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Adversity in relationships: The research evidence Lopes, Rui Correia Loureiro, Sandra M.
Purpose This research provides a first systematic literature review on negative consumer-brand relationships (NCBR) issues in order to capture the main terms and factors employed in several previous studies. This paper looks forward to break new ground for subsequent stages of research regarding NCBR.
Originality In the development of theories and investigations, researchers have relied on assumptions that are more aligned with a positive brand relationship view rather than a negative brand relationship view (Fournier and Alvarez, 2013). In recent years, the meaning of NCBR has attracted the attention of marketing practitioners, but little attention has been given in academia. There is a need to clarify these relationships within a broader perspective. The research conducted in this paper, represents the only systematic identification, examination and incorporation of negative relations factors identified through the existing literature and discusses promising aspects of NCBR for future research.
Methodology To identify and rigorously systematize the studies on NCBR, a systematic literature review, has been considered. This paper analyses the main characteristics of 93 articles on NCBR published in the most relevant scientific journals within the period 2009–2014, in order to determine the evolution of this current issue of research over recent years and improve our understanding of this subject. At this state of research, where the theme is merely blooming, the aim of using this method is to explore the topic, the methodology, as well as other relevant aspects of the research and, moreover, it will highlight the need for continuing research into its conceptualization (Cook, 1997).
Thus, a three-stage procedure has been applied. First - Planning: In order to obtain a significant sample of articles, academic studies from top tier scholarly journals within the period of 2009-2014 that theorized or assessed the NCBR issue were searched for. Second Conducting: From a total of 207 identified studies, 93 articles have been retained. Initially, titles were reviewed, followed by the abstracts, then a meticulous examination of the remaining articles was held and, finally, references were scanned and additional relevant papers were included. A developed data extraction form was used in order to extract the data from selected studies and to document the process. Regarding the elements that have been extracted from the concerned studies we highlight: general details; features of the study; key results. Third - Conceptualization: As highlighted by Tranfield et al. (2003), the third and last stage encompassed two stages: 1) a descriptive analysis to provide an evidence base of the alignment issues; and 2) a thematic analysis to identify key themes, their commonalities and differences. To allow data extraction and to increase consistency and transparency data were input into a spreadsheet as highlighted by Christofi & Kaufmann (2011). Globally, a thematic analysis involves the creation and use of codes to translate theoretical concepts into themes and can be data driven or theory driven (Boyatzis, 1998; Thomas & Harden, 2008). As suggested by Mingione (2014), this systematic review developed both inductive and deductive coding.
Findings Descriptive Findings To provide a clear framework, the descriptive reporting of the 93 identified articles has been organized in two sections: First - Publication activity: A total of 21 journals published on NCBR with 6 journals issuing 72% of the retrieved articles. In particular, the Journal of Business Research shows the highest number of publications (29%), followed by the Journal of Consumer Behaviour & the Journal of Consumer Psychology (11% each) and the Journal of Consumer Research (7%). Furthermore, contributions to the field were included in a special issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, which focused on anti-consumption (2009). More deeply, the special issues provided 18% articles that highly contributed to the advancement of academics’ knowledge on anti-consumption and NCBR. Additionally, a total of 82% of the articles were published between 2009 and 2014. In particular, 2009 shows the highest number of articles (23%) followed by the year of 2013 with 16% of the articles.
Second - Academic contributions: A total of 158 authors contributed to the field, with 14% of them publishing, conjunctly or separately, more than one article. There are no particular authors that have extensively written on NCBR. In particular, six authors (Lee, Conroy, Motion, Kozinets, Romani, Gregoire) published more than three articles as main or coauthors. Only a small margin of the articles was published by only one author (16%), followed by articles with 2 authors (43%) and 3 or more authors published 41% of the total articles. Regarding country of origin, 46% of the articles have only authors from the USA, followed by 9% with authors only from Australia, 7% of the articles were published only by UK authors and 6% from Canada. Concerning cross-cultural publications (i.e., articles with authors from more than one country) it represents 25% of the total articles. Wherein, 95% (USA-55%; New Zealand-27%; UK-14%) of them have at least one author from AngloSaxon countries.
Thematic findings Findings from an extensive and systematic review of the literature shown potential dimensional characteristics of NCBR that have been systematized into a preliminary model divided into four main categories: Conflict attitude; Brand-self distance; Negative perceived emotions; Countercultural phenomena.
First – Conflict Attitude: This is perhaps the category that most interest has aroused in the academia. The conflict attitude, which indicates confrontation against an object, is especially relevant for the subset of NCBR as Fournier & Alvarez (2013) mentioned. It might reflect the competitive versus cooperative/friendly character of a brand relationship and we can include topics such as: dissatisfaction with goods/services (Banister & Hogg, 2004; Oliver, 1980);
revengeful associations, brand retaliation or boycott (Giesler, 2012; Fisk et al., 2010;
Funches et al., 2009; Berry & Seiders, 2008; Thompson et al., 2006; Klein et al., 2004;
Kozinets & Handelman, 1998), consumer resistance (Cherrier, 2009; Dursun & Kabadayi, 2013; Hogg, 1998; Zavestoski, 2002), anti-consumption or brand avoidance, which is characterized by a negative perception of relationship (Khan and Bozzo, 2012; Lee et al., 2009; Lee, 2007; Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991).
Second – Brand-self distance: Ogilvie (1987) suggests that identity avoidance or undesired self is a set of associations and values with which people do not want to be linked nor incorporate into his self-concept. The phenomenon of consumers developing their selfconcepts by identifying with positive reference groups, while misidentifying with negative reference groups, is supported in academic literature (Hempel, 2012; Schembri et al., 2010;
Elsbach & Bhattacharya, 2001; Englis & Soloman 1995; Muniz & O'Guinn, 2001). The theory behind the explanation of this phenomenon is called dissociative reference group (White & Dahl, 2006; Englis & College, 1997). Lee (2007) and Ogilvie (1987) argue that in comparison of what people want to be, they may have clear idea about what they do not want to be, and this deviation from undesired self might be more effective than the approach towards the ideal self.
Third – Negative perceived emotions: The psychological theories on negative emotions suggest that the nature of the emotion experienced has a highly determinant effect on an individual's subsequent actions as claimed by Romani et al., (2012). In this line of thinking, the same authors proposed a scale that includes six distinct negative emotions towards brands (i.e., anger, sadness, worry, embarrassment, discontent, and dislike). We would like to highlight that anger is associated with “attack” actions (e.g., negative word-of-mouth), whereas worry and discontent were associated with “avoidance” and sadness was associated with inactivity. Drawing from the appraisal theory of emotions (Roseman et al., 1990), we can expect that consumer–brand relationships may become negative not only because of the way consumers feel about the brand, but also because of the way consumers feel about themselves when in the relationship with the brand as highlighted by Fournier & Alvarez (2013).
Fourth – Countercultural phenomena: The term counterculture phenomena is attributed to Roszak (1968) that defined it as a subculture whose values and norms of behaviour differ substantially from those of mainstream society. It might oppose mass culture or values and is sometimes conceptualized in terms of generational conflict and rejection of mass values.
Countercultures life cycles include phases of rejection, growth, partial acceptance and absorption into the mainstream. Thus, as suggested by Clark (1986), the rarity of the brands makes them non-ordinary but this rarity cannot be mixed with the ordinary otherwise rareness is lost. Although branded objects are not rare, their exclusive and unique details and ideology distinguishes them from other brands. As suggested by McGinnis & Gentry (2009) based on Tian et al., (2001), brands that become classified as being outside of the norm may serve as recognizable symbols of uniqueness. Based on Ziller (1964), Tian et al., (2001) suggested that if individuals fail to see a means of differentiating themselves from others in a socially appropriate manner, they may prefer acts that negatively distinguish them over more subtle distinctions that are available within the domain of positively valued acts. Breaking rules or customs or challenging existing consumer norms risks social disapproval, including evaluations that one exhibits poor taste. Hence, we decided to classify this construct as “counter culture phenomena”.
Theoretical implications The research evidence clearly assessed the existence of an established academic conversation regarding NCBR in meaningful ways (Park & colleagues, 2013; Fournier & Alvarez, 2013;
Romani et al., 2012; Lee et al., 2009; Hempel, 2012; Khan & Bozzo, 2012). We may find different terms with different designations, but none of them could clearly demonstrate and aggregate the reasons of NCBR. In this vein, the preliminary conceptual themes proposed add useful insights for understanding the nature and process of NCBR. Moreover, this investigation introduces important findings and contributes with an original approach into the branding literature in order to enable a further theorizing of the subject.