Market Basket Controversy Ignites Through Social Media

Market Basket Controversy
On Friday, July 18, the Massachusetts supermarket chain Market Basket fired its CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas, and two other board members. Employees quickly responded in support of the beloved former leader, with warehouse workers halting deliveries and store workers standing outside telling customers to go elsewhere. Seventeen Massachusetts lawmakers called for a boycott of Market Basket. The state of the store spiraled downward, with bare shelves, business turning to their competitors, and thousands rallying outside the July 25th board meeting in Tewksbury. How did they organize so effectively and with such momentum? All signs point to social media as a key organizational tool for strategic advocacy efforts.
Social media provides ground-level insight into consumer response to brand crises such as this controversy. While it is clear that Market Basket consumers are unhappy with the brand’s recent decisions, how and why news of the firing spread is a bigger concern in repairing the damage.
Activists supporting the store propelled the movement into the national eye using social media, pushing hashtags like #SaveArtieT, and demonstrating outside stores across the northeast. With such rapid consumer and employee response, we turned to ForSight™ to determine the opinions and sentiments underlying the boycott and strike that answer this question. We analyzed 41, 930 posts between July 15, 2014, and July 29, 2014. The conversation about Market Basket increased 1, 078% in volume as compared to before the firing.
Market Basket opinion analysis on controversy
More than half of Market Basket conversation is supportive of the boycott and strikes, meaning that Market Basket consumers tend to agree with the voice of the protesters more than they agree with the board’s actions. 13% of conversation applauds the workers bravery, while only 2% calls to end the boycott. On the day of the protests, less than 1%  of conversation was negative or calling to end the boycotts. After Friday, volume nearly doubled from its initial 23,000 posts prior to the rally.
“Save Market Basket” was the strongest component of the positive conversation; under this segment, the driving topics were the workers, followed by “Artie T.” The top hashtags associated with the Market Basket conversation have got the support trending for both the employees and the ousted CEO: #savemarketbasket, #marketbasketstrong, #saveartiet, and #savemb.
Insights into Save Market Basket brand crisis
Both keywords “employees” and “Artie T” were used in 16% of all posts. Only 7% of those concerned with saving Market Basket were motivated by their own need for groceries. 40% of conversation only mentioned the hashtag without voicing a specific reason for their support. Consumers may be more concerned with the people behind the headlines than their own patronage of the store, and the social justice agenda is maintaining exposure of the controversy to garner social attention.
Market Basket Topic Waves on impeding brand crisis
The Affinities tool identifies who those vocalizing social support of Market Basket are based on their other interests. Not surprisingly, those standing behind Market Basket employees and Arthur T. Demoulas are 5X more interested in social justice, 6X more interested in management, and 4X more interested in activism than the rest of Twitter. In light of what they perceive to be a social injustice, consumers are taking their business elsewhere.

This conversation provides useful insight to Market Basket in dealing with their brand’s crisis. The local chain has a loyal following that is invested in the brand’s integrity and treatment of their employees–including the CEO. With only small complaints focused on empty shelves, it’s clear Market Basket consumers are decisive about where they shop and what sort of entity they are supporting. Using ForSight, motivators like these are easy to identify, and can help brands to satisfy their consumers in a way that will end crises before they become devastating to business.
For more insight into how social analysis can help your brand, we invite you to schedule a demo with us today.

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