The role of retailers in influencing consumer attitude during a brand scandal is quite complex, as retailers are in direct contact with both marketers and consumers. The purpose of the exploratory research is to propose a theoretical model to capture the influences retailers exercise on consumers during brand scandals.
A qualitative approach has been adopted in the study. The study employs the grounded theory approach on the data collected by conducting in-depth interviews with 25 retailers.
Four contextual conditions and six behavioral antecedents of the retailer's role in the context of the brand scandal were identified. Then, the study finds that companies tend to follow two broad approaches during a brand scandal to address retailers' queries and apprehensions. On these bases, the study proposes a six-pronged typology to better understand retailers' role in shaping consumers' brand perception.
Existing literature has not paid adequate attention to this aspect of retailers' role in influencing consumer choices during brand scandal. To the best of the authors' knowledge, there is no prior research which investigates the role and influence of retailers in shaping consumer attitude during brand scandals. It is important to underline that the current research advocates retailers' significant role during a performance-based brand scandal. Specifically, the authors explored a health-related defective scandal of a well-known food brand. In addition, the study focuses on traditional grocery retailers, which already have special relationships with their consumers. Based on retailer perspectives, the authors' contribution is also updating the discussion of branding theory in case of scandals. The identified variables and constructs may be used for empirical investigation on the role of retailers in shaping consumer attitudes toward the scandalized brand.
When a brand scandal happens, it might cause severe consequences for the corporate owning that brand (Yakut and Bayraktaroglu, 2020; Khamitov et al., 2020), causing disruptions and damage along the entire supply chain (Behzadi et al., 2018) consumers included (Kennedy and Guzmán, 2020). Regaining consumer confidence after food safety scandals is extremely challenging (Wang and Alexander, 2018), but some researchers implied that if the brand is loved and has a strong market position, it may be forgiven (Zhang et al., 2020; Wei et al., 2020). This research, based on a case study, argue that also some members of the distribution channel may have played an active role in supporting that brand to survive the scandal. Our main assumption is that in some markets, if a misalignment between consumer's expectations and brand's promise exists, a supply chain member might save a brand and it could be the retailer. This role may be particularly impactful where local traditional grocery retailers represent the great majority of the share of domestic retail and Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sales (Mishra, 2019). During the 2020 pandemic, some governments in developing countries permitted grocery retailers, which account for 60% of store-based retailing sales, to continue their operations (Sullivan, 2020). Thus, unorganized retailers represent the distribution backbone for fulfilling consumer essential item needs (Euromonitor International, 2020).
This qualitative study, aiming to contribute to the literature gap on retailers' role during brand scandals, is proposing a new perspective observing that phenomenon through the retailer's side. Grounded in the data, Figure 1 proposes a new draft of a conceptual framework on various retailers' roles during a brand scandal and their antecedents, summarizing all of the previous results.