What drives brand commitment in different cultures?

Marketers are extremely aware that consumers gravitate towards certain brands based on brand image and brand promise. Therefore, marketers must clearly identify the needs of their intended customer and craft that image and promise to speak directly to that audience. As always, however, taking a brand global adds a new level of complexity in determining those customer needs and identifying if the needs are the same in the new market.

Eisengerich and Rubera (2010) examined two theories related to how consumers perceive brands and development brand commitment.

  • Chaplin and John (2005) developed the theory of self-brand connections, which “demonstrates that people choose brands that are congruent with their self concepts. The process of self-brand connections is based on people’s comparisons of their own values and preferences with the brand’s characteristics.” If there is a match, consumers will identify more strongly with that brand, e.g. a person valuing creativity is more likely to connect with brands that emphasize creativity.
  • Bagozzi (1975) developed the theory of exchange which “argues that people are more likely to reciprocate when an exchange partner is perceived as having made equivalent contributions to the relationship. For example, if a brand is perceived as being focused on customer needs, e.g. a superlative service structure, the customer will respond in kind.

Eisengerich and Rubera (2010) also examined four brand positioning strategies and their relationship with Hoftstede’s cultural dimensions. They placed the four main positioning strategies into two groups:

  • Brand innovativeness and self relevance – both refer “to the perceived image of the brand that consumers use to establish self connections”
  • Customer orientation and social responsibility – both refer “to the way the consumers perceive the general exchange with the brand.

Their research revealed two main results:

  • Brand innovativeness and the development of brands that are relevant to self image are effective in strengthening consumer commitment in countries “whose cultures are individualist, short-term oriented, and low on power distance.” Conversely, these strategies were most ineffective in countries with the opposite cultural dimensions.
  • Customer orientation and social responsibility increased “brand commitment in countries that are collectivist, long-term oriented, and high on power distance.”

From a marketers perspective, it becomes even more critical to consider cultural dimensions when entering a new market. The selection of the wrong core positioning strategy can undermine the development consumer brand commitment, leading to failure in that market.

References:

Eisingerich, A., Rubera, G. (2010). “Drivers of brand commitment: a cross-national investigation.” Journal of International Marketing. 18 (2), pp. 64-79.

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