Could brand loyalty – the ultimate goal of so many marketing strategies – have a dark side…?
That’s the suggestion from University of Portsmouth Marketing Professor, Yuksel Ekinci, based on his research published in the Journal of Business Research.
According to Ekinci, brand loyalty can lead to “over consumerism” – impulse buying and obsessive compulsive buying – creating debt traps and other detrimental consequences for some consumers.
Ekinci explains that brand loyalty is derived from the psychological concept “self-congruence”, whereby a person’s shopping habits and behavior reflect an ideal version of themselves.
People buy from their favourite brands because it makes them feel good and reinforces their image of the kind of person they want to be. For example, someone on a modest income who aspires to a higher economic status might purchase designer clothing or eat in an upscale restaurant because they wish to see themselves as a person of higher economic status. Those whose lives are humdrum and routine might buy adventure clothing or a sports car.
Their favourite brands represent who they wish to be, or perhaps, believe they are deep down.
Says Ekinci: “Ideal self-congruence is when consumers find a good match between their ideal or desirable personality image eg. sophisticated, posh, upper class, and a specific brand personality image. The more the similarity between their ideal personality and brand personality image, the stronger the connection between consumers and brands. This matching process stimulates brand attachment through emotional bonding and drives purchasing.
“Purchasing a specific brand is emotionally rewarding because it reflects back to the individual a similarity between their personality and the brand image or takes them closer to the image they aspire to be.
“Someone may feel they are an ordinary person – their actual self-image – but admire a person who is prestigious, elegant, exclusive or upper class – their ideal self-image. Purchasing a brand such as Louis Vuitton that has an elegant, stylish and upper-class brand personality may match their ideal self-image, if not their actual personality. Their purchasing is motivated by ideal self-congruence and brand attachment rather than functional needs.
“At the point of sale their self-esteem rises and they feel cherished and valued.”
The stronger the need for self-esteem, and brand attachment, the greater the risk of “self harm” through “over consumerism”. Ekinci advises brands to pay attention to their consumers’ compulsive buying, on the basis that it could eventually harm their brand.
You can read more about Ekinci’s study at Phys.org.
Image Credit: based on an original animated image by Fabrik Brands, a London-based creative agency.