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Aykac, D.S.O. (2007), "Identification in Hyper-Loyalty Brand Communities" chapter in Making of Cult Brands edited by Swapna Gopalan, ICFAI Press: Andhra Pradesh, India. ISBN: 8131408469.

Aykac, D.S.O. (2007), "Identification in Hyper-Loyalty Brand Communities" chapter in Making of Cult Brands edited by Swapna Gopalan, ICFAI Press: Andhra Pradesh, India. ISBN: 8131408469.

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Published by: Dr. D. Selcen O. Aykac on Jun 18, 2009
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Identification in Hyper-Loyalty Brand Communities
1
 
D. Selcen O. Aykac
Sabanci University, Faculty of Management, Istanbul, Turkeyselcenaykac@sabanciuniv.eduAn ever lasting urge to uncover “the strategy” of building brand loyaltyhas been motivating marketers for decades. However, simply establishing thesame discovered “template” for all products and brands has been the pursuedagenda, without any further interest in examining the deeper phenomenologicalprocesses involved with such loyal consumer behavior of various degrees.Among such, consumer communities (Muniz and O'Guinn 2001) created aroundand directed by particular brands, yielding to hyper-loyalty (McAlexander andSchouten 1998; Ebstein, Betou et al. 1999), is critical for comprehendingunderlying dynamics of sustainable long-term competitive advantage. Whileeffectiveness and efficiency have been regularly drawn upon to explainadvantageous resources (Hunt 2002); I contend, that deeper comprehension of consumer hyper-loyalty need to be also integrated.Research on brand communities has been limited (Fournier 1998). Evenintentions of elucidating loyalty as more than a repeat purchase (Jacoby andChestnut 1978) could unfortunately reduce to “narrowly cognitive utilitariandecision-making”, therefore failing to fully reflect the “talismanic relationshipsconsumers form with that which is consumed” (Belk, Wallendorf et al. 1989),and their “religious moments of discovery” (McAlexander and Schouten 1998).Sociology of religion, accompanied by the field of rhetoric, provideinsightful tools to grasp an advanced prospect about both the formation and themaintenance processes of cultures. Utilizing the theory of culture and society(Berger 1967), from the sociology of religion, coupled with the theory of identification (Burke 1969), from the field of rhetoric, this paper sheds light oncertain phenomenological reasons and methods that consumers employ to tightlyalign themselves with particular brands. In doing so, this paper attempts toinform the field of Marketing about novel alternative perspectives of exploringextreme levels of brand loyalty, shaped by high degrees of brand image/social-self image congruency.
“Persuasion is only possible with identification” (Burke 1969).
 
1
First draft of this paper was presented at the 2nd Annual Management Congress at Mugla University (Turkey) onFebruary 17, 2005.
 
 
2
Its influence depending on the degree of perceived identification betweenself and brand images, brand identity encompasses a key role in profaneconsumption behavior. Consumer's differentiation of a certain brand from others,through close identification (Kim, Han et al. 2001) also yields to a sense of belonging to a certain group of consumers (Ashforth and Mael 1989;Bhattacharya, Rao et al. 1995) that already consume the brand, and developsocial identification. Resorting to dialectic relationship process (Berger 1967) information and perpetuation of consumption cultures presents hyper-loyalty brandcommunity research a perspective through identification, promising a theoryenrichment (Bhattacharya, Rao et al. 1995).
Theoretical Grounds
Motivations underlying brand loyalty have significant phenomenologicalsimilarities to those that take place while cultures are formed, and reformed(Berger 1967). According to some research, shopping can be compared toreligious sacrifice, especially savings efforts that result in more shopping itemsthan it could have been possible with generous spending (Miller 1998).Humans socially construct societies, and determine the social order of handling various activities. With time, this social order defines the normmethods for activities, and eventually forms a culture. The dialectic relationshipof constructing a culture is an ongoing process among social animal, man, andsociety. Once constructed, a culture is not finished and needs to bereconstructed. Religion, a crucial component of any culture, follows the sameevolution process. Religion is the basis for legitimation of social order andrelations of man, therefore projects these during the course of culture’smaintenance.The tremendous number of tasks that needed to be accomplished forsurvival forced the “unfinished at birth” man to form societies (Berger 1967).Once discovered, “a better, easy, less costly etc. way/method of handling acertain task”, it needed to disclosed to others and ensuing generations.Development of language enabled humans to reach a consensus about an“appropriate way and/or method” of handling a particular task.As soon as an individual released a new idea to society, it was considered to be
externalized 
. Upon
objectivation
, this new idea’s retention and recall was notonly preserved as a privilege for its originator since its label enabled others todo so as well. For example, car can infer numerous things to a consumer;however, once it is labeled as “Saab”, others as well as its launcher can recallwhat the specific vehicle meant. Ultimately, by society naming the new idea as“the proper mean” and practicing it,
internalization
had been achieved (Figure1). Continuing with the previous example, its brand community considers “Saab”as the appropriate vehicle that should be used for transportation.
 
 
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Burke links identification with "consubstantiality," or the connectionshumans make with one another through shared experiences or goals.
 Identification
in the marketplace is possible to the degree that individualpossessions and ideas are shared symbolically. For anyone to identifyhimself/herself with any particular automobile owner, a social bond is necessary.Such a bond might be created via shared rituals like in the case of Saab ownersbeeping or flashing to other personally unknown Saab drivers on the road(Muniz and O'Guinn 2001), or among Volkswagen TDI community whosemembers range form airline pilots to professors of mass communications (Yost2002).It is enlightening to portray how complementary Burke’s and Berger’stheories are; ‘survival tasks’ and ‘internalization’ process of Berger correspondto ‘goals’ and ‘shared experiences’ of Burke, respectively, which are entirelynecessary in construction of a culture. In contrast to liberal utilitarian thought,consumption is often cultural as meanings involved in its discourse arenecessarily shared meanings (Slater 1997).Identification is not simply a bilateral relationship between individualand organization, isolated from other organizations, but a process that unfolds ina competitive arena (Bhattacharya, Rao et al. 1995). Simultaneous membershipamong complimentary brands’ communities is common.
 Explanatory Applications
Innovations and new products are results of human creativity, though theyare often announced by a collective entity. Each and every day, numerousproducts are launched around the globe. Similar to the introduction of new ideasto societies, new product launch is also an
externalization
. Ever morecompetitive marketplace witnesses success stories of new products as well as
Objectivation / Externalization
mansociety
Internalization
Fig. 1 Dialectic Relationship (Berger 1967)

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