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EMAC 2023 Annual

Does it matter to all in the same way? How culture moderates the perception of corporate unethical behavior

Published: May 24, 2023


Stefanie Dewender, University of Muenster; Raoul Kübler, ESSEC Business School


Corporate unethical behavior has seen high interest by marketing scholars, managers, as well as consumers. Recent research reports substantial risks arising from being associated with corporate unethical behavior. Still, it remains unclear if all consumers perceive unethicality similarly and judge companies’ behavior the same way. This becomes even more important, as most studies focus on US or European consumers, who share similar cultural backgrounds, making it impossible to predict if consumers from other cultural backgrounds (e.g. Asia) perceive a specific behavior to be unethical. We address this research gap by investigating how different forms of corporate misbehavior trigger online conversations in 41 countries. We rely on nearly one million tweets related to 26 incidents. Using a regression-based model we find that share of voice is high when customers in countries with low values in power distance and uncertainty avoidance are affected personally by a company’s misbehavior.