The tactical disruptiveness of social movements: Sources of market and mediated disruption in corporate boycotts

Brayden G. King*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


This article examines factors associated with social movements' abilities to disrupt corporate targets. I identify two kinds of disruption: Market disruption and mediated disruption. Market disruption deters the ability of the corporate target to effectively accrue and use market resources, while mediated disruption occurs as a tactic communicates a movement's claims about the target through third party intermediaries, like the media, thereby disrupting the target's image and reputation. Using data on corporate boycotts in the United States from 1990 to 2005, the analyses assess the extent to which movement characteristics or target characteristics cause stock price declines of boycotted companies - i.e., market disruption - and the frequency of national media attention given to boycotts - i.e., mediated disruption. The analyses indicate that target characteristics matter more in shaping a boycott's initial market disruption; however, both movement and target characteristics affect mediated disruption. Certain movement characteristics, like social movement organization (SMO) formality, public demonstrations, and celebrity endorsements, enable mediated disruption but have no effect on market disruption. A firm's size makes it vulnerable to both market and mediated disruption, while slack resources help a firm avoid market disruption. A target's reputational ranking initially buffers it from market disruption but increases its vulnerability to mediated disruption. The results indicate that the two kinds of disruption are interrelated. Market disruption has a marginal effect on the intensity of subsequent media coverage and ongoing media attention accentuates further market disruption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-517
Number of pages27
JournalSocial Problems
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Corporate boycotts
  • Corporate reputation
  • Disruption
  • Media attention
  • Social movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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