Feeling close from Afar: Public reactions to racial profiling in retail and brand crisis management

Song Yi Youn, Chung Wha (Chloe) Ki, Sejin Ha

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Consumer racial profiling, a service failure unfairly targeting consumers based on their race, still prevails in the retail sector, impacting not only the direct victims' perceptions but also shaping the broader public sentiment toward the retail brand. To comprehend public reactions to a retail brand's racial (vs. non-racial) profiling service failure, we conducted three scenario-based online experiments with MTurk panels. In Study 1, we discovered that a brand crisis resulting from racial profiling service failure, as opposed to non-racial profiling, led to a more pronounced reduction in purchase intention toward the retail brand. This heightened negative response unfolded in a sequence, where the service failure initially triggered negative moral emotions among the public, subsequently shaping their judgment toward the brand, ultimately leading to a decline in purchase intention. In Study 2, we explored the role of perceived psychological distance as a moderator. We found that non-racial profiling service failure intensified negative moral emotions when the public perceived the service failure as more personally likely to happen to them (close). Meanwhile, the impact of racial profiling remained consistently high, regardless of psychological distance. In Study 3, when comparing the impact of distinct crisis management approaches (ethics of justice and ethics of care), we found that the ethics of care approach more effectively alleviated negative moral emotions in response to a racial profiling crisis than the ethics of justice approach.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103676
JournalJournal of Retailing and Consumer Services
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


  • Brand crisis
  • Moral emotion
  • Moral judgment
  • Psychological distance
  • Racial profiling
  • Service failure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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