Ten Million Followers and Counting: How Digital Brand Alliances Between Online Influencers and Brands Impact Consumer Value: An Abstract Perceptions
Brand alliance has long been regarded as a strategic tool for enhancing brand equity, accessing new markets, reducing risk, and maximizing shared resources, amongst others (e.g. Besharat, 2010; Simonin and Ruth, 1998; Singh, 2016). Recently, with the growth in online consumption, brands are increasingly forming alliances with individuals who act as social influencers and operate online via social media channels. For example, L’Oréal launched a makeup line in partnership with Michelle Phan, a YouTube blogger with over 8 million subscribers. The primary role of these online influencers is to extend a brand’s reach. Consumers are believed to rely on personal recommendations from the online influencers they follow and admire, for their purchasing decisions (Godes and Mayzlin, 2004). These influencers are also suggested to shape consumers perceptions (Lee and Watkins, 2016). Given the impact of word-of-mouth and peer recommendations on consumer decision-making (e.g. Berger, 2014), brand alliances with online influencers are an increasingly important part of brands’ marketing strategy. In addition, the pervasiveness of social media and its ever-increasing influence on how consumers think and behave has created the need for an enhanced understanding of such human-computer interactions. The impact of the alliance between a brand and an online influencer on brand attitudes, consumer value, and purchase intention, however, is not yet understood. Aiming to address the above gap, this study examines the impact of digital brand alliances on consumers’ value perceptions and on their willingness to buy.
The study employed a scenario-based experiment consisting of five real-life digital brand alliances (beauty, travel, food, gaming, and fashion). For data collection, a self-administered questionnaire was designed embedding the five scenarios to represent each brand alliance category. Respondents included a convenience-based sample of UK consumers, (49% female, 51% males, all aged 18+). The data were analysed with partial least squares-based structural equation modelling (PLS-SEM) employing SmartPLS 3.0 (Ringle et al., 2014). The results show considerable explanatory and predictive power of the model. The study findings reveal that digital brand alliances have a significant and positive influence on all four dimensions of consumer value, which, in turn, influence purchase intention. The findings also demonstrate that reference group influence has a moderating effect on the relationship between digital brand alliances and consumer value perceptions. For those consumers who are influenced by the opinions of others, brands should ensure that the alliance is with a favourable online personality. For those who are not influenced by others, however, brands should focus on building a positive attitude towards the brand. Moreover, for consumers with high RGI, brands should explicitly communicate value for money, in order to encourage purchase. The study makes important theoretical contributions to the literature streams on brand alliance and consumer value perceptions. First, it investigates the impact of digital brand alliance towards consumer value perceptions and purchase intention, which has been largely overlooked in extant research. Second, it furthers knowledge on how digital brand alliances shape the way consumers evaluate brands.
In sum, this research offers support for assumptions about the efficacy of digital brand alliance, across different product categories. Future research could examine how other factors such as brand loyalty and self-image can impact the effect digital brand alliances has on consumer value perceptions and purchase intention.