Consonant, Resonant and Social Relations between Firm and Consumer

Consonant, Resonant and Social Relations between Firm and Consumer

Gianpaolo Basile
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5880-6.ch009
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The aim of this chapter is to propose a conceptual framework, based on an interdisciplinary approach, which integrates the Viable Systems Perspective, Institutional and neo-Institutional Theory and Structuration Theory with the Consumer Behaviour Theory. The reason for this is to show the relational dynamics between the firm-brand and the individual-consumer, and between these and the direct-indirect stakeholder. The chapter is based on the reflection that the consumption system can be thought of as having two levels. The first is a micro-level, where the consumption system is characterized by the momentum of the creation and maintenance of consonant relationships between the firm-brand and the individual-consumer in order to achieve mutual systemic viability. The second is a macro-level, characterized by the concept that relationships between firm-brand and individual-consumer influence both direct and indirect stakeholders. Within these relationships, according to Stakeholder Theory, it is therefore very important to consider the reciprocal influences the indirect stakeholder has on and receives from the relationships. The results of these relationships affirm the legitimate conditions on which sustainability requirements (economic, social and environmental) are based. For these reasons the proposed conceptual framework will analyze the firm-brand three-dimensional social role when it is engaged to create and/or maintain and/or guarantee a long term enduring relationship.
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It is increasingly necessary, in studies of marketing and management as well as those relative to consumerism and consumer behaviour, to consider the influences that relational dynamics between the company and the individual provide and receive from their respective reference contexts.

To achieve this objective we will use, by analogy, the principle of isomorphism and Giddens’ Theory of Structuration. Thanks to these we can represent the differing levels of relationships between social actors, company-brand and individual-consumer, and between these and their reference contexts.

In fact, isomorphism is the phenomenon expressed by the aforementioned relational dynamics, i.e. the group of processes resulting from which individuals and social organizations, also affected by institutional rules and norms, tend to express strategies, tactics and behaviours similar to each other.

The phenomenon of isomorphism, in this present work, is depicted by the conditions (adaptive, coercive and normative) necessary for creating and maintaining relationships between the company-brand and individual-consumer, and between these and their reference contexts.

As we shall see, this trend represents the reasons behind the subjectivity of market vision and demonstrates the limits of strategic analysis of segmentation, targeting and positioning, as well as the incompleteness of the market system. These factors become an expression of the co-creation of meaning and value rather than a place in which aseptic economic transactions are carried out.

The analysis shows a clear evolution of the dynamics between company-brand and individual-consumer, both in the relationships that affect the actors at any moment and the influences these actors have on and receive from their frames of reference (Webster, 1982; Olkkonen, et al., 2000), especially if one considers that the actors’ behaviour evolves based on changes in terms of learning and social practices related to these relationships.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Structuration Theory: The Theory defines all social practices (recurring actions) are regulated by interactions, norms and rules. These practices undertaken by individuals and social organizations within a social system, make possible the establishment of relations between social players. Such relations will evolve towards the adaptation of social actors' respective activities, that will contribute to change within the reference contexts involved and will be in turn affected by them.

Sustainability: Is a concept that involves the achievement of dyadic consonance with both the consumption system and with the context in the three economic, social and environmental dimensions ( Triple Bottom Line ) as defined by Elkington (1997) . In the marketing field is an approach in which the company manager and/or practitioners, albeit oriented towards creation of relations with the consumer, also manage to obtain social consensus on behalf of the stakeholders in the context.

Consonance: The system ability to create and develop a common language/behaviour with relevant stakeholder.

Consumer Behaviour Theory: Is the scientific field that studies the individual social and psychological behaviour in relationships with brand and or firm/product.

Viable Systems Perspective: Is a scientific field that considers the firm as a system that survives by means the capability to create and maintain biunivocal relationships (consonance) with relevant stakeholder.

Institutional and Neo-Institutional Theories: These Theories based their scientific efforts analyzing the ability of an organization to achieve survival. They sustain that to survive a company must to express behavioral patterns conform to standards, rules and beliefs of the reference context. In fact all scholars belonging to the neo-institutional school argue that organizations that shape their behavior to moral rules and regulations of their reference context can be defined as legitimate .

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