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Exploring the motivations to participate in an online brand community: a study of 7–11-year-old children

Robert James Thomas (Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham, UK)
Gareth Reginald Terence White (Faculty of Business and Society, University of South Wales, Pontypridd, UK)
Anthony Samuel (Business School, Cardiff University Business School, Cardiff, UK)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 16 June 2021

Issue publication date: 2 September 2021

715

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this research is to understand what motivates 7–11-year-old children to participate in online brand communities (OBCs). Prior research has concentrated on prescriptive product categories (games and gaming), predominantly adolescent groups and the social aspects of community engagement and actual behaviour within communities, rather than the motivations to participate with the OBC. This has ultimately limited what has been gleaned, both theoretically and managerially, from this important segment.

Design/methodology/approach

An interpretive, longitudinal position is adopted, using a sample of 261 children (113 male and 148 female) from across the UK, using event-based diaries over a 12-month period, generating 2,224 entries.

Findings

Data indicate that children are motivated to participate in a brand community for four reasons: to support and ameliorate pre-purchase anxieties, resolve interpersonal conflicts, exact social dominance in terms of product ownership and perceptions of product knowledge and to actively engage in digitalised pester power. The study also reveals that certain motivational aspects such as conflict resolution and exacting dominance, are gender-specific.

Research limitations/implications

Knowledge of children’s motivation to engage with OBCs is important for marketers and brand managers alike as the data reveal markedly different stimuli when compared to known adult behaviours in the field. Given the nature of the study, scope exists for significant future research.

Practical implications

The study reveals behaviours that will assist brand managers in further understanding the complex and untraditional relationships that children have with brands and OBCs.

Originality/value

This study makes a novel examination of a hitherto little-explored segment of consumers. In doing so, it uncovers the theoretical and practical characteristics of child consumers that contemporary, adult-focussed literature does not recognise. The paper makes an additional contribution to theory by positing four new behavioural categories relating to community engagement – dependers, defusers, demanders and dominators – and four new motivational factors which are fundamentally different from adult taxonomies – social hegemony, parental persuasion, dilemma solving and conflict resolution.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank Karen J. Young for her assistance in the final preparation of the manuscript.

Citation

Thomas, R.J., White, G.R.T. and Samuel, A. (2021), "Exploring the motivations to participate in an online brand community: a study of 7–11-year-old children", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 55 No. 8, pp. 2308-2343. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-09-2019-0730

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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