Consumers and Their Brands Developing Tribal Marketing Case Study

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Summary of Two Marketing Research Papers

Consumers and Their Brands: Developing Relationship Theory in Consumer Research

The article by Fournier (1998) examined the way in which a relationship may exist between consumers and brands. The author argues that the concept of relationships have been underutilized in marketing research, with a lack of new research and most ideas focusing on the concept of loyalty; a concept which does not necessarily embody the idea of a relationship between the consumer and the brand. The aim of the research is to create framework from which the presence of a relationship may be assessed.

Fournier (1998) argues that the relationship concept is viable for assessing the way consumers perceive brands. The literature looks at the way firms have sought to humanize their brands, animating or endowing them with characteristics which may include a total anthropomorphization (such as the Pillsbury Dough boy) or creating association, or developing this though transfer and association, such as the use of well-known personalities as spokes people (such as Bill Cosby for Jello) (Fournier, 1998). These may create the emotions needed in the consumer to engage with a product to develop a relationship; however, there is inevitably a lack of reciprocity. The relationship is perceived as taking place in a psychological as well as socio-cultural context. The framework utilized is therefore based on relationship theories where there are a number of stages to the development of the relationship. Different models have different numbers of stages and will describe them, but they follow a similar pattern, such as the five phase model where the relationship will progress through initiation, growth, maintenance, deterioration and dissolution (Levinger, 1983, quoted Fournier, 1998).


The methodology used a structured qualitative approach with three case…

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The findings indicated that brands were able to created deeply rooted identified that would have strong, ongoing associations with the brand. The quality of the brand relationship was found to depend on 6 associated characteristics; love/passion, self connection, commitment, interdependence, intimacy and brand partner quality (Fournier, 1998). The relationship which emerges is subsequently mediated by five factors; accommodation, tolerance and forgiveness, brand perceptions, devaluation of alternatives and attribution bases (Fournier, 1998). It is also noted that the brand relationships are best understood when considered in the broad brand environment (Fournier, 1998). Overall, the result indicates that concept of consumer relationships with brands may be leveraged highly effectively by marketers.


The research adds to marketing knowledge, it builds on loyalty theory with an alignment between loyalty and brand relationship quality. The work indicates the degree of strength and emotion that can be developed for a brand, and that if a brand is able to develop a significant relationship

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