An Investigation into Consumer-Brand Relationships

Vincent, Kellie Victoria (2002). An Investigation into Consumer-Brand Relationships. PhD thesis The Open University.



An emerging perspective in marketing theoiy and practice is to consider consumers entering a range of metaphorical relationships with brands. This supersedes the concept of brand loyalty because it takes into account brand portfolios with which consumers enter relationships and does not restrict loyalty to a single brand.

This thesis will build on the limited work into metaphorical brand relationships. The role of relationship marketing in building or jeopardizing relationships will be investigated. Combining the three literature streams of branding, relationship marketing and interpersonal relationship psychology provides insight into consumer behaviour. This enables brand and relationship marketing strategies to be better matched to consumers' needs.

A central argument in the thesis states that to fully understand the relationship, both consumers and brands require investigation. A consumer-brand relationship theoretical model is proposed. The model consists of four elements; the consumer; the brand; the relationship and finally the context. The consumer and the brand elements are deconstructed further. On the brand side organisational culture and strategy are thought to contribute towards relationship marketing approaches and direct brand strategy. Brand strategy, positioning and personality determine the actions of the brand as a relationship partner. Consumer behaviour was attributed to their socialisation and lifestyle, self-concept and attachment style. Attachment style is the area of personality that determines behaviour within interpersonal relationships.

The consumer brand relationship model was investigated through five research hypotheses. Two service industries within a case study research design were used to test the hypotheses. Although the broad consumer brand relationship model was supported, attachment style was not found to influence the quality of brand level relationships. The form of relationship marketing strategy on the other hand was found to determine the quality of relationships.

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