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The referral backfire effect: The identity-threatening nature of referral failure

Claus, Bart and Geyskens, Kelly and Millet, Kobe and Dewitte, Siegfried (2012): The referral backfire effect: The identity-threatening nature of referral failure. Published in: International Journal of Research in Marketing , Vol. 29, No. 4 (December 2012): pp. 370-379.

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Abstract

The present paper shows that when a person has the experience of giving advice but that advice is not acted upon, there is a reduced openness to external information. We call this the “referral backfire effect”. We argue that this referral backfire effect is due to the identity threatening nature of referral failure: the referral backfire effect is attenuated (1) when the sender perceives oneself as having low expertise in the particular domain of referral and (2) upon self-affirmation. Accordingly, implicit egotism is increased after referral failure, reflecting the need to bolster the self against threat. Because referral behavior is considered to be an important predictor of business success, we discuss the implications of our findings for both theory and practice and sketch future research opportunities.

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