The emergence of the anti-branding trend: theoretical and empirical investigations
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This thesis seeks to contribute to the extant knowledge about the relatively new problem of consumer’s anti-branding actions. More specifically, it explores why consumers assume adversely behaviours towards brands and how brand managers should react when their brand is attacked online. Scholarly research in marketing has traditionally focused on positive emotions that consumers feel towards brands. Conversely, this thesis aims to explore the negative side of consumer brand relationship focusing on the anti-branding phenomenon. By adopting a multiple-case study research design, this thesis explores the whole anti-branding process focusing on its antecedents, outcomes and brand responses. Findings reveal that one of the main consumers’ motivation to engage in anti-branding behaviour is related to ideological incompatibility or symbolic incongruity with a certain brand. Investigating the problem from the brand manager perspective it was possible to extrapolate an initial taxonomy of brand reaction strategies: (1) apologise; (2) change behaviour; (3) engage in conversation with “haters”; (4) ignore; and (5) remove negative comments (and likes) on social media. Interestingly, engage in conversation with “haters” and change behaviour in the way to run a business appeared more effective in mitigating consumers’ attacks. React quickly and with the adequate tone of voice should represent a winning strategy in order to protect online reputation and brand credibility. [edited by Author]
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