Social media experts talk often about how important the relationship with your brand is. Recently there’s been a lot of buzz and loud proclamations about how social marketing is here, and it’s changing everything. How the new marketing is going to be all about engagement, and conversation, and (here’s that word again) relationship.
Turns out the results of one study at the USC School of Business indicates just how true this might be.
Brand Attachment and Brand Attitude Strength: Conceptual and Empirical Differentiation of Two Critical Brand Equity Drivers was published in the November issue of the Journal of Marketing.
In layman’s terms, the researchers were investigating how important brand attachment is. This study is important in that previous studies had only looked at “brand attitude strength”, while this study sought to explain the intense loyalties that consumers can develop to a brand or product. The authors claim that something called “brand attachment” exists (as anyone who sleeps with their iPhone already knows) and “can better explain what drives consumer behavior and their loyalty and commitment to the brands”.
The study suggests that “consumers see the brands as an extension of themselves”, and in some cases the attachment can be so intense as to cause separation anxiety if the favorite brand is replaced with an alternative.
Among the study’s key findings:
Willingness to forsake personal resources or engage in difficult behaviors to “maintain an ongoing relationship with the brand”.
Increased willingness to spend more time and money. High levels of brand attachment seem to correlate with a consumer’s willingness to pay more, or spend time “defending the brand, derogating alternatives, and devoting more time to the brand through brand communities and brand promotion through social media.
Attachment is a better predictor of consumer behavior. “Attachment represented by both brand-self-connection and prominence is a significantly better predictor than brand attitude strength of actual behaviors”.
The authors conclude that “managers have much to gain through efforts aimed at building stronger brand attachment. In addition, managers should incorporate brand attachment in brand-evaluation matrices, which would provide a more detailed picture of how current brand-management efforts relate to future sales”.
What’s the Take-Away?
All the recent hype about the future of marketing being in building relationships is not far off the mark (at least according to this one study). Whatever your product or service, the more you can build a relationship with your consumers, and allow them to develop a personal relationship with your brand, the more invested your customers will be and the more difficult it will be for your competitors to woo them away from you.