Why Unhappy Customers Are Unlikely to Share Their Opinions with Brands

73 Pages Posted: 19 May 2022

See all articles by Chris Hydock

Chris Hydock

California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo - Orfalea College of Business

Zoey Chen

University of Miami

Kurt A. Carlson

Mason School of Business, William and Mary; Georgetown University - Department of Marketing

Date Written: May 16, 2022

Abstract

For brands to thrive they must understand consumer sentiment; if consumers’ likelihood to share their opinion is a function of their attitude toward a brand, then brands’ perception of consumer sentiment may be systematically biased. While research in consumer-to-consumer sharing (i.e., word of mouth [WOM]) suggests that those with extreme attitude are more likely to share than those with neutral attitude (a U-shaped relationship), the relationship between consumers’ attitude toward a brand and their propensity to share with a brand is unknown. In contrast to the U-shaped pattern observed in WOM, we find a hockey stick-shaped relationship between attitude and sharing with brands (“__/”). Those with positive attitude are more likely to share their opinion (than neutral), but those with negative attitude do not show a similar increase in sharing. We show that this pattern emerges because among consumers with positive attitude toward a brand (relative to neutral), reciprocity norms drive increased sharing, but among consumers with negative attitude (relative to neutral) competing mechanisms drive behavior: the desire to vent increases sharing, but at the same time an aversion to criticize others directly deters sharing. We test these ideas using a series of studies, including a field study.

Keywords: consumer-to-brand sharing, word of mouth, attitude, venting, reciprocity, aversion to criticize, brand feedback, surveys

Suggested Citation

Hydock, Chris and Chen, Zoey and Carlson, Kurt A., Why Unhappy Customers Are Unlikely to Share Their Opinions with Brands (May 16, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4111696 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4111696

Chris Hydock (Contact Author)

California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo - Orfalea College of Business ( email )

San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
United States

Zoey Chen

University of Miami ( email )

Miami, FL
United States

Kurt A. Carlson

Mason School of Business, William and Mary ( email )

P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States

Georgetown University - Department of Marketing ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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