Limitations and future research
This study aims to examine how culture influences consumer attitudes toward the brands of products they own during a product-harm crisis. To this end, average consumers from two countries - the USA, representing a highly individualistic society and China, a less individualistic (i.e. collectivist) society – are compared.
The study conducts an invariance test of the measurement model for a more rigorous comparison of the two countries. Structural equation modeling is performed to identify how average consumers respond to a product-harm crisis (e.g. iPhone explosion) based on survey results of 188 American and 197 Chinese consumers.
These results reveal that in both countries, an individual’s susceptibility to a normative interpersonal influence determines their brand consciousness, which, in turn, enhances consumer attachment to well-known brands, resulting in favorable brand attitudes. During a brand crisis, an owned brand’s buffering effect is observed among consumers high in brand consciousness in collectivistic but not in individualistic societies. The moderating role of feelings of betrayal on the brand attachment-consumer attitude relationship is also reported.
Culture shapes consumer behavioral patterns. In today’s global market, a company’s decisions are no longer limited by borders and many companies experience product failures. Thus, findings that show consumers’ distinguishable psychological experiences between different cultures contribute to crisis management literature.
“I will be as loyal and supportive to Toyota as they have been to me (despite their massive recalls).” Gilbert Villanueva, a consumer who owned Toyotas for 32 years.
Product-harm crises such as product recall, are widely known to deteriorate a manufacturer’s brand reputation, reduce perceived product value and decrease sales (Cleeren et al., 2017; Hegner et al., 2018; Whelan and Dawar, 2016). However, it appears that this is not true at all times, particularly when the consumer-brand relationship is especially strong (Khamitov et al., 2020). For example, even though Toyota faced several massive recall crises over the past decade, the company was rated the most loved brand in the USA (PR Newswire, 2017). Another survey similarly revealed that, even after a massive recall, 33.2% of Toyota owners still perceived Toyota as better than other domestic automotive brands, while only 13.2% of non-Toyota owners did (Mora, 2010). This result was unexpected, given that these incidents directly impacted only Toyota owners, but did not impact non-owners.