Previous research on brand crisis has introduced the difference between a values-related crisis and a performance-related crisis. Across two experimental studies, we extend current research by demonstrating how self-brand connectedness increases people’s negative behavioural reactions when the brand is involved in a values-related crisis while it protects the brand when it is involved in a performance-related misdeed. We test these mechanisms introducing the mediating role of brand betrayal, the moderation of the personal relevance of the crisis domain (Study 1) and the moderation of the cause of the self-brand connectedness (Study 2). Our findings contribute to the literature by demonstrating that, through the mediation of perceived brand betrayal, a strong connectedness between the consumer and the brand may aggravate behavioural reactions to relevant misdeed in values-related domain especially when the cause of the strong relationship is induced by a central trait of consumer’s identity.
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Two pre-tests were conducted to select two ethical domains and two clothing-related performance properties that were perceived as disparate in terms of personal relevance. A sample of 80 US consumers (58% female, mean age 43) was asked to spontaneously rank 5 ethical issues from the most to the least personally relevant. Of these participants, 62 (78% of the sample) designated environmental protection the most relevant ethical issue, and 46 (58%) designated bullying the least relevant. Another sample of 88 US consumers (58% female, mean age 43) was asked to spontaneously rank 5 performance properties that they considered when purchasing clothing, from the most to the least personally relevant. Of these participants, 71 (81% of the sample) designated the quality of the material the most relevant feature, and 42 (48%) designated durability as the least relevant.
Participants rated the performance-related nature of the crisis (Msubstandard materials = 5.12 vs Mdurability = 4.98 vs Mpollution = 2.52 vs Mbullying = 2.01; F (1, 480) = 13.83; p < .05) and the values-related nature of the crisis (Msubstandard materials = 3.12 vs Mdurability = 3.18 vs Mpollution = 5.32 vs Mbullying = 6.01; F (1, 480) = 14.54; p < .05) as expected. Participants rated the relevance of the values-related and performance-related crises in line with expectations and consistently with the pre-test results (Mpollution = 5.62 vs Msubstandard materials = 5.56 vs Mbullying = 3.12 vs Mdurability = 2.98; F (1, 480) = 12.54; p < .05). We also found significant differences in self-brand connectedness across the brands (MhighSBC = 4.89, MlowSBC = 2.40, t (120) = − 13.43, p < .001).
Descriptive analysis (see Fig. 2) shows that in the values-related crisis domain, negative word of mouth is a little higher in low SBC/low relevance condition (5.28) than in high SBC/high relevance condition (5.12), but post hoc analysis shows that the difference is not statistically significant (p > .05). The same analysis shows that negative word of mouth is significantly higher in low SBC/low relevance condition (5.28) than in low SBC/high relevance condition (4.67; p < .05). This result may suggest that in the values-related crisis domain, the SBC is a stronger driver of consumer intention to spread negative word of mouth than the relevance of the crisis domain. This assumption is supported also by the size effect analysis on negative word of mouth. The size effect of SBC (d = 0.10) is higher than that for the relevance of the crisis domain (d = 0.02).
As with the results of Study 1, we consider only high-relevance issues; as for low-relevance ones, we did not find any significant differences across conditions.
Ratings of self-brand connectedness did not vary significantly across conditions (MCSR connectedness = 5.37 vs Mperformance connectedness = 5.01; t (3, 304) = − .117; p > .05). The perception of the cause of consumer self-brand connectedness differs significantly between the two groups where self-brand connectedness was manipulated. This applies both to the items measuring CSR as the main cause of self-brand connectedness (MCSR connectedness = 5.92 vs Mperformance connectedness = 4.04; t (2, 152) = 2.68; p < .01) and to the items measuring performance as the cause of self-brand connectedness (MCSR connectedness = 3.94 vs Mperformance connectedness = 5.37; t (2, 151) = 6.05; p < .01).
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Appendix. Measurement model
Appendix. Measurement model
|Constructs||Study 1||Study 2|
Negative word of mouth (from 1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree)|
Study 1 CR = .93, AVE = .82; Study 2 CR = .92, AVE = .80.
|Complain about [Company name] to other people||.87||.87|
|Spread negative information about [Company name]||.92||.89|
|Denigrate [Company name] in front of your friends||.91||.92|
Purchase intentions (from 1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree)|
Study 1 CR = .93, AVE = .81; Study 2 CR = .95, AVE = .86.
|It’s very likely that I will buy products of XXX in the future||.88||.92|
|I would buy products of XXX the next time||.88||.96|
|If I were going to purchase clothing I would consider buying XXX brand||.96||.91|
Brand betrayal (from 1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree)|
Study 2 CR = .98, AVE = .91.
|I felt betrayed by XXX||.88||.96|
|I felt that XXX broke a fundamental promise to me.||.88||.97|
|I felt that XXX let me down in a moment of need.||.96||.95|
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Baghi, I., Gabrielli, V. The role of betrayal in the response to value and performance brand crisis. Mark Lett (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11002-021-09559-7
- Brand crisis
- Self-brand connectedness
- Brand betrayal, negative word of mouth
- Purchase intention