Compared with single-brand crises, multi-brand crises have broader and deeper influence. However, there is only a limited amount of research regarding this field, especially for the phenomenon of consumer scapegoating. This research aims to further explore the consumer scapegoating effect and its psychological mechanism in the context of a multi-brand crisis. Through two experimental studies, this research discusses the influence of a multi-brand crisis and also the emergence of a scapegoat brand on two brand categories, the crisis brand category and the competing brand category. Furthermore, the current research also explores the mechanism of the consumer scapegoating effect. Results show that when a multi-brand crisis happens, consumer brand trust in the crisis brand category decreases because of assimilation, and consumer brand trust in the competing brand category increases because of contrast effect. Besides, from the perspective of the crisis brand category, the emergence of a scapegoat brand could be treated by consumers as a signal that the crisis is over, especially for a severe crisis. Results also support that cognitive dissonance mediates the process that the emergence of a scapegoat brand leads to an increase in consumer brand trust in the crisis brand category and a decrease of consumer brand trust in the competing brand category.
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