Catharsis affordance of social media in a brand crisis
On social media, consumers may react to brand transgressions with negative sentiment and intentions to stop purchasing. However, there may be a gap between consumer attitudes, intention, and purchase behavior. This research explores the role of social media in this attitude-behavior gap to help explain why consumers purchase brands after a brand crisis or a brand transgression. With qualitative interviews (n=18) of social media users, the emerging grounded theory is that of “catharsis affordance”. Catharsis affordance is defined here as consumers’ emotional outcomes resulting from their social media behaviors of: a) exploring information on the issue facing the brand, b) connecting with other consumers, and c) sharing reactions to these brand issues. Vicarious catharsis effects can occur via by simply watching other consumers’ reactions towards brand issues, brand crises, or brand transgressions. Therefore, catharsis affordance helps reduce consumers’ negative feelings toward purchasing branded products and services in light of a negative issue facing the brand.