Ethical brand crises are a breach in the core values held by a brand and a violation of the relationship between the brand and its stakeholders, and social networks provide consumers with a platform upon which they can discuss these crises and their meanings in detail. Through a qualitative content analysis and an interpretive approach, here we investigate the reaction of the social media audience to an apology released by a company after an ethical brand crisis. The emerging findings suggest that consumers engage in consumer identity work according to different strategies: they sublimate or minimize the crisis (defence of the brand) or focus on the ideological structure of marketing (criticism). In both cases, consumers offer the company an opportunity to assess and improve the ethical dimension of their marketing practices.
Keywords: Brand, brand crisis, consumer behaviour, consumer culture theory, crisis communication, ethics.