Corporate Social ‘Irresponsibility’: Are Consumers’ Biases in Attribution of Blame Helping Companies in Product–Harm Crises Involving Hybrid Products?
- 978 Downloads
In recent years, there have been several high-profile recalls of hybrid products (those where organizations in multiple countries take part in the design, component sourcing, manufacturing, and marketing of a product). If consumers perceive a global firm to be responsible for the recall, then it will reduce their brand equity. Therefore, global firms may respond in ethically questionable ways to justify themselves to important stakeholders and avoid blame. Understanding how stakeholders attribute blame for crises involving hybrid products is important to shed light on the unethical manner in which global firms might avoid blame in such situations. The research reported here shows that in a hybrid product crisis, consumers show a bias in favor of the brand company and against the manufacturing company. This bias is more pronounced when the country of manufacture has an unfavorable image or when consumers lack familiarity with the recalled brand. Ambiguous recall announcements by companies that fail to provide a specific and clear reason for the product defect prompt consumers to assume that a manufacturing flaw caused the product defect. As a result, consumers reduce their attribution of blame for the brand company, and thus its brand equity is maintained.
KeywordsProduct recall Attribution of blame Brand familiarity Hybrid products
This research was supported in part by a grant to Sergio W. Carvalho and Hari Bapuji from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
- Bapuji, H., & Beamish, P. (2007). Toy recalls: Is China really the problem? Canada-Asia Commentary, 45, 1–9.Google Scholar
- Bodenhausen, G. V., & Macrae, C. N. (1998). Stereotype activation and inhibition. In R. S. Wyer Jr (Ed.), Stereotype activation and inhibition: Advances in social cognition (Vol. 11, pp. 1–52). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- European Commission. (2005, October). The European consumers’ attitudes regarding product labelling -qualitative study in 28 European countries. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/topics/labelling_report_en.pdf.
- Heslop, L. A., & Papadopoulos, N. (1993). But who knows where or when? Reflections on the images of countries and their products. In N. Papadopoulos & L. A. Heslop (Eds.), Product-country images: Impact and role in international marketing (pp. 39–75). New York: International Business Press.Google Scholar
- Jaffe, E. D., & Nebenzahl, I. D. (2001). National image and competitive advantage: The theory and practice of country-of-origin effect. Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School Press.Google Scholar
- Kelley, H. H. (1972). Attribution in social interaction. In E. E. Jones, D. E. Kanouse, H. H. Kelley, R. E. Nisbett, S. Valins, & B. Weiner (Eds.), Attribution: Perceiving the causes of behaviour (pp. 1–26). Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press.Google Scholar
- Laufer, D., Silvera, D. H., & Meyer, T. (2005b). Exploring differences between older and younger consumers in attributions of blame for product harm crises. Academy of Marketing Science Review, 7, 1–21.Google Scholar
- Lieberman, M. D., Gaunt, R., Gilbert, D. T., & Trope, Y. (2002). Reflection and reflexion: A social cognitive neuroscience approach to attributional inferences. In M. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 34, pp. 199–249). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
- Martin, A. (2011). BP mostly, but not entirely, to blame for Gulf oil spill. The Wire. Sep 14. Retrieved April 19, 2014, from, http://www.thewire.com/national/2011/09/bp-mostly-not-entirely-blame-gulf-spill/42470/.
- O’Malley, J. (1996). Consumer attribution of product failures to channel members. Advances of Consumer Research, 23, 342–345.Google Scholar
- Papadapoulos, N., & Heslop, L. A. (1993). Product and country images-research and strategy. New York: The Haworth Press.Google Scholar
- Ross, L. D. (1977). The intuitive psychologist and his shortcomings: Distortions in the attribution process. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 10). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
- Somasundaram, T. N. (1993). Consumers reaction to product failure: Impact of product involvement and knowledge. Advances in Consumer Research, 20, 215–218.Google Scholar
- Stokes, R. C. (1985). The effects of price, package design, and brand familiarity on perceived quality. In J. Jacoby & J. C. Olson (Eds.), Perceived quality: How consumers view stores and merchandise (pp. 233–246). Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
- Todd, B. (2010). U.S. official: Toyota pressured into recall. CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/02/02/lahood.toyota.recall/. Accessed 15 April 2014.
- Woellert, L. (2007). Made in China. Sued here. Business Week, 16, 9.Google Scholar