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Brand identity, Trump boycotts, and social media backlash

The Trump presidency has already brought many changes to the United States, including the business sector. Many businesses are faced with a new choice in this political climate, to carry products developed by Trump and his family, or discontinue them. D’Amore-McKim associate professors Yakov Bart and Parker Ellen weigh in on social media backlash, boycotts and strategies to handle them.


February 17, 2017

Photo courtesy of iStock.


Recently, many retailers have been facing backlash for carrying, or not carrying Trump products. Notably, Nordstrom pulled Ivanka Trump’s line of products citing declining sales, whereas Budweiser has been under fire from Trump supporters for their pro-immigration Super Bowl ad.

Yakov Bart, assistant professor of marketing and Parker Ellen assistant professor of management and organizational development, examine the impact social media outcry and boycott backlash can have on companies.

Ellen believes the boycotts can be successful, but are similar to using pressure and coalitions, two types of influence that have been proven to be less effective because of their more hostile nature.

“Rational persuasion (using logical arguments) and inspirational appeals (tying requests for change to shared values) are much more effective tactics. So, if the goal is to get firms to enact any sort of lasting change, there likely are better ways to go about it than a boycott,” said Ellen.

Social media continues to be a heavy influence on the political climate in the U.S. According to Bart, though, it’s important to also keep offline conversations in mind as social media targets the business and political intersection.

“Many brands are getting carried away by what they observe on social media platforms these days—often strongly worded consumer comments and campaigns. However, companies need to remember that consumers are still much more likely to have a brand-related conversation offline than online,” said Bart. “Importantly, content and tone of these more easily observable online conversations often differ from largely unobserved offline discussions, as online comments could be offered by different people with different motivations.”

Read more on News@Northeastern.