Your Power is in Your Wallet
As I sit writing this blog I have my favourite study snack by my side – a KitKat Chunky. To many of you this will seem like a completely irrelevant piece of trivia, but to many others this information can be used to judge me. This is not because of the health issues related to my choice of food but down to the fact that KitKat’s are a product made by Nestle.
And to many people Nestle is a dirty word…
In the 1970’s Nestle began selling formula-milk to the developing world as an alternative to breastfeeding. The company used aggressive marketing to inform mothers in poorer countries that Nestle formula-milk was safer than the milk in their breasts (Klein et al., 2001). This was proved not to be the case because the formula-milk had to be mixed with water, which is a major problem when the mothers in question have no access to clean water (Moorhead, 2007). Nestle were also found guilty of selling cans of formula-milk which included instructions written in the wrong language for the women who needed them (ibid). These actions caused outrage because they were putting the lives of millions of babies at risk. So in 1977, protesters began calls for a boycott of all Nestle products, a boycott which still exists today.
So, what is a boycott?
According to Freidman (1999) a consumer boycott is “an attempt by one or more parties to achieve certain objectives by urging individual consumers to refrain from making selected purchases in the marketplace” (pp.4.)
Why do people do it?
Boycotts typically take place as a reaction to a negative activity that people feel very strongly about. In 1989, a tragic accident happened at a football ground in the UK . This was the Hillsborough disaster where 96 Liverpool football supporters lost their lives because too many people were let into a football stadium and were crushed (BBC News, 2012). After this horrific event the Sun newspaper published the following front page:
The city of Liverpool was disgusted with the article and accused the paper of lying. Therefore a boycott was placed on the Sun newspaper in the Merseyside city. The ‘Don’t Buy the Sun’ campaign became an incredibly strong movement and even held a concert featuring Mick Jones of the Clash (BBC News, 2012).
It should be noted at this point that another reason people undertake boycotts is that they are very effective. In 1990, the Economist argued that consumer boycotts were popular “for one simple reason: they work” (pp.69).
The effectiveness of boycotts can be demonstrated by returning to the example of the Sun. On the 14th September, 23 years after the Hillsborough disaster, the boycott finally paid off when the newspaper published the following front page admitting that they were wrong and that they had lied:
So what does this mean?
It means that consumers have more power than they think. It means that people can influence companies more than they think they can, simply by using their purchasing behaviour. We live in a time where people know that companies are often doing wrong but do nothing to try and stop it. People’s power is in their wallets and they need to remember this, we all need to remember this. If you’re not happy with a company then don’t buy from them, it’s as simple as that. This applies to me as well – so perhaps I should rethink my favourite study snack?
Finally, if you needed any more proof that boycotts can be incredibly effective, how about this for an amazing result?