Branding disaster: Reestablishing trust through the ideological containment of systemic risk anxieties

Ashlee Humphreys*, Craig J. Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


Drawing from literary criticism and institutional theory, this article analyzes the public discourse surrounding the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 and BP Gulf Spill of 2010. While industrial accidents such as oil spills can erode consumers’ trust in experts, a macrolevel analysis reveals that media coverage of such events ultimately contains the anxieties that are sparked by initial news coverage. The brandcentric disaster myths generated by media coverage frame public discourse in ways that help to reestablish consumers’ trust in expert systems while also insulating corporations and governmental institutions from more systematic critiques. This analysis contributes to a macrolevel theorization of the institutional and ideological structures that shape consumers’ risk perceptions and just world beliefs. It also extends prior accounts of cultural branding by identifying a set of ideological effects that operate in concert with the more commonly discussed therapeutic benefits afforded by marketplace myths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)877-910
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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