When and why are consumers willing to help for-profit companies in distress?

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Companies facing financial difficulties have resorted to a novel type of appeal in their communications. Instead of promoting the benefits of their brands, they promote messages displaying the vulnerable condition they are in and ask for help. The current study examines the effectiveness of this appeal, which became more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors show that when companies are experiencing the threat of going out of business, the vulnerability appeal proves to be effective because of the elicitation of personal norms. For the approach to be effective, two conditions are necessary: The company’s vulnerability should come from an uncontrollable external force, and consumers should have at least some identification with the company.

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Journal of Advertising Research
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