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When apologizing for a product failure, self-attribution by a business inevitably affects consumer attitude and behavior. This study draws from the dissonance-attribution model and investigates the effect of self-attribution in apologies on consumers' brand attitude. Using a 2x2 experiment, the results show that internal attribution generates significant change in brand attitude in a positive direction, while external attribution leads to negative change in brand attitude. Dispositional attribution leads to significantly more positive brand attitude than situational attribution. Internal/dispositional attribution produces significantly more positive effect on consumer attitude than the other three types of attribution. Moreover, perceived risk is found to mediate the relationship between attributions and brand attitude, and such mediating effect is moderated by consumers' corporate associations. Clearly, how a company apologizes for a product crisis makes a big difference in the effectiveness of recovery strategies to restore consumer confidence.


HKIBS Working Paper Series 073-1314

Recommended Citation

Yuan, D., Cui, G., & Lai, L. (2014). Sorry seems to be the hardest word: The effect of self-attribution when apologizing for a brand crisis (HKIBS Working Paper Series 073-1314). Retrieved from Lingnan University website:

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