Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science

, Volume 45, Issue 4, pp 534–547 | Cite as

Negative word of mouth can be a positive for consumers connected to the brand

  • Andrew E. WilsonEmail author
  • Michael D. Giebelhausen
  • Michael K. Brady
Original Empirical Research


It is widely accepted, and demonstrated in the marketing literature, that negative online word of mouth (NOWOM) has a negative impact on brands. The present research, however, finds the opposite effect among individuals who feel a close personal connection to the brand—a group that often contains the brand’s best customers. A series of three studies show that, when self–brand connection (SBC) is high, consumers process NOWOM defensively—a process that actually increases their behavioral intentions toward the brand. Study 1 demonstrates this effect using an experimental manipulation of SBC related to clothing brands, and provides process evidence by analyzing coded thought listings. Study 2 provides convergent evidence by measuring SBC associated with smartphones, and followup analyses show that as SBC increases, the otherwise negative effect of NOWOM steadily transforms to become significantly positive. Study 3 replicates these results using a combination of a national survey conducted by J.D. Power investigating hotel stays and data drawn from TripAdvisor. Results of all three studies, set in product categories with varying levels of identity relevance, support the positive effects of NOWOM for high-SBC customers and have implications for both managers and researchers.


Complaining Brand User-generated content Identity Negative online word of mouth Self–brand connection 


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Copyright information

© Academy of Marketing Science 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew E. Wilson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael D. Giebelhausen
    • 2
  • Michael K. Brady
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Economics and Business AdministrationSaint Mary’s College of CaliforniaMoragaUSA
  2. 2.School of Hotel AdministrationCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  3. 3.College of BusinessFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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