Date of Award

Summer 8-27-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Lim, Joon Soo


Bolstering, Crisis response, Differentiation, Negative spillover effects, Spillover crisis

Subject Categories

Communication | Mass Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences


When two brands are perceived as closely associated with each other due to industry membership, negative perceptions of and emotions towards the brand in crisis may transfer to another brand, known as negative spillover effects. Negative spillover effects of one brand's crisis can often lead to undeserved losses in financial returns and reputation for the entire industry or rival brands within the same industry. Spillover crises have been empirically documented among various inter-organizational relationships. However, despite the importance of understanding when a spillover crisis occurs and how to manage it, research in crisis communications has paid relatively little attention to this topic. Existing studies are mostly conceptual papers or case studies, and few empirical studies have investigated how a rival brand can better manage a spillover crisis using different crisis response strategies.The current study focuses on mitigating negative spillover effects within the same industry due to a brand's corporate ability crisis using crisis response strategies. Two experiments were conducted to examine the efficacy of crisis response strategies (denial, bolstering, and differentiation strategies) in mitigating negative spillover effects on rival brands with different levels of attribute similarity to the brand in crisis. In particular, the study examines the role of product/service attribute similarity in influencing negative spillover effects and the efficacy of response strategies. The studies also investigated the mediating role of blame attribution and attitudes towards the response message in the relationship of the three crisis response strategies with brand attitudes and purchase intention. The key findings from the two studies provide empirical evidence for a spillover crisis within the same industry and the efficacy of crisis response strategies. To mitigate the negative effects of spillover crises, issuing responses using the denial, bolstering, or differentiation strategies performed better than no response in generating more favorable brand attitudes. The findings show that for a high-similarity rival brand, it is better to use a differentiation strategy than a bolstering strategy to lessen consumers' perceptions of the similarity between the two brands and highlight the differences between them. In contrast, it is better for low-similarity rival brands to use the bolstering strategy than the differentiation strategy to reinforce people's perceptions that the two brands are different and avoid forming any unnecessary association. The results also indicated that crisis response strategies have indirect effects on consumers' brand attitudes and purchase intention through blame attribution and attitudes toward the response message. The results suggest that responding to a spillover crisis using either the bolstering or differentiation strategy can reduce people's blame attribution to the rival brand or increase people's favorable attitudes toward the message, which, in turn, can lead to more favorable brand attitudes. This research contributes to the public relations literature by potentially moving the perspective of crisis communication from the crisis-stricken brand to its rival brands. In addition, the study offers crisis communication professionals practical strategies for dealing with the brand spillover crisis.


Open Access