Mac Donald's has been one of the most famous victim of negative rumors, with the "wormburgers' scare" (Newsweek, 1977). "Wormburgers" are hamburgers made with worms-based steak. In 1977, an astonishing rumor took birth in the United States, blaming the famous hamburger firm to cultivate fields of worms to make its products. As amazing as it might be, the rumor was trust and massively expanded, reaching a peak in the general "decredibilization" of all fast-foods channels. Mac Donald's has been constrained to make an audiovisual denial, explaining by the absurd that such a worms' culture would have been an economical disaster. And despite this scandal, the success of Mac Donald's seems to be everlasting. This example shows that it is possible to overcome the negative effects of rumors. It is all the more important for companies to find out those solutions as the time we live through is particularly sensitive to rumors development. Indeed, we have inherited the consequences of the Internet bubble burst and the post Enron period. In this transition stage, individuals suffer from a crisis of trust towards companies and brands. Media have also lost some credibility. So, which or who are the new trustful communicators? Individuals encourage mutual communication, instead of letting the intervention of media or other communication polluters: thus, power of word-of-mouth and preponderance of potential rumors are increasing.
[...] Experiment 1 In this experiment, we first want to test the impact of a negative rumor on the consumer's perception of the brand or product. We assume that the negative rumor will affect negatively the image of the brand or product for the consumer. Furthermore, we would like to test, through his experiment, the impact of firms' reaction to negative rumors. We believe that the type of response of a company that suffers from such rumors will also moderate the consumer's perception of the brand. [...]
[...] The impact of negative information on brands images and consumers perceptions Until now, there has been no proper research focusing on the specific effect of negative rumors on consumers' perceptions of a company or a brand, due to the intangibility of the phenomenon. However, the issue of consumers' processes and integrations of negative information has been studied in previous literature in psychology (e.g., Fiske 1980; Klein 1996; Skowronski and Carlston 1989). From those points, we can then establish some hypothesis relative to negative rumors. [...]
[...] Burnkrant Moderating Role of Commitment on the Spillover Effect of Marketing Communications”. Journal of Marketing Research, 38: 458-470. Ahluwalia R Robert E. Burnkrant, & H. Rao Unnava “Consumer Response to Negative Publicity: The Moderating Role of Commitment”. Journal of Marketing Research. 37(2) : 203-214. Allport, G. W. & Postman L The psychology of rumor. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Anderson, N.H “Averaging Versus Adding as a Stimulus-Combination Rule in Impression Formation.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1-9. Arndt, J “Perceived Risk, Sociometric integration, and word-of-mouth in the adoption of a new food product”. [...]
[...] Fiske, Susan T “Attention and Weight in Person Perception: The Impact of Negative and Extreme Behaviour”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 889-906. Frankfort-Nachmias, C. and Nachmias, D Research Methods in the Social Science, 5th ed. India: Replika Press Pvt. Ltd. Gritti, J Rumeurs dans les Entreprises Humanisme et Entreprise, Paris, p. 25-32 Guérin, B “Language use as social strategy: A review and an analytic framework for the social sciences.” Review of General Psychology. 251- 298. Guérin, B Handbook for analyzing the social strategies of everyday life. [...]
[...] If we try to link those findings about negative information with the potential impact of negative rumors, we would primarily say that negative rumors have an existing stronger impact on consumers' brands' perceptions and decision-making processes. Consequently we establish the following hypothesis: H1: A negative rumor has a negative impact on the consumer perception of the brand or product. All the more, rumors are communicated through word-of-mouth, or at least interpersonal communication channels, activated by strong or weak ties. Interpersonal influence is supposed to bring more credibility in the transmitted information (Price & Feick, 1984). [...]
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