While prior consumer studies have adopted various theoretical perspectives to explain individuals' reactions to disasters, scant attention has been paid to the role of ontological security in shaping those responses. This study attempts to fill this knowledge gap by qualitatively exploring ontological security in two contexts: man-made and natural disasters. To this end, we conducted 35 focus groups in the UK, Germany, and France to address how people reacted to terrorist attacks and the COVID-19 pandemic respectively. Through thematic analysis, three themes emerged: fear versus anxiety, oneself versus others, and materialistic versus experiential purchases. Man-made disasters appear to elicit fear, concern for self, and a preference for materialistic purchases, whereas natural disasters seem to trigger anxiety, concern for others, and a preference for experiential purchases. Both types of disasters seem to evoke a desire to escape from reality. In closing, we discuss both transitory and prolonged threats to ontological security and how they shape individuals' behaviours while restoring their security.
- consumer response
- materialistic/experiential purchases
- ontological security