Softening the blow: Company self-disclosure of negative information lessens the damaging effects on consumer judgment and decision making

Fennis, B. M. & Stroebe, W., Mar-2014, In : Journal of Business Ethics. 120, 1, p. 109-120 12 p.

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  • Softening the Blow

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Is self-disclosure of negative information a viable strategy for a company to lessen the damage done to consumer responses? Three experiments assessed whether self-disclosing negative information in itself lessened the damaging impact of this information compared to third-party disclosure of the same information. Results indicated that mere self-disclosure of a negative event positively affected consumers' choice behavior, perceived company trustworthiness, and company evaluations compared to third-party disclosure. The effectiveness of the self-disclosure strategy was moderated by the initial reputation of a company, such that its impact was only observed for companies that had a poor reputation at the outset. For them, self-disclosure considerably lessened the impact of negative information compared to third-party disclosure. For companies that enjoyed a positive reputation, type of disclosure did not affect consumer responses. Mediation analysis showed that perceptions of company trustworthiness underlie the effects of the self-disclosure strategy on consumer judgment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-120
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number1
Early online date14-Feb-2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar-2014


  • Consumer behavior, Social influence processes, Judgment and decision making, Company trustworthiness beliefs, ORGANIZATIONAL TRUST, STEALING THUNDER, PRODUCT FAILURE, MODERATING ROLE, REPAIR, COMPETENCE, INTEGRITY, PERSPECTIVE, TRUSTWORTHINESS, EXPLANATIONS

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