Study: How Romanian consumers react when brands disappoint them

Approximately 25% of the negative situations reported by Romanian consumers are not caused by the quality of products or services but are related to aspects of how businesses are conducted and managed, such as lack of transparency or social involvement, political associations, or false advertising. This is one of the main conclusions of the EXPUS study, conducted by Golin in collaboration with Path and iSense Solutions. EXPUS is based on the analysis of a mix of data: on one hand, data collected with Talkwalker, the social listening tool customized for Golin, and on the other hand, data collected directly from consumers through an online quantitative study conducted by iSense.

“In the context where permacrisis has become normalcy, it is vital to understand how brands are perceived by consumers and how they react when disappointed. Strategic communication requires a more careful and sensitive approach, and EXPUS helps us see the tensions preceding brand crises”, said Cristina Butunoi, Deputy Managing Director, Golin.

EXPUS analyzed four industries: Beauty, Fashion, Banking, and Oil & Gas, as brands in these sectors are omnipresent in consumers’ lives, regardless of their socio-demographic profile, revealing that brands become exposed in three main situations: breaking expectations, erroneous corporate decisions, and differences in value systems.

One in four consumers admits that a negative comment prompts them to share and add their own negative opinion or experience, even if it is unrelated to the initial comment.

Although only 29% of consumers say they would post negative comments or reviews, and almost half of them (45%) admit they prefer anonymity, if we zoom in with Talkwalker only on mentions from consumers, the proportion of negative sentiment increases by 44%.

Consumer reactions to negative comments vary by platform and age. 68% of respondents indicated that they interacted with negative comments and reviews in the last six months. They identified Facebook as the main source of such content (78%), followed by review sites (30%), YouTube (29%), blogs, forums, and news sites (25%). Consumers under 30, being more intensive users of Instagram and TikTok, signal these platforms as significant sources of negative comments – Instagram (46% vs. 22% total sample) and TikTok (34% vs. 22% total sample).

“We managed to reveal multiple significant insights that show how complex and nuanced the relationship between consumers and brands can be. These nuances are crucial when crafting communication strategies to choose tactics directly proportional to the desired impact on brands”, said Roxana Bleoajă, Head of Path, Lowe Group.

The predominant emotion when consumers post a negative comment is anger, with a share of 73%. It is combined with a positive motivation: the desire to warn other consumers (26%). Other motivations include the desire to compel the company to remedy the situation (18%), to hold them accountable (13%), or to make their voice heard (13%).

“EXPUS reveals patterns of consumer behavior when brands fail to meet expectations. From confrontation, avoidance, to opposition and turning into that ambassador that no one wants, brands have time to intervene and remedy”, said Traian Năstase, Managing Partner, iSense Solutions.

70% of consumers had negative experiences with a brand from the analyzed industries in the last six months

Consumers react differently to negative experiences with brands, adopting approaches such as direct confrontation (through emails, direct messages to the brand or company), avoidance, rejection, revenge (negative comments and reviews posted on review sites, brand online channels, or their own social media pages), and opposition (legal actions against the company). 70% of consumers had negative experiences with a brand in the last six months, and the main mistake a brand can make is deceit (17%).

Although 61% claim to try to resolve unpleasant situations through direct confrontation, unprompted responses show that avoidance strategies, such as temporarily giving up consumption or warning acquaintances, become dominant behavior.

In the case of services, 49% of respondents indicate that their first reaction is direct confrontation, followed by revenge and spreading negativity to those around them (27%). In the case of products, the initial reaction is avoidance or giving up (38%), followed by revenge (29%) if the brand’s mistake persists in the consumer’s perception.

81% of consumers follow brands online and seek practical and useful information first. Consumer preferences vary by gender and age: men want brands to be responsible (22%), women seek inspiration (30%), and young people, especially those in Bucharest, seek entertainment (41%).

In conclusion, for brands, reputation management in the era of social media becomes fundamental, and it is important to understand the complex reactions of consumers in a specific cultural context. Companies must invest in reputation, assess risks, and identify when they can intervene to maintain a positive relationship with consumers.

EXPUS is an analysis of the emotions and behaviors of Romanian consumers in relation to brands when they disappoint. It is based on data collected from September 2022 to June 2023 using the Talkwaker platform and analyzed by Path, accompanied by data obtained through an online study on an urban sample of 800 respondents aged 18 to 65, representative at the national level.

brandsbusinessdisappointEXPUSfalse advertisinggolinisense solutionslackpathqualityRomanian consumersstudytransparency
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