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Firm response, action visibility and consumers’ legitimacy judgment

Zhimei Yuan (School of Business, East China University of Science and Technology, Shanghai, China)
Yi Guo (School of Business, East China University of Science and Technology, Shanghai, China)
Xingdong Wang (School of Economics and Trade, Jiangxi Agriculture University, Nanchang, China)

American Journal of Business

ISSN: 1935-5181

Article publication date: 3 June 2019

Issue publication date: 5 July 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of action visibility in moderating the relationship between firm response and individual legitimacy judgment. Since a firm may decouple its public commitment from its actual practice to cope with conflicting stakeholder interests, visibility is important for consumers to make judgment because it is difficult for them to observe a firm’s actual fulfillment of its public commitment to quality assurance after a product-harm crisis.

Design/methodology/approach

Scenario-based mixed design experiments were employed and 718 valid responses were collected.

Findings

The results indicated that, while acknowledging responsibility produced more favorable legitimacy judgment than denial, decoupling produced no better judgment than denial. However, higher visibility significantly amplified the effect size. Specifically, under the condition of high visibility, not only did acknowledging responsibility produce much more favorable judgment than denial, but so did decoupling.

Research limitations/implications

This study provided empirical evidence that action visibility moderated the relationship between firm response and individual legitimacy judgment, thus complementing the literature on crisis management.

Practical implications

This study provided executives or managers with optimal, suboptimal and least optimal response strategies under different levels of action visibility.

Originality/value

Much of the extant research on response strategy for organizations to deal with product-harm crisis ignored the moderating role of action visibility. Past research on legitimacy judgment focused on organization. This paper combined firm response, action visibility and individual-level legitimacy judgment.

Keywords

Citation

Yuan, Z., Guo, Y. and Wang, X. (2019), "Firm response, action visibility and consumers’ legitimacy judgment", American Journal of Business, Vol. 34 No. 2, pp. 75-92. https://doi.org/10.1108/AJB-07-2018-0042

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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