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Understanding and Responding to Negative Emotions in Consumer Resistance to Innovations

Authors/Editors: Hietschold, N.
Gurtner, S.
Spanjol, J.
Published: 2017
Type: Articles in Refereed Proceedings (International)
ISBN/ISSN: 0065-0668
Published by: Academy of Management (AoM); Best Paper Proceedings, Atlanta, GA, August 2017


Innovations are incongruent with consumers’ expectations and therefore, are often accompanied by negative affect. However, consumers differ in the negative emotions experienced. Consumers will therefore react to company communications differently and can render such communications ineffective or even contribute to escalating negative stances. Companies remain unsure which communication strategy is the most effective to reach consumers with specific negative emotions. By using appraisal theory and emotion regulation, we hypothesize how specific negative emotions emerge, in which consequences they result and which communication strategies are most effective to reduce them. In a set of experimental studies in the context of a functional food innovation, we demonstrate that consumer fear and anger are closely interwoven, but are elicited by different appraisals (e.g., uncertainty vs. blame) and result in distinct behavioral responses (e.g., avoidance vs. hostility). Whether participants experience a single emotion or anger and fear together, is shown to depend on individual differences. Reappraisal of the consumer’s innovation perception using information provision as communication strategy reduces fear most effective. Reappraisal using perspective taking reduces anger. Inducing the positive emotion happiness reduces fear, but not anger. When applying the right reappraisal strategy for the primary emotion, secondary negative emotions are reduced as well.

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