«of the AM’s Brand, Corporate Identity and Reputation SIG INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE SESSIONS Sessions chairs The main function of a session chair is to ...»
Furthermore, the members’ eWOM activities about brands are often tightly linked to the context they are in. Specifically, due to the embeddedness of the pages in the social networking site, the brand pages on Facebook are often not perceived as separate entities, but as being a part of the members’ personal profiles on the social network. These communities are closely connected to the members’ social network, and are often used to project one’s self-image or to make a statement about themselves to their ‘friends’.
In addition to commenting on the official and unofficial fan pages, members often spread the word about the brand to their social network. There is almost a feeling that this is happening simultaneously. Furthermore, this interrelation of the brand page with the person’s profile and the network of their friends creates awareness about this brand among other Facebook users, and can even encourage further brand following.
Finally, revealing their real identity on social media-based brand communities affects the nature of their participation. Members of Facebook brand pages are often concerned about their privacy, as well as how they are perceived by other contacts in their network. This seems to shape their willingness to actively engage in eWOM both with other fan page members, and with their broader network of friends.
Theoretical implications The paper provides several theoretical implications. First, the study explores the specific context of social media, which is characterized by a large amount of consumer interactions.
The paper further supports that brand-related consumer exchange is thus not limited by the community boundaries, but often takes place within the members’ social network. Brand followers often share content generated in the community with their friends who may not be members of the same brand pages. And this process seems to happen both intentionally and unintentionally, where the fans actively invite friends to ‘like’ the page, and share news from the page; or simply follow the brand, and this becomes visible to their social network.
The interviews support the previous research which has shown that official brand pages are preferred when communicating with the brand, whereas unofficial pages or groups run by enthusiasts are often used for interaction with other community members about the brand (Dholakia & Vianello, 2011).
The study further suggests that there is a link between the consumers’ self-identity and their willingness to actively participate in the social media-based brand communities. Previous studies have discussed that often consumers engage in eWOM for self-enhancement reasons (Hennig-Thurau, et al., 2004), or to strengthen their reputation as experts among other consumers (Cheung & Lee, 2012).
Finally, the followers of these brand pages are often members of multiple brand communities on Facebook. It seems as if their need to express themselves, their opinions, or to socialize may be stronger than their admiration for the brand itself.
Practical implications Companies should appreciate that the members of online social media-based brand communities can be often seen as experts and influencers not just by the members of the community but by a wider group of potential consumers. Therefore they have a power to strongly influence the formation of brand reputation.
Brands should identify ways to encourage the socialization and self-expression of their fans on the social media-based brand communities. This is particularly important for the company-managed communities that wish to become stronger and increase their Facebook following.
The paper recognizes that the companies may find it challenging to manage their Facebook brand pages. The members of these communities do not just interact amongst themselves in a closed system. Typically they are participating in multiple social media-based brand communities, and interact with different individuals outside the brand community – within their broader social network. All these interactions are beyond the control of the companies that are actually manufacturing the brands, and that may have initiated the brand communities.
Limitations This study adopts qualitative research approach, which aims to explore previously under researched area of consumer interactions within social media-based brand communities. The findings thereby should not be generalized, and due to the preliminary stage of the data analysis, the results are there to shed some light on the investigated area. Furthermore, the study adopts snowball sampling, which may not be representative of the population.
Finally, the research regards the brand followers’ activity on the social network as independent of other activities - that they are involved in both on-line and off-line.
Originality/value The paper looks into the different social media-based brand communities. The results thus include the insights from brand-initiated and fan-initiated pages and groups. Furthermore, the communities represent different brands, including both product and service brands.
The paper sees the members of social media-based brand communities as members of a broader social network. This network incorporates both other members of the communities and also their social network contacts who might be unrelated, or even uninterested in the brand.
The study brings the understanding of the brand community to a different level, where the actual brands are participating in a social network filled with their actual or potential consumers. Consumers tend to participate in multiple brand communities and they regard these communities as active participants that they interact with.
Keywords: electronic word-of-mouth, brand community, social media, self-image, participation
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Clustering Millennials using brand authenticity Pattuglia, Simonetta Mingione, Michela Borra, Simone Purpose Brand authenticity can be considered one of the “cornerstones of contemporary marketing” (Brown et al., 2003), a response to current trends of hyperreality and globalness (Arnould and Price, 2000; Ballantyne et al., 2006), and a new business imperative of the experience economy (Gilmore and Pine, 2007). Being a socially constructed phenomenon (Beverland, 2006; Beverland et al., 2008, 2010; Grayson and Martinec, 2004; Rose and Wood, 2005;
Thompson et al., 2006), several scholars have observed that brand authenticity has the power to legitimize a brand within in its context (Beverland, 2006; Beverland et al., 2008, 2010;
Grayson and Martinec, 2004; Thompson et al, 2006). Concordantly, Aitken and Campelo (2011) underlined the importance of customers in engaging in the brand community and in co-creating brand meanings (Bertilsson and Cassinger, 2011).
Nevertheless, also non-customers might have a crucial role in the construction of brand meanings, especially when they reject brands considered not authentic, generate antibranding communities (Holt, 2002; Gustafsson, 2006), and diffuse a negative doppelganger of the brand image (Thompson et al., 2006). In particular, the new generation of Millennials (i.e., the cohort born after 1982, Howe and Strauss, 2009) plays a relevant role in creating brand communities that might sustain or reject brands depending on the perceived brand authenticity (Lantos, 2014), which could undermine the legitimization of well established brands.
Therefore, the aim of this study is to profile the Millennials’ perceptions of brand authenticity in relation to their experience with well established brands. In particular, the relationships between brand authenticity and brand related constructs (i.e., brand image, brand trust and premium price) has been considered.
Methodology In the last decades, several Italian brands have represented important assets of the manufacturing and service sectors, consolidating their brand authenticity over time. In this study, four well established Italian brands were selected to represent the automotive (i.e., Piaggio), food & beverage (i.e., Peroni), energy (i.e., Enel), and entertainment (i.e., Cinecittà Studios) sectors. In particular, since 1946 the Piaggio company has produced the globally known Vespa motorcycle, which became a symbol of national development in the 60s. In producing the best known Italian beer since 1846, Peroni has also played a relevant role in the Italian scenario. Besides manufacturing brands, the energy company Enel and the film studio company Cinecittà have constituted important pillars of the Italian service sector since 1962 and 1937, respectively.
To explore the Millennials’ perception of the aforementioned companies a 28-item questionnaire has been administered to 382 University of Rome Tor Vergata students (mean age: 21.6±0.6 years). The questionnaire included three sections: 1) demographic information;
2) five brand authenticity dimensions, which combined different but complementary dimensions of brand authenticity. In particular, brand heritage (five items), quality commitment (seven items), sincerity (two items) were extracted from Napoli et al. (2014), whereas originality (four items) and reliability (four items) were extracted from Bruhn et al.
(2012); and 3) consumers’ perceptions on brand image (two items), trust (two items) and premium price (two items) (Wiedmann et al., 2011). Respondents were asked to provide their opinion on a seven-point scale, ranging from 0 (completely disagree) to 6 (completely agree).
The software SSPS (2007) has been used for statistical analysis. Constructs’ reliability has been ascertained by means of Cronbach’s alpha (Table 1). To profile the Millennials’ perceptions of brand authenticity in relation to the brand image, brand trust and premium price, a hierarchical cluster analysis (Ward’s method) has been performed.
Table I. Constructs’ reliability Constructs Cronbach’s alpha
Results Four clusters of Millennials (i.e., the Engaged, the Cheated, the Believer, and the Sceptical) emerged (figure 1). In general, high and low consumers’ perceptions of brand authenticity corresponded to high and low scores of consumers’ perceptions on brand image, brand trust and premium price, respectively. No hierarchy between brand authenticity dimensions was
found. The detailed analysis of the four clusters, indicates:
1) The Engaged. Consumers pertaining to this group are customers that conceive the brands as authentic, have high perceptions of the brand image and brand trust, and are willing to pay a premium price. The highest brand authenticity has been attributed to Peroni and the least to Vespa. Despite Vespa’s customers having already paid a premium price to purchase this motorcycle, they reported the lowest scores in their willingness to pay a premium price.
2) The Cheated. This cluster includes actual (or former) customers not conceiving the brand as authentic, and showing low scores for brand image, brand trust and price premium. In particular, manufacturing companies showed the highest values with respect to the service ones, indicating that customers might feel more cheated when they had a negative experience of services with respect to products. In particular, customers attributed to Cinecittà Studios the lowest scores of brand authenticity and brand related constructs.