Effect of actual and ideal self-congruence on emotional brand attachment within hedonic categories: comparing and contrasting findings from the U.S. and the Netherlands

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Companies are increasingly focussing on the establishment of an emotional connection between their brand and their consumers because this leads to higher levels of consumer loyalty (Thomson et al., 2005). In light of this, marketing managers are increasingly using a traditional approach to branding, which means that they tailor their brand’s personality to match with how consumers ‘actually’ see themselves. Next to this authentic form of branding, marketing managers are also tailoring their brand’s personality to fit with how consumers ‘ideally’ view themselves (Malär et al., 2011). The question arises which branding strategy is best suitable and in particular, which approach to branding will lead to a higher level of emotional brand attachment. This research focuses on branded products within hedonic categories in order to assess whether findings from previous research within utilitarian categories can be generalizable to other product categories. Furthermore, this research collected data in both the Netherlands and in the U.S. to assess whether and how the relation between self-congruence and emotional brand attachment differs according to a consumer’s country. The findings indicate that in both the Netherlands and the U.S., actual self-congruence has a significantly stronger influence on emotional brand attachment than ideal-self congruence. The findings also show that ideal self-congruence has a significantly stronger effect on emotional brand attachment in the Netherlands compared to the U.S. and that actual self-congruence has a significantly stronger effect in the U.S. compared to the Netherlands. Demographics such as age and gender do not seem to influence this relation. This research shows the importance of taking the consumer’s self-views into account when defining a brand’s personality. Doing so will increase the fit between a consumer’s self-views and a brand and accordingly will lead to higher levels of emotional brand attachment. These higher levels of brand attachment will increase a consumer’s commitment and loyalty to a brand (Park et al., 2010). This research shows that the relation between self-congruence and emotional brand attachment can differ between consumers from different countries. Therefore, it is important to take the consumer’s country into consideration when trying to establish an emotional attachment to these consumers. Furthermore, findings of this research indicate that there is no ‘one shoe fits all’ approach to branding. A traditional approach and an aspirational approach could both lead to an emotional attachment, but marketers should be aware of factors such as a consumer’s country and product category that can also affect how consumers emotionally attach to brands.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen