By examining the behaviours of cynical consumers and the factors that give rise to them, the paper's aim is to highlight the potential impact of consumer cynicism on firms and to investigate the possibility of influencing the evolution of those behaviours over time.
A multi‐method approach uses five focus groups, a survey, and a longitudinal experiment to explore the behaviour of cynical consumers experiencing different patterns of goal/value (in)congruence with the actions of a firm.
Progressive development in the frequency and severity of cynical behaviours results from repeated incongruence between consumers' goals or values and firm actions. Value incongruence has a greater effect on the severity of cynical behaviours. Recency effects remove cynical behaviours when the underlying drivers of cynicism are reversed.
The results are based on consumers' behavioural intentions, requiring a degree of subjective interpretation to quantify the severity of consumer behaviours.
Because of the potentially severe nature of cynical consumer behaviours, the study helps managers to gain a better understanding of these behaviours, their source, and how to monitor their frequency, severity, and development over time.
Several facets of consumer cynicism are examined that have not been explored together previously, including drivers, cognitive/affective mechanisms, and the pattern of resulting behaviours. This approach provides managers with a tool to predict how consumers will react to a given situation and suggests actions to mitigate these reactions.
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