Multinationals’ Strategic Responses to Macro-Boycotts: A qualitative Case Study of Damage Limitation Strategies used by Danish Boycott Targets during the Cartoon Crisis

Frederike Grundmann & Ebba Nilsson

Student thesis: Master thesis


This research investigates how multinational companies can respond in order to limit damage caused by macro-boycotts. The research is a qualitative multiple case study and uses the Cartoon Crisis as an illustrative example. Relevant existing literature is reviewed in order to build an overview of previous research and to develop an analytical framework. Four prominent directions of damage limitation strategies are identified in the boycott literature: communication, marketing and operations, stakeholder, and internal strategies. These set the ground for the analytical framework, which will serve as structure guidance in the research. The following section gives a detailed description of three case companies and examines which strategies they used in order to limit potential damage caused by the macro-boycott known as the Cartoon Crisis. The chosen case companies are Danish multinationals operating in the dairy industry. The analysis consists of two parts, a within-case analysis and a crosscase analysis. In the within-case analysis, each case is analyzed individually and is compared to the literature review. In the cross-case analysis, the case companies are analyzed and compared to each other. Patterns, similarities, and differences among the cases are identified. The discussion includes a short assessment of the companies’ damage limitation, aspects that could affect the choice of strategies, and potential explanations why some strategies are more effective for some firms than for others. The following section outlines managerial implications, which are recommendations for macro-boycotted companies of how to limit potential damage. The recommended damage limitation strategies apply for multinationals of various sizes and include strategies such as quick response, consistency in values and behaviors, and a continuous information flow to stakeholders. Furthermore, the findings show that macro-boycotted companies should downscale its country-of-origin, make sure that knowledge about the boycotting regions is accessible, and appoint a responsible person or team for strategy formation and implementation. The researchers believe that the purpose has been fulfilled and that findings contribute to and complement the existing literature. The research has some limitations and additional research can be made to strengthen the generalizability of the implications. The macro-boycott literature is scarce and future research is needed to help companies and managers to cope with the increasing phenomenon of macroboycotts.

EducationsMSc in International Business, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages161