Consumers with high brand commitment, defined as people who are “attached to brands, form close relationships with them, and have a general desire to maintain this close relationship,” may take a dimmer view of product recalls than consumers with low brand commitment, according to research published by Smeal College of Business professors in 2013. The findings contradict the prevailing opinion that high brand loyalty helps companies weather periods of negative publicity.
The Smeal researchers investigated consumer reactions to recalls in cases where the products being called back could cause death or serious injury. They discovered that high brand commitment was a liability in those situations. Researchers speculated that consumers might feel more disappointed than usual when a company they particularly like lets them down in such a way. The findings did not hold in cases of low-severity recalls, in which the researchers confirmed previous studies stating that brand loyalty tended to mitigate the negative effects.