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

Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to Andrew E. Wilson.

Appendix

Appendix

Study 2 Stimulus

Product overview page (shown to all participants)

figurea

NOWOM (shown to only NOWOM-present participants)

figureb

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Wilson, A.E., Giebelhausen, M.D. & Brady, M.K. Negative word of mouth can be a positive for consumers connected to the brand. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. 45, 534–547 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-017-0515-z

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Keywords

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