A Coal in the Heart: Self-Relevance as a Post-Exit Predictor of Consumer Anti-Brand Actions
This article extends theory around consumer-brand relationship quality by exploring conditions under which such relationships may be transformed into exceptionally negative dispositions toward once-coveted brands. Survey and experimental results indicate that the more self-relevant a consumer-brand relationship, the more likely are anti-brand retaliatory behaviors after the relationship ends. These anti-brand behaviors are diverse: from complaining to third parties, to negative word of mouth, to illegal actions such as theft, threats, and vandalism. In contrast, post-exit consumer-brand relationships that were low in self-relevance but were high in trust, commitment, and satisfaction are less likely to result in anti-brand actions. The role of a discrete product or service failure is also explored, and results suggest that self-relevance may motivate retaliation even in the absence of a so-called critical incident. Ultimately, this research illuminates previously unexplored mechanisms—including self-conscious emotional reactions—that motivate consumer hostility and retaliation.
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