Thursday, January 17, 2013

What happens if your favorite brand is attacked?

Think about one of your favorite brands, one to which you are quite loyal.  Perhaps you might even describe yourself as a fan.  How would you react if you heard some very negative news about that company?  Would you be less willing to purchase that product?  Or, would you become very defensive?

Monika Lisjak, Angela Y. Lee and Wendi L. Gardner set out to examine these questions through a series of experimental studies.  In one study, the researchers examined how people would respond to a critical editorial about a favorite brand - Starbucks or Facebook.  According to Kellogg School of Management Insights, "Sure enough, after crunching the numbers, Lee and her colleagues found that self-conscious, low-self-esteem subjects who said they liked Starbucks initially actually rated the coffee company more favorably after they had read the critical editorial."   Interestingly, in a subsequent experiment, they found that individuals get less defensive about a favorite brand if they are given some other opportunity to affirm themselves.  According to Lee, "If Starbucks is part of you, and you read something negative about Starbucks, you feel attacked.  But I now give you another way to feel good about yourself. Then, once that need is being satisfied, you may not feel that you need to defend Starbucks anymore.” 

I'm not surprised by the findings.   People do develop a strong attachment to certain brands.  Several questions do remain.  Specifically, I wonder whether the level of criticism attached to the brand matters.  Where do people draw the line?   What would it take for someone to "turn" on one of their favorite brands?   You would imagine that people might begin to "turn" on their favorite brands if a pattern of alleged misconduct emerges over time.  How much of a pattern does one need to see though?  Finally, I wonder if there may be other attributes of individuals that might signal whether they are likely to be defensive, or if they would lessen their loyalty, to favorite brands that have been criticized.   In other words, what are the characteristics of the "hyperloyal" customer who will be likely to stand firm even in the face of criticism for their favorite brand?

1 comment:

Franklin Chen said...

I personally have very little brand loyalty, because I don't see the world in terms of purely good guys or purely bad guys. I see that people are trying to sell me stuff, and they play whatever tricks they can to do this. Sometimes I accept the tricks, sometimes I don't, but in the end I'll buy based on some combination of utility and ethics, not on brand loyalty. For example, I repeatedly buy Apple computers because they help me get stuff done much more effectively than others (I actually boycott Apple for several years at one point, and have run Linux and Windows in the past also), not out of any loyalty. If anything, I am rather unhappy about many aspects of Apple's business, and I am prepared to abandon Apple at any time if it becomes intolerable. I have the luxury of choice: there are alternatives (for example, I have an Android phone, not an iPhone).