Villanova, Daniel, and Ted Matherly, “For Shame! Brand User Transgressions on Social Media Motivate Consumer Disengagement,” invited revision at Journal of Marketing.

Greater self-brand connection prompts defensive, pro-brand responding to negative information, such as unfavorable brand extensions or poor product reviews, because the connection between the brand and the consumer’s self-concept leads them to view this information as a threat. However, based on data from more than 700,000 individuals in experimental and secondary data, the authors find that observing transgressive behavior by other brand users motivates highly connected consumers to disengage from the brand and its user community, because they experience shame vicariously on behalf of these others. This self-conscious emotion leads to greater motivation to distance from the brand, causing them to reduce their participation in social media communities and unfollow the brand’s social media accounts. These results provide insight into the process by which self-brand connection interacts with the transgressive behavior of other brand users and suggest a limitation to the insulating effects of strong self-brand connections.

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