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The effect of brand experience on brand relationship quality.

INTRODUCTION

In marketing practice, brand experience has attracted much attention(Brakus, Schmitt & Zarantonello, 2009). It is important for marketing professionals to understand how customers experience brands and how the brand experience affects marketing strategies for services and products. Nowadays, customers are not satisfied with buying products for functional benefits. Many researchers suggested that the pervasive influence of emotional response in product consumption and shopping(Holbrook, Chestnut, Oliva & Greenleaf, 1984; Batra & Ray, 1986; Westbrook, 1987; Batra & Holbrook, 1990; Cohen, 1990). Schmitt(1999) said consumers increasingly make choices based on the experiential factor that the product offers. It has been suggested that an emotion-rich experience provides not only brand differentiation and consumer loyalty but also sales increase and promotion of the brands(Morrison & Crane, 2007). It means that brand experience can affect the customer-brand relationship.

Relationship Marketing has been studied by using Fournier(1998)'s conceptualization of Brand relationship quality (BRQ). Brand relationship has arrived a new stage to be one of the principal focus of research on consumers and brands(Aaker, Fournier & Brasel, 2004; Breivik & Thorbjornsen, 2008; Chang & Chieng, 2006; Hass, 2007; Huber, Collhardt, Matthes & Vogel, 2009). Brand relationship quality is usually used to evaluate the relationship strength and the depth of consumer-brand relationship(Xie & Heung, 2009). The advantage of studying brand relationship is the ability to provide insights into the impact of brands on customers and their needs (Breivik & Thorbjornsen, 2008; Fournier, 1998; Monga, 2002). But empirical studies that deal with whether brand relationship quality could influence consumers' purchase intentions and behaviors are scant(Xie & Heung, 2009). Researches regarding the correlation between consumers' experiences of brands and brand relationship quality are also limited.

Therefore the purpose of this study is to examine how brand experience affects customer-brand relationship quality. This could be a contribution for marketing managers to improve their knowledge about the relationship between their brands and customers and to understand their customers more accurately.

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND AND PROPOSITION

Brand Experience

Brand experiences are "subjective, internal consumer responses(sensations, feelings, and cognitions) and behavioral responses evoked by brand-related stimuli that are part of a brand' s identity, packaging, design, environments and communications" (Brakus, Schmitt & Zarantonello, 2009). Consumer and marketing research has shown that experiences happen when consumers search for products, when they are shopping for products or receive services, and when they consume products or services (Arnould, Price, & Zinkhan, 2002; Brakus, Schmitt, & Zhang, 2008; Holbrook, 2000).

The types of brand experience are related with product, shopping and service, and consumption experience. Product experiences occur when consumers interact with products (Hoch 2002). First, the product experience happens directly when there is physical contact with the product (Hoch & Ha, 1986) or indirectly when a product is presented virtually or in an advertisement(Hoch & Ha, 1986; Kempf & Smith, 1998).

Second, shopping and service experiences happen when consumers interact with a store' s physical environments, its policies and practices (Hui & Bateson, 1991; Kerin, Jain & Howard, 1992). Thus, research in this area investigates how atmospheric variables and salespeople affect the consumer' s experience (Arnold et al., 2005; Boulding et al., 1993; Jones, 1999; Ofir & Simonson, 2007).

Third, consumption experiences arise when consumers consume and use products. These are multidimensional and contain hedonic dimensions, such as feelings, fun and fantasies(Holbrook and Hirschman, 1982). Many interpretive studies about consumption experiences have investigated hedonic goals that happen during and after the consumption such as at concerts and sports games (Arnould & Price, 1993; Celsi, Rose, & Leigh, 1993; Holt, 1995; Joy & Sherry, 2003).

Brand experiences vary in intensity and strength(Brakus, Schmitt & Zarantonello, 2009). Also, brand experiences vary in valence. Customer can face positive or negative brand experiences and short-lived or long-lasting brand experiences. Long lasting brand experiences, stored in the customer' s memory, should affect customer loyalty and satisfaction(Oliver, 1997; Reicheld, 1996). These kinds of brand experience are different from brand image and brand association(Keller, 1993).

Brand experiences are different from other brand constructs. Attitudes are related evaluations based on affective reactions or beliefs(Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975; Murphy & Zajonc, 1993). However, brand experiences include specific sensations, cognitions, and behavioral responses caused by specific brand related stimuli (Brakus, Schmitt & Zarantonello, 2009). Brand experiences also distinguish between affective and motivational notions like involvement (Zaichkowsky, 1985) and customer delight (Oliver, Rust & Varki, 1997) because brand experiences can take place when customers are not interested in or do not have a personal connection with a brand. Finally, brand experiences are different from brand image and brand associations(Keller, 1993). A typical construct of brand association is brand personality (Aaker, 1997). Brand personality is processed inferentially (Johar, Sengupta, & Aaker, 2005), but brand experiences deal with actual sensations, cognitions, and behavioral responses.

Brand Experience Dimensions

Dimensions of brand experiences are studied in philosophy, cognitive science, and experiential marketing and management (Brakus, Schmitt & Zarantonello, 2009). In the experiential marketing and management area, Schmitt(1999) suggested five experiences : when consumers sense, feel, think, act, and relate. These five experiences are related to Dewey' s (1922, 1925) categorization, and Dube and Lebel' s (2003) pleasure construct. Based on these researches, Brakus, Schmitt and Zarantonello(2009) developed four dimensions of brand experience. These are composed of sensory, affective, intellectual, and behavioral dimensions. 1) The sensory dimension means that brands can make strong visual impression on the customer. Zarantonello and Schmitt(2010) said a sensory dimension is "visual, auditory, tactile, gustative, and olfactory stimulations provided by a brand" . 2) The affective dimension means that brands induce feelings or sentiments. The affective dimension includes feelings produced by brands and their emotional tie with consumers (Zarantonello & Schmitt, 2010). 3) The intellectual dimension refer to brands' ability of making customers think or feel curious. 4) The behavioral dimension means when a customer uses a brand, it makes the customer physically active. The behavioral dimension includes bodily experiences, lifestyles, and interaction with brands(Zarantonello & Schmitt, 2010). According to brand experiences aroused and the intensity of stimuli, results of brand experiences can be more or less powerful. Lee, Jeon and Yoon(2010) suggested that affective and behavioral dimensions have a decisive effect on the brand attachment. Based on Lee et al.(2010), we chose an affective dimension and a behavioral dimension to investigate the relationship with brand relationship quality. Therefore, we conceptualize brand experience with two dimensions : affective and behavioral.

Brand Relationship Quality

Fournier (1998) suggested that consumers perceive a brand as a behavioral entity. The core proposition that the framework of consumer-brand relationships is built is the assumption that consumers translate a brand' s behavior into trait language(Bengtsson, 2003). Brand relationship has reached a new stage to be one of the principal focus of research on consumers and brands (Aaker, Fournier & Brasel, 2004; Breivik & Thorbjornsen, 2008; Chang & Chieng, 2006; Hass, 2007; Huber, Collhardt, Matthes & Vogel, 2009). Brand relationship quality is usually used to evaluate the relationship strength and the depth of consumer-brand relationship(Xie & Heung, 2009). Consistent with previous studies (Aaker, Fournier, & Brasel, 2004; Hennig-Thurau, Gwinner, & Gremler, 2002), we apply a brand relationship quality concept to identify the strength of the relationship. Generally, relationship quality plays a role of reducing uncertainty, transaction cost and improving interaction efficiency, social need fulfillment (Hennig-Thurau & Klee, 1997).

In early research of relationship quality, Hennig-Thurau and Klee (1997) suggested that relationship quality is a concept related "salesperson' s ability to reduce perceived uncertainty" (Crosby et al., 1990). They considered relationship quality consisted of two dimensions, 1) trust in the salesperson and 2) satisfaction with the salesperson (Crosby et al., 1990). Relationship Quality is described as a second-order construct consisting of trust, commitment and social benefits (Gregoire, Tripp & Legoux, 2009). Trust means that consumers have confidence that a brand is dependable and can be relied on. Commitment is the willingness to maintain a relationship with a brand. Social benefits means that consumers perceive that brand and have one-to-one close connections by means of the personalization and customization of services. Hennig-Thurau and Klee (1997) said a product or service-related quality perception is a component of the more complex construct relationship quality. Relationship quality consists of the customer' s trust and commitment to the marketer.

Consumers who perceive a high level of relationship quality are more likely to take offense if they have a negative incident with a brand. When a consumer feels good about their relationship with a brand, a high level of commitment and loyalty results(Anderson & Sullivan, 1993; Mittal & Kamakura, 2001; Oliver, 1997). Horppu, Kuivalainen, Tarkiainen and Ellonen(2008) suggested that a customer' s positive brand experiences can affect brand cognition, commitment, purchase intentions and brand reputation. Relationship quality can serve as a predictor variable for customer retention and purchase decision.

Based on these researches, we choose two components among three brand relationship quality concepts : trust and commitment. Moorman et al.(1992) defined trust as the willingness of general consumer to rely on the capability of the brand to carry out its stated function. Other explanations of trust also stress the concept of reliance as decisive to the trust(Morgan & Hunt, 1994). According to Morgan and Hunt(1994), brand commitment is another key relational variable that inspire the relevant partners in a relationship. Also brand commitment reduces uncertainty and saves a customer the cost of seeking new relational exchanges with other brand. In addition, we hypothesize that customers who have a high level of brand experience can have a strong relationship with a brand.

H1 Brand experience affects a consumer's brand relationship quality positively.

H1-1 Affective brand experience affects a consumer's brand trust positively.

H1-2 Behavioral brand experience affects a consumer's brand trust positively.

H1-3 Affective brand experience affects a consumer's brand commitment positively.

H1-4 Behavioral brand experience affects a consumer's brand commitment positively.

Morgan and Hunt(1994) suggested that the commitment-trust theory. They theorized that the existence of relationship commitment and trust is critical to successful relationship marketing. We defined brand trust as the willingness of the general consumer to rely on the capability of the brand to carry out its stated function (Chaudhuri & Holbrook, 2001). Brand commitment is related to the loyalty of consumers towards a specific brand and is getting increasing importance in consumer behavior (Martinand & Goodell, 1991). Delgodo-Ballester and Munuera-Aleman(2001) suggested that brand trust acts a critical role as a variable that causes customer' s commitment. So brand trust could affect brand commitment and this allows us to examine the following hypothesis.

H2 Brand trust affects brand commitment positively.

Brand trust is extremely important for increasing customers' loyalty toward brands(Ha, 2004). Brand loyalty means consumers are satisfied with some brand, purchase the brand and then repurchase the same brand continuously (Aaker, 1991). Therefore, brand loyalty can be defined as the degree of consumer' s attachment to a specific brand. We consider that a consumer' s brand attachment is composed of brand preference, brand favorableness and purchase intention. Chaudhuri and Holbrook(2001) suggested that brand trust and brand commitment affect brand loyalty positively. Based on these researches, we suggest following hypothesis.

H3 Brand relationship quality affects brand loyalty positively.

H3-1 Brand relationship quality of trust affects brand loyalty positively.

H3-2 Brand relationship quality of commitment affects brand loyalty positively.

METHODS

174 samples were collected from universities throughout South Korea. After excluding samples containing missing data, we were left with use 169 samples. In the final sample of 169 respondents, 53.3% were female, and 61.8% were between 20 and 29 years old.

We measured a brand experience using scales that Brakus, Schimitt and Zarantonello(2009) suggested. And trust and commitment as brand relationship quality are measured by scales that Gregoire, Tripp and Legoux(2009) used. We measured brand loyalty with the degree of brand preference, brand favorableness and purchase intention which are properly selected scales used by Aaker(1991) and Chaudhuri and Holbrook(2001)

We used structural equation modeling, which is a multivariate statistical technique for structural theory. Also, we adopted measurement scales from previous researches. Table 1 shows the exploratory factor analysis of measurement scales of Brand Experience Dimensions. Factor analysis uses Varimax rotation. Brakus, Schmitt and Zarantonello(2009) suggested 12 items to identify brand experience dimensions. However, according to the result of this factor analysis, we can chose 5 items to identify two brand experience dimensions. Table 2 shows the reliability and Brakus, Schmitt and Zarantonello(2009)' s construct validity of Brand Relationship Quality measurement scales. Reliability indices are commonly used when they are over 0.6 (Palmatier, Dant, Grewal, & Evans 2006).

RESULTS

Many goodness-of-fit-criteria can be used to assess an acceptable model fit. Among them, the comparative fit index (CFI) and normed fit index (NFI) are preferred measures(Bentler, 1992). We used Amos 18.0 to analyze the hypothesized model, and we adopted a two-step model-building approach. The confirmatory factor models were tested prior to testing the structural model, and then the maximum likelihood (ML) estimation method was used.

In this study, we examine model validity by using confirmatory factor analysis. Structural model results are shown in Table 3. There are several commonly used goodness of fit indices in structural equation model analysis : GFI, AGFI, RMR, and CFI. We used Amos 18.0 to examine the structural model test, and we adopted CFI, IFI, and TLI as adequate fit indices. CFI may display little standard error with regard to sample size, IFI does not consider the sample size, and TLI is related to degrees of freedom. A model is considered appropriate when its GFI, AGFI, and CFI are greater than 0.9 and its RMR and RMSEA are between 0.05 and 0.08. All goodness of fit indices of the model in this study was satisfactory : -[chi square] = 125.724 (df = 69), GFI = 0.903, AGFI = 0.849, RMR = 0.041, CFI = 0.963, RMSEA = 0.070. As a result, these fit indices are appropriate for any sample size.

Figure 1 shows the results. After the hypothesis test, we can find that H1-1, H1-3, H1-4 and H2 and H3(H3-1, H3-2) are supported. But H1-2 is not supported. Table 4 shows the results of the hypotheses tests.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

DISCUSSION AND FUTURE RESEARCH

Brand experiences receive much attention from many marketing researchers. Accordingly, we examine brand experience dimensions, and investigate the relation between brand experience and brand relationship quality. Brand experience is composed of sensory, affective, behavioral, and intellectual dimensions( Brakus, Schmitt & Zarantonello, 2009). Brakus, Schmitt and Zarantonello(2009) examined whether brand experience affects customer satisfaction and loyalty. In this research, they found brand experience affects consumer's satisfaction and loyalty and have a relationship with brand personality dimensions. However, they did not examine the effect of each brand experience dimension on brand relationship quality. Overall brand experience might affect a customer-brand relationship positively. But each dimensions of brand experience may not affect a customer-brand relationship quality positively. Therefore, we composed a model to find the effect of each dimension of brand experience on the brand relationship qualities of trust and commitment.

According to this study, all kinds of brand experiences do not affect the brand relationship quality construct. First of all, a customer who enjoys greater affective brand experiences thinks that the brand is more trustful. That is, when customers feel brands are affective, their relationships with brands are strengthened and they come to trust the brands. Also when the customer enjoys greater affective and behavioral brand experiences, the brand's commitment level also highly increases.

However, a behavioral brand experience does not affect brand trust meaningfully. According to Morgan and Hunt(1994), commitment is defined that an exchange partner believe that a relationship with another. And they suggested that commitment is main to all the relational exchanges between the firm and consumers. Moorman, Deshpande, and Zaltman(1993) defined that trust is a willingness to rely on an trade partner in whom one has faith. However, Morgan and Hunt(1994) demonstrated that the behavioral intention of "willingness" is unnecessary.

"Willingness to rely" should be rather viewed as an outcome of trust, because behavioral intention is best viewed as outcome of attitude(Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975). According to these researches, we think that a behavioral brand experience may be related outcome of attitude. This could explains that a behavioral brand experience affects brand commitment, not brand trust. Because a behavioral brand experience leads customers into behavioral and physical responses, brand trust may be less related to the behavioral brand experience. Future researches are needed to explore this issue further.

Secondly, the brand trust affects the brand commitment positively. And we also find that brand relationship quality affects brand loyalty positively. High levels of trust and commitment give a positive influence on the brand preference, the brand favorableness, and a purchase intension. Therefore we can bring to a conclusion that some kinds of brand experiences can affect brand relationship quality and consumer's brand loyalty eventually.

In this study, we suggest that not all brand experiences are effective to promote brand relationship quality. According to the goal of a company or a brand, marketing managers should implement brand experience strategies. Also, it is important to choose a brand experience activity that is well-matched with the pursuing brand relationship quality and brand loyalty.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

This research was financially supported by Hansung University.

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Hee Jung, Lee, Seoul National University

Myung Soo, Kang, Hansung University
Table 1: Brand Experience Exploratory Factor Analysis

Construct   Item                  Affective  Behavioral  Reliability

Brand       This brand induces    .829                   .674
Experience    feelings and
              sentiments.
            I do not have strong  .748
              emotions for
              this brand. (a)
            This brand is an      .741
              emotional brand.
            I engage in physical             .948        .913
              actions and
              behaviors when I
              use this brand.
            This brand results               .944
              in bodily
              experiences.

(a) Items are done reverse coding.

Table 2: Validity of Brand Relationship Quality Constructs

Construct       Item                                 C1          C2

Brand trust     I felt that the firm was very                   .813
                  dependable.
                I felt that the firm was of                     .687
                  high integrity.
                I felt that the firm was of                     .810
                  high integrity

Brand           I was very committed to my          .895
Commitment        relationship  with the
                  service firm.
                I put the efforts into              .820
                  maintaining  this
                  relationship.
                I put the efforts into              .896
                  maintaining  this
                  relationship.

Brand Loyalty   Brand Preference
                Brand favorableness
                Purchase intention

Construct       Item                                C3     reliability

Brand trust     I felt that the firm was very                 .829
                  dependable.
                I felt that the firm was of
                  high integrity.
                I felt that the firm was of
                  high integrity

Brand           I was very committed to my                    .920
Commitment        relationship  with the
                  service firm.
                I put the efforts into
                  maintaining  this
                  relationship.
                I put the efforts into
                  maintaining  this
                  relationship.

Brand Loyalty   Brand Preference                   .863       .917
                Brand favorableness                .872
                Purchase intention                 .796

Table 3: Confirmatory factor analysis fitness

Model   Chi-square   df    GFI      TLI      AFGI     NFI      PNFI

        125.724      69    0.903    0.952    0.849    0.923    0.700
        (p=0.000)

Model   CFI      IFI      RMR      RMSEA

        0.963    0.964    0.056    0.070

Table 4: Test of Hypotheses

Hypotheses                 Path                  Regression   p-value
                                                   weight

H1 : Brand experience [right arrow] brand relationship quality
H1-1         Affective brand experience          .674         .000
               [right arrow] brand trust
H1-2         Behavioral brand experience         -.807        .294
               [right arrow] brand trust
H1-3         Affective brand experience          .296         .028
               [right arrow] brand commitment
H1-4         Behavioral brand experience         .154         .037
               [right arrow] brand commitment
H2           H2 : Brand trust [right arrow]      .499         .000
               brand commitment
H3 : Brand relationship quality [right arrow] brand loyalty
H3-1         Brand relationship quality of       .718         .000
               trust [right arrow] brand
               loyalty
H3-2         Brand relationship quality of       .209         .014
               commitment [right arrow] brand
               loyalty

Hypotheses   Results of test

H1 : Brand experience [right arrow] brand relationship quality
H1-1         Supported

H1-2         not supported

H1-3         Supported

H1-4         Supported

H2           Supported

H3 : Brand relationship quality [right arrow] brand loyalty
H3-1         Supported

H3-2         Supported
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Author:Jung, Hee; Lee; Soo, Myung
Publication:Academy of Marketing Studies Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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