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What to believe, whom to blame, and when to share: exploring the fake news experience in the marketing context

Ali Mahdi (Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada)
Maya F. Farah (Adnan Kassar School of Business, Lebanese American University, Beirut, Lebanon)
Zahy Ramadan (Adnan Kassar School of Business, Lebanese American University, Beirut, Lebanon)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 8 April 2022

Issue publication date: 4 May 2022

456

Abstract

Purpose

The spread of fake news on social networking sites (SNS) poses a threat to the marketing landscape, yet little is known about how fake news affect consumers’ perceptions, attitudes and behaviors. This study aims to explore when consumers believe fake news, whom they blame for it (e.g. negative attitudes toward brands or SNS) and when they choose to share it.

Design/methodology/approach

Data obtained from 80 open-ended, semistructured interviews, conducted with SNS consumers and experts, is analyzed following the principles of grounded theory and the Gioia methodology.

Findings

Factors affecting consumers’ perceptions of fake news include skepticism, awareness, previous experience, appeal and message cues. Consumers’ brand- and SNS-related attitudes are affected by consumers’ blame, which is determined by consumers’ perceptions of the vetting efforts, role and ethical obligation of SNS. Consumers’ motives for sharing fake news include duty, retaliation, authentication and status-seeking. Theoretical and practical implications derived from the study’s novel conceptual framework are discussed.

Practical implications

This study identifies communication strategies that marketing professionals can use to mitigate and counter the negative effects of fake news.

Originality/value

By simultaneously considering consumers’ perceptions of the source, information and medium (i.e. SNS), this study presents a novel conceptual framework providing a marketing-centered, dynamic view on consumers’ fake news experience and connecting consumers’ perceptions, attitudes and behaviors in the context of fake news.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their thorough review and very helpful recommendations, which enhanced the quality of this paper.

Funding: This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Declarations of interest: None.

Citation

Mahdi, A., Farah, M.F. and Ramadan, Z. (2022), "What to believe, whom to blame, and when to share: exploring the fake news experience in the marketing context", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 39 No. 3, pp. 306-316. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCM-05-2020-3863

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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