A new study by a University of Illinois marketing expert has indicated that consumers with close ties to a brand respond to negative information about the beloved brand as they do to personal failure - they experience it as a threat to their self-image.
Tiffany Barnett White, a professor of business administration, said consumers with a high self-brand connection maintained favourable brand evaluations even when presented with negative brand information, suggesting that the reluctance of brand-conscious consumers to lower their opinion of a brand might be driven more by a motivation to protect the self.
"When companies get consumers motivated about their products, they are just as motivated to protect the brand as they are themselves," White said.
"So it's really more about the self than the brand. When people can self-affirm through other means and activities, they're not defensive at all," added White.
According to the study, co-written by Shirley Y.Y. Cheng, of the Hong Kong Baptist University, and Lan Nguyen Chaplin, of the Villanova School of Business, brands become highly symbolic of a consumers' self-concept, so much so that consumers will defend their self-connected brands much as they would defend themselves from personal failure.
"Consumers are highly resistant to brand failure to the point that they're willing to rewrite history," said White, the Bruce and Anne Strohm Faculty Fellow at Illinois.
The study will be published the Journal of Consumer Psychology.