ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2014, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (6): 864-875.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.00864

Previous Articles     Next Articles

Can Brand Commitment Resist Negative Publicity? —— the Moderate Effect of Regulatory Focus

TIAN Yang;WANG Haizhong;LIU Wumei;HE Liu;HUANG Yunhui   

  1. (1 Brand Management Department, GRC Bank, Guang Zhou 510623, China) (2 School of Business, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guang Zhou 510275, China) (3 School of Business, Wu Yi University, Jiang Men 529020, China) (4 School of Business, Nan Jin University, Nan Jin 210032, China)
  • Received:2012-05-17 Published:2014-06-30 Online:2014-06-30
  • Contact: TIAN Yang


In previous research, brand commitment is regarded as the key factor for consumers to resist negative publicity, scholars generally agree that consumers who have high brand commitment are less likely to change their brand attitudes when they are exposed to the brand’s negative publicity. But this is not always the case, evidence shows that some of the high commitment consumers also lower their brand attitudes and even drop their purchasing behavior when facing the brand’s negative publicity. Thus, It is reasonable to infer that the effect of brand commitment on consumers’ responses to negative publicity could be dependent on certain conditions instead of linear. Based on the regulatory focus theory, this study examines whether regulatory focus can moderate the high commitment consumers’ resistance to the negative publicity. Two studies were conducted to test the hypotheses that when consumers in prevention focus, no matter how high their brand commitment was, their brand attitudes would be lowered by the negative publicity; While when consumers in promotion focus, the low commitment consumers’ attitudes would be lowered and the high commitment consumers’ attitudes would remain the same. In study 1, a 2 (regulatory focus: prevention vs. promotion) × 2 (brand scandal: yes vs. no) between-subjects experiment was adopted. Firstly, Participants were required to see the target brand CANON’s LOGO and introduction, reported their brand commitment and familiarity. Then, there regulatory focus were manipulated by using Lee, Keller and Sternthal (2010)’s method; Thirdly, participants in the scandal group were exposed to Canon’s negative publicity regarding its poor quality, and then reported their brand attitudes, involvements, etc, While participants in the control group reported their brand attitudes and involvements without being exposed to the negative publicity. Two–way ANOVA analysis on brand attitudes found a significant interaction between the brand commitment and regulatory focus, and simple effect analysis indicated that when consumers’ prevention focus salient, the brand attitudes of participants with both high commitment and low commitment were lowered by the negative publicity; However, when the promotion focus salient, the low commitment consumers’ attitude was lowered but the high commitment consumers’ attitude did not change. In study 2, we re-tested the hypothesis by using a 2 (brand commitment: high vs. low) × 2 (regulatory focus: prevention vs. promotion) × 2 (brand scandal: yes vs. no) between-subjects experiment. We used KFC as the high commitment brand and DICOS as the low commitment brand, adopted the “Dream and Duty” method to manipulate the regulatory focus. To explore the underlying mechanisms of the phenomenon reported by study 1, we tested the participants’ accuracy motivation and defense motivation. The results supported our hypothesis, and what’ more, we found that when consumers in prevention focus, the accuracy motivation was dominated no matter the brand commitment was; when consumers in promotion focus, the high commitment people was dominated by defense motivation and the low commitment people was dominated by accuracy motivation. This study investigated the regulatory focus’ moderate effect to the brand commitment’s resistance mechanism to the negative publicity, which is a breakthrough of the classical conclusion. It provides a better understanding about people’s reaction to brands’ negative publicity, which may benefit future research on consumers’ commitment and regulatory focus. Furthermore, it also provides practical implications on companies’ brand crisis management.

Key words: brand commitment, negative publicity, regulatory focus, accuracy motivation, defense motivation