damage any company’s reputation. Bottom line: be prepared and think ahead.
Politics and business have not traditionally blended but given today’s state of affairs, you should be well prepared because that’s no longer true. If you sit in a communications or public relations chair at your company, you must determine what contributions have been made by your leaders and to whom. Draft an empathetic and authentic holding statement ready to deploy immediately should a backlash occur. Study the responses of Equinox, SoulCycle and Wayfair (which we explore here) to see what works and what doesn’t. The 2020 election is going to be one for the record books!
Until next time,
CEO and President
The Fearey Group