Twitter Storms. Divergent Emotional Consumer Responses surrounding the Removal of ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ Gender Labels

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What happens when a widely taken-for-granted practice by consumers changes? How do consumers react when they wake up in the morning and read a headline announcing the removal of gender labels and the introduction of gender non-specific pieces of clothing by their favorite brands? Lately, some organizations joined the gender neutral movement and communicated their efforts in trying to conceal gender differences by removing gender labels and introducing gender neutral product lines. These brands are catering to young consumers and niche markets in an aim to differentiate themselves from competitors and stand out of the crowd. The change announcements have not gone unnoticed and faced a huge public backlash on social networks. While some consumers described the change as being progressive and expressed their contentment towards it, others experienced a mixture of unpleasant and bitter emotions and threatened to boycott the brands adopting the change. Exploring this burst of conflicting consumer reactions and emotions is at the heart of this study. The author investigates consumers’ emotional responses to gender neutral labeling announcements and uses Twitter as main source for data collection. Sentiment analysis of the tweets is carried out to reveal the recurrent emotional responses. Further, the managerial implications provide managers with strategies on how to help prevent consumer fallout and ensure endorsement.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen