Target boycott may be a ‘really important case’ for retailers who experience backlash

June 9, 2023

In the current polarized climate, more companies could experience the type of anti-LGBTQ+ backlash that recently hit Target Corp., warns Daniel Diermeier, chancellor of Vanderbilt University.

The political scientist and management academic is the author of “Reputation Analytics: Public Opinion for Companies.” He warned that other companies, particularly in the retail sector, could find themselves in a similar position to Target, which has faced an intense anti-LGBTQ+ backlash over its Pride Collection.

“Target is a really important case,” he told MarketWatch, noting that the retail giant had been selling Pride products for years. “They probably were caught by surprise [by the recent backlash].”

“We’re looking at a much more polarized environment, that’s obvious, and the type of polarization is much more focused on cultural, identity and value issues,” he told MarketWatch. “There’s now a willingness and ability for people on the political right to really attack companies in a coordinated fashion.”

The Vanderbilt chancellor also noted a significant political shift in activism. Coordinated campaigns have traditionally been seen at the other end of the political spectrum, according to Diermeier, citing the example of toymaker Mattel Inc. MAT, -2.09%, which bowed to pressure from environmental group Greenpeace over its packaging.

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