The consumer-brand identification: Does it lead to a stronger relationship and loyalty?
It is well accepted that through brands consumers express themselves.When using a brand, the qualities and image, associated with it, attach to the consumer, augmenting his or hers perception of themselves. Using a brand expresses who you are or who you want to be.
Consumers often prefer brands that project images similar to their own self-image. Additionally, individuals have the tendency to enhance their image in the perception of other people. Products and brands are used as instruments of symbolic communication in social interactions to project the desired image.
In theory, consumer-brand identification is an underlying factor of a strong relationship with the brand and loyalty to that brand. In our research we wanted to confirm whether the consumer-brand identification plays a role in building the relationship with the brand, in establishing loyalty and willingness to pay a higher price.
Also, we wanted to understand whether the consumer-brand identification is an equally important driver across different product categories.
The research covered 10 industries/categories: Airlines, Automotive, Cosmetics, Financial Services, Food, Retailers, Soft Drinks, Alcoholic beverages, Technologies and Telecommunications
We studied different levels at which brands may connect with consumers:
- Consumer-Brand Identification:Self-Identity, Group Identity, Common values, Aspirations
- Experiences and emotions
- Utility: Product quality, Instrumental to achieve objectives
Our test model of Consumer-Brand Identification includes four expressions – the first is self-identity, when the consumer finds similarities between himself or herself and the image of the brand. We also tested group identification – whether using the brand creates the feeling that you belong to a particular group. The values the consumer shares with the brand is another variant we tested. And the fourth expression of Consumer–Brand Identification is on aspirational level – whether the brand expresses the lifestyle one aspires to.
Not all four were equally important in determining the relationship with the brand: self-identity, followed by common values with the brand played a role in more categories. Also, there were differences across categories: self-identity determines the relationship with the brand in telecommunications and retail, food and soft drinks, while group identity has shown importance in telecommunication and alcoholic beverages only. The common values of the brand and the consumer are a driver for consumer-brand relationship in automotive, financial services and alcoholic beverages. And finally, the aspirational level of the consumer-brand identification works in cosmetics and retail.
Overall the consumer-brand identification is a stronger driver than experience and utilitarian factors (quality mostly) for building a relationship with the brand for airlines, alcoholic beverages, automotive and retail.
When it comes to paying a higher price, group identity and aspirations are active across more categories. Group identity determines the willingness to pay a higher price for airlines, financial services, retail and soft drinks. The aspiration towards a certain lifestyle determines the willingness to pay more in automotive, food, cosmetics and technology. Common values with the brand are important in financial services, telecommunications and alcoholic beverages. Self-identity is a driver in only cosmetics and telecommunications.
It is very interesting to see that Consumer-Brand Identification determines overall the willingness to pay a higher price more than experience & emotions and utilitarian factors in all of the tested industries except fmcg.
Loyalty (measured as purchase intention) seems less influenced by the Consumer-Brand Identification. Utilitarian factors and quality in particular are a stronger driver for building loyalty among the tested factors.