Stamatogiannakis Antonios, IE Business School / IE University, Madrid, Spain
From pandemic outbreaks to crimes and terrorism, consumers often become aware of the possibility of their own death, experiencing thus mortality salience (MS). Blending insights from psychology and marketing, we examine how MS-increasing events impact brand evaluations. We propose that under MS, consumers avoid experiencing change. Because consumers perceive brands with an exciting personality to be more closely associated with the notion of change than brands with other types of personality, the onset of MS is more likely to hurt the evaluations of exciting than other brands. We test these propositions in 5 studies. Study 1, a large-scale secondary data study using a difference in differences methodology, showed that 9/11 degraded consumers’ evaluations of exciting but not other brands. Subsequent experimental studies demonstrated causality and the underlying mechanism. In Study 2, experimentally inducing MS decreased evaluations of an exciting but not of a control brand. Using process-by-moderation approach, Study 3 showed that manipulating consumers’ perception of the extent to which exciting brand was associated with the notion of change moderated the negative impact of MS on brand evaluations. Studies 4a-4b demonstrated that consumers’ tendency to avoid experiencing change mediated the detrimental effect of MS on the evaluations of an exciting but not of a control brand. We discuss the theoretical implications of our findings for marketing and consumer preference formation, as well as the insights we offer for brand management during crises.