In our global, fast-paced and connected society, brands face the challenge of standing out and being relevant, and many have undergone a path of humanization, aiming to build deeper connections with loyal consumers (Kotler, Kartajaya & Setiawan, 2017). As a result, the concept of brand love has been suggested to describe a long-term relationship between brand and consumers, which is based on “multiple interrelated cognitive, affective, and behavioural elements, rather than a specific, single, transient love emotion” (Batra et al., 2012, p. 6). Furthermore, storytelling has been considered a useful tool for expressing brand values, for creating engagement between brands and consumers and consequently for nurturing strong bonds between them (Fog et al., 2010).

Previous research has demonstrated the efficiency of storytelling as a communication technique that prompts emotional connections to brands (Fog et al., 2010) and enhances engagement, particularly online (Signorelli, 2014), as well as motivates positive Word of Mouth (WOM) (Biesenbach, 2018b). In parallel, previous research has also identified factors that lead to brand love (antecedents)—among which identification with the brand and self-expression are mentioned—and benefits that brand love delivers to brands—among which engagement in online communities, loyalty and positive WOM (Roberts, 2005; Carroll & Ahuvia, 2006; Batra et al., 2012). Despite some common points between the concepts of brand love and storytelling, previous studies have not, to our knowledge, explored the possibility of storytelling being an antecedent that leads to brand love. Investigating this possibility is important because stories, and the imaginary, emotions and values that are inherent to them, may be another tool available for brands to build brand love and harvest the resulting benefits.

This study addresses the jewelry sector, focusing on PANDORA as a case study. Jewelry is a type of product with a symbolic dimension, that, by itself, is able to tell a story, represent a memorable moment, or even a connection to a person. PANDORA is a relevant case study because it is a jewelry brand that uses storytelling in advertising and communication campaigns and, in addition to this, storytelling is present in its own products. Each PANDORA piece has a distinctive design that associates it with a certain narrative, or that allows consumers to interpret the piece associating it with a certain story, occasion, moment or person of their own life. Focusing on this brand allows our research to fulfill its main objective: Understand the role of storytelling in creating brand love when it is used in communication. But the specific nature of PANDORA also enables us to go further and explore to which extent products which, in themselves, tell stories, contribute to adding value to the brand by enhancing brand love. This becomes relevant, given that the concept of product narrative exists and is defined as “type of storytelling that is not about advertising products, services or brands, but that adds value to the product” (Dias & Dias, 2018, p. 2).

Theoretical framework

Brand love and lovemarks

One of the purposes of branding has always been building relationships with (potential) consumers (Fournier, 1998). One of the main goals of these relationships is prompting frequent and/or increased purchases, thus leading to loyalty (Swimberghe et al., 2014). Amaro et al. (2020) point to an important difference between satisfaction and loyalty: Satisfaction is a momentary cognitive judgment resulting from a transaction with a brand, while loyalty implies a long-term affective connection with a brand. However, Ghorbanzadeh and Rahehagh (2020) argue that a theoretical construct that explains “the regular and rational sequence of satisfaction ultimately leading to the formation of consumer loyalty” (p. 1) is lacking and point to emotional attachment and love as possibilities to explore.

In the last few years, as brands strive to stand out and build meaningful and long-lasting relationships with fans and customers, the concept of brand love has been suggested to describe this process, drawing on previous research in the fields of Psychology and Sociology about love for objects and fetichism (Sayers & Monin, 2007). In marketing, Fournier (1998) explored consumer–brand relationships and established that brands can take the role of active partners to establish and nurture a bond. Percy, Hansen and Randup (2004) identified an emotional attachment to brands, and later, Giovanis and Athanasopoulou (2018) argue that emotional connections are used in branding mainly for differentiating purposes, but when they lead to emotional attachment, customers express preference for the brand, and consequently loyalty over time.

Brand love is defined by Carroll and Ahuvia (2006) as “the degree of passionate, emotional attachment a satisfied consumer has for a particular trade name” (p. 81), that differs from simple attachment because of its long-lasting nature. It is a type of relationship that is built when consumers fulfill the following requirements: (1) passion for the brand, (2) attachment to the brand, (3) positive evaluations about the brand, (4) positive emotions and (5) declarations of love. Albert and Merunka (2013) add three fundamental elements in brand love, namely (1) identification with the brand; (2) trust in the brand; and (3) commitment to the brand. Batra et al. (2012) reiterate that brand love is a long-term relationship created between the brand and consumers, which is based on “multiple interrelated cognitive, affective, and behavioural elements, rather than a specific, single, transient love emotion” (p. 6). The authors also point out some distinctions between interpersonal love and love for a brand. While in the former there is a feeling of altruistic concern for the loved one, this is not true in the love for a brand, as there is only concern for what the brand can do for the consumer. In addition, interpersonal love is a mutual feeling, while love for a brand is unidirectional.

As research moved on to explore the factors that lead to brand love—usually referred to as antecedents—and to demonstrate the benefits that brands harvest when they are the objects of brand love—usually referred to as consequences—becoming a “lovemark” became a goal for many brands worldwide (Sayers & Monin, 2007). Roberts (2004) coined the term “lovemark” to describe a brand capable of creating emotional bonds and personal relationships with the communities and social networks it develops. They are brands capable of triggering respect by being transparent and trustworthy, but others go beyond that by being intimate, mysterious and seductive. Lovemarks understand that love is built upon respect, and these are brands that strive to create strong emotional bonds with their (potential) consumers, offering them more than mere rational arguments or product benefits. Edwards and Day (2005) add that lovemarks have three fundamental features: (1) They are brands with active and inspiring beliefs, and this is because this type of brand seeks to make the world a little better place than this would be if the brand did not exist; (2) they have confidence rooted in their ability to do things: “Confident brands are sexy. They are the ones everyone wants to be seen with” (p. 79); and (3) they remain vibrant despite the changes the world is undergoing because they tend to have a high capacity for adaptation, managing to move in time, remaining faithful to themselves and their history. Thus, brands need to work on brand love antecedents to become lovemarks, and only then can they harvest the benefits of being the object of brand love.

Antecedents and consequences of brand love

Different studies have mapped out several factors that lead to brand love, exploring them as antecedents of this feeling/relationship between a customer and a brand. However, there is no consensus on this matter, as different studies reveal different aspects. Some authors highlight aspects that are also integrated in the concept of brand equity (Aaker, 1991), and therefore add value to brands. That is the case of perceived quality, as Batra et al. (2012) found that people tend to be attracted to things that provide them with the necessary benefits and demonstrate high quality, arguing that it is challenging to generate love for a brand that does not afford quality. Bairrada, Coelho and Coelho 2018 also refer to perceived value as the evaluation that consumers make regarding the utility of the brand based on the comparison of what they get from it (functional or symbolic characteristics) to what they give (monetary or non-monetary costs). The authors argue that prestige, the degree of status or esteem that consumers associate with a brand (therefore, allied to its most symbolic dimension) leads to brand love. Carroll and Ahuvia (2006) highlight, as Roberts (2004), the hedonistic features of the products themselves, that is, “the consumer’s perception of the relative role of hedonic (as compared with utilitarian) benefits offered by the product” (p. 82) and highlight fun and pleasure as the ones that are most connected to brand love. Junaid et al. (2019) add escapism as another feature that leads to brand love. Recently, Safeer et al. (2020) corroborated that sensory and affective brand experiences have significant impact in triggering brand love, while intellectual and behavioral experiences (related to perceived quality, for example) do not have significant impact. Fernandes and Inverneiro (2020) also highlight the importance of brand experience. The authors add that brand experiences that are perceived as authentic are the ones with the most positive impact on brand love, thus identifying authenticity as an important antecedent. In reverse, Rodrigues and Borges (2020) found that distrust and negative emotions have a negative impact on brand love, reiterating the importance of authenticity. Bairrada, Coelho and Coelho (2018) also mention brand uniqueness, that is, the degree to which consumers feel that the brand is distinct from competitors. The human being tends to like the feeling of standing out from the rest, and thus, the choice of unique brands is of high relevance. Bergkvist and Bech-Larsen (2010) stress the importance of the identification with the brand, as the closer the consumer self-image is to the brand image, the higher is the level of identification with the brand. Fernandes and Inverneiro (2020) reiterate the connection between brand identification and brand love. Carroll and Ahuvia (2006) also mention self-expression as an antecedent of brand love, as consumers value “the degree to which the specific brand enhances one’s social self and/or reflects one's inner self” (p. 82), and thus prefer brands that help create and reinforce their identities and its expression. Finally, Keller (2013) mentions the sense of community, the “phenomenon in which customers feel a kinship or affiliation with other people associated with the brand” (p. 121) as a feature that nurtures brand love. However, Fernandes and Inverneiro (2020) found that engagement in social media brand communities does not lead directly to loyalty (at least among Millennials). People who engage with brands online may feel brand love and be fans without being consumers. Nevertheless, brands can still harvest positive eWOM from these fans. Palazzo, Delgado-Ballester and Sicilia (2019) refer to self-brand connection as the result of the identification with one brand leading to engagement in its communities, arguing that both these factors foster brand love. This rich strand of research shows us that different studies have identified numerous antecedents that lead to brand love. Some of them, such as perceived quality/value, hedonistic features of the brand, self-expression and identification with the brand, are mentioned more often, and others, such as brand uniqueness and authenticity, appear in, so far, standalone studies and require further exploration. It is possible to conclude that brand love only stems from a complex combination of factors, but the impact that each of the factors has on the creation and nurturing of brand love is still unclear, as well as the interdependencies or synergies between the different factors.

On the other hand, brands strive to generate and nurture brand love because of the benefits it affords, about which researchers share more agreement. Loyalty, the degree to which the consumer is committed with the repurchase of a brand, is considered the most important consequence of brand love (Oliver, 1999; Carroll & Ahuvia, 2006), as it is directly reflected in the performance of the brand, in its profitability. Ghorbanzadeh and Rahehagh (2020) agree, claiming that “brand love is the strongest antecedent of brand loyalty” (p. 1). Furthermore, Palazon et al. (2019) argued that brand equity can increase as a result of brand love. Bairrada, Coelho and Coelho (2018) also highlight the willingness to pay a higher price for a specific brand in particular, when equivalent brands with lower price could exist as a consequence of brand love. Carroll and Ahuvia (2006) add that positive Word of Mouth happens when consumers love a brand, as they tend to speak positively about it. Consumers who love a brand are more likely to comment positively and recommend a brand to others. Amaro et al. (2020), who studied destination brands specifically, stressed WOM and eWOM as good reasons for building brand love. More recently, Giovanis and Athanasopoulous (2020) reiterate that the main positive consequences of brand love are loyalty, willingness to pay premium price and positive eWOM. Keller (2013) adds active involvement as another consequence of brand love, explaining that it “occurs when customers are engaged, or willing to invest time, energy, money, or other resources in the brand beyond those expended during purchase or consumption of the brand” (p. 121). Junaid et al. (2019) also consider brand engagement a consequence of brand love. Thus, although brand love is a complex concept, only generated by a still unexplored combination of antecedents, the literature on its consequences agrees that it is worth pursuing, as it affords many advantages and added value both to brands and consumers.

In the next section, we explore whether and how storytelling fits within this overview of antecedents and consequences of brand love.

Storytelling in brand communication

According to Fisher (1984), storytelling is such a powerful communication tool because human beings are inherently storytellers and symbol makers, that is, we are homo narrans. Since ancestral times, human beings create symbols and communicate them through stories, thus organizing their experiences and promoting a communal way of life. Thus, storytelling can be defined, in a broader sense, as “conveying messages and sharing accumulated knowledge and wisdom to help navigate and explain the world around us” (Mancuso & Stuth, p. 18). Baker and Boyle (2009) add that storytelling goes well beyond the cognitive level, operating deeper, on an emotional and even “visceral” level. In addition, they argue that stories connect people to visions for the future that are larger than themselves and give them a purpose, connecting them to each other.

As the online world emerged and expanded, brands became the focus of online communities, in which storytelling stood out as a very effective way of prompting engagement and motivating shares (Pulizzi, 2012). Storytelling became a fundamental marketing tool, consisting of “using a narrative to connect your brand to customers, with a focus on linking what you stand for to the values you share with your customers” (Loyal, 2018, online). Woodside, Stood and Miller 2008 present five arguments to why storytelling is essential to marketing: (1) people naturally think narratively; (2) stories reinforce memorization; (3) stories afford pleasurable experiences; (4) brands and products can appeal to psychological archetypes, thus reaching a strong identification with consumers; and (5) stories afford clarity.

These arguments resonate with some antecedents of brand love. For example, storytelling provokes emotional reactions and connections with consumers, allowing them to lower their defenses and be more easily persuaded (Biesenbach, 2018). It is also fundamental for brands to stand out in the digital world, as storytelling conveys distinctive elements of brands, it helps consumers understand the brand’s identity and core values (Mucundorfeanu, 2018). Stories enrich brands with a more substantial emotional and imagetic heritage and, therefore, make them more attractive to consumers. Roberts (2004) was the first to allude to storytelling as a tool that contributes to strengthening the position of lovemarks, as this communication technique appeals to emotions and inspires consumers. Stories highlight information, appeal to emotions and sensory details and, therefore, have the power to reinforce lovemarks. Junaid et al. (2019) alluded to the importance of the imaginary, as they consider escapism a hedonistic feature of brands that leads to brand love.

In addition, as brands become storytellers, they also become humanized, as they gain and express a personality (Biesenbach, 2018). Bergkvist & Bech-Larsen (2010) also stress that brand love stems from strong symbolic and emotional meanings that make a brand unique and trigger brand identification. Delgado-Ballester (2020) also stresses that stories are essential to create brand–consumer identification. In addition, Kemp, Porter III, Anasa and Min 2021 studied brand storytelling online and found that stories lead to personal connections with brands, particularly if they convey emotions. Personal connections, on their turn, lead to consumer engagement online and to positive eWOM. This effect is even stronger if the storytelling stems from user-generated content instead of branded content.

Research on storytelling as a brand communication technique reveals several components that are needed in a storytelling campaign. Structural aspects such as a timeline structure and a contextual setting are mentioned by Delgadillo and Escalas (2004). The importance of strong characters is stressed by Fog, Budtz, Much and Blanchette (2010), as well as Biesenbach (2004) and Denning (2006). Fog, Budtz, Much and Blanchette (2010) and Delgadillo and Escalas (2004) also emphasize the importance of a plot, and Biesenbach (2018) adds that the plot is more alluring if it revolves around conflict. There is a stronger trend toward the importance of conveying a strong message—identified as an important feature by Fog, Budtz, Much and Blanchette 2010, Denning (2006), Simmons (2009) and Mckee and Gerace (2018)—and its symbolic dimension that conveys emotions and values—emphasized by Fog, Budtz, Much and Blanchette (2010), Denning (2006), Simmons (2009), Tormes et al. (2016) and Mucundorfeanu (2018). Regarding the content of storytelling, Williams, Atwal and Bryson 2019, researching on luxury brands, suggest that the most common topics are craft, innovation, origins, myth, celebrity, provenance and collectability. Dias and Dias (2018) suggested that storytelling can go beyond communication and be applied to products, adding value to them through an additional symbolic layer.

Considering the components of stories, and the benefits that storytelling can afford to brands, our study sets out to explore whether storytelling can be considered an antecedent of brand love.


Research questions

Our research aims to explore whether using storytelling has a positive effect on the development of brand love. We consider the use of storytelling within two dimensions of marketing that are explored by PANDORA, adopting the following research questions:

RQ1—Does using storytelling as a communication technique contribute to the development of brand love?

RQ2—Does integrating storytelling in products contribute to the development of brand love?


We adopted a qualitative method, developing a single exploratory case study focused on the brand PANDORA. The qualitative approach, although not offering the generalizability that is characteristic of the quantitative method, can afford an in-depth understanding of a relevant case that can provide insights and spot trends that can be applicable to other cases, as the different possibilities of analytical generalizability demonstrate (Hoijer, 2008; Halkier, 2011).

Within the sector of jewelry and watches, PANDORA stands out as a brand with the features required to be the object of this type of case study: It uses storytelling as a promotional communication technique and, additionally, it is unique in associating storytelling to its products, thus being a critical case to study the relationship between storytelling and the development of brand love (Yin, 1994).

PANDORA as a case study

PANDORA was founded in 1982 by the jeweler Per Enevoldsen and his wife Winnie, in Copenhagen, Denmark. Currently, it covers the design, production and sales of the products. According to PANDORA’s 2020 Annual Report, the brand is present in over 100 countries and employs about 26 000 people. Its revenues in 2020 were around 2,56 billion euros.

The year 2000 was a turning point for PANDORA, when the brand launched its iconic bracelet that can be personalized with collectable differently shaped pieces. This product was so successful that it opened the way for PANDORA’s internationalization. The brand arrived in Portugal in 2004.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the obligation to close stores worldwide during considerable periods, Alexander Lacik, the CEO, considers that 2020 was a “turnaround” year for the brand, as online sales grew 103%, and that company was able to focus on becoming more sustainable. He states that in 2020, PANDORA “cemented [its] position as a desirable and affordable luxury brand” (PANDORA Annual Report 2020, p. 6).

According to the brand’s Web site, its mission is to offer women a universe of high-quality jewelry, with handmade finishing, contemporary design and affordable prices, thus encouraging women to express their individuality. The brand’s slogan is “unforgettable moments,” because the brand believes that the individuality of each woman is shaped by personal, unique and memorable moments that they have lived, their stories. Thus, the brand’s identity is built around personal stories and the special moments that each woman lives.

Thus, PANDORA is a relevant brand as a case study because it consistently uses storytelling in its promotional communication, whether in advertising, whether in content marketing. In addition, it incorporates storytelling in its own products, as each PANDORA piece has a unique design that affords it a symbolic dimension, thus enabling consumers to associate a specific piece to a certain moment, story or even person. When this bracelet with personalized pieces was launched, it was innovative and unique. The symbolic dimension of PANDORA’s products enables the consumers to eternize the most important moments of their lives. Also, it takes the concept of product narrative (Dias & Dias, 2018) to another level: Brand communication may suggest a narrative—storytelling, but each customer appropriates the pieces and ascribes meaning to them—storydoing (Natal et al., 2017; Lledó, 2019; Rojas, 2019). As a consequence, each bracelet is personal and unique, and “tells the story” of its user.

PANDORA is an appropriate brand for studying the relationship between storytelling and the creation of antecedents and consequences of brand love because it uses this technique in its communication, incorporates it in its products and brand identity and enables their customers to use it, creating their own stories.

Data collection and analysis techniques

In order to explore our research questions, we conducted interviews with loyal customers of PANDORA, because these are the most likely to present brand love (Roberts, 2004), and we also wanted to make sure that our sample was familiar with PANDORA’s storytelling, both being users of its products and following its communication, particularly on social media.

As a data collection technique, we used in-depth semi-structured interviews (Guerra, 2006). The previous research on the antecedents and consequences of brand love that we discussed above is quantitative and relies mostly on surveys. To our knowledge, the qualitative method has not been applied to explore this topic. However, the qualitative approach affords deeper insight into the “views, experiences, beliefs and motivations of consumers” (Gill, Stuart, Treasure & Chadwick, 2008, p. 292). We considered this approach appropriate to study why loyal customers develop brand love toward PANDORA.

Before the interview, an informed consent form was sent to all volunteer participants by email, explaining the research protocol, what their participation would entail, ensuring their anonymity, and also that their data would be used only for scientific purposes. The form also collected their authorization to record the audio of the interviews, explaining that these would be transcribed and anonymized, and after that the recordings would be destroyed (Creswell, 2009).

The interviews were face to face, and lasted, on average, 52 min. We followed a protocol with three moments: (1) greetings, summary of the research project and of what is required of the participant, clarification of any questions and collection of the signed consent form; (2) semi-structured interview, addressing three themes (antecedents of brand love; storytelling in the communication and products of PANDORA; consequences of brand love); and (3) thank you and goodbye.

For data analysis, we used thematic analysis (Boyatzis, 1998) using nVivo software. We considered as categories the antecedents and consequences of brand love, and also the components of storytelling that were reviewed in the theoretical section. Our analysis consisted of two stages: (1) First, we selected units of analysis that fit our predefined (drawing on theory) categories and (2) second, we overviewed our data, looking for emergent categories. In Table 1, we present an overview of our interview script, demonstrating the correspondence between the script questions and the thematic analysis’ categories, as well as their theoretical grounding.

Table 1 Summary of interview script and thematic analysis’ categories

Sampling and sample

We studied a non-probabilistic sample of 20 participants, selected according to two eliminating criteria: (1) being loyal customers of PANDORA, that is, owning more than one piece of PANDORA jewelry and using it regularly, and (2) following at least one PANDORA social media profile.

Within these homogeneous criteria, we tried to obtain a diversified sample according to age, residence area and lifestyle and used the snowball sampling method for that purpose (Taherdoost, 2016). We started with five participants who were recruited among the researchers’ contacts’ network, and then, they were asked to recommend other acquaintances who filled our eliminatory criteria. This technique also prevented biases inherent to convenience samples, as we did not know most of our participants previously (only the first 5).

Possible participants were invited via phone call. If they were interested, the informed consent form was sent via email. If they agreed to participate, the face-to-face interview was scheduled. We describe them in more detail in Table 2.

Table 2 Characterization of our sample

Although a qualitative approach allowed us to get deeper insight into the relationship between storytelling and brand love, we stress that our sample is small and non-probabilistic and therefore does not allow any generalization of the findings. Our findings are insights and trends that point to topics which should be addressed in further research.

Findings and Discussion

Antecedents of brand love

Among our 20 participants, who are loyal customers of PANDORA, we found all the antecedents of brand love that we considered as data analysis categories and were able to observe that some of them are more frequent or considered more important by our participants. Table 3 presents a summary of the presence of brand love antecedents towards the brand PANDORA in our sample, and examples of quotes by our participants.

Table 3 Antecedents of brand love toward PANDORA in our sample

The brand love antecedents that are mentioned more frequently and afforded more importance are a strong identification with the brand, reinforced by self-expression (Carroll & Ahuvia, 2006), as all participants consider that the brand enables them to express certain aspects of their identity (Bergkvist & Bech-Larsen, 2010) and this is achieved due to the great variety of pieces and the ability to personalize the products and also because the self-image of most participants correspond with the brand image that they perceive (Kapferer, 2003; Albert & Merunka, 2013).

Regarding self-expression, the participants referred to two aspects: The brand helps them in expressing their identity and personality, but also in expressing their life story. For some of the participants, these two aspects are closely connected, as they believe that they “are” their stories—“I have a piece in my bracelet that is a hedgehog. Other people usually find it cute and funny, but it has a story. One day I saved a hedgehog that had been run over and was lying in the middle of the road. For me, that piece represents who I am, my values, someone who stops and helps a poor animal” (P10). Others consider that it is an added value the fact that the jewels have a symbolic dimension connected to memories, important moments, emotions and even people. This is also the most mentioned element of singularity associated with the brand (Bairrada, Coelho & Coelho, 2018), along with the association between the products and stories (Dias & Dias, 2018).

The symbolic dimension of each PANDORA piece is important for each user, even if others do not know the story behind them. However, there is also a sense of belonging to a community (Keller, 2013), as several participants reported having talked to other PANDORA users about the meaning behind each piece, shared stories and felt an instant connection because of their love for the same brand.

Prestige was the brand love antecedent that caused more debate among our participants. Prestige is usually associated with luxury and exclusivity (Bairrada, Coelho & Coelho, 2018), and PANDORA is an affordable brand that can be used by anyone, every day. However, our case study demonstrates that it is possible to feel brand love without the presence of this antecedent.

Storytelling and brand love

In the second part of the interview, we explored to which extent the storytelling of the brand PANDORA was important and valued by our participants, considering if different applications of this technique—in branded content, in advertising and in products—were recognized and valued. On Table 4, you can find information regarding the importance of PANDORA using storytelling, and corresponding quotes.

Table 4 Importance of storytelling and relation with brand love toward PANDORA in our sample

All of the participants acknowledge that PANDORA uses storytelling as a communication strategy. All the participants follow PANDORA on social media and enjoy the content created by the brand very much. They claim to connect with the brand because of the stories portrayed and of the values conveyed, which they relate to the brand love antecedents of brand identification and self-expression. For example, Participant 2 states: “For me, PANDORA is about love, friendship, connection. It’s also about each woman being unique, being a result of the most important moments in her life.” Among the consumers who follow different profiles, Instagram is the favorite.

All of our participants also identify storytelling in PANDORA’s advertising, although they claim not enjoying advertising and not paying much attention to it. McKee and Gerace (2018) claim that storytelling and appeal to emotions favor memorization when compared to facts and information, and although most participants claim disliking ads and not paying attention to them, 12 were able to recall ads, 5 found out about new products because of ads and 2 bought PANDORA products due to ads.

All of the participants agreed that using storytelling in communication is key to catching their attention and is one of the main reasons they like PANDORA. When asked about the importance of different components of stories discussed—characters, time and space, plot and message—they highlighted the message, explaining that when the brand tells stories that resemble their lives or appeal to values that they share, they identify with it (Mucundorfeanu, 2018). Thus, the appeal to shared values stands out as the main reason why our participants identify with PANDORA and appropriate it for their self-expression (Fog, Budtz, Much and Blanchette (2010); Tormes et al., 2016).

In addition, all the participants also acknowledge that PANDORA associates stories to its products (Dias & Dias, 2018). Consumers value this very much, as stories add a symbolic dimension to products that enhance their value (Biesenbach, 2018; Fog et al., 2010). For example, Participant 17 states: “If the pieces didn’t have a story, they would be ordinary. If I lost them I wouldn’t be sad. If I lost PANDORA, it would be a disaster.”

Each of the 20 participants told us a story about one PANDORA piece that was special for them, usually associated with an important moment or memory, or to a person—e.g., “I have one piece that always makes me laugh. Right before turning 18, I got my drivers’ license and asked my parents for a car. On my birthday, my father gave this PANDORA piece that is a car and said ‘Here you go, that’s the car you have been asking for’. I was a bit mad at the time, but now it’s my favourite piece because I laugh every time I look at it and it’s a memory of my 18th birthday” (P14). All the consumers agree that the story associated with the product adds value to it, as it gains a symbolic and affective dimension (Dias, L. & Dias, P., 2018)—“The pieces remind me of important moments, moments that made me who I am. These pieces eternize festive dates, and when I wear the jewelry I carry with me memories of those good moments, a positive energy. The story behind each piece is very valuable and meaningful for me” (P12). This shows that storytelling integrated in products even prompts consumers to go from storytelling to storydoing, embedding the brand in their own stories (Natal et al., 2017; Lledó, 2019; Rojas, 2019).

All of the participants mention the values depicted in the stories, highlighting family, love, friendship and self-expression. If the values conveyed by the brand and the ones that are important for consumers coincide, this leads to a strong identification of the consumers with the brand (Signorelli, 2014). Thus, according to our participants, stories and values do reinforce brand love, as they favor the creation of an emotional and affective relationship with the jewels, and by extension with the brand. This is illustrated by Participant 15: “The stories make me develop a special affection for the brand. When I think about jewelry, the first brand that pops to mind is PANDORA. I think that’s because every piece I own is very meaningful for me.” Thus, we concluded that storytelling plays a very important role in the development of brand love, particularly if entailing shared values and personalization (Karahanolu & Sener, 2009), and that it can, therefore, be considered a brand love antecedent.

Consequences of brand love

After verifying that most antecedents of brand love are present in our interviewees regarding PANDORA, and observing that, in their view, the use of storytelling by the brand enhances their connection to it, we set out to search for the consequences of brand love. Table 5 presents a summary of the presence of consequences of brand love towards the brand PANDORA in our sample, and examples of quotes by our partipantes. We consider these elements as consequences of brand love, and not of similar concepts such as satisfaction, loyalty or emotional attachment to brands, because we have already established the existence of brand love for PANDORA among our participants—they all own PANDORA pieces and use them regularly, they follow PANDORA on social media, and they express a strong identification with the brand. Thus, they have a long-lasting relationship with PANDORA, and they expressed “declarations of love” during the interviews (Carroll and Ahuvia, 2006).

Table 5 Consequences of brand love toward PANDORA in our sample

Loyalty is a very evident brand love consequence present among our participants. All of them already own several PANDORA pieces and expressed intention of buying more in the near future (Albert & Merunka, 2013; Oliver, 1999). Actually, 13 of the participants already know exactly what they are going to buy.

Another important consequence of brand love is positive WOM (Carrol & Ahuvia, 2009), as all of the participants declare having recommended PANDORA in the past and being willing to recommend it again in future. The main reason for this is that, according to them, the brand is meaningful, is more than a piece of jewelry, it has an important symbolic and affective dimension (Dias & Dias, 2018). Also, all participants declare being willing to pay a bit more for PANDORA’s products, if necessary, mostly because they value the symbolic and affective dimension of the products. Participant 11 also refers to collecting as an important factor leading to loyalty and to willingness to pay more for the products—“Then you have to feed your addiction, you have your bracelet and you want to complete it, to fill it with important moments and stories.

Concerning active engagement, it was more difficult to assess this brand love consequence because, out of the 20, only half declared actively searching about the brand or engaging with it in some way (Keller, 2013). We observed that younger consumers (under 25 years old) are more actively engaged with the brand.

Finally, 16 of our participants declared considering themselves as PANDORA “brand lovers.” They justify their answer mentioning that they wear their jewelry frequently and mostly that they have created emotional links to the jewels due to the stories and moments that they represent.

Thus, we conclude that using storytelling in communication is important for setting a context for the brand and for expressing values that generate identification from the consumers (Roberts, 2004; Newlin, 2009), but applying storytelling to the products really makes a difference in adding symbolic and affective value to them (Dias & Dias, 2018). Storytelling can be considered an antecedent of brand love and has a stronger impact when it is applied to products themselves.


Our findings have shown the presence of most antecedents and consequences of brand love regarding the brand PANDORA among our sample, and 16 out of our 20 interviewees describe themselves as PANDORA lovers. In addition, we also observed that they acknowledge the use of storytelling by PANDORA, both in brand communication content marketing and advertising and associated with the brand’s products.

Next, we set out to explore the relationship between storytelling and brand love, in the case of PANDORA. According to most of your interviewees, the use of storytelling has the effect of generating, enhancing and reinforcing brand love, as it was a crucial factor for them to feel identification with the brand and to develop emotions toward it. Using storytelling in communication is important to catch attention and generate identification between the values embedded in the stories and the ones that are important for consumers (Pulizzi, 2012). This identification based on shared values is a deeper connection than the ones based on individual features or lifestyle and thus is an important foundation for loyalty and positive WOM, beneficial consequences of brand love (Kotler, Kartajaya & Setiawan, 2017). However, our participants highlight the importance of associating stories to products as a way of extending the products and enhancing their value. These narrative products (Dias & Dias, 2018) have a symbolic and affective dimension that makes them more than products, and they become symbols, mementos, an extension of the user. In the case of PANDORA, because of the collectible nature of their products, necklaces and bracelets that can be personalized with diverse pieces, the association between products and stories goes beyond storytelling, as users become storydoers (Natal et al., 2017; Lledó, 2019; Rojas, 2019), using the pieces to build their own symbolic narratives. This holistic approach to storytelling as a branding strategy (Fog et al., 2010) is, therefore, key to success in building and nurturing brand love. Thus, we conclude that storytelling can be considered an antecedent of brand love, that our interviewees relate specifically with loyalty, positive WOM and willingness to pay more.

Our participants consider that storytelling prompts identification with the brand, self-expression, sense of belonging to a community and perceived value of the products and brand, and this effect is shaped by brand identity, as the personalizable nature of PANDORA’s products is intimately connected to self-expression and identity. Despite being central in the case of PANDORA, in which storytelling is not only applied to communication but also to products, there is the possibility of other brands being able to nurture brand love without resorting to storytelling. The literature on the antecedents of brand love, so far, reveals that each of them is not a requirement for the blossoming and nurturing of brand love, but they are complementary and act synergically, reinforcing each other.

Retrieving our research questions, we concluded that storytelling as a communication technique contributes to the development of brand love, particularly by triggering identification with the brand values and emotional attachment to the brand (Berkvist & Bech-Larsen, 2010; Biesenbach, 2018). Thus, one academic contribution of our study is presenting storytelling as an additional antecedent of brand love. Also, storytelling contributes to reinforcing other antecedents of brand love, namely brand identification. Another contribution is highlighting the strength of applying storytelling to products, as this symbolic dimension adds value to the products, and enables users to appropriate them for self-expression (Dias & Dias, 2018). In the case of PANDORA, our participants stress that it is because of their symbolic dimension that they feel so attached to PANDORA’s products, and are loyal and engaged customers.

Our research presents contributions to communication and marketing professionals, by attesting the strength of storytelling and by demonstrating the synergic nature of the relationship between several antecedents and consequences of brand love. Additionally, other brands can learn from PANDORA to use storytelling beyond their communication, because it is precisely the narrative nature of the brand’s products that our participants value the most (Dias & Dias, 2018).

Being a case study, our findings are not generalizable but they reveal relevant insights for using storytelling in branding, and for the design of future research on storytelling as an antecedent of brand love, on the synergies between antecedents and consequences of brand love, and on narrative products, with a broader scope, considering different product categories and different types of brands.