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Why Unhappy Customers Are Unlikely to Share Their Opinions with Brands

Why Unhappy Customers Are Unlikely to Share Their Opinions with Brands

Chris Hydock, Zoey Chen and Kurt A. Carlson

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This research examines the relationship between a consumers’ satisfaction toward a brand and their likelihood to share information with the brand (by completing a survey or submitting a comment.) We show that consumers with negative attitude toward a brand are less likely to share than those with positive attitude because they are uncomfortable sharing negative feedback with the target of that negativity (the brand). This has important implications for brands and researchers that rely on consumer’s feedback

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Related Marketing Courses: ​
Consumer Behavior; Marketing Research​​​​ ​​​​

Full Citation: ​
Hydock, Chris, Zoey Chen, Kurt Carlson (2020), “Why Unhappy Customers are Unlikely to Share Their Opinions with Brands,” Journal of Marketing.

Article Abstract
For brands to thrive, they must understand consumer sentiment; if consumers’ likelihood of sharing their opinion is a function of their attitude toward a brand, then brands’ perception of consumer sentiment may be systematically biased. While research in consumer-to-consumer sharing (i.e., word of mouth) suggests that those with extreme attitude are more likely to share than those with neutral attitude (a U-shaped relationship), the relationship between consumers’ attitude toward a brand and their propensity to share with a brand is unknown. In contrast to the U-shaped pattern observed in word of mouth, the authors find a hockey stick–shaped relationship between attitude and sharing with brands (“__/”). Those with positive attitude (vs. neutral attitude) are more likely to share their opinion, but those with negative attitude do not show a similar increase in sharing. The authors show that this pattern emerges because, among consumers with positive (vs. neutral) attitude toward a brand, reciprocity norms drive increased sharing, but among consumers with negative (vs. neutral) attitude, competing mechanisms drive behavior: the desire to vent increases sharing, but at the same time an aversion to criticize others directly deters sharing. The authors test these ideas using a series of studies, including a field study.


Special thanks to Kelley Gullo and Holly Howe, Ph.D. candidates at Duke University, for their support in working with authors on submissions to this program.

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Chris Hydock is Assistant Professor of Marketing, Orfalea School of Business, California Polytechnic State University.

Zoey Chen is Assistant Professor of Marketing, University of Miami Business School, University of Miami.

Kurt A. Carlson is Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs, College of William and Mary.