DOI: 10.1002/jcpy.1380 ISSN: 1057-7408

Speedy activists: How firm response time to sociopolitical events influences consumer behavior

Jimin Nam, Maya Balakrishnan, Julian De Freitas, Alison Wood Brooks
  • Marketing
  • Applied Psychology


Organizations face growing pressure from their consumers and stakeholders to take public stances on sociopolitical issues. However, many are hesitant to do so lest they make missteps, promises they cannot keep, appear inauthentic, or alienate consumers, employees, or other stakeholders. Here we investigate consumers' impressions of firms that respond quickly or slowly to sociopolitical events. Using data scraped from Instagram and three online experiments (N = 2452), we find that consumers express more positive sentiment and greater purchasing intentions toward firms that react more quickly to sociopolitical issues. Unlike other types of public firm decision making such as product launch, where careful deliberation can be appreciated, consumers treat firm response time to sociopolitical events as an informative cue of the firm's authentic commitment to the issue. We identify an important boundary condition of this main effect: speedy responses bring limited benefits when the issue is highly divisive along political lines. Our findings bridge extant research on brand activism and communication, and offer practical advice for firms.

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