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Abstract

Brand has received much attention from considerable marketing research. When consumers consume product or services, they are exposed to a lot of brand related stimuli. These contain brand personality, brand experience, brand identity, brand communications and so on. A special kind of new crisis occasionally confronting companies` brand management today is the brand related rumor. An important influence on consumers` purchase decision making is the word-of-mouth spread by other consumers and most decisions are influenced by other`s recommendations. In light of this influence, firms have reasonable reason to study and understand consumer-to-consumer communication such as brand rumor. The importance of brand rumor to marketers is increasing as the number of internet user and SNS(social network service) site grows. Due to the development of internet technology, people can spread rumors without the limitation of time, space and place. However relatively few studies have been published in marketing journals and little is known about brand rumors in the marketplace. The study of rumor has a long history in all major social science. But very few studies have dealt with the antecedents and consequences of any kind of brand rumor. Rumor has been generally described as a story or statement in general circulation without proper confirmation or certainty as to fact. And it also can be defined as an unconfirmed proposition, passed along from people to people. Rosnow(1991) claimed that rumors were transmitted because people needed to explain ambiguous and uncertain events and talking about them reduced associated anxiety. Especially negative rumors are believed to have the potential to devastate a company`s reputation and relations with customers. From the perspective of marketer, negative rumors are considered harmful and extremely difficult to control in general. It is becoming a threat to a company`s sustainability and sometimes leads to negative brand image and loss of customers. Thus there is a growing concern that these negative rumors can damage brands` reputations and lead them to financial disaster too. In this study we aimed to distinguish antecedents of brand rumor transmission and investigate the effects of brand rumor characteristics on rumor spread intention. We also found key components in personal acceptance of brand rumor. In contextualist perspective, we tried to unify the traditional psychological and sociological views. In this unified research approach we defined brand rumor`s characteristics based on five major variables that had been found to influence the process of rumor spread intention. The five factors of usefulness, source credibility, message credibility, worry, and vividness, encompass multi level elements of brand rumor. We also selected product involvement as a control variable. To perform the empirical research, imaginary Korean ``Kimch`` brand and related contamination rumor was created and proposed. Questionnaires were collected from 178 Korean samples. Data were collected from college students who have been experienced the focal product. College students were regarded as good subjects because they have a tendency to express their opinions in detail. PLS(partial least square) method was adopted to analyze the relations between variables in the equation model. The most widely adopted causal modeling method is LISREL. However it is poorly suited to deal with relatively small data samples and can yield not proper solutions in some cases. PLS has been developed to avoid some of these limitations and provide more reliable results. To test the reliability using SPSS 16 s/w, Cronbach alpha was examined and all the values were appropriate showing alpha values between .802 and .953. Subsequently, confirmatory factor analysis was conducted successfully. And structural equation modeling has been used to analyze the research model using smartPLS(ver. 2.0) s/w. Overall, R2 of adoption of rumor is .476 and R2 of intention of rumor transmission is .218. The overall model showed a satisfactory fit. The empirical results can be summarized as follows. According to the results, the variables of brand rumor characteristic such as source credibility, message credibility, worry, and vividness affect argument strength of rumor. And argument strength of rumor also affects rumor intention. On the other hand, the relationship between perceived usefulness and argument strength of rumor is not significant. The moderating effect of product involvement on the relations between argument strength of rumor and rumor W.O.M intention is not supported neither. Consequently this study suggests some managerial and academic implications. We consider some implications for corporate crisis management planning, PR and brand management. This results show marketers that rumor is a critical factor for managing strong brand assets. Also for researchers, brand rumor should become an important thesis of their interests to understand the relationship between consumer and brand. Recently many brand managers and marketers have focused on the short-term view. They just focused on strengthen the positive brand image. According to this study we suggested that effective brand management requires managing negative brand rumors with a long-term view of marketing decisions.

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