Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Management, Operations and Marketing


Purpose: The intent of this study is to identify leading activists (who initiate or organise activism) and persistent leading activists (who continually mobilise others) before they start engaging in these activities, with a view to including them as stakeholders in marketing research. To achieve this, the present study investigates: 1) the process of an individual evolving into a leading activist; 2) similarities between boycotters and leading activists; 3) triggers of leading activism; and 4) key factors influencing persistent leading activism.

Design/methodology/approach: A three-phase mixed method approach is employed: Phase 1 uses a qualitative approach resulting in a theoretical model. Phase 2 employs a quantitative exploratory approach. It operationalises constructs identified in Phase 1 and explores associations between them. Phase 3 employs binary logistic regression models, which identify a minimum set of predictors that can be used for the identification of the targeted groups.

Findings: Findings indicate that: 1) to date, research has not been sufficient to discriminate between boycotters and leading activists, or persistent and non-persistent leading activists. Results of this empirical study: 2) develop a theoretical model of how consumers evolve into a leading activist against certain products; 3) identify similarities between boycotters and leading activists, triggers of leading activism and key factors influencing persistency; and 4) reveal that only three predictors from the theoretical model could correctly identify 64 per cent of the leading activists and 93 per cent of the persistent leading activists.

Research limitations/implications: The present study is limited by the fact that leading activists are an extremely difficult group to identify and reach. Furthermore, binary logistic regression can only include a certain number of variables, given the available sample size. With a larger sample, more variables could have been included and may have been identified as additional predictors. Future research could test the model with a larger sample size.

Originality/value/contributions: This research: 1) provides a novel methodological approach to identify stakeholders in an easier and more economical way; 2) contributes to anti-consumption knowledge with the clarification of similarities and differences in four varying degrees of anti-consumption behaviour that are clearly defined (boycotting, leading activism, persistent activism and non-persistent leading activism). Based on these definitions, the theoretical model developed in this study highlights the typical stages of consumers evolving into leading activists. Furthermore, key factors influencing persistent leading activism are explored. 3) The research also helps practice to target potential leading activists and potential persistent leading activists as stakeholders, with the aim of including them in the early stages of marketing research. The value of this approach lies in a better understanding of the target market, in particular when introducing controversial products or policies. In turn, this can reduce the possibility of public boycotts or scare campaigns. Listening to leading activists and persistent leading activists also holds the potential of product, service or policy improvements which benefit the community.

FoR codes (2008)

1503 BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT, 1505 MARKETING, 150501 Consumer-Oriented Product or Service Development, 220102 Business Ethics



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.