LONDON: Every brand knows that establishing trust with their customers is vital, but this point has been reinforced by a new survey that found a fifth (21%) of UK consumers have boycotted a brand following a scandal or negative press.

Furthermore, of those who stopped using a brand following adverse headlines, as many as two-thirds (67%) have not returned to it, according to research firm YouGov.

Its study, Inside the Mindset of Brand Boycotters, took an in-depth look into the impact a brand crisis can have on public perception and the measures brands can take to win consumers back.

However, brands could face an uphill struggle winning over their former customers because the report suggests that, despite some boycotting consumers coming back eventually, rarely do they use the brand as much as they did before.

According to the findings, one-in-five (26%) consumers went back to the brand they used to trust, but importantly they tended to use it less often, and just 1% used it as much as before.

Tax avoidance and evasion – an issue that frequently crops up in the UK press – emerged as the main reason for consumers to boycott a brand (48%), but 40% also stopped using a brand if it was perceived to be treating its staff unfairly.

Other reasons why respondents said they boycotted a brand included cover ups (40%), workers in the supply chain being treated unfairly (36%), corruption (36%) and faulty products or a product recall (35%).

In terms of winning consumers back, the report found that they have mixed reasons for returning to a boycotted brand.

Almost a third (28%) said they returned because the company had changed the practices that initiated the boycott in the first place, while just under a quarter (24%) said they returned because the brand's product or service had improved.

However, there are also occasions when a brand does not necessarily need to change its practices or alter its approach, the report said, because 29% of former boycotters started to use a brand again because it had become too inconvenient not to.

"While it is not as straightforward as saying that every time a brand is seen to misbehave it will lose customers, there is a distinct proportion of consumers who will vote with their wallets," said Nasra Aharchich, Reports Researcher at YouGov.

"But there is a difference between how people treat the type of brands that they feel give them something special and those who are seen as one of many," she added.

"A large majority say they will stick to brands that they like and so the relationship a company has with its customers is key for surviving any bumps in the road."

Data sourced from YouGov; additional content by WARC staff