Never easy to say "sorry" : exploring the interplay of crisis involvement, brand image and message framing in developing effective crisis responses
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Planning and executing a crisis response strategy that includes successful and effective communication with stakeholders are essential for companies, organizations and governments in order to maintain their reputations and sustain brands following a crisis. To determine the effectiveness of crisis response communication in terms of consumers’ evaluation and information processing, this study experimentally examined the impact of crisis involvement and brand image and interaction effect in a corporate product harm crisis. Using fictitious scenarios to manipulate crisis involvement, brand image, and message framing, this study examines the effect of crisis response strategies (i.e., apology) on post-crisis attitudes toward a crisis brand and apology message, future purchase intention, and intention to engage in negative eWOM. Specifically, the study attempts to identify whether the interplay between these factors would increase the effectiveness of a company’s crisis response regarding consumers’ favorable attitudes and behavioral intentions. The results of the present research showed that the overall three-way interaction between crisis involvement, brand image, and message framing is significant. First, in the case of high crisis involvement, the combination of rational framing and symbolic brand image increases the effectiveness of the apology message, while the combination of emotional framing of crisis communication and functional brand image increases the effectiveness of the apology message. In contrast, in the case of low crisis involvement, the combination of rational framing and functional brand image increases the effectiveness of the apology message, while the combination of emotional framing and symbolic brand image increases the effectiveness of the apology message. In addition, the study suggests that crisis involvement and brand image have a primary effect on the efficacy of the apology message from the crisis company in terms of attitude towards the crisis brand and purchase intention. The study has significant practical implications in that the results indicate that practitioners can alleviate the consequences suffered in a crisis by employing a crisis response strategy that properly aligns crisis type with level of involvement. Following a crisis, it is necessary to communicate with consumers using proper response messaging that takes into consideration consumers’ crisis involvement, brand image and message framing.
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