The effects of brand relationship norms on consumer response to brand information and advertising
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This research investigates how communal and exchange brand relationship norms determine consumers’ tendencies in processing brand information in morality or competence terms, respectively. Study 1 tests the hypothesized relationships between relationship norms and morality/competence social cognition. The results show that exchange norm-oriented consumers evaluate a brand mainly based on its competence attributes, whereas communal norm-oriented individuals place additional focus on the brand’s moral conduct. As an extension of Study 1, Study 2 examines the effectiveness of morality-framed and competence-framed advertising messages in relation to the relationship norms salient at brand exposure. The findings reveal that exchange norm-oriented individuals demonstrate more favorable attitudes towards the competence-framed message, whereas communal norm-oriented individuals show more positive attitudes towards the morality-framed message. Finally, Study 3 investigates how the norms dominant in the relationships with a brand influence consumers’ attitude change in response to morality- and competence-based negative information on the brand. The results show that exchange norm-oriented individuals are more susceptible to immoral brand information, and communal norm-oriented individuals are equally affected by both types of negative brand information. This research suggests that the different emphasis on morality and competence information in communal and exchange brand relationships not only influences how consumers form their initial impressions of a brand and evaluations of advertisements but also how they interpret negative brand information as brand relationships unfold.