Consumer response to negative celebrity publicity: the effects of moral reasoning strategies and fan identification

Sai Wang, Ki Joon Kim*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – In the context of celebrity endorsement, this study aims to demonstrate that the ways in which consumers adopt moral reasoning strategies (i.e. rationalization, decoupling and coupling) are largely dependent on the severity (i.e. high vs low) of celebrity transgressions and the degree to which they personally identjavascript:void(0);ify with the celebrity.

Design/methodology/approach – A between-subjects online experiment (N = 144) with two conditions, representing high- and low-severity celebrity transgressions, was conducted. Participants’ attitudes toward the celebrity and endorsed brand, their purchase intention for the endorsed product and the degrees to which they identified with the celebrity and adopted the three types of moral reasoning strategies were assessed.

Findings – The rationalization and decoupling strategies mediate the effects of highly negative information about a celebrity on consumer attitudes toward the celebrity and endorsed brand as well as on purchase intention for the endorsed product. In addition, consumers who identify strongly as fans of the celebrity in question are more likely to activate rationalization and decoupling strategies to process and evaluate transgressive behaviors than those with weaker fan identification. 

Originality/value – By exploring the ways in which moral reasoning and fan identification work in processing negative information, this study provides insights into the psychological process through which negative news coverage of a celebrity endorser influences consumer attitudes and purchase intention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-123
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Product and Brand Management
Issue number1
Early online date22 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2020

User-Defined Keywords

  • Moral reasoning
  • Purchase intention
  • Brand attitude
  • Celebrity endorsement
  • Fan identification
  • Celebrity transgression


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