October 9th, 2012
07:28 AM GMT
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Hong Kong (CNN) – Figures last month out of China for Japanese auto companies paint a pretty stark picture of the impact on sales of anti-Japanese sentiment over a group of disputed islands.

Sales for Toyota vehicles in the world’s largest car market fell 40% year-on-year in September, mimicking similar declines for Mazda and Nissan. Meanwhile, General Motors had record car sales in China last month, as did South Korean carmaker Hyundai.

All of which suggest calls by Chinese nationalists to stop buying Japanese products are taking a bite out of Tokyo profits. But do economic boycotts really work?

The evidence is mixed, but studies suggest the boycott of Japanese products in the world’s second largest economy may have legs.

Product boycotts are as old as the 1773 Boston Tea Party, but Northwestern University researcher Brayden King notes that the number of company boycotts exploded since the 1990s, as movements shifted away from governments to protesting the behavior of global companies. Protests against underage labor on Nike production lines in Pakistan and Cambodia resulted in the company publishing its first corporate responsibility report in 2001. Studies suggest about one in four targeted boycotts against companies end with some sort of concession.

But a 2011 study by King found that the higher the perceived status of the company, the more likely a boycott is effective – and the main driver is the duration of media attention received. Boycotts against firms that rank high on the Fortune Magazine’s annual ranking of “Most Admired Companies” generated 4.4 times more coverage than boycotts against unranked companies, King found.

The nationalistic fervor surrounding the Japanese product boycott in China, inflamed by the government’s purchase of an island chain that both Tokyo and Beijing claim, will increase the likelihood the boycotts will stick. During the Iraq War, the France’s vocal criticism of the U.S. resulted in boycotts against French products, most famously the U.S. House of Representatives rebranding French fries as “Freedom Fries” in the Capitol cafeterias in 2003.

A study by a pair of researchers from StanfordUniversity found that the boycotts cost French wine makers an estimated $112 million in potential sales in the U.S.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. China

    Toyota's sale has decreased almost 50% in september 2012 and tendency continues.

    In China you can buy all kinds of cars, European, Chinese, even Russian, in one branch in which you have so many choices, Boycotts's effect will reached its best extent.

    The question is not if Boycotts is effective

    The question should be even without boycotts the country with so high debt rate will also collapse in months.

    October 9, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  2. yourblueprinttosuccess

    Reblogged this on Your BluePrint to Success and commented:

    October 9, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  3. guy face

    ...so boycotts work, right?

    October 9, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  4. Borbo

    The people who destroyed this car are idiots. The only one who suffered was the Chinese guy who owns it. Mob mentality at its best.

    October 9, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  5. mzhabib

    Reblogged this on Muhammad Zafar Habib's Home.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  6. Jay sperling

    Hi I just watched a comment made about Britney spears and how she and Lindsey Lohan should be put in control of estate finance ect. First of all controling them means controlling politics. You have put them into a mandation of social stigma where passively they should abide to an aspect of control you put.politics into that persons hands to control a person like they are subject which they arent to be personally governed NY a civilian. That is a sepreation of clause practically to a self governing seperate state. What are you Charles Manson?? They are rock and roll stars for Christs sake?? I would say if you want to control politics you prech Charles Manson and claim its the end of the world...!!! if your afraid of Britney spears and want to use that means like a boycott whats next???

    December 2, 2012 at 11:29 am |
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