Sympathy or shock: How transgression diagnosticity impacts consumer perceptions and intentions regarding person-brands

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Matthews, A. Lynn
Luebke, Sarah S.F.

Matthews, A.L. and Luebke, S.S.F. (2023), "Sympathy or shock: how transgression diagnosticity impacts consumer perceptions and intentions regarding person-brands", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.


Purpose: Moral transgressions committed by person-brands can negatively impact consumers through the transgression's diagnosticity (severity, centrality and consistency). This paper aims to test how a transgression's centrality and consistency impact important consumer perceptions and behavioral intentions toward a person-brand, holding constant the transgression in question. These outcomes are crucial for person-brands to understand how to minimize and manage the impact of a given transgression. Design/methodology/approach: This paper uses three online consumer experiments to manipulate transgression diagnosticity via centrality and consistency and identifies the resulting impact on consumer-brand identification, trustworthiness and consumer digital engagement intentions through PROCESS models. Findings: High-diagnosticity transgressions lower consumer digital engagement intentions regarding the person-brand and their endorsed products. This effect is serially mediated by consumer-brand identification, as predicted by social identity theory, and by perceived trustworthiness of the person-brand. Practical implications: Person-brands should emphasize the nondiagnostic nature of any transgressions in which they are involved, including a lack of centrality and consistency with their brand, and guard against the appearance of diagnostic transgressions. Originality/value: This paper shows that transgression diagnosticity impacts consumer engagement through the pathway of consumer-brand identification and trustworthiness. It also manipulates aspects of diagnosticity that can be influenced by the person-brand (centrality and consistency) while holding the transgression constant. As such, this paper extends the literature on transgressions, on person-branding strategy, and on social identity theory.

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