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The bright side and dark side of group heterogeneity within online brand community

Junyun Liao (Department of Marketing, School of Management, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China)
Defeng Yang (Department of Marketing, School of Management, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China)
Haiying Wei (Department of Marketing, School of Management, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China)
Yulang Guo (Department of Marketing, School of Business Administration, Guangdong University of Finance and Economics, Guangzhou, China)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 26 July 2019

Issue publication date: 20 January 2020



Despite the increasingly common view that online brand community (OBC) members are heterogeneous, knowledge concerning the impact of group heterogeneity on community and brand level outcomes is lacking. In response and drawing from organization research, this paper aims to study the consequences of two types of group heterogeneity (i.e. visible heterogeneity and value heterogeneity) on brand community commitment and brand commitment. The moderating role of tenure in a community is also examined.


A survey of 467 members of OBCs was conducted, and structural equation modeling was used to test hypotheses.


The results show that perceived visible heterogeneity positively affects brand community commitment, whereas perceived value heterogeneity has a negative effect on it. Brand community commitment positively relates to brand commitment; it also mediates the effect of perceived visible heterogeneity and perceived value heterogeneity on brand commitment. Further, the positive effect of visible heterogeneity on brand community commitment is stronger for short-tenure members, but the negative effect of value heterogeneity is stronger for long-tenure members.

Practical implications

The findings suggest that managers should make efforts to foster visible heterogeneity and reduce value heterogeneity. In addition, managers are advised to emphasize the characteristics that carry different appeal for members of different tenure.


This research is one of the first few quantitative studies to examine the influence of brand community heterogeneity on community, and especially brand level outcomes. It extends the literature on the effect of brand community on brands and adds to the emerging heterogeneity view of OBCs.



This project is supported by Jinan University Management School Funding Program (No. GY18004) and Institute of Enterprise Development, Jinan University, Guangdong Province (2019GBAZD06). The authors also gratefully acknowledge financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) (No. 71802097, No. 71372169, No. 71772077, No. 71472074, No. 71872073 & No. 91746206). The authors would like to thank Prof. Chenting Su and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript.


Liao, J., Yang, D., Wei, H. and Guo, Y. (2020), "The bright side and dark side of group heterogeneity within online brand community", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 29 No. 1, pp. 69-80.



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