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Do Customers have a Relationship with Brands?

Questions/Tasks - Susan Fournier (1998) argues that customers have relationships with brands. Do Customers have relationships with Brands? Yes or No? Defend your position. Either way, if they have relationships or do not have relationships with brands, so what?

In order to answer these questions and complete these tasks, you are required to select a movie studio and ONE brand from the remaining two product categories shown below and explore the idea that consumers have relationships with the products, paying particular attention to the implications of whether or not having a relationship might have for marketing managers in the management of and the development of marketing strategies for those brands, (the "So what?" in the above question).

The three product categories are:

Good & Service - eg Cell phone service (e.g. brands such as Verizon, Sprint, AT&T.)

Good Only - eg Hand gun (e.g. brands such as Colt, Beretta, Smith & Wesson, Glock.) or Motorcycle (e.g. brands such as Honda, Harley Davidson, Yamaha), and

Service Only - eg Movie studios (e.g. brands such as Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Disney.).

Note that the product categories cover both goods and services.

Select ONE brand from the TWO remaining product categories, (e.g. you might choose a cell phone brand, say Verizon, or a hand gun brand, say Colt; or a Motorcycle brand, say Harley Davidson). The brands shown above are only examples. You can select others not shown if you prefer, but they must be either a Good only or a Good & Service.

Note that it is not assumed that you will agree with Dr. Fournier that people have relationships with brands, (nor is it assumed that you will necessarily disagree). Clearly marketing scholars disagree about this so you can too! You might choose two brands, examine them, examine what it means to "have a relationship with a brand" and conclude that this idea does not hold water and has no benefits for marketers, in the process explaining why Dr. Fournier is wrong in your opinion. On the other hand you might conclude that her idea holds for one of the brands you have examined and not for the other, or perhaps holds for some people and not for others. In that instance, contrasting the two is very important. Or you might conclude that it holds for both.

The Situation

Required

Fournier S. (1998, Mar). Consumers and their brands: Developing relationship theory in consumer research. Journal of Consumer Research. 24(4). LINK to PDF version available in EBSCOhost at
http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?
direct=true&db=bth&AN=3 49797&site=ehost-live
on May 12, 2009.

Vargo, Stephen L & Lusch, Robert F (2004, January). Evolving to a New Dominant Logic for Marketing. The Journal of Marketing. 68(1) 1-17. Link to PDF available via EBSCOhost at
http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?
direct=true&db=bth&AN=12142 574&site=ehost-live
on May 12, 2009.

Chaudhuri, Arjun & Holbrook, Morris B. (2002, September). Product-class effects on brand commitment and brand outcomes: The role of brand trust and brand affect . Journal of Brand Management, 10(1). 33-59 Link to PDF version available in EBSCOhost at
http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?
direct=true&db=bth&AN=7 346271&site=ehost-live
on May 12, 2009.

Grubb, Edward L & Grathwohl, Harrison L (1967, October 1). Consumer Self-Concept, Symbolism and Marketing Behavior: A Theoretical Approach. Journal of Marketing. 31(4). 22-28. Link to PDF available via EBSCOhost at
http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?
direct=true&db=bth&AN=499 9346&site=ehost-live
on May 12, 2009.

Recommended

Bolton, Ruth N; Day, George S; Deighton, John; Narayands, Das; Gummesson, Evert; Hunt, Shelby D; Prahalad, CK; Rust, Roland T; & Shugan, Steven M (2004, January). Invited Commentaries on "Evolving to a New Dominant Logic for Marketing.' The Journal of Marketing, 68(1). 18-27. Link to PDF available via EBSCOhost at
http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?
direct=true&db=bth&AN=11924 939&site=ehost-live
on May 12, 2009.

Muniz Jr, A. M. & O'Guinn, T. C. (2001, Mar). Brand community. Journal of Consumer Research.. 27(4). LINK to PDF version available in EBSCOhost at
http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?
direct=true&db=bth&AN=52444 54&site=ehost-live
on February 20, 2008.

McAlexander, J. H., Schouten J. W., Koening, H. F. (2002, Jan). Building brand community. Journal of Marketing. 66(1). Link to PDF version available via TouroC eLibrary in EBSCOhost at
http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?
direct=true&db=bth&AN=63678 49&site=ehost-live
on October 23, 2008.

Note how the case you will make in favor or against the issue of people relating to brands takes you beyond the basics of product management to thinking about branding, product meanings, the roles brands play, the views customers have of brands developed through marketing and non-marketing influences, and the implications of these for marketing managers. Note that this last is the primary focus of this case.

Note also that the materials describing the situation introduce you to three of the major journals in marketing, the Journal of Marketing, the Journal of Brand Management, and the Journal of Consumer Behavior. In that regard, I believe it important that you be introduced to some "academic" research which you should find both interesting and easy to understand. The topics covered in these articles (brand relationships and brand communities) are important and relatively new ones in Marketing and I hope you'll find them stimulating enough to feel that at some point in the future you might try reading more articles in these journals. There are other sources which present new ideas in Marketing in a more "managerially friendly" form, such as the Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, and California Management Review, to name but three. Now that you know these sources exist try to use them as you build your case and continue to use them, even after graduating.

The resources describing the situation include Susan Fournier (1998) in which, amongst other things, she argues that consumers have relationships with brands. Others have stated that they don't, (e.g. Vargo and Lusch (2004) state that "inanimate items of exchange cannot have relationships"). Perhaps they do but only under certain circumstances? I leave that for you to consider.

I stress, that I want you to address the implications that brand relationships might have for marketing managers in the management of brands. Hint: you are to consider TWO brands (one in one of the three product categories, the other in one of the other two product categories). I am forcing this issue to give you the opportunity to see if a relationship is formed based on the product category therefore allowing you to compare the results your analysis between brands in differing product categories. I stress that it is not sufficient simply to write about customers and their relationships with the brands. That's relatively easy. You need to do that to set the stage for your thinking about how marketers might use such insights. Fell free to be creative.

Sources of information for this case may include:

Introspection - you should NOT rely solely on anecdotal evidence.

Questioning friends and colleagues - you should NOT rely solely on anecdotal evidence.

Researching background information on the Internet and in magazines - strongly recommended.

While you may be tempted to simply rely on anecdotal information and write about your own relationship (or non-relationship) with a chosen brand, you will learn a lot more by broadening your horizons and thinking like a marketer, which means setting aside your own perceptions and understanding the way others perceive products. If you are in an Internet-constrained environment simply say so in your assignment and focus on Fournier S. (1998)) and Vargo, S. L. & Lusch, R. F. (2004)

When using the comments of friends and colleagues, reference them as sources.

You should also bear in mind that a fundamental goal, as with all the cases you build in MKT501, is to stimulate your learning. Your answers should therefore aim to demonstrate that learning. In preparing your CASE2, ensure that you demonstrate your learning of the marketing concepts and frameworks for analysis outlined in the modular learning objectives.

Note that this assignment does NOT require you to prepare a detailed essay. Instead use section headings for each of the topics you address in your paper followed by a discussion of that topic. For example, make sure that you list the brands you examine.

Submit a 3-4 page paper

If you wish to include supportive or illustrative materials, feel free to include these in an appendix (e.g. uploaded as an additional file) of no more than three pages. Make sure that you refer to this material in the body of the paper.

Quick Links to RESOURCES on TD2

Keller, Kevin Lane (1993, January). Conceptualizing, Measuring, and Managing Customer Brand Equity. The Journal of Marketing. 57(1). 1-22. Link to PDF version available in EBSCOhost at
http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?
direct=true&db=bth&AN=9 308118328&site=ehost-live
on May 12, 2009.

Solution Preview

You want to start out by first defining the word "Brand."

According to the American Marketing Association (AMA), a brand is a "name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.

According to Laura Lake of About.com (source: http://marketing.about.com/cs/brandmktg/a/whatisbranding.htm) "Your brand resides within the hearts and minds of customers, clients, and prospects. It is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions, some of which you can influence, and some that you cannot." This statement leads to my position on the issue: that customers do have a relationship with brands, and that relationship can also sometimes be affected by certain external factors (e.g. lack of affordability). In such case, marketers have to stay ahead of the competition by also reducing their prices in addition to other values that the brand is know for.

A prime example of this is the current financial hardship that most Americans are currently facing due to the current economic downturn. As a result, many opt for buying store brand items, instead of the brands they used to buy. For example, customers will buy Great Value spaghetti sauce at Wal-Mart rather than Prego simply before they can no longer afford Prego.

2) In order to answer these questions and complete these tasks, you are required to select a movie ...

Solution Summary

Questions/Tasks - Susan Fournier (1998) argues that customers have relationships with brands. Do Customers have relationships with Brands? Yes or No? Defend your position. Either way, if they have relationships or do not have relationships with brands, so what?

In order to answer these questions and complete these tasks, I selected a movie studio and ONE brand from the remaining two product categories shown below and explored the idea that consumers have relationships with the products, paying particular attention to the implications of whether or not having a relationship might have for marketing managers in the management of and the development of marketing strategies for those brands, (the "So what?" in the above question).

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