We Have Faith in Apple: Brand Worship Among Apple Fans

We Have Faith in Apple: Brand Worship Among Apple Fans

Wei Liu (Northwest University, China) and Cheng Lu Wang (University of New Haven, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1048-3.ch005

Abstract

Research shows that some brands are like religions and have cult-like fans who perceive the brands as sacred. This chapter conceptualizes brand worship and explores its dimensions by using netnography to explore Apple's online fan communities in China from the perspective of dimensions of religiosity. The findings demonstrate that the relationship between extremely devoted fans and their faithful brand exhibits nearly the same characteristics as the relationship between a religious person and a religion. The results emerged with three dimensions of brand worship: brand faith (value identification, paranoid, and hope), brand religiosity (wonder, awe, and ecstasy) and brand devotion (gratitude and allegiance). The chapter contributes to the field of consumer-brand relationships and offers some managerial implications for building brands through a religious approach to cultivate devoted fans.
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Theoretical Foundations

Definition and Typology of Fans

The extant literature reveals that scholars have not reached an agreement on the definition of fans, which can be interpreted both in a broad sense and a narrow sense. In a broad sense, in the field of media study, fans generally refer to the audience of many forms of sports or entertainment celebrities. In a narrow and strict sense, fans refer to those people who show excessive interest and enthusiasm for an object, including people, commodities, religions, teams, ideas, brands, etc. (Smith, Fisher & Cole, 2007). The behaviour of fans is often regarded as unusual and unconventional by society, but does not violate the common social ethical norms (Thorne & Bruner, 2006).

In addition, the term has different meanings in different specific contexts: first, fans of cultural products (such as movies, science fictions, music, comics, etc.) are those who have a strong or even excessive affective sensibility towards their favourite cultural products (Fiske, 1992). They obtain pleasure, satisfaction, and a sense of achievement, and even construct their life meaning through their attachment to those cultural products (Grossberg, 1992). Second, sports fans refer to the audience who show a great deal of enthusiasm towards certain sporting events and have a strong sense of belonging to certain sports team or clubs (Jacobson, 2003). Third, fans of a brand refer to those consumers who are behaviorally and emotionally loyal to a brand and engage in activities to support the brand. In general, fans in different contexts have an excessive investment in terms of expenditure, time, and emotion compared to ordinary consumers, and they construct their personal meanings and beliefs based on the objects they love (Jindra, 1994). For instance, Hunt, Bristol and Bashaw (1999) classified sport fans in terms of the emotional and behavioral intensity into three major categories: devoted fans, fanatical fans, and dysfunctional fans. Specifically, devoted fans are those who are able to frequently attend or watch sports events overcoming geographic, financial, and time constraints, and develop a strong sense of identity, attachment, and belonging to certain events and clubs. In addition to these characteristics, fanatical fans show their enthusiasm through more symbolic behaviour, such as wearing special clothes or body paint, waving flags, and shouting. However, dysfunctional fans are pathological to some degree, and exhibit irrational, destructive, and anti-social behaviour. This typology of sports fans can also be applied to fans of brands, cultural products, and celebrities.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Brand Attachment: A consumer’s emotional attachment towards his/her beloved brand.

Sacred brand: A brand being perceived of possessing extraordinary and spiritual properties inspiring veneration that would make the brand distinct from other brands in the eyes of a group of brand devotees.

Fandom: The group of individual fans who are like-minded, sharing the similar interest, and deriving emotional support and value from the group.

Brand evangelists: Brand fans who share and spread message about the benefit of a brand and persuade more followers to be loyal fans of the brand.

Fanatic: A person who has strong and intense levels of commitment, emotional attachment, and devotion toward a specific object.

Quasi-religious characteristics: The religious aspects of brand consumption experience existed in the sacred brand.

Brand worship: A spiritual, experiential, and emotional state for fans who are extremely devoted to a cult brand and perceive it as sacred.

Brand cult: The extreme brand-focused devotion. People express their “cult-like? following to the brand.

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