“Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done”: Consumer Journey From Brand Romance to Brand Fandom

“Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done”: Consumer Journey From Brand Romance to Brand Fandom

Abhigyan Sarkar, Juhi Gahlot Sarkar
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1048-3.ch003
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Prior consumer research shows that an individual can emotionally love a brand. The structure of this brand love is similar to interpersonal love. In this context, interpersonal love implies love between two people or a dyadic interpersonal love. People normally urge to maintain interpersonal relationships with several other people in the society by going beyond a dyadic relationship. This chapter investigates how a brand can be the focal point of such community formation where a group of people become closely connected around a focal brand. Such a brand can create brand fandom. The research described in this chapter identifies various factors that contribute to this brand fandom. Brand fandom results in consumers experiencing flow and transcendence, where they experience a temporary sense of separation from the mundane and reach a higher-level experience.
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Brand loyalty is acknowledged as a construct of major importance in the marketing literature since many years, and brand affect is a key predictor of brand loyalty (Chaudhuri & Holbrook, 2001). Brand affect represents individual’s emotional connection towards brand. A realistic analysis of contemporary purchase behavior of consumer, however, divulges that consumer these days largely displays multi-brand or polygamous brand loyalty, where consumer allocates varying proportions of his/her total resource to multiple competing brands in a product category (Dawes, 2009). This multi-brand loyalty is more calculative by nature rather than being purely emotional. This is a state when the manifest loyalty is created more by passive situational factors (Oliver, 1999) rather than the strongly held emotional preferences (Day & Montgomery, 1999). Oliver (1999) maintains that various brand switching incentives hinder the conversion of affective brand loyalty into strong conative brand loyalty. From candies to cars, the traditional “till death do us apart” monogamy with a brand is rare in today’s marketplace. This behavior stems from the fact that several brands may satisfy a customer at any given point of time due to several attributes (Sarkar, Sarkar, & Ponnam, 2015), but a percentage of satisfied customers actually end up emotionally loving a brand (Carroll and Ahuvia, 2006). Thus, mere satisfaction does not ascertain brand loyalty (Reichheld, 2001).

Contrastingly, some previous studies do reveal that at times, consumers do display intense monogamous behavioral loyalty to some brands like Apple Newton (Muniz & Schau, 2005) and Harley Davidson (Schembri, 2009). Muniz and Schau (2005) illustrate how Apple Newton users portrayed intense behavioral loyalty to the brand. Apple Newton fans stood by the brand in spite of Apple abandoning the brand; they never lost faith in the brand even in face of persecution and mockery by non-users, and advent of advanced digital personal assistants compared to the obsolete platform of Apple Newton. Muniaz and Schau (2005) state, “This research explores the grassroots brand community centered on the Apple Newton, Supernatural, religious, and magical motifs are common in the narratives of the Newton community, including the miraculous performance and survival of the brand, as well as the return of the brand creator. These motifs invest the brand with powerful meanings and perpetuate the brand and the community, its values, and its beliefs” (p. 737). Schembri (2009) demonstrates how Harley Davidson fans get deeply drawn in the brand, such that their lifestyle and existence orbits around Harley consumption. Schouten and McAlexander (1995) provide anecdotal evidence of how though Harley fans were treated as outcastes by rest of the society; Harley Owners Group (HOGs) form a uniquely distinct sub-culture of consumption, with its own set of goals, ethos, codes, values and activities that powerfully connect the consumers to Harley. These research works (Muniz & Schau, 2005; Schembri, 2009) posit that the aforementioned brands possess strongly bound communities of followers, who attribute paramount importance to the brand in their lives. An elucidation to such zealot behavior could be found in ‘brand fandom’, a closely-knit community of brand fans, who engage in a distinct consumption subculture (Schouten & McAlexander, 2009). On the other hand, Hemetsberger et al. (2009) show that an individual’s devotional love towards a brand can be faded over time. This implies that an individual’s emotional connection towards a brand is stronger in brand community context compared to dyadic brand love context. The probable reason behind this may be that in a brand community the members share the brand ethos and this sharing stimulates the emotional bonding (Schouten and McAlexander, 1995). The present research investigates various attitudinal and behavioral factors that shape consumer’s journey from dyadic brand love stage to becoming a part of brand community.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Romantic Multi-brand Love: Individual’s liking towards many brands in a product category coupled with switching tendency.

Brand Religiosity: It is an important characteristic of brand fandom, and is defined as perceiving a brand as equivalent to religion in terms of expressing an individual’s self-worth.

Filial Piety: important Confucian principle for living a human life ethically through respecting the elders within a family, and previous generations. In consumption domain, this would translate into respecting the consumption culture, tastes and preferences demonstrated by one’s elders.

Face Saving: Establishing and maintaining reputation in society through conspicuous consumption’ of prestige brands, which reflect a superior social status.

Brand Fandom: A closely knit community of brand fans, who collectively engage in a consumption sub-culture.

Transcendental Brand Experience: Extra ordinary consumer experience with regard to a brand, often mystic and liminal in nature.

Flow Consumption Experience: A mental state in which consumer is completely absorbed in the activity of consumption.

Brand Ethnocentrism: Preference for brands that adhere to standards and customs of consumer’s own culture and heritage.

Single Brand Devotion: Individual’s strong conative bonding towards a single brand in a product (good and/or service) category.

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