With more than half of Chinese consumers saying they would  join a boycott of US goods in the event of a trade war, should US brands be worried? Our data suggest that at least some high-profile brands should. 

An analysis of quarterly consumer brands data prepared by FT Confidential Research found that respondents who favoured certain US brands were also more willing to participate in a boycott. 

For example, 59 per cent of consumers who picked Nike as their favourite sportswear brand said they would be willing to join a boycott, versus the 54 per cent of consumers overall. That was more than Starbucks drinkers or Walmart shoppers, 56 per cent of whom said they would participate. 

The most activist consumers appear to be consumers favouring Buick or Cadillac, with nearly 70 per cent saying they would participate in a boycott. This did not hold across all car brands, however: Ford fans are much less likely to participate, our data suggest. 

Among consumer goods, cars have been  visible targets of Chinese consumer boycotts in the past. Sales of Japanese cars in China fell 11 per cent in 2012 as a direct result of a consumer boycott of Japanese goods. 

US brands may be poor targets for a consumer-led boycott, given that they are heavily invested in the mainland, in close partnership with local firms and employing hundreds of thousands of local workers. 

But there have been notable, if still relatively small, spikes on WeChat of references to boycotting the US — particularly on days when tensions over trade have intensified. 

Our data suggest a consumer boycott is a credible threat for some brands, should the central government decide to up the ante in its stand-off with the White House.

— Ben Heubl, Data Analyst, FT Confidential Research 

FT Confidential Research is an independent research service from the Financial Times, providing in-depth analysis of and statistical insight into China and south-east Asia. Our team of researchers in these key markets combine findings from our proprietary surveys with on-the-ground research to provide predictive analysis for investors.