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EMAC 2021 Annual Conference

Betrayed by reviewers: Positive consumer responses to unfair negative word-of-mouth

Published: May 25, 2021


Clemens Hutzinger, Seeburg Castle University, Department of Management; Wolfgang Weitzl, University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria; Gerald Petz, University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria


Negative electronic word-of-mouth (NeWOM) has typically been considered to trigger solely unfavorable consumer reactions. However, we empirically show with two experiments that NeWOM that is perceived as unfair leads to positive brand attitude and increased purchase intention by observing consumers: When NeWOM is perceived to break the normative rule of honesty, feelings of unfairness arise which ultimately translate into favorable reactions to-wards the criticized firm. We show that marketers can increase perceptions of NeWOM unfairness by doubting the reviewer’s credibility. Furthermore, our work confirms that perceived betrayal is a major mediator between perceived NeWOM unfairness and observers’ consumption-related reactions. Overall, our work provides sound evidence that considering perceived unfairness and betrayal is a fruitful strategy for better understanding consumers’ favorable reactions to negative online reviews.