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Conceptualizing consumers' experiences of product‐harm crises

Ursula Haas‐Kotzegger (Department of Marketing, WU Vienna, University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria)
Bodo B. Schlegelmilch (Department of Marketing, WU Vienna, University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 15 March 2013




Consumers are constantly confronted with negative information on defective or dangerous products (product‐harm crisis): the car does not stop at the red light due to faulty brakes or the t‐shirt causes the skin to itch. This research aims to provide a holistic picture of consumers' experience of product‐harm crises (p‐h c). The study sets out to investigate under which conditions consumers are impacted by the crisis and how they experience p‐h c in real‐life.


The study draws on in‐depth interviews with both experts and consumers in order to investigate factors influencing consumers' experience in crisis situations.


Based on in‐depth interviews, a theoretical model is developed that captures the impact of p‐h‐c on consumers. Impact consists of personal relevance and perceived severity of the crisis and is a prerequisite for consumers' response. The study finds evidence that the personal impact and the consumer response to crisis situations are influenced by the crisis context, consumer context and company context.

Research limitations/implications

Given the qualitative nature of the study, a quantitative approach should now be used to further substantiate the presented findings and validate the theoretical model.

Practical implications

Consumer response to crises is primarily influenced by the personal impact of the crisis. The nature of the crisis as well as consumer characteristics heavily influence the way a consumer is impacted by a crisis event.


This study illustrates the complexity of consumers' p‐h c experience and contributes to a better understanding of their behavior in p‐h c situations.



Haas‐Kotzegger, U. and Schlegelmilch, B.B. (2013), "Conceptualizing consumers' experiences of product‐harm crises", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 30 No. 2, pp. 112-120.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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