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BBC: Why Boycotts Eventually Fall Into ‘The Dustbin of Outrage’

From BBC: 
For the first time in six years, Target announced a sales drop: a decline of 5% in the April to June 2023 period, compared with the same time in 2022. During that time, the big-box retailer was also embroiled in a controversy over their collection of merchandise for Pride Month, which spurred consumer backlash and boycotts from some politically conservative shoppers.
Coincidence? Perhaps not, said Christina Hennington, Target’s executive vice president, on the company’s Q2 2023 earnings call. She attributed the sales decline in part to a “strong reaction to this year’s Pride assortment” that affected store traffic, and also cut the company’s full-year forecast. A couple weeks before Target announced its sales slump, international beverage giant Anheuser-Busch InBev also noted a sharp decline in US sales and profits, in part due to a conservative-led boycott of Bud Light. After collaborating with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, the brand said its Q2 revenue had fallen 10.5% compared to the same period last year – “primarily due to the volume decline of Bud Light”, according to the earnings report.
hese high-profile boycotts are just two in a string of recent consumer pushbacks that have put popular brands in the crosshairs. Yet as powerful as these movements seem while they’re in motion – and as much they can cut into companies’ bottom lines – expert say many eventually pass. Emotion and affinity Most movements against products and companies are emotionally charged, says Maurice Schweitzer, a professor of management who researches behavioural decision making at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, US. When companies take a stance, it often lights a fire under consumers, who have a strong psychological and gut response that causes them to act. But people must remain upset for a boycott to stick, and the early intensity of the driving emotion usually diminishes – the feeling of urgency to boycott fades along with it, even if it’s hard to imagine it ever will. “It feels intense and overwhelming in the moment, but it tapers. And that’s true for every emotion. It works against boycotts’ effectiveness,” says Schweitzer. After a while, sustaining a boycott often becomes inconvenient and potentially expensive, too. As much as consumers may react strongly to perceived company missteps, he says they also don’t want to make their own lives harder – whether that means driving an extra 15 minutes to go to another retailer for supplies, or paying more for a substitute product. Read more at BBC.