Toward a theory of corporate apology: mechanisms, contingencies, and strategies

Wei Shao, Jordan W. Moffett, Sara Quach, Jiraporn Surachartkumtonkun, Park Thaichon, Scott K. Weaven, Robert W. Palmatier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Corporate apologies, relative to other responses to well-publicized past transgressions, have distinct implications, sparking a rich tradition of apology research. But in addition, each apology is unique, such that it becomes critical to address individual content (what), spokesperson (who), timing (when) and delivery (how) elements. This paper aims to clarify how people evaluate key apology elements (individually and collectively) and the associated trade-off between short-term risks (e.g. business costs) and long-term benefits (e.g. relational assets), in light of key contingency factors that represent the level of the transgression-related threat to the firm. Design/methodology/approach: An in-depth conceptual review, analysis and synthesis of corporate apology theories, research, business practices and case examples underlie the development of a conceptual framework that features 6 key tenets and 16 formal, testable propositions. Findings: The holistic apology framework details how and why different corporate apology elements individually and collectively influence firm performance, in the presence of key transgression-related factors. The outlined tenets and propositions, in turn, provide clear guidelines for how to design and implement effective corporate apology strategies in response to publicized transgressions, as well as a platform for academics to advance research in this domain. Research limitations/implications: This paper contributes to apology theories by proposing 6 key tenets and 16 formal, testable propositions, incorporating apology mechanisms, contingencies and strategies (i.e. corporate apology typology), thus providing a more comprehensive view of corporate apologies in the marketing discipline. Practical implications: This paper introduces 6 official tenets and 16 associated propositions that collectively (and interactively) serve as strategic guidelines for managers and opportunities for academics to advance research in this domain. Originality/value: The proposed conceptual framework offers a novel, holistic understanding of the fundamental components of a corporate apology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3418-3452
Number of pages35
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 30 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Apology
  • Authenticity
  • Crisis communication
  • Crisis response strategy
  • Legal costs
  • Trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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