Style of Thinking as Moderator of Drivers of Consumer Brand Identification: An Abstract
Drawing from social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1985), Bhattacharya and Sen (2003) proposed that customers may identify with companies and especially with the brands. Consumers perceive brands as carriers of symbolic meanings, and they use it to achieve their identity goals (Escalas & Bettman, 2009). Based on that, research about consumer brand identification (CBI), defined as a consumer’s perceived state of oneness with a brand (Stokburger-Sauer et al., 2012), has demonstrated its power as a predictor of consumer behavior (i.e., repurchase intention, word of mouth, and symbol passing).
However, there is a lack of consensus about the drivers of CBI. One research stream proposed that CBI is a formative first-order construct (Lam et al., 2010); a second research stream proposed that CBI is a reflexive construct based on cognitive variables: brand-self similarity (BSS), brand distinctiveness, and brand prestige (Stokburger-Sauer et al., 2012), but little empirical support was obtained for the predictive role of brand concept (prestige/functional), as a driver of CBI. Also there is a lack of research on the broader cultural context as a driver of CBI.
Based on the above discussion, this study has two main purposes. First, we propose an alternative explanation of the relationship between BSS and brand concept (BC). Given that BSS is defined as the degree of overlap between a consumer’s perception of his/her own personality traits and that of the brand (Stokburger-Sauer et al., 2012), we propose that BSS is a mediator variable between BC and CBI. The second purpose is suggesting that customer’s style of thinking (SoT) (Monga & John, 2010) could buffer or magnify the effect of BC on BSS. SoT is relevant because holistic and analytic thinkers detect different kinds of connections between objects, including brand and their own personality traits.
Two experiments will be conducted in this study. The first will examine SoT as antecedent of the CBI. A 2 (BC: prestige/functional) × 2 (SoT: holistic/analytic) between-subjects factorial design will be adopted. Experiment 2 will examine the role of BSS as mediator that drives the effect of BC on CBI.
This study has theoretical and managerial contributions. From theoretical perspective, this study could provide evidence of CBI as a cognitive second-order construct and that cultural context is a significant driver of CBI. From managerial perspective, this research could provide evidence of how a managerial strategy (BC) impacts a customer’s state (CBI) which is a powerful predictor of customer behavior.