(2015), "Executive summary of “Brand evaluation, satisfaction and trust as predictors of brand loyalty: the mediator-moderator effect of brand relationships”", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 32 No. 6. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCM-09-2015-034
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Executive summary of “Brand evaluation, satisfaction and trust as predictors of brand loyalty: the mediator-moderator effect of brand relationships”
Article Type: Executive summary and implications for managers and executives From: Journal of Consumer Marketing, Volume 32, Issue 6
This summary has been provided to allow managers and executives a rapid appreciation of the content of this article. Those with a particular interest in the topic covered may then read the article in toto to take advantage of the more comprehensive description of the research undertaken and its results to get the full benefits of the material present.
The importance of brand loyalty has been long recognized within the marketing fraternity. Its significance has risen further as firms have increasingly found it harder to differentiate their brands from competitor offerings. Ascertaining which factors are most responsible for driving loyalty has consequently become a major priority for researchers.
How brand loyalty is defined and measured remains subject to various interpretations. Some scholars regard the construct as a single dimension, whereas it is multidimensional in the view of others. The latter perspective has become dominant, and most academics now conceptualize loyalty as having behavioral and attitudinal components. They contend that loyalty cannot be attributed to purchase activity alone.
Research aiming to identify key antecedents of brand loyalty claim that significant predictors are:
Customer satisfaction: This is perceived as an “overall evaluation” of a product or service provided on a single occasion or for ongoing consumption. Satisfaction is also derived from previous experiences with the firm involved. It has been described as an “affective response” based on performance and compared with prior expectations or standards.
Trust: A subjective phenomenon that emerges through individual perceptions. In a consumer context, people are inclined to trust brands which they feel are more reliable and likely to act in their best interests. Trust is seen as especially important in the aftermath of a crisis. Consumption situations involve risk but brands can help to minimize this by performing consistently and delivering on promises. Different conceptualizations of trust have been forwarded and certain academics argue that the concept overlaps with confidence and value.
Brand evaluation: This is typically based on a brand’s attributes and on various tangible and intangible brand cues. Certain attributes that are considered will be specific to that brand but many are generic and more widely applicable. Brand image is another critical aspect of evaluation and is constructed by consumers from their direct and indirect experiences with the brand. Research purports that beliefs are formed as a consequence of these different interactions and experiences with the brand. Such beliefs are said to have a greater impact on consumers than any information which emanates from the company. Evaluation is also based on the reputation of a brand, which is a reflection of how it is perceived by outsiders based on its and the company’s “salient characteristics”.
Indications to emerge from different studies relating to the above components include:
customers are more loyal to brands they rate highly and are positive toward;
satisfaction positively influences commitment;
consumers have to be satisfied with a company or brand to develop strong connections; and
customer commitment is positively influenced by trust.
More recently, studies have begun to examine the impact of brand relationships on loyalty. A core premise is that brand relationship confirms that a consumer emotionally engages with the brand and identifies with it more closely. Evidence suggests that different consumer subgroups are particularly prone to developing relations with brands. Some children form such associations that can subsequently last throughout adulthood.
Much research has focused on the nature of these relationships. A common finding is that stronger links are likely to be formed with brands which closely relate to their self-concept or are perceived as significant to a group that the consumer identifies with. Different parallels are drawn with human relationships and two-way communication is regarded as being integral to engagement.
Trust and satisfaction are frequently cited as indicative of brand relationship quality, but academics also variously include brand attachment, intimacy, commitment and interdependence within their definitions. When it comes to measuring the strength of brand relationship, a number or researchers feel that communication and the emotional link are most indicative.
Developing strong emotional ties helps brands bond with consumers. It was previously found that brand relationship potentially involves five stages that demonstrate different levels of intimacy. Relationship strength has the greatest impact on purchase behavior within many product categories, research suggests. Brand relationship has thus been perceived as a reliable loyalty predictor. Other academics argue that similar conclusions can be drawn about certain aspects of brand communication.
The present study explores how brand relationship impacts on brand loyalty antecedents, brand evaluation, trust and satisfaction. Veloutsou specifically aims to ascertain whether brand relationship acts to moderate or mediate the effect of these variables on loyalty. Many scholars tend to view these terms as interchangeable, although some do distinguish between them.
Preliminary research was carried out with students and adult consumers to select a product category for the main study. Previous work has ascertained that brand relationship is, especially, pertinent for high-involvement products, and lipstick was thus eventually chosen. Females in marketplaces and near a university in the Scottish city of Glasgow were recruited for the study. Only those purchasing lipstick at least twice a year and using the product more than once a week were eligible to take part. A final sample of 189 was obtained, and subjects were asked to complete the questionnaire based on their favorite lipstick brand.
The authors created different models to analyze the data. Initial findings confirmed that brand evaluation, trust and satisfaction all positively relate to brand loyalty. Impact was greater for the first two, although satisfaction’s effect was likewise strong. Following this, the two dimensions of brand relationship were considered. Introducing two-way communication and emotional exchange served to alter the connection between the variables in the sense that trust and satisfaction no longer appear as significant antecedents of brand loyalty. Further examination initially suggested that these brand relationship dimensions serve as moderators, but closer inspection revealed that the only significant effect was emotional exchange moderating the association between trust and loyalty.
Conversely, the author points to substantial evidence that the brand relationship dimensions do function as mediators. Earlier research had noted three conditions that indicate mediation and these appear to have been met in this instance. The weakening effect that the two relationship dimensions have on the link between trust and satisfaction with brand loyalty serves as one indication.
Based on the findings of a study acknowledged as “highly exploratory”, Veloutsou concludes that mediation is more likely when the association between predictor and dependent variable is strong. When this connection is weak, moderation provides a better fit.
Firms are urged to include in their portfolio, products and service brands that consumers can develop close relationships with. Enhancing the communication and emotional relationship aspects is also advised as a means of strengthening brand loyalty and reaping the benefits. Strength of brand relation should be measured over time, while the author also recommends improving trust, satisfaction and attitude to boost brand credibility. Achieving such aims can be aided by developing a supportive corporate culture using human resource management and internal marketing to particularly focus on the recruitment, training and rewarding of “appropriate employees”.
This study could be replicated using more diverse samples, a wider product range and different cultural contexts. Scholars might also compare findings here with situations where participants choose from a predetermined brand list. Additional research possibilities include consideration of other loyalty dimensions and factors potentially serving as brand relationship antecedents or outcomes.
To read the full article, enter 10.1108/JCM-02-2014-0878 into your search engine.
(A précis of the article “Brand evaluation, satisfaction and trust as predictors of brand loyalty: the mediator-moderator effect of brand relationships”. Supplied by Marketing Consultants for Emerald.)