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Toward a theory of corporate apology: mechanisms, contingencies, and strategies

Wei Shao (Department of Marketing, Griffith Business School, Griffith University, Rita Island, Australia)
Jordan W. Moffett (Gatton College of Business and Economics, University of Kentucky, Kentucky, Lexington, USA)
Sara Quach (Department of Marketing, Griffith Business School, Griffith University, Nathan, Australia)
Jiraporn Surachartkumtonkun (Department of Marketing, Griffith Business School, Griffith University, Rita Island, Australia)
Park Thaichon (Department of Marketing, Griffith Business School, Griffith University, Rita Island, Australia)
Scott K. Weaven (Department of Marketing, Griffith Business School, Griffith University, Rita Island, Australia)
Robert W. Palmatier (Foster School of Business, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 10 October 2022

Issue publication date: 30 November 2022

239

Abstract

Purpose

Corporate apologies, relative to other responses to well-publicized past transgressions, have distinct implications, sparking a rich tradition of apology research. But in addition, each apology is unique, such that it becomes critical to address individual content (what), spokesperson (who), timing (when) and delivery (how) elements. This paper aims to clarify how people evaluate key apology elements (individually and collectively) and the associated trade-off between short-term risks (e.g. business costs) and long-term benefits (e.g. relational assets), in light of key contingency factors that represent the level of the transgression-related threat to the firm.

Design/methodology/approach

An in-depth conceptual review, analysis and synthesis of corporate apology theories, research, business practices and case examples underlie the development of a conceptual framework that features 6 key tenets and 16 formal, testable propositions.

Findings

The holistic apology framework details how and why different corporate apology elements individually and collectively influence firm performance, in the presence of key transgression-related factors. The outlined tenets and propositions, in turn, provide clear guidelines for how to design and implement effective corporate apology strategies in response to publicized transgressions, as well as a platform for academics to advance research in this domain.

Research limitations/implications

This paper contributes to apology theories by proposing 6 key tenets and 16 formal, testable propositions, incorporating apology mechanisms, contingencies and strategies (i.e. corporate apology typology), thus providing a more comprehensive view of corporate apologies in the marketing discipline.

Practical implications

This paper introduces 6 official tenets and 16 associated propositions that collectively (and interactively) serve as strategic guidelines for managers and opportunities for academics to advance research in this domain.

Originality/value

The proposed conceptual framework offers a novel, holistic understanding of the fundamental components of a corporate apology.

Keywords

Citation

Shao, W., Moffett, J.W., Quach, S., Surachartkumtonkun, J., Thaichon, P., Weaven, S.K. and Palmatier, R.W. (2022), "Toward a theory of corporate apology: mechanisms, contingencies, and strategies", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 56 No. 12, pp. 3418-3452. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-02-2021-0069

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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