Brand Community to Brand Equity

February 18 2015

I was previously asked to prove that community commitment is an attitudinal antecedent of brand advocacy (and brand loyalty), and is therefore fundamental to the ultimate goal of building brand equity. In other words, I argued that an effective brand advocacy attitude is most easily found in consumers that have shown commitment and/or engagement toward a brand and its community. 

I point out that since consumer attachment to a brand community translates into improved loyalty behavior (brand advocacy and brand loyalty), brand managers who are considering customer loyalty improvement strategies need to understand the value of managing an online brand community effectively.

Fig. 1 - Brand community to brand equity

By using service-logic variables such us providing the consumers with preferential treatment, social recognition and social relationships, the aim of any brand should be to create a sense of community and community engagement; in other words, “brand community attachment”. 

As noted by Thomson (2006), feelings related to attachment are an essential aspect of strong relationships between the consumer and the brand. Park et al. (2010) included self-connection as a characteristic that influences both brand attachment and relationship quality. Attachment is a construct that derives from psychology theories, where it was defined as “an emotion-laden target-specific bond between a person and a specific object (Bowlby, 1979). 

Various studies have noted that the stronger the attachment, the stronger the feelings of connection, affection, love and passion that the individual experiences. Brand community attachment is seen to have a strong effect on “emotional brand attachment”, a construct that is created by self-brand connection and brand prominence. Park et al. (2010) defined brand prominence as “the extent to which positive feelings and memories about the attachment object are perceived as top of mind”. The bond between the self and the brand requires time and experiences to develop; over time, thoughts and feelings concerning the brand are integrated in the individual’s memory. 

Thomson et al. (2005) noted that a strong attachment can also result in a higher probability that the individual will want to keep proximity to the attachment’s object; indeed, separation from the object can even provoke pain in the individual. Park et al. (2008) confirmed the brand attachment model, discovering that both brand-self connection and brand prominence affect the attachment of an individual to a brand. 

In general, higher brand-self connection leads to higher brand attachment. Similarly, higher brand prominence leads to higher brand attachment

Hur et al. (2011) also demonstrated that emotional brand attachment construct is related to brand attitude strength, which is the positive attitude of a consumer to recommend a brand and become loyal. 

In synthesis, it is by offering services such as preferential treatment, social recognition and social relationship to consumers that a brand builds a sense of community and customer engagement. Through participation in the company’s initiatives and activities, a consumer feels connected to a brand and closer to its value and personality (brand prominence). This emotional connection will translate into positive word-of-mouth (brand advocacy) and repeated purchase (brand loyalty). These two factors, which are part of the brand attitude strength, can have a profound impact on brand equity, as well as on overall brand performance in the marketplace. 

Villanueva et al. (2008) revealed that that brand attachment precisely predicts companies’ reported sales, brand purchase share, and market share.

Alex Mari

Founder & Creative Director of BrandMate