In stories we trust: How narrative apologies provide cover to competitive vulnerability after integrity-violating blog posts

T. van Laer*, J.C. de Ruyter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Consumers' confidence in companies has fallen due to recent and widespread violations of integrity and consumers' voicing of discontent in weblog (blog) posts. Current research on integrity restoration offers little guidance regarding appropriate responses. We posit that not only what (with which content) but also how (in which format) the company responds, contributes to an effective restoration of integrity and a reduction of consumers' intentions to switch. The results of Study 1 show that the combination of denial content and analytical format as well as apologetic content and narrative format works better than combinations of opposing response content and format. Comparing narrative apologies and denials in two consecutive studies, we demonstrate that the concept of "transportation"—the engrossing effect of a narrative—is the mechanism underlying narrative-based integrity restoration. We further assess in Study 2 how the use of empathy accounts for higher levels of transportation and perceived integrity. In Study 3, we establish that a personal response by the involved employee is more effective than a response issued by the company's spokesperson. Consumers trust in stories from the involved employee.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-174
JournalInternational Journal of Research in Marketing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010

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