This research examines consumers’ attachment styles as a predictor of attributions of blame following a product-harm crisis. Though the interpersonal attachment literature suggests that consumers with the secure attachment style should attribute the least amount of blame to the brand, we introduce a novel and seemingly contradictory hypothesis. Because of the unique nature of brand relationships, we hypothesize that consumers with the fearful attachment style will attribute the least amount of blame to the brand. In an experiment, we find support for both hypotheses. Further, we find that these effects occur via different mechanisms. Whereas the secure attachment style decreases attributions of controllability, the fearful attachment style decreases attributions of stability. Though many relationship tendencies have been transferred from the interpersonal domain to the consumer domain, our findings remind researchers that brands are a distinct type of relationship partner.
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Whelan, J., Dawar, N. Attributions of blame following a product-harm crisis depend on consumers’ attachment styles. Mark Lett 27, 285–294 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11002-014-9340-z
- Product-harm crisis
- Attachment styles
- Brand relationships