Surrogate Boycotts against Multinational Corporations: Consumers’ Choice of Boycott Targets

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Abstract

Within the context of surrogate boycotts for multinational corporations (MNCs), the author develops a conceptual framework which examines how the interaction between expectations of boycott objectives’ attainment, the ascribed egregiousness of the principal offender and a MNC's actions, activism, concern for the boycott issue and personal sacrifices affect consumers’ likelihood to boycott a targeted MNC. The focus is on surrogate boycotts where the targeted MNCs have some involvement with the underlying issues. One of the key objectives is to determine disparities in the boycotting of different MNCs which are targets of the same surrogate boycott. Results from two real boycotts and four real boycott targets indicate that the ascribed egregiousness of the MNC's actions is the strongest determinant of boycott participation, followed by expectation related to the attainability of the boycott objectives. Those MNCs with lower product substitutability and higher consumer preferences will suffer less than other boycott targets. Despite the alleviating influences of low substitutability and consumer preferences on boycotts, MNCs need to proactively develop decision-making frameworks for early recognition of ethically dubious issues.

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