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The influence of negative publicity on brand equity: attribution, image, attitude and purchase intention

Mingzhou Yu (University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia)
Fang Liu (University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia)
Julie Lee (University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia)
Geoff Soutar (University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 23 October 2018

Issue publication date: 22 November 2018




This study aims to understand the influence of negative publicity on brand image, brand attitude and brand purchase intention. Specifically, the study examines the role of attribution (or brand blame) and information characteristics in Chinese consumers’ responses to negative publicity.


The study used a quasi-experimental approach involving two negative publicity scenarios (mild and high severity) and a sample of 203 young and educated Chinese consumers. Partial least squares was used to test the hypotheses.


A common assumption is that negative brand information has a negative influence on all aspects of a brand. However, this study finds that brand blame and information severity have differential effects on consumer evaluations of the affected brand. Specifically, brand blame negatively impacted attitudes and purchase intentions, but not brand image. In contrast, information severity negatively impacted brand image, but not attitudes or intentions. Further, the relations between brand image and brand attitudes and intentions depended on the level of information severity. In the mild-severity condition, brand image positively influenced attitudes and intentions, but not in the high-severity condition.

Research limitations/implications

Future research should examine consumer responses to negative publicity across different media and product categories. Cross-cultural studies should also be explored in the future.

Practical implications

When a brand encounters negative publicity, its marketer or brand manager should assess to what extent various brand equity components are influenced by negative publicity before adopting any cognitive-based or imagery-based communication strategies.


This paper contributes to the limited and fragmented literature on consumer response to negative publicity by examining the impact of consumer’s attributions of blame to the brand under conditions of mild and severe negative information on a range of important brand-related outcomes. Specifically, the authors find that negative publicity has a different impact on brand image, brand attitudes and intentions to purchase. The authors suggest that brand managers use this information to guide their marketing communications.



Yu, M., Liu, F., Lee, J. and Soutar, G. (2018), "The influence of negative publicity on brand equity: attribution, image, attitude and purchase intention", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 27 No. 4, pp. 440-451.



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