Providing Marketing Strategies Based on Studying the Role of Passion toward Brand, Self-Expression and Self-Brand Integration in Building Brand Trust

Document Type: Original Article

Authors

1 Department of business management, Central Tehran Branch, Islamic Azad university, Tehran, Iran.

2 Department of business management, Central Tehran Branch ,Islamic Azad university, Tehran, Iran.

Abstract

In the recent years, the creation of the customer involvement with a brand has been considered as one of the strategic requirements of companies, and the creation and maintenance of emotional communication with a brand has provided a basis for deep communication between the customer, brand, and long-term profitability. The purpose of this study is to examine emotional links with brands, to provide marketing strategies based on these perceptions and to provide long-term management of markets. First, and according to the review of literature, the research model was developed and tested. The research populations were from universities, shopping centers and customers who referred to brand agencies. The random sampling and questionnaire were used. The final model that we have developed and the results from the structural equation technique indicated that brand passion affects brand self-expression, self-brand integration and brand trust. On the other hand self-expression can affect brand trust and a brand self-brand integration. It also showed that self-brand integration has a significant relationship with brand trust. Marketing managers in order to properly and strategically manage a market and design marketing strategies need to appropriately consider the emotional variables and use them.

Keywords


1.Introduction

     Today brands are an integral part of marketing strategies (Grace & O’Cass, 2002) and in the growing competitive environment, a brand is considered to be the most valuable, critical, and strategic asset of a company. Therefore it is one of the most important tools can be used to control the customer's sensitivity to the price. Customers pay more for their favorite brand, because through the use of that brand they perceive more value in comparison with other competitors (Kabadayi & Alan, 2012; Helmig, Huber & Leeflang, 2007). As a result, all efforts of managers should be focused on building strong brands and creating emotional links between customers and in this way brands are considered to be one of the main strategies. Studies indicate that strong emotional relationships between the customer and brand influence the customer activities such as shopping, brand appreciation, brand defense, and even criticism and presenting destructive expressions on rival brands(Muniz & Hamer,2001; Park, Eisingerich & Park, 2013;Schmitt,2013). Creating such customer involvements with one brand has been considered as one of the strategic requirements of companies to build a sustainable competitive edge and predict future performance (Sarkar & Sreejesh, 2014).  considering strategies such as creating brand passion, customer-brand integrity, or generally building emotional links create a brand commitment, better management of the marketing mix, turning the customer into a tough defender of the brand, creating conative and attitude loyalty in the worst case, and creating practical loyalty at the best case (Sarkar, 2011; Hajibabaei, Esmailpour & Fallahshams, 2017; Carroll & Ahuvia,2006; Ching Chen & Quester, 2015; Albert & Merunka, 2013; Orth, Limon & Rose,2010; Swaminathan, Stilley & Ahluwalia,2009).

The conceptual model of the research would first be developed through theoretical framework and literature review. Then, the research method and model test will be discussed. The purpose of this study is to explore emotional links with brands, provide marketing strategies based on these perceptions and answer the question of how would brand passion, integrity, and self-expression affect brand trust? And how does it interact with passion, integrity and self-expression?

 

2. Literature review and development of hypotheses

     The results of the research show that the creation of emotional connections and passion is not exclusive to human beings and it can be formed between human beings and immortal objects (Ahuvia, Batra, & Bagozzi, 2009; Heinrich, Albrecht & Bauer, 2012; Delgado, Palazóna & Pelaez, 2017). Studies have also shown that brand passion is associated with self-expression, self-brand integration, and brand trust (Bergkvist & Bech-Larsen, 2010; Bengtsson, 2003).            

Brand empowerment makes self-expression possible for customers who use brands and helps them reflect their personality aspects and social relationships (Delgado, Palazóna & Pelaez, 2017). Then, the literature review of each variable, as well as the relationship between variables with each other is provided based on previous studies, hypotheses are developed.

 

2.1. Brand trust, brand self-expression and self-brand integration

 

     Brand trust is a very important factor in the success of the company strategies and the key determinant in the relationships between the company and the business community which encourage them to invest and create long-term relationships with the company (Sung & Kim, 2010). Brand trust is the company's anticipated capacity to meet customers' expectations (Aurier & N’Goala, 2010). The desire to rely on a brand is based on the belief that the brand resists uncertainties and risks (Becerra & Korgaonkar, 2011; Becerra & Badrinarayanan, 2013).

     Brand trust reflects the customer belief in the brand stability, consistency, competence (Delgado & Munuera,2005), honesty, responsibility (Delassus & Descotes,2013; Coulter & Coulter, 2002;), and brand support (Ferell, 2004), loyalty to the promises (Albert & Merunka, 2013), meeting customer expectation (Chinomona, 2016), and brand ability to perform promised tasks (Sung & Kim,2010; Chaudhuri, 2002). Brand trust includes both cognitive and emotional factors (Becerra & Badrinrayanan, 2013).

     The cognitive elements of brand trust include: reliability, stability, competence, and predictability of the performance of all products that come under this brand (Becerra & Badrinrayanan, 2013; Chaudhuri & Holbrook, 2001; Becerra & Korgaonkar, 2011). But, brand trust is beyond expectations of a product performances or characteristics, and includes emotional elements. That the brand takes the customer's interests into consideration through the factors like benevolence, brand honesty, and customer beliefs can fortify the basis of customer trust in the brand.  Moreover, the sense of security in the relationships between the brand and customer derive from a sense of trust in the brand. This sense of security is perceived by the trust and responsibility of the brand in safeguarding the customer's interests and welfare (Huang, 2017). In addition, trust in a brand is associated with the customer references to the brand, purchase and purchase intention (Becerra & Badrinrayanan, 2013).

     Studies show that brands which can improve the customer self-concept have the potential to increase the customer trust in the brand (Ruane & Wallace, 2015). Other studies also have indicated that customers involving themselves in purchasing behavior, have built their self-concept, and have strengthened it (Escalas & Bettman, 2005). Brands allow customers to express their identity through the creation of significant associations beyond the product's intrinsic characteristics and, accordingly, customers purchase brands not only for functional reasons but their symbolic meanings. Accordingly brands through the promotion and development of customers' self-concept add meanings and structures to their lives. Then these brands can be used as a tool for the customer self-expression (Escalas & Bettman, 2005).

     Brand self-expression is defined as the degree that a brand elevates perceived person's social identity, and / or reflects one's inside (Sarkar & Sreejesh, 2014; Carroll & Ahuvia, 2006). Brand self-expression refers to the suitability between the brand and personality of a person. It is related to the customer's self-concept. Studies show that brand self-expression is an important tool to create brand trust , self-brand integration (Ruane & Wallace, 2015), and an important factor in creating disparity of a person from others (Schembri, Merrilees & Kristiansen,2010).

 

     Thus, in this research, we will study the effect of brand self-expression on brand trust as one of the emotional relationships in connection with a brand. Accordingly, we have developed the following hypothesis:

 

H1: Self-expressive brand has significant impact on brand trust.

 

     As it is stated above, self-brand integration is associated with brand self-expression (Ruane & Wallace, 2015).

Self-brand integration is a psychological relationship that a customer makes with a brand. This relationship is based on stable emotional and irreversible links. when these links become stronger, the customer trust and then loyalty will also increase (Delassus & Descotes,2013) . On the basis of these links, the customer decides whether to involve in long-term and loyal relationships or not? When a brand has ability to be considered as a source or symbol to transfer meanings from a customer, it can be considered as a mirror to reflect the identity of a person. This creates close relationships between the brand and customer (Belk, 1988; Reimann & Aron,2009).

Accordingly, brand integrity occurs when a brand is merged with its current identity as well as with its ideal identity (Batra, Ahuvia & Bagozzi, 2012). Self-brand integration includes given components of desired self-identity, current self-identity, life meaning, and attitude strength. When a person is integrated with a brand, the brand delivers a proper and deep definition of the person and introduces him as someone that he wants to appear. More often, he thinks about the brand and how he sees himself is considered as an important part of.

 

 

Considering the above mentioned point, this study attempts to examine the effect of brand self-expression on self-brand integration, and the following hypothesis is stated:

H2: Self-expression has significant impact on self-brand integration.

 

 

     Other research results also show that self-brand integration can lead to brand trust (Delassus & Descotes, 2013). Accordingly, the hypothesis H3 is stated as:

H3:Self-brand integration has significant impact on brand trust.

 

2.2. Brand passion,self-expression, self- integration and brand trust

     Sternberg believed that love includes passion, intimacy and commitment (Steinberg, 1986). But subsequent researches showed that the origin of our tendency for love is due to our deep need for value and finding the things we can take care of, the feeling of excitement or need of things we will inspired by being with them. Therefore passion is not limited to the human being (Whang et al.,2004), and if a brand can simultaneously satisfy the emotional and functional needs, it can create special emotions and passions for the consumer (Broadbent, 2012). According to this finding, Shimp and Madden established emotional relationships between objects and humans (Shimp & Madden, 1988).

     Passion reflects intentions and feelings of a positive arousal toward a brand, in an other word, brand passion means a sever feelings of need and use of a brand (Brown & Alnawas, 2016). The research suggests that brand passions and deep feelings lead to trust (Roy, Eshghi & Sarkar, 2013), long-term relationships (Lastovicka & Sirianni,2011; Brown & Alnawas,2016). It finally leads to self-brand integration (Bagozzi, Batra & Ahuvia, 2016), positive evaluations, declarations of love (Carroll & Ahuvia,2006) and associates with brand self-expression (Sarkar & Sreejesh, 2014).

 

 

     Regarding to the above mentioned points, this study attempts to examine the effect of brand passion on self-brand integration, self-expression, and finally brand trust. So the following hypotheses are stated:

H4: brand passion has a significant impact on self-expressive brand.

H5: brand passion has a significant impact on self-brand integration.

H6: brand passion has a significant impact on brand trust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig.1: The relation among the main research constructs

 

 

 

 

 

 


3. Research methodology

 

3.1. Research type

     The present study seeks to add knowledge, to make much more understanding in the field of ​​emotional links with the brand and to extend the boundaries of existing fundamental knowledge. Since it focuses on the exact description of the variables belong to the problem model, it is considered in the field of descriptive research.

 

3.2. Data collection

     First, the literature was reviewed. According to these studies, the concepts and relationships between them were identified and the research hypotheses were formed. Then, the research model was stated.

    Like most studies on emotional links with brand, the research populations were universities, shopping centers, and brand communities. The criteria for selecting individuals in these communities was also consistent brand use without any brand changes over a long period of time (considering the fact that the customer had ability to change the brand) and / or the customer's emotional statements about the brand. In some studies, these conditions have not also been included, and only access has been the criterion of sample selection (Unala & Aydn, 2013; Ching Chen & Quester, 2015; Yao, Chen & Xu, 2015; Ranfagni & Guercini, 2014). Therefore, in this study, universities participants, shopping centers and the customers who refer to the brand agencies were considered. Sampling method in this phase was random sampling. The sample size was n=400.To measure brand passion and self-brand integration, Batra et al. questionnaire was used. Sarkar and Sreejesh self-expressive brand questionnaire was used to measure self-expressive brand. Brand trust was measured through Ching Chen & Quester questionnaire and Hegner & Jevons questionnaire. Additionally, brands of Sony, Adidas, Apple, Gucci, Tommy Halfier, were the reviewed ones.

 

 4. Data analysis

 After data collection, SPSS software was used to describe the data. In order to analyze the data and test the hypotheses of the research, inferential statistics, structural equation modeling and PLS software have been used. According to the findings, male participants constitute 48.2 percent of the sample and the rest of them were 51.8 percent of women. Among all the participants 17.5 percent did not have high school degree, 38.7 were undergraduates, 21.9 percent were bachelors and 16.1 percent were with master degree. The smallest share belonged to respondents with PhD degree which stands at 5.8 percent. 5 numbers of them (3.6%) were below 18 years, 57 participants (41.6%) were 24-18 years, 47 numbers (34.3%) were 25-31 years, and 27 of them (19.7%) were 39-45. There was one (0.7) respondent who was 46-52 years old.

 

5. Research Model Verification

The research model was verified at three stages: measuring model, structural model, and holistic evaluation.

 

5. 1. Measuring model verification

The obtained results concerning the tool’s validity and reliability have been presented in the following tables(see Table 1 & Table 2).

 Considering table 1, Cronbach’s alpha and composite reliability values were greater than 0.7 for all variables that testifies proper internal reliability for measuring model. Also, Average Variance Extracted (AVE) was above 0.5 for all variables which has revealed high correlation between each construct and its relative indexes. Higher values for correlation correspond with more desired model.

Table 2 illustrates the results of discriminant validity, obtained by the use of Fornell and Larcker’s approach. It is clear in the table, that values in the main diagonal are greater than those below. This indicates desirable discriminant validity for our model (Fornell & Larcker, 1981).

 

5. 2.  Verification of Structural model

     In this part, we initially examined R2 values. These values indicate impacts that an extrinsic variable has on an intrinsic one. Next, Q2 measure reflecting model’s ability in prediction is discussed (Davari & Rezazadeh, 2016). Finally Z coefficients and t-values have been estimated and based on the obtained data, we evaluated the credibility of our hypothesis.

 

 

R2 criterion

     R2 values correspond with intrinsic constructs of a model. Greater R2 values indicate higher fitness levels for the model. Chin has proposed 0.19, 0.33 and 0.67 as indicating values of low, medium, and high R2 levels, respectively (Davari and rezazadeh, 2016). Thus, the results shown in the table below prove significant fitness levels for the proposed model (see Table 3).

 

Q2 criterion

     The Q2 measure determines model’s ability in model prediction. Considerable ability of prediction have been proven in the model Values greater than 0.35 (Davari & Rezazadeh, 2016).  it can be seen in the obtained results, that values are greater than 0.35. This indicates the model’s desirable ability in prediction. (see Table 4).

 

 

 

 

Tab.1: validity and reliability results of research model variables

Cronbach's alpha

(CA>0.7)

Composite Reliability (CR>0.7)

convergent validity (AVE>0.5)

Constructs

0.813

0.788

0.852

Brand trust

0.758

0.764

0.750

Self-expressive brand

0.987

0.989

0.897

brand passion

0.970

0.974

0.759

Self-brand integration

 

Tab.2: discriminant validity results

Self-brand integration

brand passion

Self-expressive brand

Brand trust

Constructs

 

 

 

0.968

Brand trust

 

 

0.907

0.905

Self-expressive brand

 

0.972

0.901

0.878

brand passion

0.981

0.807

0.808

0.818

Self-brand integration

 

Tab.3: R2 values for diagram model of the study

 

Constructs

R Square

Self-brand integration

0.860

Self-expressive brand

0.703

Brand trust

0.880

 

Tab.4: Extracted Q2 values for the proposed model

 

Construct Cross validated Redundancy

 

SSO

SSE

Q² (=1-SSE/SSO)

Constructs

541.000

447.111

0.824

Self-brand integration

811.000

662.271

0.815

Brand Passion

1,112.000

860.010

0.772

Self-expressive brand

4,877.000

1,877.312

0.683

Brand trust


 

 

 

 

 

Hypothesis verification based on Z coefficients or t-values

     Z coefficients or t-values are utilized to understand how fit a structural model stands? T-values are one of the criteria that determine the construct relations in a model (in the structural part). One of research hypothesis is approved by the verification of constructs relations and greater significance levels of 95%, 99% and %99.9 in comparison with t-values of 1.96, 2.27, and 2.58, respectively (Davari & Rezazadeh, 2016) (see Table 5).According to the research data and the calculated statistics, all the research hypotheses have been confirmed, given that t-value is greater than 1.96. In addition, based on the standard coefficients, the following results have been obtained:

-          Self-expressive brand variable explains 0.536 variations in brand trust (H1).

-          Self-expressive brand variable explains 0.926 variations in self-brand integration (H2).

-          Self-brand integration variable explains 0.611 variations in brand trust (H3).

-          Brand passion variable explains 0.956 variations in self-expressive brand (H4).

-          Brand passion variable explains 0.779 variations in self-brand integration (H5).

-          Brand passion variable explains 0.22 variations in brand trust (H6).

 

5. 3.  General fitness (the whole model) and the GOF criterion

     GOF is a criterion corresponding with models of structural equations as a whole. In another word, scientists carry on the general fitness evaluation through following the measurement fitness and structural part evaluation of the model. GOF criterion was developed by Tanenhaus et al (2004). estimations have been done through:

     Where    represent common values for each construct and  equals average R2 values for intrinsic constructs of the model illustrated inside circles as outputted by PLS. Watzals et al. (2009) proposed 0.01, 0.25, and 0.36 as values indicating low, medium, and high levels of GOF, respectively (Davari & Rezazadeh, 2016). As estimated by goodness of fit calculations, general model fitness stands at 0.822, since they claim greater than 0.36 are considered as favorable values. Results are provided in the table 6.


Tab.5: Research hypothesis verification

Hypothesis

t-value

Path Coefficient

Result

H1: Self-expressive brand has significant impact on brand trust.

3.331

0.536

Support

H2: Self-expressive brand has significant impact on self-brand integration.

3.026

0.926

Support

H3: self-brand integration has significant impact on brand trust.

4.117

0.611

Support

H4: brand Passion has significant impact on self-expressive brand.

2.824

0.956

Support

H5: brand Passion has significant impact on self-brand integration.

15.239

0.779

Support

H 6: brand Passion has significant impact on brand trust.

5.433

0.22

Support

 

 

 

Tab.6: Communality values

 

 

Communality

Self-brand integration

0.85

Brand Passion

0.77

Self-expressive brand

0.810

Brand trust

0.901

 

 

=

 

 

 

= =0.814

 

 

= 0.822

 

 


6.Conclusion and discussion

     Brand passion reflects the passionate feelings of the customer toward a brand. The results of this study showed that brand passion has a significant relationship with self-expression, trust and self-brand integration. Other research findings suggested that brand passion and deep feelings lead to trust, log-term relationships, brand integrity, affiliation, positive assessment, romantic statements about the brand, and etc (Roy, Eshghi & Sarkar, 2013;  Lastovicka & Sirianni,2011; Brown &  Alnawas, 2016; Bagozzi, Batra & Ahuvia, 2016; Carroll & Ahuvia,2006). In addition, if the company can raise this feeling in the customer that its brand, better than other brands, is able to satisfy customers' needs and demands, it can create a sense of trust in the customer. The result of such trust is the creation of a security sense in the customer, brand honesty, competence and strong passion (Ahmed, Rizwan & Ahmad, 2014; Huang, 2017; Coulter & Coulter, 2002; Albert & Merunka, 2013).     Creating brand energy leads to improvement of brand impression and positive experiences, and finally brand passion. Reinforcing emotional links can also help create trust in a brand. Among these, advertising the brand should include emotional content. Feelings and contents are among the most effective stimulus for developing individual feelings about a brand. Creating a distinctive and recognizable meaning for brand is an effective factor on creating and strengthening brand trust and emotional links with customers. The brand meaning has a dual effect on customers' perception. First, it reflects the brand's quality, and then it creates emotional benefits, such as the satisfaction with brand use and ownership, as well as a tool for self-expression and personality identity. In another way, the brand's meaning brings brand trust and integrity by brand passion. Sarkar and Sreejesh's findings also have confirmed that brand passion is related to brand self-expression (Sarkar & Sreejesh, 2014). Studies suggest that customers by involving in purchasing behavior build and reinforce their self-concept. In the meantime, brands that have ability to improve the customer's self- concept have the potential to increase the customer trust in a brand (Ruane & Wallace,2015; Escalas & Bettman, 2005). They allow customers to express their identity through the creation of meaningful associations beyond the intrinsic characteristics of the product. Accordingly, brands, through the reinforcement and development of customers' self- concept, add meanings and structures to their lives (Ruane & Wallace, 2015) and they can be used as a tool for the customer self-expression. Brands with strong self-expression have the potential for more customer's social identity growth (Sarkar & Sreejesh, 2014; Carroll & Ahuvia,2006). The present study showed that self-expression has a significant effect on brand trust and self-brand integration. Brand self-expression is related to the customer self-concept. Studies show that brand self-expression is an important tool for creating brand trust and self-brand integration (Ruane & Wallace, 2015), as well as an important factor in creating the individual differentiation from others and creating a unique self (Schembri, Merrilees & Kristiansen, 2010). Managers should strive to give their brands strong characters so that consumers can take advantage of the product characteristics through purchasing those brands, improve their social identity, and reflect their inside better. In this way, brand self-expression can be better represented. Exposing customers to the symbols of the company and put the brand at the top of the customer's mind is one of the things can be done in this way. We should pay special attention to the brand identity structure for brand self-expression strength and better customer integrity with the brand which finally lead to the creation of emotional links, trust and passion for the brand. Among these, audio, visual and verbal identities of the brand are particularly important. Specially, brand visual identity enhancement helps to illustrate the product and finally leads to brand self-expression. The product should be prominent in terms of consumption depending on the type of product, in order to strengthen brand self-expression and increase the likelihood of brand-customer emotional links (if possible). Also, in order to create stable trust in a brand, a confusing and doubtful positioning should be avoided. Creating ambiguity in a brand associations and reducing feelings to the brand lead to a reduction in brand trust. Boisvert and Burton's research suggests that appropriate branding and positioning strategies are beneficial in delivering prominence and positive emotions from master brand to new brands, and transferring trust from master brand to new brands is also better (Boisvert & Burton,2011).

 

7.Managerial  and practical implications

While most studies on brand affinity have taken place in both the United States and Japan (Aro, Suomi & Saraniemi , 2018), the study found that emotional links with the brand and its impact on brand confidence in Iran were also found.

Therefore, attention toward maintaining and making emotional links between customer and brand is an important factor in creating and increasing the value of the brand. Therefore, it is imperative that managers, in addition to paying attention to the specific dimensions of the product, have a special focus on aspects that have strong positive feelings toward brands such as: brand integration and brand passion.

In order to increase the passion for the customer, as stated, it should be used as an ongoing activity from energy injection to the brand. To this end, marketing and brand managers should be confident that they, at least, have one of the following characteristics in their brand:

  • • Interesting / exciting. There should be always a reason to talk about a brand.
  • • Involving/Engaging. People involve and engage with brand; brands can be part of a lifestyle or a valuable activity.
  • • Passionate/Purpose - Driven. Brand is a worthwhile goal. For example, the product line is not the source of an emotional connection with the customer, but its design for breast cancer triggers an association and leads to an audience that cares about it. This creates a superior goal in the brand.

Passive and energy-free brands