It all started when Shannon Coulter saw the infamous Access Hollywood tape.
She put a twist on Donald Trumps vulgar words with her #GrabYourWallet campaign, which quickly spread across social media. Now, in the wake of the #DeleteUber fiasco, it seems like boycott movements could have a real impact on companies that do business with Trump.
Uber learned this lesson the hard way last weekend when its perceived undermining of a taxi union protest against the immigration ban coupled with CEO Travis Kalanick’s seat on Trump’s economic advisory board led to a rash of users deleting their Uber accounts.
The company was clearly shaken by the experience; it spent the next couple days running digital ads touting Kalanick’s opposition to Trump’s ban and launching PR-friendly shows of support for affected drivers.
While tensions may have boiled over that night, Uber had already long held a spot on the #GrabYourWallet watchlist, which meticulously tracks any brand with business or political ties to the Trump family so people can boycott them.
Coulter, a social media marketing specialist in San Francisco, cofounded the effort with a friend, Sue Atencio, in her spare time last October.
Since then, the campaign’s explosion of support has made Coulter a central arbiter in the consumer-driven wing of the Trump resistance. The movement has helped push companies who have connections with Trump into the headlines, most memorably clothing retailer L.L. Bean, who was boycotted over the donations of Linda Bean, the granddaughter of the company’s founder.
Coulter said she was inspired to launch the campaign after seeing the passionate responses among women on Twitter in the wake of the Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump was recorded bragging about sexually assaulting women, among other things.
“I felt obligated to do something more,” Coulter said. “I found [Atencio] who was thinking along the same lines, thinking, ‘I don’t think I can do business with these companies I love anymore if they’re doing business with the Trump family.'”
The co-founders appropriated one of Trump’s ugliest misogynistic soundbites into a catchy slogan, and things took off from there.
“[The campaign’s reach] is mind-blowing to me,” Coulter said. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my career of social media and marketing.”
According to analytics she shared with Mashable, the hashtag has been tweeted a grand total of more than 213,000 times and garnered more than 600 million impressions.
Perhaps most importantly, seven companies have been allowed off the list for meaningfully reversing their ties to Trump. She cited one recent example in which an executive of Kawasaki reached out to her to say that the company would be ending its sponsorship of Celebrity Apprentice, a decision that ultimately made the New York Times.
Coulter analyzes the nature of each company’s Trump ties and then sorts them into lists according to the strength of the movement’s boycott recommendation.
The strict boycott roster includes only companies that actually do business with the Trump family companies, of which there are many prominent name brands. Below that is a list of “entities to consider boycotting,” which catalogs companies and other organizations whose leaders might have donated to Trump’s campaign or as in Kalanick’s case hold an advisory role in his administration.
“A lot of women who are part of this movement regard that kind of partnership as normalization of a racist and a misogynist.”
While some business leaders try to make the case that they might better shape the president’s policies from within, Coulter says plenty of women don’t buy that argument and she simply provides the information for consumers to decide for themselves.
“A lot of women who are part of this movement regard that kind of partnership as normalization of a racist and a misogynist,” she says. “Just because he’s president now doesn’t mean his racism and misogyny have magically disappeared.”
In this sense, the movement serves as more of a consumer watchdog than a strict activism campaign.
Coulter says the way she operates hasn’t changed much with Trump’s election or inauguration and she has no plans of letting up as we venture further into the Trump era.
“Consumers have a lot more power than they did in the past, particularly younger people because companies desperately want the lifetime value of their business,” Coulter said. “That power can be wielded to inspire positive changes in that wouldn’t otherwise happen.I see my role as providing people with information and bringing them together to act on it.Together, we can accomplish a lot.”
As Trump’s historically unpopular presidency brings forth a newfound rush of political activism, Coulter isn’t the only concerned citizen who’s taken up this kind of mantle.
A few weeks after the election, a man who declined to be named for fear of harassment launched a similar social media campaign to alert or boycott brands buying ad space on the far-right news site Breitbart, whose former chairman, Stephen Bannon, now serves as Trump’s chief strategist.
With Bannon’s appointment already dominating headlines, the movement, called Sleeping Giants, caused a national media stir in its first week as several big-name brands pulled ads from the site, provoking rage from the blog itself.
Checking in with the campaign this week, its operator claims it’s since collected the names of nearly 850 companies who have blacklisted the outlet from their digital advertising purchases.
“With more of the public becoming aware of fake and hate news coupled with several Breitbart staffers being hired into the White House, more people have been getting involved in what we’re doing,” he told Mashable in a private Twitter message. “We’re currently planning new efforts, so this is really just the beginning.”