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Why Do People Boycott Brands? Lessons From The Arab World

Recent research from YouGov Surveys has provided new insights into the impact of consumer boycotts on brands in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The research explores the reasons behind these boycotts and what brands can do to regain consumer trust.

Why Do People Boycott Brands? Lessons From The Arab World
Source: Depositphotos

A key finding of the study is that up to two-thirds of consumers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia (KSA) have boycotted a brand linked to scandals. The incidence of boycotts is significantly higher in KSA, where up to 72% of consumers say they have boycotted a brand. In the UAE, the figure was ‘only’ 60%.

Key reasons for boycotts

The research identified several key reasons why consumers choose to boycott brands:

  • Political or social attitudes

The most common reason for boycotts is a brand’s stance on political or social issues that are not in line with consumers’ views. This reason was cited by 49% of respondents, with this reason being more common in the KSA (53%) compared to the UAE (45%).

  • Faulty products

Almost half of respondents (46%) have boycotted brands because of faulty or unsafe products.

  • Inappropriate advertising

Inappropriate or misleading advertising leads 39% of consumers to stop using or buying from a brand.

  • Unethical working environment

Issues such as racism and income inequality are major contributors to boycotts.

  • Unethical practices

30% of respondents cited unethical labour practices as a reason for boycotting, and 26% avoided brands associated with unethical people or causes.

  • Impact of boycott

A significant majority of consumers (73%) believe that boycotts help to persuade companies to change their policies or actions.

Boycotts affect different segments. Surprisingly, fast food and restaurants are at the top of the list. This is followed by FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) categories such as food and drink (59%), beauty, hygiene and personal care (40%) and household goods (35%). Some 32% of respondents said they had boycotted brands in the fashion and sportswear category.

Source: YouGov

Is there life for the brand after the boycott?

The study also reveals how quickly consumers return to brands after a deliberate rejection. The majority of consumers in both markets surveyed return to a boycotted brand within six months. Specifically, 19% of consumers return within a week, 37% within a month and 26% after six months or more.

Why do they return?

The good news is that while boycotts are a form of protest, they don’t have to last forever. More than half (51%) of consumers return because of product or service improvements. Almost half (49%) will return if brands acknowledge their mistakes and take corrective action. A further 32% will return when responsible individuals leave the company and their trust is restored. For 30% of consumers, the reason for returning is the limited supply of better alternatives or the affordability of competitors. Finally, 12% of consumers return as a result of social influence from friends or family who are convinced of the brand’s renewed value.

Source: YouGov

This research highlights the impact of consumer pressure. Brands need to tread carefully and be aware of the potential consequences, as broken consumer trust is hard to regain.

The data for this research is based on an online survey conducted by YouGov between 7 and 14 May. The survey included 2003 respondents aged 18+ from the UAE and KSA.

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