In the last decade, the term “boycott” pulsed through global consumer chatter and search queries. Whether consumers were talking about sneakers, seltzer, or the Academy Awards, the frequency of the word “boycott” spiked to some of the highest levels since the early 2000s. It’s tempting to assume that consumer activism will subside as swiftly as it erupted, but as I noted in the first blog of this series, data analysis clarifies which elements of the consumer’s context have measurably changed and which are here to stay.

Lesson 4: Consumers internalize companies’ externalities.

What changed: The political climate and, as a result, cultural and social overtones. In the US, two emphatic presidential elections shook geopolitics and shattered the country’s veneer of unity, exposing deeply rooted divisions. Britain’s opposing political forces caused gridlock for a country stuck in the shadow of uncertainty looming before an impending Brexit. Populist momentum swept distances from the US to India and Hong Kong while authoritarian-driven Russia and China made a new impression on global consciousness. Brands that typically skirt controversy jumped into the fray of contentious political and social debate.

Here to stay: Consumers casting ballots through their brand choices. Consumer awareness about companies’ political, cultural, and social associations has been mounting for more than a decade, and history proves that consumers wield their wallets to make public statements about the values and beliefs they choose to support. Regardless of the nature of the debate, consumers want to feel good about their purchases; this urge explains why nine in 10 shoppers would stay loyal to, pay a premium for, or recommend companies that espouse the values they care about. Consumers will continue to signal their values through consumption choices as they careen toward the imminent US presidential election and afterward.


Values-based purchases don’t only influence commerce; they also shape consumers’ approach to organizations broadly and consumers’ self-perception as civic participants. Check back tomorrow to learn more in lesson No. 5.