Researchers at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management found that people have an inclination to stand up for their favorite brands when faced with bad news. The key is to make a personal connection with the customer. This defensive instinct is similar to how people stand by friends or family members.
As part of the study, marketing professor Angela Y. Lee and her colleagues set up a series of experiments letting participants weigh in on two brands that have seen their share of controversy: Facebook and Starbucks. It found that when these brands faced controversy, participants not only defended them but also would frequent the site or locations more.
“A brand is very intangible—in a way, the brand goes even beyond the product itself or the actual object,” Lee says. “So from a psychological perspective, it’s interesting to consider the dynamic relationship between a consumer and the brands that they consume.”