When Dick Yuengling, the fifth-generation owner of America’s oldest brewing company under the same surname, voiced his support for then presidential candidate Donald Trump, consumers reacted – with a mass consumer condemnation of the brand on social media and calls to boycott.

It’s just one example of what brands are facing as consumers become more aware of political issues and more willing to share their opinions online. And that can lead to real consequences for companies.

Interested in consumer mindsets, OnBuy.com recently analyzed findings from YouGov, which interviewed more than 2,000 U.S. adults to better understand the reasoning behind the phenomena of brand boycotting.

The research fascinatingly revealed:

  • Politics: A brand’s affiliation or endorsement of a politician/party/movement was the biggest reason as to why consumers boycotted a brand, at 51 percent.
  • Health and racism: A product with negative consequences on consumer health as well as racism in a company’s culture/practices were the joint second most cited reasons, at 44 percent each.
  • Business practices: Unfair practices related to market dominance was the lowest-ranking factor, which contributed to consumers boycotting a brand, at just 24 percent.
  • The environment: “Harm to the environment” influenced 42 percent of consumers’ decision to boycott a brand. Closely followed by faulty product/products recall, cover ups and corruption – all at 41 percent.
  • Data breaches: However, only 25 percent of consumers surprisingly boycotted a brand either because of data breaches or tax avoidance/evasion.

“The internet and social media have enabled consumers to become more influential than ever before. It’s a monumental shift in dynamics whereby consumers have the platforms readily available to them for expressing their concerns about a brand without any real restrictions,” says Dustin Bridges, a retail analyst. “So, when brands for the better choice of words, mess up, they have nowhere to hide. In the case and aftermath of consumer boycotts, brands need to quickly react by clearly communicating the steps they are taking to rectify the decisions or actions which have contributed to the ‘issue’ at play.”

Cas Paton, managing director of OnBuy.com, says the findings are interesting.

“Whilst trust takes time to nurture and establish, companies must have a clear vision of how they want to portray their brand,” Paton says. “To achieve this, transparency should be at the heart of all their operations. When companies fail to do this, and engage in activities that do not align with their core consumers’ beliefs and ethics, they endanger their reputation and face the real risk of consumer boycotts.”