Brand Attachment

Brand Attachment

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4984-0.ch003

Abstract

Among the myriad brand constructs established in the literature, brand attachment is attracting increasing attention among marketing scholars. Initially a loosely defined construct, the definition of brand attachment has improved significantly, and so too has its operationalization. The chapter provides extensive details of the results of a systematic literature review conducted on 102 academic papers published in scientific journals focused on brand attachment or including the construct of brand attachment in the empirical design. First, an updated picture of research on brand attachment is provided. This is followed by a compelling analysis of the concept and of the available measures of brand attachment construct, of its antecedents, and of its outcomes. Finally, a research agenda is provided. The analysis reveals that research on brand attachment—although it has begun in relatively recent times—is gaining momentum in current studies. This is the first systematic literature review on the construct of product attachment published to date.
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Introduction

This chapter reports the results of a systematic literature review conducted on empirical and theoretical contributions dealing with the topic of brand attachment since its beginning as an autonomous stream in marketing research. In line with the principal methodological tenets of systematic literature review, papers previously written in the field constitute the main data used in this study and are the main source of information on which conclusions and interpretations contained in this chapter are provided.

The results reached in this chapter, as I hope will be visible throughout what follows, are not only limited to drawing the borders of the literature on the topic. Rather, they are aimed at gaining a better and finer-grained understanding of what brand attachment is, how this concept has been formalized and operationalized in current research, as well as at inspiring further advances of the discipline and managerial actions. In so doing, I will pay specific attention to trying to identify the multiplicity of perspectives that have been applied by studies dealing with brand attachment, and to highlighting eventual discordances emerging from the empirical results obtained in previous research.

Although giving a definition – or multiple definitions – of brand attachment is one of the aims of this chapter, a preliminary definition of what constitutes (emotional) attachment to brands is of paramount importance at the beginning of this chapter.

Broadly speaking, brand attachment can be defined as the emotional bond connecting an individual with a brand. Since – as argued in Chapter 1 – the most important aspect of attachment is proximity seeking, attachment has been frequently applied in marketing and consumer behavior studies to provide alternative and somehow more sophisticated reasons to understand whether and how emotional attachment drives brand loyalty.

More pragmatically, research on brand attachment has flourished as researchers have come to realize that the construct of brand attachment has a striking capacity to predict repeated purchasing of the same brand, i.e. “behavioral brand loyalty” (Oliver, 1991).

Accordingly, it is not surprising that the construct of brand attachment or emotional attachment to brands has garnered great attention in the consumer-marketing realm, from both academics and practitioners. Creating emotional bonds between consumers and their brands (see Fournier, 1998) is considered germane to generating positive outcomes, such as loyalty, willingness to pay a premium price (Malär et al., 2011; Thomson et al., 2005; Park et al., 2010), and consumers’ defensive action against the effect of negative information (Ahluwalia et al., 2001).

On the other hand, acknowledgment of the beneficial impacts generally associated with high levels of brand attachment has also induced scholars to investigate what determines consumers’ attachment to brands, i.e. the antecedents of that attachment.

Consumers’ emotional attachment to brands started to attract interest when scholars recognized the existence of some sort of human tendency to subjectify brands (see Fournier, 1998; Veloutsou and Taylor, 2012). This resulted in the extension of theories and concepts generally applied to human-to-human relationships (like attachment, love, or passion) to human-to-brands ones. In addition, also the advent of the so-called “customer based brand equity frame of reference” (see Aaker, 1991; Keller, 1993), which is often applied to explain what prompts consumers to become loyal to brands, provided a suitable lens through which empirical studies could focus on brand attachment.

As this chapter maintains, however, research to date has applied several theoretical perspectives; it has framed the notion (and relative operationalization) of brand attachment in multiple ways; and it has included a wide range of antecedents and outcomes of brand attachment.

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