Consumer brand relationship theory and research

consumer brand relationship theory and research

Critical scientific realism, brand personality, brand relationships . has managerial significance, and suggests that consumer brand relationship quality is a. Susan Fournier's groundbreaking study on brand relationships (PDF) is to develop brand relationship theory in consumer research myself. ple of consumer-brand relationships, involving nine highly known Personality, Brand Relationships, Interpersonal Relationship Theory.

With regard to these concepts, it appears that the lack of mutuality in the brand relationship makes them somewhat problematic. According to Fournierstrong brand relationships have affective grounding which is similar to love and passion in the interpersonal domain. At first, these concepts pretend to be easily transferable to the brand relationship domain since a common sense understanding prescribes that love and passion are not confined only to people.

However, as Ahuvia suggests, interpersonal love and love for objects such as brands are in most cases at best considered by people as similar rather than identical. The reason for this, according to Ahuvia, is the difference in culturally constructed meanings that people attach to human beings and objects. A second reason why there are likely to be at least two sorts of love is the unilateral nature of object love, which is less complex and responsive than interpersonal love.

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So it is likely that love for brands is at best understood as something that is similar to love for a person. However, Ahuvia also points out that love is possibly understood as a concept that only can exist between people.

An example of the ambiguousness of love with regard to brands is illustrated by the following passage: Uh, do I love Haagen-Dazs ice cream?

Woman, 44 While this woman has a fairly strong relationship to Haagen-Dazs ice cream, her statement indicates that the love-feelings she credit to this brand is qualitatively different from how she love people. So there is indeed a possibility that loving a brand can be understood as something different from loving, for instance, a husband.

Even though consumers may not love or show feelings of passion for brands in the way they can do for human beings, it does not imply that the prerequisite of a strong brand relationship is absent.

So in order to make the brand relationship quality constructs applicable to a wider group of consumers who understand love as a concept that only can exist between human beings, it might be feasible to also include a term such as fondness, representing feelings that can be described with the act of liking: But I like it very much, and I know I have said I love it but you know, candy is candy, chocolate laughter is wonderful.

Brand relationship

This phenomenon buttresses the idea that redefining love as a feeling that is similar to but different from interpersonal love can be productive to research. In so doing, brand relationship quality constructs can represent relationships to brands in other cultural settings, where the concept of love has a more restricted usage.

This statement illustrates that the feelings consumers assign to their favorite brands can be different from the feelings they have for human beings. With regard to commitment, another facet of brand relationship quality, it appears that the lack of reciprocity makes the construct somewhat problematic.

As Giddensp. Unlike human relationships, brand relationships are primarily unilateral and make shared commitment more difficult. A person who commits to another person does so because the other partner in the relationship is committed to the same goal.

The problem with commitment in the context of brand relationships is that consumers do not necessarily feel that a brand can be committed to a relationship with the individual consumer. You know, I can, I could take it or leave it, uh, so there is that.

Brand relationship - Wikipedia

Woman, 44 The unwillingness to accept commitment as a concept related to brands may have something do with the absence of a relationship to a human being who represents the brand. The personal encounter in a commercial friendship Price and Arnould generates the notion of a relationship in which commitment is given a different kind of meaning than in the context of brand relationships.

So even though consumers may ascribe personality-like characteristics for a brand, this does not in itself necessarily imply that commitment is accepted as a term that relates to inanimate objects such as brands: You know, if were having to go to farmer Jones, and buy eggs and butter, and I knew Mrs. With the corporate structure that we have in the food industry, you separate them, you know, you have really no commitment to the people who are behind the products you are buying.

Man, 52 As the statement illustrates, commitment may be a concept that is exclusively considered to belong to the interpersonal domain and is therefore considered as inapplicable in the context of brands.

While one indeed can argue that the farmer Jones who the consumer refers to can be considered as a brand too, it is apparent that his interpretation of the encounter with the farmer differs from his interaction with mass-produced brands.

Although mass-produced brands use celebrity endorsers to personify their brands, there is possibly a greater distance between the consumer and the brand than is the case for local brands like "Farmer Jones.

consumer brand relationship theory and research

But when consumers show a skepticism towards the idea of having relationships with brands, concepts such as commitment are likely to be dismissed because of the limited elements of reciprocity. Another facet of the brand relationship quality construct is interdependence.

consumer brand relationship theory and research

While this concept has an important meaning in a human relationship, its applicability is less obvious in the context of brands. While frequent brand interactions can make consumers dependent on their brands, it is difficult to see why consumers would think that their brands would be dependent upon them as an individual consumer. So consumers are indeed likely to understand that companies try to offer brands that satisfy the market.

And while consumers may realize the potential power the market has, there is a possibility that their personal role in keeping the brand dependent is considered to be of marginal importance. So if a mass produced brand loses one relationship with a consumer, there is likely an understanding among consumers that the brand has millions of other relationships to explore. I mean, and the Kraft food has no feeling. Man 52 Although many companies seek to anthropomorphize their brands, consumers may still consider them as relatively anonymous.

Therefore it might be difficult for individual consumers to see that it would make much of a difference to the company if they bought the brand or not. The concept of interdependence appears to have a more suitable applicability for relationships with brands that represent local businesses, such as community brand relationships reported by Kates Such relationships explicitly involve the people behind the brand and may provide a significantly different meaning for the notion of interdependence.

When consumers reject the suggested brand relationship discourse, it is also likely that the concept of intimacy is rejected. Fournier contends that intimacy in a brand relationship is generated by elaborate knowledge structures of the brand with rich layers of meanings.

But similar to concepts of love, it is possible that some consumers are unwilling to equate intimacy in the brand relationship domain with intimacy in the interpersonal domain. Intimacy in an interpersonal relationship concerns the most personal matters, and it is the exclusive right of sharing the personal information with the other part of the relationship that creates intimacy.

While I agree with Fournier that consumers can develop rich layers of brand meanings, it is difficult to see how this in itself can create an intimate relationship with the brand.

Towards a Critique of Brand Relationships by Anders Bengtsson

To make intimacy a viable concept, it might be appropriate to consider that relationships with objects are never two-way person-thing but always three-way person-thing-personas Belk suggests. By including the social dimension of brand consumption, concepts such as intimacy obtain a new meaning. While it is possible that consumers may reject or at least find the relational discourse unsuitable for their brand relationships, it is apparent that some of the brand relationship quality constructs are less capable of representing the way consumers relate to their brands.

But when consumers are confronted with the constructs, it appears that there is a reluctance to accept the discourse. The fact that there are consumers who discursively reject concepts related to relationship theory points to the need for discussing its significance in the context of consumer research.

As such, relationship marketing exists primarily as a discourse Fitchett and McDonaghand it is through this discourse we understand interactions between actors in the marketing system.

So there is nothing "real" in relationships beyond the metaphor that seeks to create an understanding for interactions in the marketplace. So the question is whether relationship thinking accurately represents consumers and their behavior in the marketing system.

Fitchett and McDonagh have critiqued relationship marketing for not being able to rebalance the inequalities and underrepresentation of consumers in market exchanges. They contend that current conceptualizations reduce consumers to prisoners under the hegemony of organizations. In this way, relationship marketing becomes more rhetorical than real because the kind of relationships consumers have with companies and their brands are likely to be imposed on them rather than initiated by mutual interest.

As a consumer I am unable to demand that my bank or airline service provider negotiate the terms of our relationship to serve my own interests, whereas the organization can impose such terms without any recall to the consumer. The bias in such relations is such that one could legitimately argue that there is no mutual relationship, only imposed relations Fitchett and McDonaghp.

It is common practice for companies to assert that they have relationships with their customers, but it is less known whether consumers really want them or believe that they have relationships with companies and brands whose products and services they consume.

But then we must question what we have achieved by redefining the relationship construct so that its meaning becomes significantly distant from its theoretical roots.

In this way, there is not a top-down hierarchy in which consumers are reduced to passive receivers of marketing stimuli. Instead, consumers are considered as active co-producers of brand meanings Ligas and Cotte ; Ritson But the question is whether the relationships consumers have with brands can credibly be characterized as equal relationships. So while it is the case that brands are always managed by their legal owners, it appears that relationships consumers have with their brands are likely to be equal only within a narrowly defined context.

It might therefore be that relationship discourse creates a false belief in consumer freedom when, in fact, the relationship is largely managed by the marketers cf. Fitchett and McDonagh Relationship discourse should be understood in the light of a broader movement where companies seek to personify themselves.

Diversity of Consumers' Relationships with Brands - Susan Fournier

Through concepts such as corporate identity and brand identity, marketing research has given companies a human dimension by pointing at the similarities these concepts have with human identity. Although it might be appealing to humanize companies in this way, concepts of corporate identity has been criticized for its questionable parallels to human identity Balmer Although both conceptions focus on different stages of consumer-brand relationships, they actually cover different perspectives on the same process.

Moreover, they come from diverse conceptual paradigms: However, their further empirical developments have taken place in marketing. Besides, both terms appear to be applied to different empirical perspectives: Introduction Society is changing at an ever-increasing rate, especially since the beginning of the 21st century due, among other reasons, to the increasing diffusion of information and communication technologies ICTs. For instance, ICTs allow sharing information about firms, theirs products and their brands at a global level, across boundaries e.

In view of this situation, it is not surprising that by the middle of the first decade of the 21st century the concept of Marketing 3. It is a type of marketing that tries to face and respond to the current challenges, derived from globalization issues Kotler et al. In this scenario, one of the trendy research lines in marketing, the study of consumer-brand relationships, reinforces the work of Papista and Dimitriadis In particular, the emergence of Marketing 3. Under this paradigm, the role of brands as identifiers of products and firms has been overcome.

Two of the main concepts regarding consumer-brand relationships are: Hence, a comprehensive literature review of these concepts is provided in this paper. In particular, we begin by offering a brief review of the relevant literature on Marketing 3. Then, the concepts of brand love and customer engagement are presented. Finally, conclusions and managerial guidelines are provided.

Emerged as a response to the desire of people to growingly express creativity, values and spirituality, Marketing 3. This has several implications for brand management. On the one hand, in order to positioning a brand, companies must take into account that the way to differentiate the brand sometimes is not related to the mere fact of attaching the brand itself to a product or service -it should rather link the brand to a particular set of potential emotional benefits that it promises to deliver to the consumer.

On the other hand, it is expected that those brands that are acknowledged as ethical elicit positive emotional responses among its consumers and invoke a stronger level of brand affect among them Glomb et al.

Given the relevance of the affective and emotional links usually generated between brands and consumers, companies must take them into account in order to build and manage sustainable brands along time. With this regard, it is interesting to mention how two areas of research have sparked particular interest in the marketing literature because of their special links with emotions: The first empirical studies carried out to examine these intense consumer-brand relationships were those analyzing the first of these concepts.

Nevertheless, Sallam outlined how it was first introduced by Shimp and Maddenthe managerial interest for brand love came after the publication of Roberts Subsequently, Professor Aaron Ahuvia and his co-authors carried out several research works e. Brand love represents an intimate experience of the customers —in positive emotional terms— toward the brand.

Regarding brand love, the following papers are worthy of a special mention: In the management literature, employee engagement was first conceptualized by Kahn High customer engagement, like employee engagement, means that customers present themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally —i. Nowadays, several organizations consider important consumer engagement and know that it needs to be at the center of the customer service strategy.