How the NRA Boycotts Force Companies to Walk a Precarious Tightrope

After every mass shooting inside the U.S., activists press for legislation on gun control. as well as the NRA pushes back. however there is actually another, nonlegislative avenue for activists to pursue: boycotts against companies with ties to the gun industry or the NRA.

These boycotts appeared to gain more traction than normal after the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Several retailers announced restrictions on gun sales at their stores, as well as various other companies announced of which they might no longer offer discounts to NRA members.

To explore This particular strategy, Kellogg Insight sat down with Kellogg’s Brayden King as well as Tim Calkins. King, a professor of management as well as organizations, has researched what makes boycotts effective. Calkins, a clinical professor of marketing, focuses on how companies build strong, profitable brands.

This particular interview has been edited for length as well as clarity.

Brayden KING: In my research, I was interested in explaining why boycotts were successful despite the fact of which consumers were not always on board. inside the short term at least, there didn’t seem to be a big dip in sales revenue in response to most boycotts. Yet, 25 percent of boycotts of which receive some national media attention led to a form of public concession coming from the company.

We’ve been able to show of which fear of reputational damage is actually a main mechanism through which boycotts are effective. Companies of which have experienced a decline inside the recent past in their prestige tend to be the companies of which are most likely to concede in some way.

Tim CALKINS: Yes, when I was working in brand management at Kraft Foods, we might occasionally experience consumer boycotts. however we never saw the sales move in a meaningful way. At the same time, though, they totally generated attention as well as news, as well as they had a big impact coming from a PR perspective as well as a perception perspective. of which’s actually where they hit home.

KING: One of the main questions I get asked is actually, what is actually the value of the reputation of which these executives want to protect?

Part of the rationale is actually of which when companies experience a decline in their reputation, reputation becomes more salient. They’re focused on the item in a way of which they haven’t been inside the past. There are also the secondary effects. Companies of which have developed bad reputations are much more likely to get sued, are much more likely to face additional regulatory monitoring.

CALKINS: as well as social media improvements the landscape pretty dramatically. Back inside the day, people might have to walk around which has a petition to get a boycott going.

KING: Right. Activist groups realize of which the main lever they have for influencing companies is actually creating a media splash. Social media has made the item less important to have an organization which has a professional public relations team, because today anybody can organize a boycott campaign by going onto Twitter, Facebook, Reddit. You create a viral tweet about boycotting Walmart as well as the next day the item’s on CNN.

“I think most [companies] are just hoping of which somehow the earthquake doesn’t happen in their backyard.” —Brayden King

CALKINS: the earth of transparency we’re in combined with the earth of social media means brands have to be very careful about what they’re doing, actually scrutinize things in a way they never used to. All of a sudden, they’ve got a problem because of something they never even knew they were doing. of which certainly was the case with the NRA boycotts. I think if you were to ask a lot of these executives at these companies, “Do you offer special deals to the NRA?” most of them might have said, “No, we don’t have a partnership with the NRA.”

the item’s incredibly difficult right today to figure out how to respond. You have to move so quickly, however if you’re not careful, you’ll just make the problem bigger which has a tone-deaf response.

KING: I think of which a lot of the communications professionals are genuinely perplexed about the best way to respond to many of these events. You’re talking about communications professionals who were trained in a different era, before social media. Another part of the challenge is actually of which the political environment has never been as polarized or unpredictable. Companies recognize of which This particular is actually happening however they’re not sure how to deal with the item. I think most of them are just hoping of which somehow the earthquake doesn’t happen in their backyard.

With the NRA boycotts, the political environment created a sense of urgency for these companies. They responded quickly This particular time as compared to maybe three or four years ago, when they didn’t respond, even though the NRA took the same position.

CALKINS: the item makes you realize, too, how complicated all This particular is actually. I feel bad for the executives of Delta Airlines. Delta didn’t say they were going to punish the NRA when they stopped offering discounts for NRA members. They weren’t saying, “Oh, we don’t want people coming from the NRA on our planes, or we’re going to take away your frequent flier miles.” They said, you know, we’re not going to give you a special deal because we don’t want to be perceived as leaning in of which direction. as well as they get slammed for of which.

Companies are going to try to stay, by as well as large, as impartial as they can. The hard part is actually of which the item can be actually hard these days to stay inside the center of the road. The whole experience, I think, carries a lot of senior executives very nervous.

“If you’re not careful, you’ll just make the problem bigger which has a tone-deaf response.” —Tim Calkins

KING: I think of the response to partnerships like Delta’s as very similar to the way companies were previously targeted for supply-chain issues. the item’s just of which your supply chain today includes all the various ways in which you’re extending your brand.

the item’s fairly common of which major companies get boycotted due to something of which an affiliate, a partner, is actually doing, not something of which they’re doing. This particular was Nike’s complaint when they were the target of a boycott over the labor practices of their overseas suppliers. They might say, “the item’s not us. the item’s somebody else.” however activists are very smart about going after the company of which will create the most attention.

CALKINS: I think there are three things of which companies should be doing proactively to avoid being in This particular situation.

First, they need a process as well as approach to responding to comments. The question is actually, who’s answering the phone? Although today the question is actually, who’s on Twitter?

The second thing is actually companies need to actually scrutinize all of their partnerships, all of their arrangements. the item’s important to make sure they clean up their arrangements as quickly as possible.

The third thing is actually of which companies need to be very clear about what causes they’ll get involved in. By as well as large, they want to stay inside the center, as well as for most companies there’s just no reason to take a stand one way or the various other on a lot of issues. however there are those issues where they do want to take a stand.

Patagonia, for example, is actually very far out in front on environmental issues. They’ve said, “We’re going to go right up against the administration, we’re going to do the item consistently, as well as overtly, as well as of which’s what we stand for.” however, the item’s interesting of which you don’t see them out in front on various other issues, like trade. Nobody looks to Patagonia to be a leader on tariffs.

How the NRA Boycotts Force Companies to Walk a Precarious Tightrope