When do unethical brand perceptions spill over to competitors?
- 1.4k Downloads
We examine whether the unethical actions of marketplace brands (e.g., the Volkswagen emissions scandal) hurt the ethical perceptions of competing brands (e.g., Ford, BMW). Across two studies, we find evidence for this unethical spillover effect and show that it can negatively affect consumers’ liking and purchase intentions for a competing brand. The results show that the spillover effect (1) only occurs for similar competitors and (2) is moderated by construal level (CL). Specifically, the spillover effect is more likely to occur when consumers focus on the finer details of the unethical brand’s transgression (i.e., low CL) but not when they focus on the bigger picture of the transgression (i.e., high CL). Thus, while it is intuitively appealing to assume that brands may benefit from a competitor’s foible, this research indicates that competitors may be hurt by a similar brand’s wrongdoing.
KeywordsBranding Ethics Transgression Spillover Construal level
This research was supported by a summer research grant from the Sellinger School of Business and Management at Loyola University Maryland and a summer research grant from the School of Business at Providence College. The authors thank Scott Wright for his thoughtful comments.
- Autolist. (2016). The people vs. VW. Retrieved May 18, 2016, from https://www.autolist.com/volkswagen-jetta-boston-ma#section=vw-consumer-survey
- Brinol, P., Rucker, D. D., Tormala, Z. L., & Petty, R. E. (2004). Individual differences in resistance to persuasion: the role of beliefs and meta-beliefs. In E. S. Knowles & J. A. Linn (Eds.), Resistance and persuasion (pp. 83–104). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Clinch, M. (2015). Europe’s carmakers caught up in VW storm. CNBC. Retrieved May 16, 2016, from http://www.cnbc.com/2015/09/24/bmw-shares-slip-on-report-of-high-emission-levels.html.
- Gong, H., & Medin, D. L. (2012). Construal levels and moral judgment: some complications. Judgment and Decision Making, 7(5), 628–638.Google Scholar
- Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: a regression-based approach. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Matthews, C., & Gandel, S. (2015). The 5 biggest corporate scandals of 2015. Fortune. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from http://fortune.com/2015/12/27/biggest-corporate-scandals-2015/.
- Schultz, E. J. (2015). Volkswagen brand takes image hit as emission scandal grows. Advertising Age. Retrieved May 16, 2016, from http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/volkswagen-brand-takes-image-hit-emissions-scandal-grows/300486/.
- Shing, E. (2015). Volkswagen emissions scandal is a boom for the BMW investor. International Business Times. Retrieved May 17, 2016, from http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/edmund-shing-volkswagen-emissions-scandal-boon-bmw-investor-1521471.
- Williams, C. (2015). Ford to benefit from VW scandal, says chairman. The Telegraph. Retrieved May 16, 2016, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/11980947/Ford-to-benefit-from-VW-scandal-says-chairman.html.