Brand Love: It's not What You Think

Marketers talk a great deal about developing relationships between their brands and customers. The underlying assumption is that we can equate brand relationships that people have with interpersonal relationships. Are brand love and interpersonal love the same? Are the characteristics of a brand that attract customers to fall into love with a brand similar to the characteristics that attract people to each other?

These issues were examined in research performed by Rajeev Batra, Aaron Ahuvia, and Richard Bagozzi published earlier this year in Journal of Marketing. A series of three studies identified elements of brand love that ultimately yielded a three-factor model:
  1. Passion-driven behaviors (e.g., desire to use brand and past involvement with brand or company)
  2. Self-brand integration (e.g., brand matches current and desired self-identity; intrinsic benefits more important than extrinsic rewards)
  3. Positive emotional connection (e.g., emotional attachment and positive feelings or mood elicited by brand)
A contribution made by this research is that a distinction was made between brand love as an emotion felt by consumers and brand relationships exhibited by the behaviors of customers and clients. The latter is realized by tapping into the power of the former. Affinity held for a brand can be a catalyst for deepening one's integration of a brand into his or her life. Thus, feelings of brand love (i.e., the emotion) cannot be equated with desired buyer behaviors like repeat purchasing and positive word-of-mouth. However, when brands leverage emotions to strengthen customers' bonds with a brand it can be a catalyst to creating true love... brand love, that is.

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