Impact of BLM Support on Major Brands: A Study

How does supporting Black Lives Matter (BLM) affect consumer responses on social media? This article reviews the latest research on this topic and discusses the implications for brand management.

Research Methodology

The authors of the study used a natural experiment to compare the effects of BLM support on Instagram and Twitter. They analyzed 435 major brands from diverse industries and their 396,988 social media posts from June 2019 to October 2020. They used a difference-in-differences (DID) analysis to isolate the causal impact of BLM support on consumer responses, such as followers, likes, and comments.

Main Findings of BLM Support

The study found consistent evidence that BLM support triggered a negative reaction from consumers on both platforms. The negative effects were measured in terms of a decline in follower growth, a decrease in likes per post, and an increase in negative comments per post. The study also revealed several moderating factors that influenced the magnitude of the negative effects.

Bandwagon Effect

The negative effects were stronger when more brands posted in support of BLM, while concurrently posting self-promotional messages. This suggests that consumers perceived such behavior as opportunistic or insincere. The authors called this the bandwagon effect, which implies that brands should avoid following the crowd or jumping on the bandwagon when taking a stance on social issues.

Prosocial History and Mission

The negative effects were weaker when brands had a history of posting prosocial content or had a socially-oriented mission. This implies that consumers valued consistency and authenticity in brand communication. The authors argued that brands should build a long-term reputation for being socially responsible and align their core values with their social media messages.

Political Affiliation and Slacktivism

Another important factor was the political affiliation of consumers. The study found that mostly Republican consumers who were not supporters of the BLM movement constituted a significant portion of consumers’ negative responses. However, another significant consumer segment that reacted negatively was made up largely of Democrat consumers who saw brands as engaging in “slacktivism.” This is when a brand voices its support for a cause but does not back it up with financial donations. The authors suggested that brands should consider the potential backlash from different consumer segments and avoid sending mixed signals or appearing hypocritical. They should also align their words with actions and demonstrate their commitment to social causes through tangible actions.

Implications for Brand Management

The study concluded that brands should be careful when taking a stance on social media about racial justice movements. They should consider the potential risks and benefits of supporting BLM and other social causes, and tailor their messages to their target audiences. They should also monitor consumer feedback and respond appropriately to negative comments or criticism. The authors recommended that brands should adopt a strategic approach to social media marketing that balances social responsibility and business objectives.

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