Why Unhappy Customers Are Unlikely to Share Their Opinions with Brands
73 Pages Posted: 19 May 2022
Date Written: May 16, 2022
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
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