Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 120, Issue 1, pp 109–120 | Cite as

Softening the Blow: Company Self-Disclosure of Negative Information Lessens Damaging Effects on Consumer Judgment and Decision Making

  • Bob M. FennisEmail author
  • Wolfgang StroebeEmail author


Is self-disclosure of negative information a viable strategy for a company to lessen the damage done to consumer responses? Three experiments assessed whether self-disclosing negative information in itself lessened the damaging impact of this information compared to third-party disclosure of the same information. Results indicated that mere self-disclosure of a negative event positively affected consumers’ choice behavior, perceived company trustworthiness, and company evaluations compared to third-party disclosure. The effectiveness of the self-disclosure strategy was moderated by the initial reputation of a company, such that its impact was only observed for companies that had a poor reputation at the outset. For them, self-disclosure considerably lessened the impact of negative information compared to third-party disclosure. For companies that enjoyed a positive reputation, type of disclosure did not affect consumer responses. Mediation analysis showed that perceptions of company trustworthiness underlie the effects of the self-disclosure strategy on consumer judgment.


Consumer behavior Social influence processes Judgment and decision making Company trustworthiness beliefs 



The authors would like to thank Enny Das, Peter Kerkhof, Cecile vd. Heuvel, and Wouter Stegenga for their valuable input and assistance in data collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MarketingUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of MarketingBI Norwegian Business SchoolOsloNorway
  3. 3.Department of Social and Organizational PsychologyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Department of Social PsychologyUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands

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