Someone Else to Blame: The Effectiveness of Egocentric and Alter-Centric Impression Management Tactics in the US Food Retail Industry
We investigate the effectiveness of two types of impression management tactics implemented around negative attributes: egocentric (claiming the absence or low presence of a negative attribute in a focal organization) and alter-centric tactics (claiming the greater presence of a negative attribute in an organization’s competitor). We claim that the effectiveness of each tactic depends on the risk of audiences’ skepticism, which stems from the incongruence between the information conveyed in the tactic and audiences’ default expectations about the presence of the attribute among members of a given market segment. Audiences expect a conspicuous presence of the attribute, we propose, the more stakeholders contest a market segment for that very attribute. Thus, we advance that egocentric (alter-centric) tactics are less likely to be effective for contested (uncontested) attributes because the information conveyed in such tactics clashes with audiences’ default expectations, triggering skepticism. We find support for our predictions looking at the impact of nutrient content claims on product sales in the U.S. food retail industry between 2006 and 2015.
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