The moderating roles of consumer-company identification and perceived fit between corporate associations and crisis type in the effectiveness of crisis communication strategies
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Many of today’s corporations face crisis events. A few well-known examples include Tylenol’s poisoned capsules, Odwalla’s contaminated juice, Mattel’s defective toys, Toyota’s product-recalls, and more recently, BP’s Gulf oil spill. Whether or not it is at fault, a corporation must sometimes overcome negative public sentiment resulting from a crisis and taking a proper action, especially an appropriate response strategy, is necessary for the company to overcome such a predicament. This study, therefore, seeks to systematically investigate how two critical constructs – consumer-company identification and corporate association-crisis type congruence – in a corporate crisis context conjointly determine the effectiveness of crisis communication strategies by the corporation. More specifically, this study examines how varying degrees of consumer identification with a company affect the effectiveness of one of the common crisis response strategies, excuse. It also seeks to discover how the consumer-company identification moderates the effectiveness of different types of crisis communication strategies (compensation vs. apology). In addition, the study attempts to determine how perceived fit between corporate associations and crisis type moderates the effects of crisis communication strategies (excuse vs. apology). The study’s results show that the excuse strategy is more effective for consumers strongly identified with a company than for those weakly identified with it. However, the level of consumer-company identification is not found to moderate the effectiveness of the compensation and apology strategies. The study also found a significant moderating role of perceived fit between corporate associations and crisis type in determining the effectiveness of the excuse and apology strategies. The findings suggest that when a company faces a crisis that violates its core corporate associations, the apology strategy is more effective; a company involved in a crisis irrelevant to its corporate associations is better served by the excuse strategy.