A long shot to change consumers’ minds

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A long shot to change consumers’ minds

The author is head of the K-entertainment team at the JoongAng Ilbo.

“The act of choosing not to buy — instead of buying — in order to express an opinion” is the definition of consumer boycott. In 1880, the Irish National Land League organized collective action against the exploitation of tenant farmers by Charles Boycott, the land agent of Lord Erne. After the incident, people began to use the name as a verb. Boycott is an action or movement of abstention from a product, person or organization.

Buying a product in the consumer market is like voting. You pick a product of your choice and express your opinion by paying with currency. Boycott organizers persuade consumers to stop buying a specific product through various means.

There are many theories on how a boycott movement changes consumer’s decisions and what the conditions are for a successful boycott campaign. Not one model can explain the multilayered action, as it involves personal and emotional taste and judgment but also is affected by social, ethical and political values. Therefore, it is hard to predict the duration and degree of response for any one boycott movement.

Can we predict the future of the SPC boycott being intensified by the shocking death of a factory worker on Oct. 15? Various factors suggest that the boycott has to be extended. It is not just because consumer pressure is rising, as seen in the wide sharing of an app identifying SPC products online to prevent the purchase of an SPC product by mistake.

Signs of extension are more pronounced elsewhere. It is the moves of so-called “selfish consumers” armed with rationality. As they are strictly driven by personal interests, they clearly saw the attitude of SPC when making baked goods. Even before the site of the death within the workplace was verified, the factory continued to make goods right next to the site. It is irrational to expect a company, which thinks it is acceptable to do that, to have a philosophy and courtesy toward food.

The company’s plea about its “employees and franchise owners suffering damages” is not enough to change the minds of the selfish consumers whose priority is the state of food that is going into their own and their families’ mouths. It is a long shot for SPC to change consumers’ minds with a belated plan to prevent a recurrence, issued on Oct. 21. The time of doubts about SPC products in general has only begun.
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