Understanding damage to and reparation of brand trust: a closer look at image congruity in the context of negative publicity

Zelin Tong, Jingdan Feng, Fang Liu

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Purpose – Studies have shown that negative publicity adversely affects brand trust, but exactly how brand trust can be damaged remains poorly understood. This study aims to explore how negative publicity influences image congruity and, subsequently, brand trust. In addition, the study also examined the effectiveness of two corporate strategies to repair both congruity and trust. Design/methodology/approach – Based on a valid sample of 522 Chinese consumers between the ages 20 and 50, this study adopted a quasiexperimental design involving two types of negative publicity (performance- and value-related) and two initial corporate repair strategies(compensation and public apology) intended to repair brand trust. Findings – Negative publicity shaped brand trust through both functional congruity and self-congruity. Moreover, the type of negative publicity affected the role of image congruity in brand trust. The effectiveness of repair strategies further depended on the type of negative publicity. Research limitations/implications – Mobile phones were an appropriate focal product for this research, but examining only one product category may limit findings’ generalizability. Negative emotions such as frustration or anger and their relationships with congruity can also be addressed in future work. Subsequent research can additionally consider more conditions to explore alternative routes of processing related to brand trust. Practical implications – Brand trust is a vulnerable brand asset on which negative publicity can have seriously negative consequences. Marketers and brand managers should assess the extent to which negative publicity can damage image congruity and brand trust and come up with different repair strategies subsequently. Originality/value – This study contributes to the limited and fragmented literature on consumers’ evaluations of negative information. Findings offer fresh insight into the impacts of negative publicity on image congruity and brand trust. The implications extend beyond negative publicity to other forms of negative information, such as rumors, fake news and negative word of mouth. Results also highlight the importance of adopting appropriate repair strategies to restore consumers’ trust in the event of negative publicity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-170
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Product & Brand Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2023


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