Relationship betweenconsumers and brands implies for a focus on how consumers think andspecifically feel about brands. According to Fetscherin and Heinrich (2014),brands give consumers meaning to their lives.
Marketers and companies are ofteninterested in the purchasing behaviour of consumers, since consumers purchaseproducts for the positive feeling that it releases. There is a continuous increasein 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 andhow consumers develop brand hate overtime. More importantly, examining howconsumers stop loving a brand, begin hating it, and if there is any possibilityfor brand forgiveness (Sampedro 2017). This report mainly discusses on thoseaspects to evaluate the relationship between customers and associated brands,as well as whether forgiveness and future behaviour are dependent to oneanother, and recommendation on these lights also provided. Personality is a keyaspect of interpersonal relationships, as some individuals with particular personalitycharacteristics are more motivated and able to create and maintainrelationships (Sun 2014 et.
al). For example, Scott, Maura, and Bolton (2013)conducted a longitudinal study and found that personality traits, particularlyextraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, predicted variousrelationship specific outcomes, such as the number of peer relationships,conflicts, or falling in love. Similarly, Xiangping et al. (2014) showed thatindividuals’ relationship satisfaction is associated with their personalitystructure. Again, the authors found extraversion, agreeableness, andconscientiousness are positively related to successful interpersonalrelationships. In contrast, a negative effect was found for neuroticism.
Therehas been a paradigm shift in the way consumers and brands interact. Customershave more choices in terms of what they buy, from whom and how often, whilebrands have more ways to connect and stay connected than ever before. The mostsuccessful marketers understand this new reality and have adjusted theircommunication strategies over the last few years to keep pace. Not unlike interpersonalrelations, people can find themselves in aversive product or brandrelationships which are similarly negative and close to the self (Ferguson etal.
2014). An extreme version of a close negative attachment in the consumerrealm is addiction, where a relationship in which the object of addiction is atthe same time the centre of the addicts life and the force that leads toself-less chaos and destruction (Ferguson 2014). Addiction is an extremelyclose relationship in which consumers lose their own personal identities asthey deepen their relationship with the object of addiction. The addictiverelationship is very destructive and progresses despite consumers’ awareness ofthe harm that it inflicts to their lives and the lives of others around them. Asimilar entrapment process has been documented with credit cards (Park andChung 2015).
As people use credit cards to fulfil self-related goals oflifestyle building and social signalling, they sometimes accumulateunmanageable amounts of debt. To move out of this debtor’s prison into atrajectory of freedom from the relationship, entrapped consumers engage inpractices that establish and maintain boundaries in their credit card usage.This less destructive and more controlled relationship successfully placesdistance between the product and the self (Nguyen and Thuy 2016). Furthermore, it becameclear that all digital social media channels have made communication faster andchanged the way consumer interact with companies (Fetscherin and Heinrich2014). In a study by (Kim, Vogt and Knutson 2015), it is reported that modernconsumers not only look for information on the Internet, but also create orshare their own content and raise their voice about brands on different mediachannels. This has already been investigated in a study in 2014 by (Matzler,Mooradian and Bauer 2015), where he mentions that consumers are no longer onlyrecipients of information but are becoming more active in communication witheach other and the company.
He points out that the one-to-many communicationhas been replaced by a many-to-many communication, where the consumers activelyparticipate in the conversation online. For someone to have power, they needrelevant content and sufficient reach (Roustasekehravani et al. 2015) and withthe growth of digitalisation consumers have this power. Kim, Vogt, and Knutson(2015) investigated this role of consumers and their power on the Internet. Inparticular, they highlight that there has been a shift from supply power toconsumer power.
The authors discuss that due to the Internet technologyconsumers are more flexible, connected and mobile and are empowered with agreater amount of information. They wisely note that consumer power leadsconsumers to communicate with each other and to create solutions and newmeanings about brands, which affects the company and forces them to changetheir decisions and future strategies. As a result, companies are often losingcontrol over the new interactive world and are failing in creating brandawareness (Fetscherin and Heinrich 2014). In today’s world, consumers are ableto interact with companies in real time and on a direct level. It is wisely notedthat the power has been taken from those in marketing and public relations bythe individuals and communities that create, share, and consume blogs, tweets,Facebook entries, movies, pictures, and so forth. Communication about brandshappens, with or without permission of the firm’s in question.
According to Nguyen andThuy (2016), consumers can be defined in terms of either the product theypurchase or use or in terms of the meanings products have for them.Therefore,the meaning of brand is also an important factor of consumer decisionmaking. (Ferguson, Lau, and Phau 2016) postulates that people are looking forbrands whose cultural meanings match with the person they are or they aspire tobecome. Hence they are looking for products that fit to their own or idealself-concept. indeed, the meaning that exist in brands or the consumption actitself act as a trigger or stimulus for consumers’ purchase or consumption ofcertain brands .Thus, the meaning that resides in a brand can be of a diversenature. Park et al. distinguish betweenthree types of meanings which consumers are looking to benefit from:functional, experiential and symbolic meaning.
The functional meaning isprovided to the brand through the ability to perform the basic advertisedutilitarian tasks by a product or service. A product’s or service’s functionalvalue is based on product-related attributes such as performance, reliability,durability or price and gratifies the consumer’s need to solveconsumption-related problems. Therefore, a brand must meet the basic functionalneeds of consumers. However, in order to differentiate one’s product in themarket, the experiential or symbolic meaning of a brand becomes more important.
According to Kim, Vogt, and Knutson (2015), consumers do not buy consumerproducts for their material utilities but consume the symbolic meaning of thoseproducts as portrayed in their images. Brands acquire an experiential meaningif they are linked with specific feelings or when they facilitate or perpetuatefeelings. Thereby, the brand’s ability to satisfy the consumer’s desire forsensory pleasure and cognitive stimulation generates an emotional value whichin turn influences consumer behaviour. Brands can also have a symbolic meaningwhich 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 aspectsbut linked to its value in use, that is the non-product-related, intangiblevalue which the product has for the individual consumer.
Brands becomereflective symbols of the self through their figurative character. This impliesthat consumers use brands as a communication device to express who they are orthey desire to become and to exhibit their association with or distinction fromcertain reference groups. The purchase, possession and consumption of brandsdisclose parts of the consumer’s identity which clarifies the high importancethat people ascribe to the right choice of brands.
According to Levy, eachpurchase involves the assessment of the consumer if the respective product orservice fits to the individual self-concept through the symbolic meaningembedded in a brand. In this manner, brands can be used to either express one’sreal self or to show a person’s ideal self. The social media spacecontinues to evolve. Pinterest, a site launched in March 2010 that describesitself as an online pin board to organise and share things you love, recentlyemerged as one of the top 10 Websites within the Hit-wise Social Networking andForums category, Pinterest is now the third most popular US. social networkingsite behind Facebook and Twitter, with traffic up nearly 50% in February 2012compared to January 2012. Six-month trend numbers speak volumes: the invitation-onlysite 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, butthe 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%). Pinterestand the Social Networking and Forums category both receive their highest shareof visits from California and Texas. However, the Social Networking category asa whole over-indexes on share of visits from Northeastern states while -Pinterest over-indexes on visits from the states in the Midwest, Northwest andSouth-east. This data indicates that Pinterest visitors have a differentprofile versus their counterparts visiting other social networking sites suchas Facebook and YouTube. The popularity of Pinterest is a result of the next phaseof the behaviour we’ve seen online over the last few years.
Users are increasingly more comfortable with recommendations from friends orother users when they come through social personalisation. As communitiesbecome less about friends and more about common interests, retail brands inparticular need to take note if they want to make more meaningful connectionswith their customers. It is a generallyaccepted that consumers often buy products for reasons other than the product’sfunctional performance.
Instead, they base their purchase decisions on thesymbolic or social significance of the product. Although marketers generallyassume that products are used by consumers for need satisfaction, symbolicinteractionism theory suggests that products are also used for impressionmanagement, for example, products have symbolic meanings and productownership/use serves as a form of symbolic communication between consumer andobserver. While the symbolic significance of a product is often consideredduring the purchase decision, consumers may be more conscious of thepsychological and social value. For example, Matzler, Mooradian, and Bauer(2015) affirm that consumers consciously and deliberately use products to easethe transition from marriage to divorce. Work by Nguyen and Thuy (2016)indicates a similar compensating behaviour occurs during the transition fromstudent to employee. In fact, it is reasonable to assume that wheneverconsumers are uncertain about their life roles, they search for and use productsto relieve at least some aspects of their anxiety. For example, Scott, Martinand Bolton (2013) suggests there has long been an implicit concept thatconsumers can be defined in terms of either the products they acquire or use orin terms of the meanings, products have for them or their attitudes towardproducts.
Nevertheless, other aspects of the brand are relevant, such as theeconomic value at the consumer or even the distribution strategy as part of thebrand management. It became clear that therules of consumption are detailed in terms of what is right and acceptable andif one is able to – and can afford to – follow the rules; it may provide somesecurity, peace of mind, friendships and social acceptance. Not only do fashionablebrand clothing and accessories appear to supersede personality and personalpreference, but also there are signs that wearing the correct clothing can beconsidered more important than one’s own behaviour.
Although the role offashion brands among peer groups has been previously reported, it wasinteresting to note that among young segments, self-esteem can be directlyimpacted by possessing or not possessing specific brands. This was due to theimportance of peer approval but also because of the social comparison ofpossessions and the personal gratification gained from simply owning somethingnew. In terms of self-esteem, fashion and branded clothing are apsychologically central aspect in evaluating the self. Respondents seemed toconsider material possessions before the more traditional indicators ofself-worth, for example, academic performance. It seems that self-esteem hasindeed been commodified and as a result, consumption and possessions must beconsidered when assessing the self-esteem. Forgiveness is ahighly-researched area in the field of psychology, however it has gained littleattention in the field of business or marketing. Casidy and Shin (2015) statethat forgiveness can be achieved by a brand’s actions attempting to recover fromfailure.
Park and Chung (2015) also believes consumer satisfaction can berecovered after service failures with suitable recovery strategies. Servicefailure, or brand hate, can highly harm a brand-consumer relationship,therefore it is crucial to examine the possibility of forgiveness inbrand-consumer relationships. Failure affects the consumers’ satisfaction andcan also affect their level of trust and loyalty. Brand failure can lead tobrand avoidance, reduced willingness to defend the brand, and public outrage(Roustasekehravani and Hamid 2015). The reactions of consumers due to servicefailures are strong, and therefore it is important that a company attempts torecover them effectively (Huang and Cai 2014). However, a lack of consistencyoccurs on how individuals undertake brand failures; individuals often react indifferent ways. Despite the research done, the question of how to attain brandforgiveness still stands unanswered. Like love, and hate, forgiveness iscomplex, 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 toone another. However, most believe that forgiveness and future behaviour arenot related, as someone can forgive, but continue to use a competing brand, orin the opposite case, not forgive, but continue using the brand.