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?