Can you forge an emotional bond with a brand so strong that, if forced to buy a competitor’s product, you suffer separation anxiety? According to a new study from the USC Marshall School of Business, the answer is yes. In fact, that bond can be strong enough that consumers are willing to sacrifice time, money, energy and reputation to maintain their attachment to that brand.
“Brand Attachment and Brand Attitude Strength: Conceptual and Empirical Differentiation of Two Critical Brand Equity Drivers,” a study published in the November issue of the Journal of Marketing, is co-authored by USC Marshall’s C. Whan Park, Joseph A. DeBell Professor of Marketing; Deborah J. MacInnis, Vice Dean of Research and Charles L. and Ramona I. Hilliard Professor of Business Administration; and Joseph Priester, Associate Professor of Marketing; along with Andreas B. Eisingerich, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Imperial College (London) Business School; and Dawn Iacobucci, E. Bronson Ingram Professor in Marketing, Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University, indicates that brand attachment has much stronger impact on consumers than previously believed. In fact, the study suggests, brand attachment can even be strong enough to induce separation anxiety when favorite brands are replaced.
The study advances existing brand research in consumer psychology and goes beyond the existing paradigm, indicating that traditional measurements such as brand attitude strength do not adequately explain consumers’ intense loyalties to the brands they love — that they fail to explain how brands capture “consumers’ hearts and minds.” Brand attachment, the authors claim, does exist, is predicated on a brand/self-relationship and can better explain what drives consumer behavior and their loyalty and commitment to the brands.
It is brand attachment that explains consumers’ devotion to the iPod, fans’ intense reaction at celebrity deaths and the torment of teenagers who are denied their favorite brand of jeans. Through brand attachment, the USC Marshall study suggests, consumers see the brands as an extension of themselves.