Ethical Branding in a Divided World: How Political Orientation Motivates Reactions to Marketplace Transgressions

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Final version published as: 

Allard, Thomas, and Brent McFerran, “Ethical Branding in a Divided World: How Political Orientation Motivates Reactions to Marketplace Transgressions” Journal of Consumer Psychology. 2021.

Date created: 
DOI: 10.1002/jcpy.1270
Political ideology
Ethical consumption
Attribution formation
Moral judgement

In today's marketplace, users (e.g., purchasers, influencers) are increasingly the "face" of brands to potential consumers, increasing the risk for brands should these users act poorly. Across seven studies, we document that political orientation moderates the desire for punishment toward users of ethical (vs. conventional) brands who commit moral transgressions. In response to identical marketplace transgressions, we observe that liberals punish ethical brand users less than conventional brand users. In contrast, conservatives punish the same users of ethical brands more than conventional brand users. We document that this bias stems from how people interpret the inconsistency between the ethical branding and the act of transgression, rather than from a group-identity effect, showing how it does not arise in the absence of inconsistent information or when consumers are not able to integrate the inconsistent information to their judgments. We also investigate an avenue by which firms can reframe their ethical  branding to reduce this politically motivated bias. We discuss this work's implications for moral judgments, marketplace attribute formation, and the branding of ethical goods in a politically divided world.


Due to the embargo period of Wiley journals, the full text of this manuscript will not be available in Summit until March 2023. If you require access sooner, please contact

Document type: 
Copyright resides with the author(s).