True Brand Loyalty Essay, Research Paper
A company?s main question in relation to selling their products or services use do be:
,,How do I get people to buy my product?? Nowadays companies still greatly appreciate the answer to this question but they have also realized that getting customers is not the only thing they need to do. In today?s rapidly moving world consumers don?t stick with products for life. Advertisements and an increased feeling of independence have created consumers that will switch brands or products as soon as the feel the need to do so. What company?s look for in this consumer environment is creating a so-called brand loyalty.
This paper will explore the ways companies go about in creating this brand loyalty and it will investigate the circumstances and effects that come with it. It will start of by thoroughly explaining what brand loyalty exactly is. After that an overview of key success factors stimulating brand loyalty will be given and we will have a look at how these factors are influenced by different conditions. Examples will be provided. The relationships between brand loyalty and brand commitment and satisfaction will be explored. Finally a conclusion will be reached on how important brand loyalty is to companies and for what reasons.
What is Brand Loyalty?
Before one can give a definition of brand loyalty one first has to make the distinction between repeat purchasing behavior and brand loyalty. ?Repeat purchasing behavior is the actual rebuying of a brand.? So the behavioral aspect of this action. Brand loyalty also includes ?that behavior?s antecedents?. This means the reason or fact occurring before the behavior. When talking about brand loyalty we can yet again make a distinction between two types: On the one hand we have spurious brand loyalty and on the other true brand loyalty. The former was defined by Bloemer and Kasper as the ?(1) biased (2) behavioral response (3) expressed over time (4) by some decision-making unit (5) with respect to one or more alternative brands out of a set of such brand, (6) which is a function of inertia.? The key word here is inertia meaning without commitment towards the brand. Their definition the latter, and the most important one in this paper, is exactly the same on the first five points but differs for the sixth adding ?is a function of psychological (decision making, evaluative) processes resulting in brand commitment.? In this definition brand commitment is the key word.
In laymen?s words true brand loyalty refers to consumers sticking with a brand out of feelings of commitment towards that brand. For instance, when you bought a tube of Prodent toothpaste and you found it ok, you will not have to spend any valuable time on looking for other toothpaste brands, because you are already familiar with it. However, for a more brand-loyalty-sensitive product class like beer, the probability that a consumer will stick to one brand (like Grolsch Beer) is much higher.
In the next paragraph we will now look at the relation between brand commitment and brand loyalty.
Brand loyalty is based on the amount of brand commitment. The amount of commitment is not fixed, but can be considered as a continuum. The amount of commitment is based on the type of brand satisfaction. In this article, two types of satisfaction are taken into account. For the sake of this paper, a distinction has to be made between manifest and latent brand satisfaction.
First, what is brand satisfaction? Bloemer defines it as "the outcome of the subjective evaluation that the chosen alternative (the brand) meets or exceeds the expectations" (pp 314). Bloemer then makes a distinction between manifest and latent satisfaction. The distinction basically rests on the degree of elaboration. This in turn depends on the level of motivation and capacity that a certain consumer needs in order to evaluate the product. Manifest satisfaction is the result of a high degree of elaboration. Latent satisfaction is based on the fact that "the consumer is not fully aware of his/her satisfaction, because of a lack of motivation and/or ability of the consumer to evaluate his/her brand choice" (pp.315).
The linkage between satisfaction and brand loyalty
Many literatures have been written on the relation between brand loyalty and consumer satisfaction. This relation seems quite obvious. Later on we will deal with an article from Bloemer and De Ruyter (forthcoming) in which they introduce some moderating effects on this relation. But before we do this, we will describe factors that influence consumer satisfaction. In this respect Oliver (1981 & 1993) provides us with some interesting insights. Oliver describes the process of consumer (dis)satisfaction with help of the disconfirmation theory. Shortly explained, this theory assumes that consumer satisfaction or dissatisfaction results from a positive or negative discrepancy (or disconfirmation) between the outcome and the expectations regarding a purchase" (Antonides and Van Raaij, 1998) (See appendix I).
How exactly do these disconfirmations arise? With respect to services provided to consumers, the SERVQUAL model (see appendix II) gives some interesting explanations for these disconfirmations or discrepancies. The model goes further on Oliver’s disconfirmation theory by defining and explaining other forms of disconfirmations than the one that arises out of the difference between expected and experienced service. These other discrepancies e.g. arise as a result of how consumer expectations are perceived by the service provider or how the actual service provided differs from the directives given about how to provide the service. The article of Antonides and van Raaij (1998) continues with how these discrepancies can result in consumer (dis)satisfaction and eventually perhaps in complaints.
Factors influencing the satisfaction – brand loyalty relationship
There are many conditions that influence the factors, which are crucial in stimulating brand loyalty successfully. These, a/o., include the market share, competition, price, brand switching costs, number of substitutes, and so on. However, less obvious, but still, very important factors include the ones proposed by De Ruyter and Bloemer in their article about
customer loyalty in extended service settings. These are the factors of value attainment and positive mood in interaction with customer satisfaction that can play a significant role in influencing brand loyalty. The second figure in appendix II puts the moderating effect of the two factors on the satisfaction – brand loyalty relationship into a clear, comprehensive framework.
Bloemer and De Ruyter explain the concept of value attainment as follows. In their search for products and services consumers are assumed to search for some sort of instrumental values. instrumental values include values like independence, politeness, responsibility etc. (Peter & Olson, 1996). Trying to achieve these specific values represents one moderating factor. The state of mood represents the other moderating factor. For example, when you walk into a store and see the smile of a happy salesman, your mood is probably positively affected. This positive mood, in turn, makes it more probable that satisfaction results into increased brand loyalty.
The reason for Bloemer and De Ruyter to deal with this subject in this specific way, is because they find it useful to do this in the same way as George (1991), Judge (1993) and George & Jones (1996) did in their research in the context of work experience. These writers also considered the interacting effects of value attainment, job satisfaction and moods in explaining employee loyalty. So the paper of Bloemer and De Ruyter should be "viewed as an attempt to replicate these findings from the work experience context for the service experience domain." We will continue by explaining the marketing management complications of these findings.
Marketing Management Implications
Evaluating what has been said, the task of a marketing department is to have many manifested satisfied consumers, because they are the ones that are brand loyal. In order to have a high number of such consumers, marketing tools should be adequately implemented to increase the motivation and the capacity of the consumers to evaluate brand choice. This can be achieved by accentuating the differences between different brands and stressing the important characteristics of the brand, by providing clear and understandable information about the brand, or by building a permanent relationship with the customer. An example of a company that makes good use of these methods is Prodent. The Prodent company does this in its commercials by making possible consumers aware of the fact that the use of toothpaste is very important for the health of your teeth. They hope to achieve an increased motivation to evaluate different brands. Another example is Mars which through it?s extensive advertising, especially through sporting events, wants to establish the fact that their candy bars are little stamina bombs giving their customers enough energy to make it through their day. They try to obtain a caring relationship with their customers.
The previously mentioned increased motivation should result in higher degrees of manifest satisfaction and therefore into more brand loyalty. In order to get these potential consumers, Prodent stresses the unique system and characteristics the product has.
We can conclude by saying that according to us, as well as many professionals in this field, brand loyalty is a very important aspect of a firm?s intangible assets and marketing strategy. Satisfaction is very important to consumers and by stimulating and manipulating this as well as other factors like price, number of substitutes and switching costs the satisfaction-brand loyalty relationship is positively influenced by companies aware of the importance. The implications of this knowledge marketing wise are customers should be stimulated to evaluate their choice between products by either stressing the differences between brands and focus on the important characteristics of the brand, by providing clear and understandable information about the brand. As was mentioned before Prodent is an example of a company that has recognized this and it can be seen as an example by other firms who not yet have established brand loyalty among their own target group.