The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of belonging to brand communities in improving consumer well-being and brand evaluations.
Two studies were conducted. Study 1 manipulates the framing of a brand to be either socially- or product-oriented and measures brand community joining intentions based on underlying levels of consumer loneliness and need to belong. Study 2 manipulates feelings of belongingness with a brand community and measures its impact on relatedness satisfaction, state loneliness and brand evaluations.
Study 1 finds that lonely consumers with a high need to belong are more likely to express intentions to join a brand community when it is socially-oriented. Study 2 finds that belonging to a brand community improves relatedness satisfaction which, in turn, reduces state loneliness and improves brand evaluations.
This research has significant implications for marketing practitioners who are looking to foster relationships among consumers in the form of brand communities, especially given the positive impact of these communities on consumer well-being. These findings suggest that marketers should create brand communities that foster a social (rather than product) focus to create a sense of belongingness with the brand and among its community members, and that doing so can improve relatedness satisfaction needs and reduce consumer loneliness.
This research contributes to the growing literature on consumer loneliness and is among the first to identify the positive psychological outcomes of socially-oriented brand communities on loneliness.
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