Boycott Fatigue?

Photo of Colin Kaepernick, Nike Ad

In our last class, we spoke briefly about the new Nike campaign with Colin Kaepernick, especially as it relates to the marketing environment.

For this OpenLab assignment, read People are Getting Tired of Being Told to Boycott Nike and Other Favorite Brands (Quartz), and post your response. In addition to posting your response to this article, please comment on at least one of your classmate’s post.

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About Denise H. Sutton, PhD

Denise H. Sutton, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Business at City Tech-CUNY. She is the author of Globalizing Ideal Beauty: Women, Advertising, and the Power of Marketing (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, 2012). An expert on advertising beauty, Sutton has lectured widely on the subject at universities and at corporations such as Unilever and Firmenich. She developed and taught courses on advertising and gender at the New School University, New York City, and lectures at the Fashion Institute of Technology—SUNY.

37 thoughts on “Boycott Fatigue?

    1. Elijah

      True boycotts in the past consisted of deeply invested participants who demaded change. They stuck by their beliefs and were willing to make sacrifices until they achieved what they believed needed to be done. Social media boycotts today lack all the true aspects of a real boycott contributing to “boycott fatigue”. The people taking part in the frequent social media boycotts today are usually politically fueled and dont truly take the boycott serious at all. They take part in them because they are popular on social media and draw attention, but are unable to make sacrifices for the boycott and take part in the boycott for a long period of time.

      1. Elijah

        I believe the In-and-Out Burger boycott is a perfect example of why boycotts are losing its power and efficacy. If the people starting and taking part in a boycott can’t take it seriously, how can the rest of the world? In my opinion, supporting political parties as a business should be avoided since it can potentially be harmful.

        1. Denise H. Sutton, PhD Post author

          As a marketer, you might face ethical dilemmas regarding the kinds of campaigns your client or boss wants to implement. How would you re-direct the boss who asked you to create the In-and-Out burger campaign? Knowing what kind of marketing you will work on (and where you stand on certain issues) can help determine what company to work for or what client you are willing to take on. For instance, would you work in marketing for a pharmaceutical company? A tobacco company? A company that sells alcohol? Would you work on a campaign for a politician whose views you didn’t entirely agree with?

        2. staceycoissy

          I agree with this statement because if you’re considered a leader in your community and you choose to halfway boycott something, the rest of the community will halfway boycott it to and also the boycott will most likely not succeed.

    2. AgnesCsepany

      Due to the widespread influence of social media platforms, people get fired up very easily about pretty much anything they do not agree with. Social media makes it seem like a lot of people can be reached and therefore all those people’s voices will be heard in protesting/boycotting something. However, posting about one’s agreement of boycotting something is not enough to actually do it.
      Maybe 30, 40, or 50 years ago boycotting meant that the community of people stood up together for what they truly believed in, and held to that until actual change occurred, even if it took a long time. Today, everybody wants someone to boycott something, and there is just not enough power behind the call for action. It’s easier to type one’s agreement to something, than actually investing the time and energy it takes to stand by one’s agreement to boycott. This, I think, is a contributing factor to “boycott fatigue”.
      As for the In-and-Out Burger boycott, I think if, as a company, one decides to donate to a political party, than that company should stand by it’s decision to do so. Anyone who does not agree or support that company’s decision can, and should in my opinion, stop supporting that company. It does not have to be part a “movement to boycott”. Just stop purchasing their product, or visiting the place, or eating at the place, etc… I do believe there are always other options to take the place of a company that someone does not want to support. When enough people stopped buying Ivanka Trump clothing, retail stores stopped requesting orders, and eventually stopped carrying that brand, because it was financially not lucrative anymore, and that was because enough people actually stopped buying the brand. The First Amendment of the US Constitution is free speech, so a company, or individual, should stand by their statements, consequences and all.

      1. Anani

        I agree with your point about Ivanka Trumps’s clothing line! I remember being in Bloomingdales with my friends and no one would even go near her shoes or even try them on no matter how nice they looked. It was very funny and shows how powerful the people can be.

    3. Tiffanie Chen

      Boycott fitigue is the effect of how more attention is brought to a boycott because of social media. Similar to the difference between physcially being in an actual protest rather than commenting on a post on Instagram about how you don’t like something, boycotting on social media has little to no impact unless you are someone who has a large platform with a large amount of supporters. When something lands on any social media platform, it is there forever. Mistakes or scandals always receive the most attention, like Nike choosing Kaepernick to be a representative of their company. I believe that some who are boycotting are doing it out of anger and the feeling of betrayal. Even though a company’s main goal is to do whatever it takes to be successful, morals and ethics exists. As for the In-and-Out boycott,

    4. Alex

      i agree with marcos when he said a contributing factor to “boycott fatigue” is social media because as we all know social media is where everyone be at. Everyone would be more aware of the situation if its all over their social media and often be reposting it and sharing their own beliefs about the situation. Which also could be good or bad for the company because it could make them look bad but then again any publicity is good publicity because it gets people talking about them and gives them more of a bigger audience. As for the in-and-out Burger boycott i think the boycott was weak. They say all these things about in-and-out but the man himself said he was personally boycotting the fast food, like why even start it and have people tweeting it if you don’t back your word from the very begining. I personally felt like in-and-out shouldn’t even have donated anything from the start.

    5. staceycoissy

      If the people starting the boycott aren’t taking it seriously, how is the rest of the world going to take it seriously ? How can you convince other people to boycott something if you are still eating it and supporting it by giving the company your money. Not only are you making a fool out of yourself, you’re making a fool out of true boycotters who actually cares for the changed trying to be made. If you aren’t truly passionate about the reason you are boycotting something you should not do it. I boycott chick- fit- A because I support the the LGBTQ community. I haven’t ate chick fi- la for over a year because they do discriminate against people in the LGBTQ community. As a true boycotter I can conclude if you’re going to boycott something or a company make sure you’re passionate about it.

    6. ismail

      A contributing factor to “boycott fatigue” would be the social platform that can be used to raise awareness and in this case, it was used and changed aspects of many people. Colin, K did what was needed to be done, he didn’t know the consequences would be that that dire, get him fired. When a celebrity does something wrong that assists the community will always receive positive feedback because he was standing up for others. Nike actually profited a lot from this.
      On the other hand in-and-out should’ve looked at their facts before donating to a republican party because in-and-out is located mostly on the west side and mostly democrats live there. they are to blame for their loss.

  1. Christina

    According to the article, the contributing factor to ‘boycott fatigue’ is the fact the these high publicized companies take risks to please and get more consumers that they end up in high controversy. And because they are so much boycotts existing, liberals question should they support or not take them serious. What I think about the In-and -Out Burger boycott is that as a Democrat, why would you support the opposite political party by donating money to them?? I believe If someone doesn’t agree or support a political party, does that justify to give them financial harm? In my personal opinion, why would you condone the abusive behavior of race, religion and gender??

  2. KevKev

    According to this article, a contributing factor to “boycott fatigue” would be society’s actions against another. The football quarterback Colin K took a knee during the national anthem in order to fight against black inequality and people disagreed to what he did.

  3. KevKev

    As for the In-and-Out Burger boycott, they’ll be losing a lot of their customers especially anti-Trump supporters with the $25 donated to the Republicans, even though the boycott has been called off. Not a great idea especially if you want to increase your business.

      1. Tasniakayy

        I don’t think In-and Out shouldve donated to the Republican party because even though their company drew more awareness, I feel like they’ll lose more than gain anything. If I was to find out my favorite brand was supporting something I truly didn’t like, they would lose me as customer for good even if I had to sacrifice gaining the product.

        1. KevKev

          I agree with Tasniakayy, even though it may draw more awareness, they’ll be losing more than what they’re gaining which isn’t worth it. Just because you gain awareness doesn’t mean your business will go up! Every action has consequences so you’ll have to think about the worse possible situation.

      2. AgnesCsepany

        I think if a business decides to donate to a political party, and that becomes public knowledge, than they should accept the consequences, whether good or bad. The decision to donate to a political party of their choice was probably calculated against how much customers they would loose vs. keep/gain. I’m sure that In-and-Out restaurants located in more liberal or democratic areas will feel the disagreement of the customers but perhaps other areas where people are leaning towards more republican or conservative will perhaps see an increase in revenue.
        I think with global companies it’s hard to know, or at least it’s less clear, exactly what causes they support, but I think smaller, more local companies are easier to find out about and decide to support or not.

    1. hassankhalil

      I agree with your analyst since now most customers of in and out will be very hesitant to remain doing business with them and may move to a company they know support their own political agendas or values.

    2. ismail

      I agree with kevkev because if they wanted to expand their business they would’ve thought of the customers that regularly go to in-&-out. Most of the people in the west coast are not republicans nor fans of trump.

  4. Anani

    One thing I’ll say right off the bat is that boycotting dates back to the late 1700’s when people were going against the slave trade in Britain and boycotting slave produced sugar. What is the most notable boycott you can think of? The Montgomery Bus Boycott. The word has such a strong meaning and history, and I think it’s disrespectful to just throw the word around. Using a hashtag for a few weeks while a controversy is popular is not boycotting. None of the “boycotts” mentioned are boycotts to me. This part especially frustrates me “The more embedded a given product is in people’s daily routines—whether it’s Nike workout gear or chicken nuggets—the harder it is to convince others to give it up, no matter what their political agenda.” Was it not hard to give up riding the bus in the 50’s for 381 days? If people really cared THAT much about In-and-Out donating money to anti-LGBT organizations, they would be out of business. There would be marches and protests that last longer than a week, and go further than a hashtag. Boycott fatigue stems from people not being serious about what they believe in and literally not even boycotting. People aren’t taking it seriously because nothing serious is being done.

    1. Denise H. Sutton, PhD Post author

      These are great observations! It makes me wonder just how much social media has contributed to what the author calls boycott fatigue. You make a good point that, if it really matters and if people really care, the discussion and action around the issue would be more than just a few tweets or posts over the course of a week. Perhaps one of the downsides to social is that it has the ability to dilute social issues.

  5. Marcos Machado

    A contributing factor to “boycott fatigue” is social media. In today’s world anything that is given a slight amount of attention is usually blown up all over the internet. This leads to people being alerted more quickly on topics and discussions wanting them to give their opinions for what they believe in. The world is consistently changing and new crisis/problems occur everyday so its a lot of work trying to keep up with every single detail which is why people usually tend to not care after a while about a comment or stance that they said they would take on certain situations. The In -and- out Burger situation is a very interesting because it shows how people don’t usually tend to back up their word. “The Democrat who initially called for the boycott of In-N-Out, who told The Fresno Bee that he wasn’t personally boycotting the fast food restaurant. “Are you kidding me?” he asked. “I’m gonna buy my staff In-N-Out burgers to celebrate our victory.” This examples shows how people in power usually just want to influence their audience and not actually live by what they are saying.

  6. hassankhalil

    One thing that I noticed the most throughout this era of social media is that big company owners are not allowed to take side of our political parties whether we like them or not we push for freedom of speech for everyone but once someone takes side we tend to forget that is there right. But on the contrary boycotting has had a big effect on businesses the most since taking either side of republics or democrats, since taking of either side may lead to decrease in sale and for people to bash businesses all over social media. But lastly since big companies tend to stay on the republican side it begs to differ if they are prompting everything this new president administration support for example separating of families on the border, and even sexist remarks made by our president of women. I think it is in everyone interest financially and economically to keep there political opinions to them selfs even if they believe they are correct.

    1. Denise H. Sutton, PhD Post author

      I agree that big companies (especially publicly-traded companies that have to answer to shareholders) may want to avoid the risk of speaking out on political issues or supporting a particular party or candidate. I think this is why it’s so interesting that Nike (public company) decided to create the campaign with Kaepernick. Think about how Nike’s campaign compares to the relatively recent Pepsi ad with Kendall Jenner!

  7. Arlheinz Alexis

    The reality is thatthese high pitched organizations go out on a limb to please and get more purchasers that they wind up in even more crisis’s. As the boycotts increase it can also build a company or destroy it. In this case Nike has been praised and received many negativity but in the end Nike has a plan and will stick to it. Further research has suggested that “Online sales soared 31% from the Sunday of Labor Day weekend until Tuesday, beating back fears that calls to boycott the brand would take a negative toll” the company itself is doing fine.

    1. Denise H. Sutton, PhD Post author

      Good observation. How many times do you think Nike can create an effective campaign around a “hot button” topic? They seem to have a reputation for referencing social issues. But does the world of commerce and consumption have limitations on how effective they can be–above and beyond brand awareness and sales?

  8. Tasniakayy

    I agree with Marcos. According to this article, a contributing factor to “boycott fatigue” would be social media. Social media in the advertising world has a huge impact on selling the product, and spreading the word about it. It’s similar to what you mentioned in class, the attention can be good or bad for the company, as long as they are getting people to notice them more. People use mainly Twitter to post what they are boycotting for, and from there word gets around, and as people share the same view, it gets stronger where as, often times the company will either be in silence or make a change. As for the In-and-Out situation, I think companies should stay silent when it comes to any involvement with politics. In-and-Out donating $25,000 to Republicans attracted a lot of negative attention and especially on Twitter with “Et tu In-N-Out?”
    which can result in losing many customers especially the anti Trump supporters.

  9. Luis Tepale

    According to the article, a contributing factor to boycott fatigue is big companies trying to get consumers to their products by using events that are in a political view such as the commercial of Nike by having Former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick that kneel in one knee during the national anthem. This made a big controversy because Nike is supporting the kneel of Colin while others disagreed on what he did. For the In-and-Out Burger boycott, is another great example involving itself in political issues. If In-and-Out hasn’t donated $25,000 to California Republicans or involved in any political matter it wouldn’t have started a dispute. Even though Eric Bauman stopped the boycott of In-and-Out they shouldn’t have donated the money in the first place.

  10. Jane

    I think boycotting is another way of promoting the company and politicians. And I think mostly they do it only for HYPE. There are a lot of people unaware of what is going on. And companies rely on uneducated people and use their campaign as a weapon to get what they want. What they want is a good sales and votes. I might be wrong but what if democrats made a deal with In-and-Out Burger owners and made them donate that money to republicans?

    1. Denise H. Sutton, PhD Post author

      Good point about uninformed people. Combine that with the very nature of social media: content that supports short attention spans. Social feeds the reader with short sound bites, but to really understand an issue we almost always need to go to another (reliable) source. It’s important to take the time to understand political issues, which usually means reading more than a post or two on Twitter. And always, no matter what we are reading, we should question everything. Be a critical reader.

    2. Xiao

      I agree with Jane, boycotting a event or a issue is another way to let many other people to know the company. Many people might read one article and make a statement even though they have no idea of what is really happening. There are too many people being brainwash by only few comments or articles they read and support the wrong side.

  11. TiffanieChen

    Boycott fatigue is the effect of how social media impacts the success of a boycott. Similar to the difference of how successful someone is when they physically participate in a protest, versus if they leave a short comment on a post about how they dislike something, the significance between both activities are huge. One definitely has a bigger impact and can make bigger changes. Social media can be helpful but harmful at the same time. Mistakes and scandals made by celebrities stay on social media forever. Like how Kaepernick was chosen by Nike to be their representative had major backlash and ended in a boycott. Cole Kaepernick stands for something he believes in which is equality for people of color and their experience with oppression. While a company should do what it takes to do better and be successful, it is important to know that morals and ethics exists.

  12. Lab_dash

    while boycotting does make big ripples in the media they often times have little to no effects on the company/companies that these calls were made on. the main contributing factor to ‘boycott fatigue’ is social media, like many others what we see on social media tends to have an effect on what we do in our lives, whether directly or indirectly. as with the situation with in-and-out burgers and the donation to the republican party, many people who don’t support the republicans tend to drag anything or anyone who supports them, usually on social media so unless we stop letting social media dictate our activities boycotting will eventually become as useful as a gold fish walker.

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