Purpose – Increasingly, reports of consumers are witnessed expressing their concerns regarding corporate practices through behaviours of boycotting, buycotting and voice. The theory of consumer votes suggests that such consumers may view their purchases as “votes” in the marketplace. The purpose of this paper is to explore consumer voting within competing theories of community. Design/methodology/approach – The study adopts an exploratory approach through semi‐structured in‐depth interviews with a purposive sample of ten ethical consumers. Findings – Findings reveal that consumers adopted a voting metaphor in their approaches to ethical consumption. While choices were mainly individual in nature they were characterised as part of a wider, largely imagined community of like‐minded consumers. Research limitations/implications – This research is limited to a single country and location and focused on a specific consumer group. Expansion of the research to a wider group would be valuable. Practical implications – Findings reveal consumers active in registering their discontent towards companies considered to be unethical, while rewarding those considered ethical. This has important implications for marketers interested in appealing to this group. Findings also reveal consumers taking responsibility through marketplace actions for ethical/political issues. This view of consumer votes as being more effective than political votes is pertinent, given reports of a decline in engagement with traditional political participation. Originality/value – Limited empirical attention has been given to consumption as voting explored within the context of community. However, with reports of a rise in consumer ethical concerns and reports of a search for community in society this suggests that further exploration of this area is worthwhile.
International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 1, 2007
Keywords: Consumers; Consumer behaviour; Consumption; Communities; Ethics; United Kingdom
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