BORIS Theses

BORIS Theses
Bern Open Repository and Information System

Consumer Brand Defense-Management

Ammann, Clemens Luis (2021). Consumer Brand Defense-Management. (Thesis). Universität Bern, Bern

21ammann_cl.pdf - Thesis
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works (CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0).

Download (2MB) | Preview


In today's digitized and connected world, brands are operating in an environment characterized by the ever-looming danger of online brand criticism. Such brand criticism is particularly delicate because of adverse effects such as a worse brand evaluation that can lead to a lower turnover in the long run (e.g., Luo 2009; Pfeffer, Zorbach, and Carley 2014; Relling et al. 2016). Thus, from a managerial perspective, it becomes increasingly vital to be prepared to handle such criticism (Herhausen et al. 2019). In that matter, a large portion of research focused on crisis and webcare communication (e.g., excusing or denying responsibility; e.g., Coombs and Holladay 2002; Lee and Song 2010; Li, Cui, and Peng 2018; Zhao, Jiang, and Su 2020) to counter the brand criticism. One insightful example of brand criticism with a subsequent managerial response goes back to April 2017. After passengers had already boarded a plane of United Airlines, airport security violently removed a passenger who refused to give up his seat needed by crew members. Some passengers filmed the scene and uploaded it to YouTube. This video went viral on Social Media and was critically discussed in many media outlets (Zdanowicz and Grinberg 2017). Consequently, the stock price of United Airlines plunged (Reklaitis 2017), and the CEO felt compelled to apologize officially (Munoz 2017a, 2017b). However, the CEO's statements and an interview with ABC television made things even more precarious because people did not believe him to be honest and thought it was an act (ABC News 2017). Thus, an official management response may sometimes not be enough to condemn the brand criticism. Yet, managers are often not alone in their quest to fight brand criticism. In fact, it can be observed that positive-minded consumers support brands against criticism. Accordingly, despite the international outrage about United Airlines, some consumers exposed themselves on Social Media and in comment sections of newspapers by holding against the criticism and defending United Airlines. For example, in the Washington Post, a consumer wrote: "Think about it. Do you think United really wanted things to play out this way on this airplane? They had to call in airport security to deal with the situation. It was the security people who roughed the guy up. United is paying the price for their actions (…)" (Aratani 2017). This consumer comment exemplifies the phenomenon of "consumer brand defense (CBD)," which refers to consumers who are responding to brand criticism with supportive replies (Ammann et al. 2021). CBD hereby represents a valuable resource for brands in fighting brand criticism, especially because consumers' communication is often perceived as unbiased and more credible than official brand statements (Allsop, Bassett, and Hoskins 2007; Bickart and Schindler 2001; Godes and Mayzlin 2004; Senecal and Nantel 2004). However, even though stimulating CBD might constitute an effective strategy in mitigating the harmful effects of brand criticism, research about this phenomenon remains scarce. In more detail, first research endeavors examined the concrete manifestation of such consumer brand defense behavior and its prevalence (e.g., Colliander and Hauge Wien 2013; Hassan and Casaló Ariño 2016), contingency factors that encourage brand defenders (Hassan and Casaló Ariño 2016; Ilhan, Kübler, and Pauwels 2018), the driving role of a strong emotional relationship with the defended brand (e.g., Dalman, Buche, and Min 2019), CBD's consequences on observers (Esmark Jones et al. 2018; Hong and Cameron 2018; Weitzl and Hutzinger 2017), and first suggested strategies to activate consumer brand defenders (Dineva, Breitsohl, and Garrod 2017; Scholz and Smith 2019). Taken together, the prevailing research about CBD still falls short of answering some of the most pertinent questions, such as consumer brand defenders’ motivational drivers, and thus, leaves us with substantial research gaps. This dissertation examines research questions from three distinct perspectives to provide actionable insights into CBD’s management. Paper 1 focuses on the consumer brand defender’s motivational drivers and their relationship with the defended brand. Based on these two factors, the consumers are segmented into different types of consumer brand defenders. The unit of investigation in paper 2 is the neutral observer of online brand discussions. This research project is dedicated to studying CBD’s effect under different conditions (e.g., in conjunction with an official brand response) and scrutinizes the impact of an employee’s defense comment (e.g., written in his leisure time with his private social media account). Lastly, paper 3 takes the brand’s perspective as a potential facilitator of CBD. More specifically, this research proposes a novel way of handling brand criticism by directly appealing to consumers to defend the brand. In that matter, the paper investigates the effectiveness of such CBD appeals. Taken together, these three papers’ findings address essential research gaps in CBD’s examination and allow for more effective exploitation of CBD’s potential. Specifically, by inspecting brand defenders’ motives and the nature of their brand relationship, paper 1 identifies possible levers to stimulate CBD. Further, paper 2 tests CBD’s positive effects on observers under different conditions and thereby provides information under which circumstances an official brand response might be advantageous or, on the opposite, not even necessary. Finally, paper 3 extends a brand’s repertoire of reactions in the face of criticism by contriving a practical approach to activate the brand’s defenders.

Item Type: Thesis
Dissertation Type: Cumulative
Date of Defense: 10 November 2021
Subjects: 300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics
600 Technology > 650 Management & public relations
Institute / Center: 03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Department of Business Management > Institute of Innovation Management
Depositing User: Hammer Igor
Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2023 17:29
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2023 08:30

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item