Outsourcing the pain, keeping the pleasure: Effects of outsourced touchpoints in the customer journey

Anne Madeleine Kranzbühler*, Mirella H.P. Kleijnen, Peeter W.J. Verlegh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Firms struggle to manage touchpoints in their customer journey that consumers perceive as dissatisfying. Based on attribution theory and associative learning we examine branded outsourcing as a strategic means to reduce such touchpoints’ negative impact on brand evaluations. We find in the field and in a series of experimental studies that brands can reduce the detrimental impact of dissatisfying touchpoints. This effect is reversed for satisfying touchpoints. Importantly, we find that the explanation for the effect of branded outsourcing goes beyond consumers’ responsibility attributions. Rather, we find evidence that branded outsourcing reduces the extent to which consumers mentally associate the focal brand with the outsourced touchpoint, which results in a shift in brand evaluations. In an additional study we show that a strong third-party brand is not always more beneficial than a weak third-party brand, which further enhances the managerial relevance of our findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-327
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Academy of Marketing Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Brand associations
  • Branded outsourcing
  • Consumer-based strategy


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