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Article: The Marketing Mix

This case involves thinking about the meaning brands have for consumers, the roles brands play, and the views customers have of brands developed through marketing and non-marketing influences.

Address the following question:

In her 1998 paper Susan Fournier argues that customers have relationships with brands.

1. Explain what Fournier means by "having a relationship" with a brand.

2. Using two brands chosen from the categories below, explain whether or not you believe that customers have relationships with those brands.

3. Expand your thinking and explain whether, based on Fournier's paper, your own experience and your knowledge of other people, customers have relationships with all brands.

Case-related article:

Fournier S. (1998, Mar). Consumers and their brands: Developing relationship theory in consumer research. Journal of Consumer Research. 24, (4). Available through Library Portal/Proquest, August 30, 2012.

Anon, (2001). Consumers say "no thanks" to relationships with brands. (2001, May). Direct Marketing, 64(1), 48-51+. Available through Library Portal/Proquest, August 30, 2012.
Lou Cooper. (2010, October). CUSTOMER RELATIONS: The secret to a good customer relationship. Marketing Week,24-26. Available through Library Portal/Proquest, August 30, 2012.

Pay attention to:

P344: "For a relationship to truly exist, interdependence between partners must be evident: that is, the partners must collectively affect, define and redefine the relationship". If you accept that, does it hold true for you with the two bands you have chosen?

P344: "One way to legitimize the brand-as-partner is to highlight ways in which brands are animated, humanized or somehow personalized." Do the marketers of your chosen brands do this somehow, and if so how?

P345: "theories of animism... the brand is somehow possessed by the spirit of a past or present other... Spokespersons... the brand becomes the spokesperson... Brand person associations... air freshener that grandmother kept in her bathroom, a floor cleaner that an ex-husband always used... gifts... infused with the spirit of the giver. Complete anthropomorphization of the brand... Charlie Tuna and the Pillsbury dough boy. ... people assign selective human properties to a range of consumer goods." Is this true for your chosen brands?

P345: The paragraph beginning "For the brand to serve as legitimate relationship partner..." is important as this argues that the qualities she has discussed above are not sufficient for a brand to be regarded as a potential relationship partner. Study that and the following paragraph (to "...into the brand domain as well.") as it makes an important argument about why brands can be so regarded, and you may well not agree with it.

Solution Preview

In her 1998 paper Susan Fournier argues that customers have relationships with brands.

1. Explain what Fournier means by "having a relationship" with a brand.

In formal psychology, having a relationship implies "the mere exposure effect holds for developing social relationships then, as we come to know more about others, we should come to like them more. It seems familiarity should breed liking. A recent study by Michael I. Norton from the Harvard Business School and colleagues certainly suggests that this is most people's intuitive understanding....Norton and colleagues first surveyed members of an online dating site, asking them whether they generally preferred someone they knew little about, or who they knew more about. 81% said they would prefer the person they knew more about. In a second survey of undergraduate students fully 88% said they would prefer someone they knew more about .... the researchers were interested in this time was the effect of similarity on whether we like others. This is because much previous research has shown that we tend to like other people who are similar to ourselves. The results showed that what was driving the connection between knowledge and dislike was a lack of similarity. Effectively the more traits participants knew about another 'person', the more likely they were to find dissimilarities with themselves, and ...

Solution Summary

The marketing mix in articles are examined. The expert explains what Fournier means by "having a relationship" with a brand/