New research describes the negative consumer impacts of BLM support on major companies and brands

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New Research Inside Marketing Science Companies and brands that have aligned themselves with Black Lives Matter (BLM) have found negative impact at the hands of consumers.

In the study „How Support for Black Lives Matter Affects Consumer Responses on Social Media,” the negative impact associated with BLM support included a decline in consumer social media activity, as measured by the number of followers and „likes.” Negative comments are amplified through social media posts.

Authors of the study are Yang Wang, Marco Shojun Qin, Xuming Luo and Yu (Eric) Gou from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

The study sought to examine how consumers respond to brands taking a stand on social media regarding racial justice movements in four ways:

  1. By analyzing 503 BLM posts from more than 430 brands from June 1, 2019 to October 31, 2020, the researchers examined the relationship between a brand's BLM support and the growth of its social media followers.
  2. To determine the causal effect, the researchers focused on „Blackout Tuesday,” which served as a large-scale BLM support event on Instagram, but not on Twitter, which served as a „control site.” Based on data from 435 major brands across a variety of industries and their 396,988 social media posts across two platforms, the researchers found consistent evidence that BLM support provoked a negative reaction from consumers.
  3. Using deep learning tools for natural language processing, the researchers examined the effects across brands by examining those brands' historical posts alongside those brands' concurrently unrelated, self-promotional posts. This process found that when brands posted content that was unrelated to BLM and self-promotional in nature, the negative effects of BLM support were significantly moderated. They found that these „off-topic” ad posts exacerbated the negative effects of brands' BLM support.
  4. To address the possibility that such negative reaction may be politically or ideologically driven by consumers, the researchers examined how consumers' political affiliation moderated their responses to brands' BLM support. That analysis found that most Republican consumers who were not supporters of the BLM movement accounted for a significant portion of consumers' negative responses. However, another significant consumer segment that reacted negatively was made up of Democratic consumers who saw brands engaging in „slacktivism.” A brand voices its support for a cause but does not support it with financial donations.

„One of the interesting findings was that the negative correlations were stronger when more brands posted in support of BLM, while also posting self-promotional messages,” says Wang. „This suggests that large-scale BLM coalition programs involving self-promotional posts created a 'bandwagon effect' that negatively impacted those brands.”

„Brands trying to profit by jumping into the fray by allying with important racial justice movements should exercise caution,” says Luo. „While they support BLM, they should not be too quick to resume business as usual with their product promotions. However, some brands with more historical social posts and community-based work on social media suffered less from the negative effects and may even benefit from supporting BLM.”

Going forward, the authors note, brands that don't want to be sidelined when big racial justice issues arise should consider making „community” a core tenet of their social media strategy and brand work even before it's trending in the news and in the news. Social media. Brands must ensure that their support does not appear to be an afterthought or driven by “bandwagon” motives.

More information:
Yang Wang et al., Frontiers: How Support for Black Lives Matter Influences Consumer Responses on Social Media, Marketing Science (2022) DOI: 10.1287/mksc.2022.1372

Presented by Institute of Operations Research and Management Sciences

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