Consumer choices have been getting more and more politically charged in recent years, a trend that will only intensify in Trump’s America. You probably haven’t forgotten how Chick-fil-A incurred the wrath of liberals, and efforts to shut it out of major cities, when the ultra-conservative social views of its owners became widely known. So what happened? Visiting a Chick-fil-A became a handy way for Republican politicians to signal cultural affiliation with religious right voters, and plenty of conservative voters became even more bonded with the company, which continues to grow.
That’s just one case, and of course there are plenty of examples of successful boycotts. The most effective ones, however, are usually those that have a particular thing they’re asking the company to do (or stop doing). Lately liberals have been pressuring companies to stop advertising on Breitbart, the white nationalist website that used to be run by Stephen Bannon, Trump’s senior adviser — with considerable success. That’s an easy step for a company to take to rid itself of a headache; it’s much harder for a boycott to get consumers to abandon a brand for good.
Just look at what happened around the Super Bowl. A number of the ads contained subtle or not-so-subtle digs at the president’s policies, including one that portrayed a mother and daughter’s journey north to America (from a lumber company) and another for Budweiser that told the immigrant story of the founder of parent company Anheuser-Busch. After it was unveiled, some conservatives tried to organize a Bud boycott, which went precisely nowhere, just as previous similar efforts had. Remember when religious right activists vowed to bring Starbucks to its knees because their Christmas cups were just red, without an appropriately Christmas-y image, like perhaps Jesus on the cross? Starbucks, too, is still standing — and it recently announced, in response to Trump’s refugee ban, that it would hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years.