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  • Editorial

    Consumer brand relationships:A research landscapeMarc Fetscherinis an Associate Professor of International Business and Marketing at Rollins College, United States. He holds a Masters fromHEC Lausanne and from the London School of Economics (LSE). His PhD is from the University of Bern. He published inHarvard Business Review, Journal of Business Research,Management International Review, International Business Review, InternationalMarketing Review, European Journal of Marketing and others. He co-edited the book Consumer-Brand-Relationship: Theory andPractice (2012) by Taylor and Francis.

    Daniel Heinrichis an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Technische Universitt Braunschweig, Germany. He received his PhD inMarketing at the University of Mannheim, Germany, and worked there as a Research Associate at the Department ofMarketing. His research investigates various aspects of consumer behavior within the domains of advertising, branding andretailing. His work has appeared in journals such as the Journal of Business Research, Advances in Consumer Research and Journalof Advertising Research.

    ABSTRACT This article sheds light on the current state of research on consumer brandrelationships (CBR) and presents two distinct taxonomies, respectively, theoreticalframeworks that help to classify CBR research. First, the brand connection matrixthat classifies brand relationships into functional-based (low versus high) and emo-tional-based (low versus high) connections to brands. This framework leads us with a22 matrix consisting of four quadrants, each of which are discussed. Second, thebrand feeling matrix classifies consumers relationships with brands by grouping theminto the strengths of relationships (weak versus strong) and the consumers feelingtoward the brand (positive versus negative). The latter taxonomy leads to another 22matrix where each of the four quadrants is discussed. Finally, this article discusses thepapers in this special issue and applies the two frameworks by grouping the papers intothe corresponding quadrants.Journal of Brand Management (2014) 21, 366371. doi:10.1057/bm.2014.22

    Keywords: consumer; brand; relationships; brand relationships; framework;taxonomy; brand connection; brand emotions, brand feeling

    INTRODUCTIONBlackstons (1993) book chapter BeyondBrand Personality: Building Brand Relationships,later Fajer and Schoutens (1995) articleBreakdown and Dissolution of Person-BrandRelationships and finally Fourniers (1998)paper on Consumers and their Brands: Develop-ing Relationship Theory in Consumer Research

    mark cornerstones of the research area onconsumer brand relationships (CBR), whichcelebrated its 20th year anniversary in 2013.This showcases that CBR research hasbecome an established but yet growingresearch area. We applaud the previouslymentioned researchers for their contributionto this important and exciting research area.

    Correspondence:Marc Fetscherin Rollins College,Department of InternationalBusiness, 1000 Holt Avenue 2723, Winter Park, FL 32789,USAE-mail:

    2014 Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 1350-231X Journal of Brand Management Vol. 21, 5, 366371

  • Since then, one has seen a significant numberof conference papers, journal articles, bookchapters and books (e.g. MacInnis et al,2009; Fournier et al, 2012) published.

    This special issue in the Journal of BrandManagement is dedicated to the topic of CBRand marks the first ever published special issuein an academic journal. It contains a collec-tion of the best papers presented at the 3rdInternational Consumer Brand Relationships Con-ference ( held on 2628 September 2013 atRollins College, Winter Park, FL, USA. Theincreasing popularity of the conference isreflected by an ever growing number of sub-missions from all around the globe resulting inmore than 30 presentations from at least 17countries. The presentations of the 3rd Inter-national Consumer Brand RelationshipsConference covered a variety of topics relatedto the main theme including research onbrand love and anthropomorphism, brandauthenticity, brand passion or brand relation-ship quality (BRQ), just to name a few. Thisspecial issue features five articles that wereselected after several peer-review rounds. Inthe further course of this paper we present ataxonomy that helps to classify CBR researchin terms of the functional and emotional focusof CBR and another taxonomy that classifiesCBR research in terms of strength of brandrelationships and valence of brand attitudes.

    BACKGROUND AND TAXONOMYCBR research is interdisciplinary and com-plex (Fetscherin et al, 2014). The editorsperformed a meta-analytic literature reviewand identified almost 400 journal articlespublished on this topic in the last decades(Fetscherin and Heinrich, 2014). Theyfound that the journals fall into the followingdisciplines (from most to least important):business (including marketing), manage-ment, applied psychology, communicationsand even hospitality, leisure, sports andtourism research. Since the original work by

    Blackstone (1993), Fajer and Schouten(1995) and Fournier (1998), different streamsof research have emerged focusing on aspectssuch as the assessment of the relationshipbetween different brand constructs likebrand loyalty, brand trust, brand personalityand brand commitment; research aboutbrand love; brand communities; brand cultand culture, research assessing consumersself and brands; or brand relationships andstorytelling. As one can see, CBR researchis multidisciplinary, multidimensional andmulti-conceptual with a variety of concepts,constructs and underlying theories borrowedfrom different fields such as marketing, psy-chology, sociology, anthropology or neuro-science (Fetscherin and Heinrich, 2014).Each of the five papers in this special issuediscusses and covers one or a combination ofthe above described research streams.

    Brand connection matrixInspired by the Hierarchy of Effects Model(Lavidge and Steiner, 1961), the RelationshipInvestment Model (Rusbult, 1980), Kellers(2001) Customer-Based Brand Equity Model aswell as drawing from theories of interpersonalattraction and social exchange, one can classifythe different brand relationship concepts intorelationships based on functional connections,emotional connections or a combination ofboth. Function connections are achievedwhen only functional needs are met. Solelyemotional connections result if only emo-tional needs of the consumers are met. Thisleads us with a 22 matrix consisting of fourquadrants as illustrated in Figure 1.

    Quadrant (1): High functional but lowemotionally connected consumers are func-tionally invested to brands. Hence, they aresatisfied with the brand in terms of perfor-mance (that is, functional connection) butshop around (that is, emotionally not con-nected). They are not as price sensitive asuninvested consumers (as they appreciatethe brand in a functional way) but if there is


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  • a better deal in terms of value proposition(price versus functionality) they mightswitch. Using in this case the interpersonalrelationship metaphor, consumers see thebrand as a colleague.

    Quadrant (2): Consumers with a highfunctional and high emotional connections tobrands are those who are fully invested tobrands. In this relationship, consumers lovetheir brand and positive outcomes can occursuch as high brand loyalty, an extreme posi-tive word of mouth, like brand evangelism orturning a blind eye after service failures.Consumers with such relationship invest-ments to brands are more loyal, switch lesslikely to other brands, are willing to pay aprice premium or are less price sensitive andhave higher brand forgiveness (Donavan et al,2012). Using again the interpersonal relation-ship metaphor, in this case, consumers see thebrands as family and/or part of themselves.

    Quadrant (3): Low functional and lowemotional connected consumers are unin-vested to brands and consumers see brands asacquaintance, if we would use an interpersonalrelationship metaphor to describe this brandrelationship. They exhibit no brand loyaltyand they are mostly price sensitive and brandsare subject to the competitive environment.Price premiums are hardly possible. Thosebrands have a high risk of brand switchingfrom consumers and brands need to eitherfulfill consumers function or emotional needsto deepen their connection to consumers.

    Quadrant (4): Consumers with a lowfunctional but high emotional connection

    to brands are those who are emotionallyinvested to brands. They like the brandsmostly for affective reasons even if the branddoes not perform compared with whatconsumers need or want or the brand per-forms less good than competitor brands(for example, a legendary motorbike butwith outdated technology). In this case,the brand does not have all the functions orfeatures consumers are looking for or need.In some instances, the consumer can forgivethese functional shortcomings or the con-sumer is willing to have less functionality. Inthis case, the emotional needs compensatefunctional limitations. However, this emo-tionally invested relationship might lastonly for a while and brands need to addressthese shortcomings. Consumers see brandsas a friend but this friendship can end up aseither a committed relationship or family(top-right quadrant), or transit to a rela-tionship with low emotional connection iffrustrations of functional limitation occurover time, or the relationship will even beterminated or divorce (Sussan et al, 2012).

    As the Hierarchy of Effects Model (Lavidgeand Steiner, 1961) suggests, only when thecognitive (thinking) and affective (feeling)connection exist, consumers buy the pro-duct (conative or behavior). One majorcriticism of Lavidge and Steiners (1961)model is the issue, that it is assumed tobe hierarchical and that consumers movefrom one to the other stage. Our frameworkaddresses this gap as it allows a combination ofboth.



    nal C









    Emotional Connection(Feeling/Affective)

    Low High



    (2)fully invested





    Figure 1: Brand connection matrix.


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  • Brand feeling matrixOur second model focuses on the emo-tional (affective/feeling) dimension ofCBR. Inspired by Storbacka et al (1994),one way to classify the different concepts ofCBR is to group them into the strengthsof relationships (weak versus strong) andthe consumers feeling toward the brand(negative versus positive). This gives us asecond 22 matrix. For illustrative purposeswe provide for each quadrant example(s)with an appropriate brand construct. Pleasenote that both dimensions represent a con-tinuum from weak to strong and fromnegative (to neutral) to positive. The linesare for illustrative purposes only.

    Quadrant (1): In Quadrant one, consumershave a weak or loose but yet positive feelingtoward a brand. Concepts such as brand satis-faction (Bloemer and Kasper, 1995) fall intothis quadrant. Also brand satisfaction precedesbrand trust and brand loyalty, it does notnecessarily need to come along with theseoutcomes. Many consumers can be satisfiedwith a product or service brand but do notbecome loyal or love the brand.

    Quadrant (2): Concepts discussed inQuadrant two are those where consumershave strong and positive emotional feelingsfor brands. Concepts such as brand love(Batra et al, 2012) or brand passion (Baueret al, 2007) fall into this quadrant.

    Quadrant (3): In Quadrant there are con-cepts that deal with negative but weak feel-ings consumers have for brands. Few studiesassess those negative feelings. One suchstudy is by Lee et al (2009) about anti-consumption and brand avoidance.

    Quadrant (4): Concepts discussed inQuadrant four are those where consumershave a strong and negative feeling towardbrands. Like the concepts discussed inQuadrant three, very few studies assess thenegative feelings consumers have for brands.Aron and Muizs (2002) presentationabout brand hating websites is one example,as well as more recently Krishnamurthy and

    Kucuks (2009) anti-branding paper orSussan et al (2012) article on brand divorce.

    ARTICLES IN THE SPECIAL ISSUEEach of the five selected article in this spe-cial issue can be classified into quadrants ofthe previously presented taxonomies ofBrand Connection and Brand Feeling Matrix.

    The first article in the special issue is Youreso loveable: Anthropomorphism and brand loveis by Philipp Rauschnabel (Otto-Friedrich-University Bamberg) and Aaron Ahuvia(University of Michigan-Dearborn). Theauthors argue brand love predicts brandloyalty better than conventional attitudemodels, which rely on the brands perceivedquality. Their study examines the role ofanthropomorphism and brand love indefensive marketing strategies. They identifyfive theoretical mechanisms through whichanthropomorphism influences brand love:cognitive fluency, self-extension, categorylevel evaluation, cognitive consistency andself-congruence. Their results show a brandsperceived level of anthropomorphism is animportant predecessor of brand love. Thispaper falls into Quadrant two in Figure 1 andQuadrant two in Figure 2, thus reflecting ahigh positive emotional CBR.

    The second article The added value of con-textual motivations on consumerbrand relation-ships of self-gifts is by Marina Carnevale(Fordham University), Ozge Yucel-Aybat(Pennsylvania State University-Harrisburg)and Lauren Block (City University ofNew York). Their work discusses con-sumers engagement in self-gifting purchases,which can be defined as gifts for ones self.The authors argue consumers do so mostlyto either reward themselves for an accom-plishment or to cheer themselves up after afailure experienced. Therefore, rewardand compensation motives underlie con-sumers self-gift purchases. In their paperthey examine how self-gifts influencesCBR. Across two studies, the authors show


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  • consumers have more positive brand evalua-tions when motives are present than whenmotives are absent, no matter if the brand ispurchased for reward or compensation. Thiseffect is significant specifically for consumerswho do not feel connected to the brand. Thestudy results are robust across different pro-duct categories (watches versus lollipops)and different respondents (student versusnon-student sample). Their results suggestcompanies can target consumers with lowself-brand connection more effectively byemphasizing specific motivations to purchaseindulgent self-gifts when they design their adcampaigns and brand positioning strategies.This paper falls into Quadrant one in Figure1 and Quadrant two in Figure 2.

    The third article by Don Schultz (North-western University), Martin Block (North-western University) and Vijay Viswanathan(Northwestern University) entitled Brandpreference being challenged examines whetherconsumers preference for manufacturernational brands has changed over time.Their article merged the country of origineffect and CBR. Their findings from alarge scale survey across multiple productcategories indicate a decreasing preferenceamong consumers for manufacturer-originated national brands. Most interest-ingly, the largest increase of consumerspreferences is identyfied for no preferenceas related to the country of origin effect.Similar results were found when theauthors move deeper into three specificcategories cereals, cosmetics and OTC

    allergy medications. The authors found con-sumers increasingly evaluate supposedly dif-ferent brands in the category as being moreand more similar. In other words, brands areoperating in a smaller competitive space andconsumers are finding it increasingly difficultto differentiate among and between themsuggesting that the brands and categoriesstudied show a risk of commoditization.This paper falls into Quadrant one inFigure 1 and Quadrant three in Figure 2.

    The fourth article How company responsesand trusting relationships protect brand equity intimes of crises is by Sabrina Hegner (Universityof Twente), Ardion Beldad (University ofTwente) and Sjarlot Kamphuis op Heghuis(University of Twente). Their article dis-cusses brands are susceptible to varioustypes of crises. Such crisis can have negativeconsequences for the brands reputationaland companys performance and thus therelationship brands can have with con-sumers. They conducted an experiment todetermine whether or not crisis responsestrategies influence post-crisis brand equityand brand trust on the relationshipbetween crisis response and post-crisisbrand equity. Their finding shows that theways company react to a crisis have aninfluence on brand equity and brand rela-tionships. Non-response leads to thedepreciation of brand equity, and brandtrust can serve as a buffer for a brand duringa crisis suggesting higher brand forgiveness.This paper falls between Quadrants oneand three both, in Figure 1 and Figure 2.







    Strengths ofBrand Relationship

    Weak Strong


    Brand Satisfaction

    (2)Brand Love

    Brand Passion


    Brand Avoidance

    (4)Brand Hate

    Brand Divorce

    Figure 2: Brand feeling matrix.


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  • The final article in this special issueis about Construing loyalty through brandexperience: the mediating role of brand relation-ship quality by Eliane Cristine Francisco-Maffezzolli (Pontifcia Universidade Catlicado Paran), Elder Semprebom (UniversidadeFederal do Paran) and Paulo HenriquePrado (Universidade Federal do Paran).They investigate the mediating role ofthe concept of brand relationship quality(BRQ) between brand experience andbrand loyalty by a survey-based quantita-tive approach. Their results reveal brandexperience can foster BRQ positively.Hence, brand managers need to invest inCBR to transform brand experiences intoloyalty. This paper falls into the link betweenQuadrants one and two in Figure 1 andQuadrants one and two in Figure 2.

    CONCLUSIONIn this article, we presented two taxonomies.The first helps to structure current CBRresearch into functional-based (low versushigh) and emotional-based (low versus high)connections that consumers have withbrands. The second taxonomy focuses on theemotional (feeling) part of brand relation-ships that can be grouped by strengths of therelationship (weak versus strong) and theconsumers feeling toward the brand (posi-tive versus negative). By applying thesetaxonomies to the five papers presented inthe special issue, we show their suitabilityand applicability. With this special issue wealso want to inform both scholars and prac-titioners about recent work in CBR researchby offering a number of fresh perspectives onthe relevance and value of this research area.

    REFERENCESAron, D. andMuiz, A.M. (2002) Firing back: Consumer-

    created brand hate sites, 105th Annual Convention ofthe American Psychological Association.

    Batra, R., Ahuvia, A. and Bagozzi, R. (2012) Brand love.Journal of Marketing 76(2): 116.

    Bauer, H., Heinrich, D. and Martin, I. (2007) How tocreate high emotional consumer-brand relationships?The causalities of brand passion. In: M. Thyne, K.Deans and J. Gnoth (eds.) Proceedings of the Australiaand New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference.Dunedin, pp. 21892198.

    Blackstone, M. (1993) Beyond brand personality:Building brand relationships. In: A.D. Aaker, A.L. Bieland A. Biel (eds.) Brand Equity & Advertising:Advertisings Role in Building Strong Brands. Hillsdale,NJ: pp. 113124.

    Bloemer, J. and Kasper, H. (1995) The complexrelationship between consumer satisfaction and brandloyalty. Journal of Economic Psychology 16(2): 311329.

    Donovan, L., Priester, J., MacInnis, D. and Park, W.(2012) Brand forgiveness: How close brandrelationships influence forgiveness. In: S. Fournier,M. Breazeale and M. Fetscherin (eds.) Consumer-Brand Relationships: Theory and Practice. pp. 184203.

    Fajer, M. and Schouten, J. (1995) Breakdown anddissolution of person-brand relationships. In: F.R.Kardes and M. Sujan (eds.) NA Advances in Con-sumer Research Volume 22. Provo, UT: Association forConsumer Research, pp. 663667.

    Fetscherin, M., Boulanger, M., Gonalves Filho, C. andSouki, G. (2014) The effect of product category onconsumer brand relationships. Journal of Product andBrand Management 23(2): 7889.

    Fetscherin, M. and Heinrich, D. (2014) Consumer brandrelationships research: A bibliometric citation meta-analysis. Journal of Business Research.

    Fournier, S. (1998) Consumers and their brands:Developing relationship theory in consumerresearch. Journal of Consumer Research 24(4): 343373.

    Fournier, S., Breazeale, M. and Fetscherin, M. (2012)Consumer-Brand Relationships: Theory and Practice.New York: Routledge, pp. 456.

    Keller, K.L. (2001) Building customer-based brandequity: A blueprint for creating strong brands(pp. 6872). Marketing Science Institute.

    Krishnamurthy, S. and Kucuk, S.U. (2009) Anti-branding on the internet. Journal of Business Research62(11): 11191126.

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    Lee, M., Motion, J. and Conroy, D. (2009) Anti-consumption and brand avoidance. Journal ofBusiness Research 62(2): 169180.

    MacInnis, D., Park, W. and Priester, J. (2009) Handbook ofBrand Relationships. New York: M.E.Sharpe, pp. 424.

    Rusbult, C.E. (1980) Commitment and satisfaction inromantic associations: A test of the investment model.Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 16(2): 172196.

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    Sussan, F., Hall, F. and Meamber, L. (2012) Introspectingthe spiritual nature of a brand divorce. Journal ofBusiness Research 65(4): 520526.


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    Consumer brand relationships: A research landscapeINTRODUCTIONBACKGROUND AND TAXONOMYBrand connection matrixBrand feeling matrix