07 Jan A consumer-psychology model of brands
A consumer-psychology model of brands
The model presented here addresses consumer perceptions and judgments and their underlying processes as they relate to brands. Fig. 1 shows the model. In contrast to general information processing models, the consumer-psychology model of brands focuses specifically on the unique characteristics of brands. One brand, for example, can span across various products and product categories. Brand information is conveyed frequently through multi-sensory stimulation. Brands can form relations with other brands. Brands can be anthropomorphized, and many of them are appreciated as cultural symbols. Finally, consumers can organize communities around brands. Consumers know and experience these characteristics about brands and respond to them. The model presented here accounts for these essential characteristics of brands. The structure of the model also reflects an understanding that consumers have different levels of psychological engagement with brands because of different needs, motives and goals. These levels of engagement are represented in the model by three layers. The innermost layer represents object centered, functionally-driven engagement; that is, the consumer acquires information about the brand with the goal of receiving utilitarian benefits from the brand. The middle layer represents a self-centered engagement; the brand is seen as personally relevant to the consumer. Finally, the outer layer represents social engagement with the brand; the brand is viewed from an interpersonal and socio-cultural perspective, and provides a sense of community. As we move from the inner to the outer layer, the brand becomes increasingly meaningful to the consumer. Most importantly, the model distinguishes five brand-related processes: identifying, experiencing, integrating, signaling and connecting with the brand. As part of identifying, a consumer identifies the brand and its category, forms associations, and compares the relations between brands. Experiencing refers to sensory, affective and participatory experiences that a consumer has with a brand. Integrating means combining brand information into an overall brand concept, personality and relationship with the brand. Signifying refers to using the brand as an informational cue, identity signal and cultural symbol. Finally, connecting with the brand includes forming an attitude toward the brand, becoming personally attached to it and connecting with the brand in a brand community. These processes are not necessarily one-directional and linear, in the way that information processing is presented from encoding to choice. As will be discussed in more detail at the end of this article, processes may occur in different orders. Moreover, while each construct is assumed to be conceptually distinct, a given construct may overlap, to some degree, with another construct, and different constructs may interact.
The process of identifying refers to searching for, being exposed to and collecting information about the brand, its category and related brands. Depending on a consumer’s level of psychological engagement, the identification process concerns primarily categorization, associations with the brand, or interbrand relations.
The experiencing process includes sensory perceptions of the brand, brand affect, and the participatory experiences that a consumer may seek with a brand. Research has conceptualized experiences as multi-dimensional, including sensory, affective-cognitive, and behavioral dimensions (Brakus et al., 2009).
During the integration process, consumers combine brand information and summarize it in an overall brand concept, personality or relationship with the brand.
Semiotically, brands may be viewed as signifiers that transfer meaning (Mick, 1986). Depending on the consumer’s engagement, a brand may act as an informational cue, personal identity signal or cultural symbol. Signifying may occur heuristically, without the need for extensive processing (Maheswaran, Mackie, & Chaiken, 1992).
Finally, the model distinguishes three psychological constructs to indicate various ways of connecting with a brand that differ in strength and affect the consumer’s interaction with a brand: brand attitude (resulting from object-centered engagements with brands), brand attachment (resulting from self-centered engagements), and brand community (resulting from interpersonal and socio-cultural engagements).
- Brakus, J. Josko, Schmitt, B. H., & Zarantonello, L. (2009). Brand experience: What is it? How is it measured? Does it affect loyalty? Journal of Marketing, 73, 52–68.
- Maheswaran, D., Mackie, D. M., & Chaiken, S. (1992). Brand name as a heuristic cue: The effects of task importance and expectancy confirmation on consumer judgments. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 1, 317–336.
- Mick, D. G. (1986). Consumer research and semiotics: Exploring the morphology of signs, symbols and significance. Journal of Consumer Research, 13, 196–214.
- Schmitt, Bernd. (2012). The consumer psychology of brands. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 22, 7–17.