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Relationship between
consumers and brands implies for a focus on how consumers think and
specifically feel about brands. According to Fetscherin and Heinrich (2014),
brands give consumers meaning to their lives. Marketers and companies are often
interested in the purchasing behaviour of consumers, since consumers purchase
products for the positive feeling that it releases. There is a continuous increase
in the interest of researching positive consumer brand relationships, however,
in the marketing literature, brand hate, and negative feelings towards brands,
have been highly neglected. Nevertheless, it is important to examine why and
how consumers develop brand hate overtime. More importantly, examining how
consumers stop loving a brand, begin hating it, and if there is any possibility
for brand forgiveness (Sampedro 2017). This report mainly discusses on those
aspects to evaluate the relationship between customers and associated brands,
as well as whether forgiveness and future behaviour are dependent to one
another, and recommendation on these lights also provided.


Personality is a key
aspect of interpersonal relationships, as some individuals with particular personality
characteristics are more motivated and able to create and maintain
relationships (Sun 2014 et. al). For example, Scott, Maura, and Bolton (2013)
conducted a longitudinal study and found that personality traits, particularly
extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, predicted various
relationship specific outcomes, such as the number of peer relationships,
conflicts, or falling in love. Similarly, Xiangping et al. (2014) showed that
individuals’ relationship satisfaction is associated with their personality
structure. Again, the authors found extraversion, agreeableness, and
conscientiousness are positively related to successful interpersonal
relationships. In contrast, a negative effect was found for neuroticism. There
has been a paradigm shift in the way consumers and brands interact. Customers
have more choices in terms of what they buy, from whom and how often, while
brands have more ways to connect and stay connected than ever before. The most
successful marketers understand this new reality and have adjusted their
communication strategies over the last few years to keep pace.

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Not unlike interpersonal
relations, people can find themselves in aversive product or brand
relationships which are similarly negative and close to the self (Ferguson et
al. 2014). An extreme version of a close negative attachment in the consumer
realm is addiction, where a relationship in which the object of addiction is at
the same time the centre of the addicts life and the force that leads to
self-less chaos and destruction (Ferguson 2014). Addiction is an extremely
close relationship in which consumers lose their own personal identities as
they deepen their relationship with the object of addiction. The addictive
relationship is very destructive and progresses despite consumers’ awareness of
the harm that it inflicts to their lives and the lives of others around them. A
similar entrapment process has been documented with credit cards (Park and
Chung 2015). As people use credit cards to fulfil self-related goals of
lifestyle building and social signalling, they sometimes accumulate
unmanageable amounts of debt. To move out of this debtor’s prison into a
trajectory of freedom from the relationship, entrapped consumers engage in
practices that establish and maintain boundaries in their credit card usage.
This less destructive and more controlled relationship successfully places
distance between the product and the self (Nguyen and Thuy 2016).


Furthermore, it became
clear that all digital social media channels have made communication faster and
changed the way consumer interact with companies (Fetscherin and Heinrich
2014). In a study by (Kim, Vogt and Knutson 2015), it is reported that modern
consumers not only look for information on the Internet, but also create or
share their own content and raise their voice about brands on different media
channels. This has already been investigated in a study in 2014 by (Matzler,
Mooradian and Bauer 2015), where he mentions that consumers are no longer only
recipients of information but are becoming more active in communication with
each other and the company. He points out that the one-to-many communication
has been replaced by a many-to-many communication, where the consumers actively
participate in the conversation online. For someone to have power, they need
relevant content and sufficient reach (Roustasekehravani et al. 2015) and with
the growth of digitalisation consumers have this power. Kim, Vogt, and Knutson
(2015) investigated this role of consumers and their power on the Internet. In
particular, they highlight that there has been a shift from supply power to
consumer power. The authors discuss that due to the Internet technology
consumers are more flexible, connected and mobile and are empowered with a
greater amount of information. They wisely note that consumer power leads
consumers to communicate with each other and to create solutions and new
meanings about brands, which affects the company and forces them to change
their decisions and future strategies. As a result, companies are often losing
control over the new interactive world and are failing in creating brand
awareness (Fetscherin and Heinrich 2014). In today’s world, consumers are able
to interact with companies in real time and on a direct level. It is wisely noted
that the power has been taken from those in marketing and public relations by
the individuals and communities that create, share, and consume blogs, tweets,
Facebook entries, movies, pictures, and so forth. Communication about brands
happens, with or without permission of the firm’s in question.


According to Nguyen and
Thuy (2016), consumers can be defined in terms of either the product they
purchase or use or in terms of the meanings products have for them.
Therefore,the meaning of brand is also an important factor of consumer decision
making. (Ferguson, Lau, and Phau 2016) postulates that people are looking for
brands whose cultural meanings match with the person they are or they aspire to
become. Hence they are looking for products that fit to their own or ideal
self-concept. indeed, the meaning that exist in brands or the consumption act
itself act as a trigger or stimulus for consumers’ purchase or consumption of
certain brands .Thus, the meaning that resides in a brand can be of a diverse
nature. Park et al.  distinguish between
three types of meanings which consumers are looking to benefit from:
functional, experiential and symbolic meaning. The functional meaning is
provided to the brand through the ability to perform the basic advertised
utilitarian tasks by a product or service. A product’s or service’s functional
value is based on product-related attributes such as performance, reliability,
durability or price and gratifies the consumer’s need to solve
consumption-related problems. Therefore, a brand must meet the basic functional
needs of consumers. However, in order to differentiate one’s product in the
market, the experiential or symbolic meaning of a brand becomes more important
. According to Kim, Vogt, and Knutson (2015), consumers do not buy consumer
products for their material utilities but consume the symbolic meaning of those
products as portrayed in their images. Brands acquire an experiential meaning
if they are linked with specific feelings or when they facilitate or perpetuate
feelings. Thereby, the brand’s ability to satisfy the consumer’s desire for
sensory pleasure and cognitive stimulation generates an emotional value which
in turn influences consumer behaviour. Brands can also have a symbolic meaning
which means that they become a medium of social interaction and communication.
Thus, the symbolic meaning attributed to a brand does not  depend on product related tangible aspects
but linked to its value in use, that is the non-product-related, intangible
value which the product has for the individual consumer. Brands become
reflective symbols of the self through their figurative character. This implies
that consumers use brands as a communication device to express who they are or
they desire to become and to exhibit their association with or distinction from
certain reference groups. The purchase, possession and consumption of brands
disclose parts of the consumer’s identity which clarifies the high importance
that people ascribe to the right choice of brands. According to Levy, each
purchase involves the assessment of the consumer if the respective product or
service fits to the individual self-concept through the symbolic meaning
embedded in a brand. In this manner, brands can be used to either express one’s
real self or to show a person’s ideal self.


The social media space
continues to evolve. Pinterest, a site launched in March 2010 that describes
itself as an online pin board to organise and share things you love, recently
emerged as one of the top 10 Websites within the Hit-wise Social Networking and
Forums category, Pinterest is now the third most popular US. social networking
site behind Facebook and Twitter, with traffic up nearly 50% in February 2012
compared to January 2012. Six-month trend numbers speak volumes: the invitation-only
site received nearly 21.5 million total visits during the week ending Jan. 28,
2012, almost 30 times the number of total visits versus just six months prior
(week ending July 30, 2013). Pinterest content has something for everyone, but
the site is dominated by images featuring home décor, crafts, fashion and food.
Not surprisingly, visitors to the site in the 12 rolling weeks ending Jan. 28,
2012, skewed female (60%) and between the ages of 25 and 44 (55%). Pinterest
and the Social Networking and Forums category both receive their highest share
of visits from California and Texas. However, the Social Networking category as
a whole over-indexes on share of visits from Northeastern states while –
Pinterest over-indexes on visits from the states in the Midwest, Northwest and
South-east. This data indicates that Pinterest visitors have a different
profile versus their counterparts visiting other social networking sites such
as Facebook and YouTube. The popularity of Pinterest is a result of the next phase
of the behaviour we’ve seen online over the last few years.
Users are increasingly more comfortable with recommendations from friends or
other users when they come through social personalisation. As communities
become less about friends and more about common interests, retail brands in
particular need to take note if they want to make more meaningful connections
with their customers.


It is a generally
accepted that consumers often buy products for reasons other than the product’s
functional performance. Instead, they base their purchase decisions on the
symbolic or social significance of the product. Although marketers generally
assume that products are used by consumers for need satisfaction, symbolic
interactionism theory suggests that products are also used for impression
management, for example, products have symbolic meanings and product
ownership/use serves as a form of symbolic communication between consumer and
observer. While the symbolic significance of a product is often considered
during the purchase decision, consumers may be more conscious of the
psychological and social value. For example, Matzler, Mooradian, and Bauer
(2015) affirm that consumers consciously and deliberately use products to ease
the transition from marriage to divorce. Work by Nguyen and Thuy (2016)
indicates a similar compensating behaviour occurs during the transition from
student to employee. In fact, it is reasonable to assume that whenever
consumers are uncertain about their life roles, they search for and use products
to relieve at least some aspects of their anxiety. For example, Scott, Martin
and Bolton (2013) suggests there has long been an implicit concept that
consumers can be defined in terms of either the products they acquire or use or
in terms of the meanings, products have for them or their attitudes toward
products. Nevertheless, other aspects of the brand are relevant, such as the
economic value at the consumer or even the distribution strategy as part of the
brand management.


It became clear that the
rules of consumption are detailed in terms of what is right and acceptable and
if one is able to – and can afford to – follow the rules; it may provide some
security, peace of mind, friendships and social acceptance. Not only do fashionable
brand clothing and accessories appear to supersede personality and personal
preference, but also there are signs that wearing the correct clothing can be
considered more important than one’s own behaviour. Although the role of
fashion brands among peer groups has been previously reported, it was
interesting to note that among young segments, self-esteem can be directly
impacted by possessing or not possessing specific brands. This was due to the
importance of peer approval but also because of the social comparison of
possessions and the personal gratification gained from simply owning something
new. In terms of self-esteem, fashion and branded clothing are a
psychologically central aspect in evaluating the self. Respondents seemed to
consider material possessions before the more traditional indicators of
self-worth, for example, academic performance. It seems that self-esteem has
indeed been commodified and as a result, consumption and possessions must be
considered when assessing the self-esteem.


Forgiveness is a
highly-researched area in the field of psychology, however it has gained little
attention in the field of business or marketing. Casidy and Shin (2015) state
that forgiveness can be achieved by a brand’s actions attempting to recover from
failure. Park and Chung (2015) also believes consumer satisfaction can be
recovered after service failures with suitable recovery strategies. Service
failure, or brand hate, can highly harm a brand-consumer relationship,
therefore it is crucial to examine the possibility of forgiveness in
brand-consumer relationships. Failure affects the consumers’ satisfaction and
can also affect their level of trust and loyalty. Brand failure can lead to
brand avoidance, reduced willingness to defend the brand, and public outrage
(Roustasekehravani and Hamid 2015). The reactions of consumers due to service
failures are strong, and therefore it is important that a company attempts to
recover them effectively (Huang and Cai 2014). However, a lack of consistency
occurs on how individuals undertake brand failures; individuals often react in
different ways. Despite the research done, the question of how to attain brand
forgiveness still stands unanswered. Like love, and hate, forgiveness is
complex, and therefore difficult to determine; forgiveness is a complex notion,
and it is difficult to determine how and why an individual chooses to forgive.
Another question is, whether forgiveness and future behaviour are dependent to
one another. However, most believe that forgiveness and future behaviour are
not related, as someone can forgive, but continue to use a competing brand, or
in the opposite case, not forgive, but continue using the brand.

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