, . (2015), "Executive summary of “Brand tribalism and self-expressive brands: social influences and brand outcomes”", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 24 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPBM-07-2015-901Download as .RIS
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Executive summary of “Brand tribalism and self-expressive brands: social influences and brand outcomes”
Article Type: Executive summary and implications for managers and executives From: Journal of Product & Brand Management, Volume 24, Issue 4
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.
Much research has noted that consumption is routinely used by individuals as a means to help create and sustain their self-concept. Brands are therefore chosen not only on the basis of functional product attributes but also for their additional value in relation to identity.
Self-definition is regarded as highly important and many people are more inclined to use brands which are viewed as most reflective of their inner self and/or social self. Consumption of brands that fit closely with their self-concept is perceived to be an ideal way for consumers to express themselves to relevant others. So-called “self expressive brands” additionally help users to signify their individuality and are regularly used to convey such as status or achievement. Their value in helping and enhancing an individual’s “social integration” is also well recognized. An example of this is someone’s consumption of a particular brand to indicate his or her desire to belong to a particular group that already uses the said brand.
The literature also regards what is termed as “brand tribalism” as significant. This refers to the existence of “micro-groups” containing members who share such as emotions, ideals, terminology and visions within a specific sub-culture. A key factor in tribalism is that individuals involved signal their belongingness to their group through symbolic gestures. Consuming the brand is an overt way of demonstrating their mutual passion and is particular effective when fashion brands are the focus. The fact that these and other self-expressive brands are consumed publically might help realize goals pertaining to both “tribal membership” and self-expression.
People’s desire to convey an image which gains the approval of peers has been noted in numerous studies. Certain analysts refer to this need as “susceptibility to interpersonal influence” (SUSCEP). Other people within the consumer’s “social system” also function as a valuable information source from which to learn about products. Research has found that the influence of significant others increases with brands that are socially consumed. The greater visibility of such brands also suggests that SUSCEP positively influences brand tribalism. Using regular consumption as a way to sustain social relationships could increase the possibility of someone attaining membership of the brand tribe that they aspire to.
Given the enormous growth in usage and popularity of social networking sites (SNSs), interpersonal influence in an online context has become more prevalent. Facebook, Twitter and other leading platforms afford people additional scope for expressing themselves to others using virtual objects. For instance, wearing a particular brand in a photograph posted on a SNS will often influence the impressions that others form about them. Self-expression through brands is seen as likely behavior among individuals who use social media as a vehicle for conveying aspects of their identity and values. Significance placed on identification with groups has also risen due to the rise in social networking. Connections can be formed with relevant others and further opportunities to signify consumption of brands which reflect group norms are thus enabled. This “social link” can thus provide an additional means of indicating involvement with the brand tribe.
It has been purported that people are inclined to become loyal to brands which permit them to convey important aspects of themselves to others. The more such brands are seen as reflective of their self-concept, the greater the loyalty.
Brand communities are perceived as being positively associated with loyalty. Those involved in such groups typically exclude consideration of alternative brands and remain members for extended periods of time. Firms recognize the commercial value of such companies and are often active participants. Certain parallels can be drawn with brand tribes, although many differences are pointed out. Those in tribes have been described as more “fickle” because the interest which binds members is of a more fleeting nature. It is also mooted that tribe dissolution might prompt consumer interest in the brand to fade. However, the view of some researchers is that tribes might demonstrate loyalty.
Willingness to engage in positive word of mouth (WOM) is noted as a frequent consequence of brand loyalty. In this context, the possibility exists that people who use self-expressive brands will converse with others about the brand. Engaging in WOM within a group environment also serves to strengthen membership of the brand tribe.
Relevant issues are investigated in a study conducted in Ireland among 675 current and past university students aged between 18 and 35 years. The sample is seen as representative of Generation Y consumers, chosen because its size and purchasing power makes the cohort of considerable interest to marketers. In addition, such consumers are renowned for using brands to self-express and attain social acceptance. This tech-savvy generation also routinely exploits the Internet for these purposes. Four categories of fashion brands are used in the study by Ruane & Wallace because of their effectiveness in expressing the self.
Questionnaire analysis revealed a positive relationship between:
SUSCEP and both self-expressive brands and brand tribalism;
online social network influence and both self-expressive brands and brand tribalism; and
self-expressive brands and brand tribalism, brand loyalty and WOM.
Contrary to expectation, the influence of brand tribalism on brand loyalty and WOM was found to be negative. The authors consider this significant, as it could show that loyalty is toward the tribe rather than the brands consumed. Brand allegiance may consequently change in line with tribal choices so it continues to adhere to group norms. A desire to “fit in” would therefore influence brand preferences in this situation.
On the other hand, loyalty and WOM are likelier among consumers who use self-expressive brands without being oriented toward a tribe. Such people are more individualistic and aim to positively differentiate themselves from others through their purchase activities.
Managers of self-expressive fashion brands are advised to develop online and offline campaigns which emphasize how using the brand can help consumers connect with others. One proposal is to recommend that people increase their number of online “likes” and “shares”, as this could help boost overall consumption. Ruane & Wallace also point out the need to identify consumers based on their group affinity or differentiation goals, so that marketing messages can be appropriately tailored. Obtaining consumer views about their reference groups through such as surveys or Facebook pages is a suggested method of doing this.
Future studies might investigate whether consumer characteristics determine preference for self-expressive brands. Ascertaining factors that relate to tribal loyalty and brand choice is another option to consider. Researchers could replicate this work with consumers varying more in cultural background, age, income level and use of social media. Scope also exists to further examine different types of fashion brand and brands from product categories which are less self-expressive and/or provide lower hedonic value. It would significantly benefit marketers to identify ways that brand tribes might positively impact on brand loyalty and WOM, the authors believe.
To read the full article enter 10.1108/JPBM-07-2014-0656 into your search engine.
(A précis of the article “Brand tribalism and self-expressive brands: social influences and brand outcomes”. Supplied by Marketing Consultants for Emerald.)