This article aims to examine differences between older and younger consumers in their reactions to a product harm crisis. Research suggests that motivational and cognitive changes due to aging might cause information to be differentially utilized. The authors use primary and secondary control influences on information processing to explain why older consumers perceive themselves as less susceptible to the threats associated with a product harm crisis. This has important implications in terms of blame attributions, and marketing variables of interest such as purchase intentions and negative word of mouth.
Two studies were conducted in which participants were asked to read a short newspaper article about a product harm crisis and to respond to a series of questions. Participants were split into two groups based on age.
The empirical findings indicate that, compared with younger consumers, older consumers perceive product harm crises as less threatening, place less blame on the company, and have stronger intentions to purchase and recommend the product involved in the crisis.
The finding that the more physically vulnerable older population actually perceives themselves as less vulnerable to harm suggests that socially responsible companies should work harder to make older consumers aware of risks created by product harm crises when dealing with this increasingly important target market.
This research advances our understanding of differences between older and younger consumers, and adds another dimension to what it means to embrace the true essence of corporate social responsibility with regard to older consumers.
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