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EMAC 2019 Annual Conference

The Horns Effect of a Moral Brand Scandal on Perceived Product Quality

Published: May 28, 2019


Julia Kick, Copenhagen Business School; Florian Kock, Copenhagen Business School


Horns effect; perceived product quality; corporate social responsibility


Numerous examples of brands deceiving and disappointing their stakeholders can be found throughout marketing history. While these incidents have received great attention from both public media and academia, researchers have hardly considered their potential consequences on the scandalized brand’s perceived product quality. Merging organizational theory and the concept of legitimacy with contemporary marketing approaches, this paper understands moral brand scandals as jolts which result in consumers reassessing previously formed perceptions regarding the respective brand. In an experimental design, the authors show a negative halo effect, a so-called horns effect, thus drawing attention to the negative consequences of unethical behaviour on perceived product quality and performance. Complementing the extensive literature addressing the positive effects of corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, this paper bears important theoretical and managerial implications.