Brand community has the ability to increase the loyalty of the customers who are engaged with the specific product, service or brand. From the starting of 21st century till now, brand communities have been a very famous topic for the researchers in the marketing literature. There are both positive as well as negative impacts of brand community on the buying behavior of the consumers. Positive impact includes increment of the customers’ loyalty as brand community is considered as the ‘positive path’ to the brand loyalty. Along with this, it improves ‘oppositional loyalty’ towards the brand of competitors, influence the behaviors of the customers creates value and impacts on the purchase intension of the customers. On the other hand, there are some negative impact also i.e. Feeling pressure due to the rival of brands and the users, inter-group stereotyping and demeaning rival brand communities etc (Sahay & Sharma, 2010). The concept of brand community provides a better understanding of relationship between specific brand and the customers. This report describes the review of most important and relevant definitions of the brand communities. Further, the characteristics of the consumer communities are described in the report. Along with this, the way of brand community which impacts the consumers’ purchasing behavior towards the particular brand is described. At last, report provides some implications for brand management for the future research (Grzeskowiak & Sirgy, 2007).
Brand communities are considered as the instrument which contributes towards ‘strengthening consumer-brand relationships’. According to Muniz and O’Guinn (2001), brand community is the specialized and non-geographically bound community which is based on the set of social relationships among the admirers of the particular brand. It is clear that they considered the community to be specialized as it creates the branded products and services. But, the discussion of brand community is not limited to geographically and it means that customers are not compelled to live in the same physical area (Gentile, Spiller & Noci, 2007). The concept of brand community is based on the consumers who have developed the attachment towards a specific brand. Another point of view related to brand community has given by Bagozzi and Dholakia (2006). According to them, brand community is basically a group of consumers who share interest for the brand and well-developed social entity. In this, members are engaged jointly in a group to complete the common goals and commitment. In the marketing literature, brand communities are described on the basis of ‘culture of consumption’ (Mathwick, Malhotra & Rigdon, 2001).. Consumers and their community are focused for the particular brand but they can move towards another brand due to strong competition in the market. Recently it was verified that the brand community can be formed around the dominating brand such as Coca-cola and Red Bull.
Further, the key concept of operations of brand community is engagement. The engagement of the customers towards specific brands has various reasons. The engagement of the customers depends upon multidimensional set of reasons. According to Hollebeek (2011), customers brand engagement is the level of motivational, brand related and context depended state of mind of consumers having the specific level such as behavioral, cognitive and emotional activity in the brand interaction. So, the consumers’ engagement towards the brand community depends on the different level of intensity (Fischer, 2011).
Hennig-Thurau argued that there are eight factors by which consumers can be motivated to engage within the brand communities and among those factors ‘social benefits’ are the most important factor. Those factors are expelling negative feelings, self-enhancement, advice seeking, and concern for other consumers, economic benefits, helping the company and platform assistance. Consumers are inspired to join any brand community due to specific benefits and advantages. The consumer engagement towards the specific brand provides them the rise to experience and interact with the members of the community. The deeper level of customers’ engagement creates, builds and improves the relationship of consumers with the community.
According to Richardson, O’Sullivon and Collins (2011), one of the important features of the brand community is that the formation of brand community happens sometimes with any organization or company as the brand community is usually originated by the consumers rather than the company. Based on some studies on the brand community, it is observed that the input of companies by the investment in the brand community can improve the growth of the community. The growth can be obtained by the interaction between the companies and community members and provide them the services and products based on their needs. The formation of brand communities takes various steps and some factors which are necessary for the brand community. According to the researchers, building brand community needs one or few people who are strongly involved in the specific product category and highly committed to the brand. For the formation of brand community, interaction is also important between the customers and the brand. There are many other researchers who considered that to establish and form the brand community is an ongoing entity in which some conditions must be satisfied i.e. prior membership of sub-culture and willingness to take part in the sub-culture activity etc. having the good understanding of formation of brand community enables the companies tri forecast the information about the particular brand by analyzing the opportunities to interact with the members (Hellier et al, 2003).
Every brand has the specific identity and consumers can connect and share the identity by experiencing the brand. Brands can ultimately provide the identity to the consumers. In this way, the concept of the brand goes beyond the benefits and features and develops the psychological the deeper level of psychological connection with the customers. Relationship marketing has now become the important part of the business in recent years. It focuses on maintaining the relationship with the existing customers rather than attracting new customers for the products and services. By doing this, the aim is to gain the greater proportion of the existing customers who purchase the products. The relationship marketing focuses on the interaction between the sellers and buyers and concerned for the winning the customers by maintaining the link between the customers and the services provided by the company. To build the strong brand provides various financial rewards to the company. In the various markets, brands are becoming instilled with the personalities of the customers and they are maintaining and developing relationship with the brand. A study in UK demonstrates that the strong brand loyalty is the habit, intergenerational influence, emotional security and fir with the personality of the consumers (Capece & Campisi, 2013).
Brands are the first and foremost identifiers in the market. The brand of every person is different. Basically, brands are the assurance of the performance, quality and functional benefits. The customers and individual consumers build the relationship with the brand. So, the brand has become the symbol of personality of the consumers. Brand of the specific product or service is anthropomorphic in nature, personal for the customers and becoming the essential parts of the life of the consumers. If the brand is missing in the market then consumers fell that they are missing something in their lives. Now, brand has established itself as the milestone in the individual’s life. Customers always feel connected with the brand of the particular product or service. On the basis of brand attributes or brand personality, consumers are able to develop the strong relationship with the brand (Brogi, 2013). Putting together the perspectives of the consumers and based on the evidence in the research, it is observed that in the brand ladder, customers are connected with the brand and brand relationship for the long-term are developed based on some dimensions:
Brand quality- Brand can be considered as the trustworthy and reliable partner who gives sense of being respected and presence of brand in the market.
Self-connection- This is dimension by which the brand of the particular product or service focuses in the life of consumers. The past, present and future of the brand depends upon the choice of the customers. It also includes the encouragement to face the diverse circumstances. Intimacy: It represents the strong beliefs about the good performance of the product and the service in the market. It combines the brand relationship memory and experiences by the customers for the particular product or service (Sicilia & Palazón, 2008).
Commitment: Any relationship in business is based on the commitment. The commitment in the brand depicts the long term of stability and brand relationship of company with the customers. Commitment is important to maintain the relationship in the market.
Love and passion: These are the affection based feelings of the customers for any particular brand. These feelings indicate affection and passion, warmth, feeling of uniqueness, possessiveness or the specific brand, and positive feelings towards the desired brand (Grewal, Hardesty & Iyer, 2004)
The ladder of brand towards the customer relationship can be depicted by the figure which is given blow:
Figure 1: Brand Ladder
(Source: Casaló, Flavián, Guinalíu, 2010)
The brand community of the products and services has an important role in establishing the long-term relationship with the customers. Customers have different attitudes and behaviors towards the different brands. The brand community provides a kind of passion to the customers towards the brand. By the brand community, customers are able to know about the message of a particular brand. Along with this, brand community establishes the long-term commitment for the customers in terms of quality and prices. Brand has become the important part of customers’ life so, the customer always feel self-connected and concerned about the brand. The customers and users take part in co-creation of brand value and this process includes high mutuality. The evolution and development of relationship depends upon the needs of the customers. On this basis, there are some factors in the brand community which support the long-term relationship with the customers (Casaló, Flavián, Guinalíu, 2010). Those factors are as follows:
Trust is the main factor in building long-term relationship and partnership in the business. The perceived trust of consumers can affect the customer satisfaction related to the product or service. Trust impacts the prior experience and satisfaction of the customers. So, trust can be an outcome related to the number of attributes in the purchasing behavior of the customers (Okonkwo, 2007).
This is the overall level of customers’ delight and experience with the service. Satisfaction can be considered as the consumers’ fulfillment response. Customers are dependent on the direct experience of the services. Brand loyalty is the result of customer satisfaction and the customer satisfaction provides the basis of ling-term relationship with the particular brand. Customer satisfaction has the direct impact on the brand loyalty having quality (Zaglia, 2013).
From the above discussion, it is observed that the value and importance of the brand relationship and brand community are increasing. It is most important to develop and maintain the long-term relationship with the customers as brand is becoming most important part of consumers’ life. A successful brand relationship requires the analysis about the brand such as where the brand is working in the brand ladder. Further, from the discussion in the report, it is analyzed that there is the need to define the nature of the brand to build up the long-term relationship with the customers in the market. Customers like to stay connected with the brand as they develop strong relationship with the particular brand. Consumers are inspired to join any brand community due to specific benefits and advantages. Companies are using relationship marketing as Relationship marketing focuses on maintaining the relationship with the existing customers rather than attracting new customers for the products and services. In the relationship marketing, brand community plays an important role. Customers always feel connected with the brand of the particular product or service. On the basis of brand attributes or brand personality, consumers are able to develop the strong relationship with the brand.
Brogi, S., (2013), Online brand communities: a literature review, Proceedings of WCBEM 2013?2nd World Conference on Business, Economics and Management
Capece, G., & Campisi, D., (2013), User satisfaction affecting the acceptance of an e?learning platform as a mean for the development of the human capital: Behaviour & Information Technology, 32(4), 335?343
Casaló, L. V., Flavián, C., Guinalíu, M., (2010), Relationship quality, community promotion and brand loyalty in virtual communities: Evidence from free software communities. International Journal of Information Management, 30: 357–367
Fischer, K., (2011), Brand Community Management, MarkeZin, special edition
Gentile, C. Spiller, N. & Noci, G., (2007), ‘How to sustain the customer experience: an overview of experience components that co-create value with the customer’: European Management Journal,25, pp.395–410
Grewal, D., Hardesty, D. M. & Iyer, G.R. , (2004), ‘The effects of buyer identification and purchase timing on consumers’ perceptions of trust’, price fairness, and repurchase intentions: Journal of Interactive Marketing, 18( 4)pp. 87-100
Grzeskowiak S., & Sirgy M. J., (2007), Consumer Well Being (CWB): The Effects of Self Image Congruence, Brand Community Belongingness, Brand Loyalty, and Consumption Recency: Applied Research in Quality of Life, 2(4): 289?304
Hellier, P.K., Geursen, G.M., Carr, R.A., & Richard, J.A., (2003), “Customer repurchase intention: a general structural equation model”: European Journal of Marketing, 37(11-12), pp. 1762-800
Mathwick, C. Malhotra, N., & Rigdon, E., (2001), ‘Experiential value: conceptualization, measurement, and application in the catalog and Internet shopping environment’: Journal of Retailing,77,pp.39–56
Okonkwo, U., (2007), Luxury Fashion Branding: Trends, Tactics, Techniques, New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan
Sahay, A., & Sharma, N., (2010), “Brand Relationships and Switching Behavior for Highly Used Products Amongst Young Consumers,”: Vikalpa
Sicilia, M., & Palazón, M., (2008), Brand communities on the internet? A case study of Coca?Cola’s Spanish virtual community. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 13 (3): 255?270
Zaglia, M. E., (2013), Brand communities embedded in social networks: Journal of Business Research, 66: 216–223
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