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EMAC 2023 Annual

An exploration of the brand crisis mechanism through the psychological contract theory

Published: May 24, 2023


Sophie de Villartay, Université Paris-Saclay Evry; Fabienne Berger-Remy, IAE Paris - Sorbonne Business School; Eric Julienne, Université Evry-Paris Saclay; Marie-Eve Laporte, IAE Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Sorbonne Business School), laboratoire GREGOR


Research on brand crisis is fairly recent and presents contradictory conclusions on the evolution of consumers' attitudes. This research sheds new light on this issue by mobilizing the Psychological Contract theory borrowed from Human Resources. Based on an exploratory study involving 31 in-depth interviews of consumers and brand crisis experts, the research describes the mechanism leading –or not– to a brand crisis. Depending on whether or not the Psychological Contract is perceived to be broken, negative media coverage does not necessarily lead to a brand crisis. The research identifies four aggravating and two mitigating factors that affect the mechanism. This work contributes to a better understanding of brand crises by proposing a conceptual model of the mechanism leading to crises.