Two-thirds of UAE and KSA consumers say they have boycotted a brand following a scandal
May 23rd, 2024, Bhawna Singh

Two-thirds of UAE and KSA consumers say they have boycotted a brand following a scandal

A majority also agrees that a brand snub pushes companies to take corrective action

Brands across the world have felt the impact of a boycott. When negative press or a major scandal hits a brand, it affects the relationship with consumers, leaving them feeling confused or betrayed.

New research from YouGov Surveys aims to understand the boycott behaviour of consumers in UAE and KSA, reveals the reasons that lead to a boycott and shows what brands can do to win consumers’ trust again.

Data from the survey shows that two-thirds of UAE and KSA consumers (66%) claim they have boycotted a brand, either temporarily or permanently, owing to a scandal. Amongst the two markets, consumers in KSA were more likely to say this as compared to those in UAE (72% vs 60%).

From the various reasons to boycott a brand, a brand's stand on political or social issues that is against their view is most likely to make someone stop using it (at 49%), more common among KSA than UAE consumers (53% vs 45%). This is followed by faulty/ damaged or dangerous products (46%).

Inappropriate/ insensitive/ misleading advertising is the next most common reason to stop using or buying from a brand (39%), along with unhealthy work environment at the brand’s end (such as racism, inequal income distribution, etc.).

Unethical work practices (30%) and allegiance to unethical people, associations, or causes (26%) are some of the other reasons for not using a brand.

Consumers in both UAE and KSA are aware of the strong impact of a boycott with almost three-quarters (73%) agreeing that it helps convince a company to change its policies or actions. This sentiment resonates more strongly among KSA than UAE consumers (77% vs 69%).

From the various categories of brands that consumers have stopped using or buying from following a scandal, QSR/ restaurants tops the list in both the markets (62%). In particular, consumers in Saudi Arabia were more likely to say they have boycotted a brand within the QSR & restaurants sector as compared to UAE consumers (72% KSA residents vs 51% UAE residents).

FMCG is the next popular category where consumers have snubbed a brand, divided into Food & Beverages (59%), beauty, hygiene, and personal care (40%) and household supplies and homecare (35%).

Fashion and sportswear is another category where around a third claim they have boycotted a brand (32%). Comparatively, fewer people have boycotted brands from real estate or travel category.

How soon do consumers come back to a brand after a boycott?

On being asked how soon they return to a brand that they once boycotted, a majority of consumers in both the markets said they returned to the brand in less than six months- one in five consumers (19%) started using or buying from the brand one week after the scandal, while twice this number (37%) waited up to a month.

Two in five returned to the brand after six months (26%) or later than that (13%).

Improvement in products/ services offered was the top reason for returning to a boycotted brand (51%), closely followed by the brand taking corrective action and rectifying its mistake (49%).

Many consumers were encouraged to go back to the brand once the people involved/responsible left the company (32%) or because they could not afford or enjoy competitors' product or services (30%). Not finding better alternatives (22%) and influence from friends or family (12%) are some of the other reasons for using a boycotted brand again.


YouGov Surveys: Serviced provides quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. This data is based on a survey of adults aged 18+ years in UAE and KSA with a sample size of 2003 respondents. The survey was conducted online between May 7 and 14, 2024. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced.