Consumer Motivations in Politically Aligned Businesses: An Exploration of the 2014 Independence Referendum in Scotland
Purpose The aim of this research is to establish the motivations behind consumer decisions surrounding politically aligned businesses, with a specific focus on the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. This includes exploring the reasons why consumers use certain businesses and the rationale behind businesses choosing to express their political alignments. Research Approach This research was carried out using a qualitative method in order to explore and develop the opinions of both consumers and businesses. Semi-structured interviews took place with seven Scottish consumers and two Scottish businesses. The consumers comprised of a representative split of Yes and No voters, whilst the two organisations disagreed over the use of politics in business. Key themes were extracted from the discussions and conclusions were drawn. Findings The findings showed that consumers on a whole are mainly motivated by reasonable prices, good customer service and aligned social or political strategies. Consumers said they tended to find this combination in smaller businesses rather than large corporations. There is a small group of consumers, however, that are wholly motivated by price. Also, it was shown that those who support Scottish independence tended to think they were more politically engaged than the No voters in this study, although all participants on average showed a high level of engagement. In addition, Yes voters’ interest grew massively compared to the No voters’ during the referendum campaign. As expected, most Yes voters considered themselves left wing, whereas the No voters were split 50/50 between right and left. Consumers tended to disagree with organisations being too involved in the political landscape, and opinions cast doubt over any long terms effects of a business’s political alignment. The research also discovered that consumers are likely to switch business if their political alignments disagree, though only if there is an alternative business that does agree with them. Political neutrality is not enough to draw in the consumer. A more popular opinion is though. The more people that support an agenda, the more likely the business is to gain a positive reaction. In terms of businesses, it was realised that there are a whole host of rationales and justifications behind choosing to display political affiliations or not. These included closing gaps in markets, gaining a competitive advantage, being worried of damaging the customer base and lacking the personal motivation to do so. Practical Implications and Value More knowledge surrounding the motivations of consumers in terms of the question of Scottish independence will help businesses align their strategies and consider any benefits or hindrances with political alignment. This study also shows that those who support Scottish independence are more likely to have a balanced and more detailed level of information regarding the debate. Limitations A larger sample size and a wider geographical spread of opinions could have improved this study, though businesses on a whole are reluctant to discuss their political affiliations.