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JOURNAL OF

MARKETING
MANAGEMENT

Identifying the Dimensions of the Product-Brand and


Consumer Relationship
Cleopatra Veloutsou, University of Glasgow, UK*

Abstract The concept of relationship marketing emerged from services and


business-to-business marketing. Most of the research analysing the relationships
themselves focuses on the social links formed between people and the needed
supporting processes. However, companies can use their brands to develop
and maintain links with their customers. The research on the role of brands in
the development of bonds with the customers is still very limited, especiaUy for
consumer goods as opposed to consumer services. This paper reports the findings
of a study which aimed to unfold the dimensions of the consumer relationship
with product brand. It identifies two separate dimensions, which may be used to
describe the consumer-brand relationship.
Keywords Brands, Brand relationships. Relationship marketing

INTRODUCTION
In an attempt to classify the various types of marketing as presented in the literature,
two main distinct types were identified: the transactional and the relationship
marketing (Coviello, Brondie and Murno 1997; Brondie, Coviello, Brooks and Little
1997; Coviello and Brondie 1998; Pels et al. 2000; Coviello, Brondie, Danaher and
Johnston 2002). It is vi^ell recognised that one of the key recent developments related
to marketing as a discipline at present, is that it has shifted from a transactional to a
relationship focus, while there are attempts to identify specific relationship marketing
schools of thought (see Palmer, Lindgreen and Vanhamme 2005).
Although it is acknowledged that these different types of marketing are not
mutually excluded and companies practice more than one type simultaneously
'Correspondence details and biographies for the author are located at the end of the article, p. 26.
JOURNAL OF MARKETING MANAGEMENT. 2007, VoL 23, No. 1-2, pp.7-26
ISSN0267-257X print /ISSNU72-1376 online Westburn Publishers Ltd.
DOl 10.1362/026725707X177892

Q^m Journal of Marketing Management, Volume 23

(Brondie, Coviello and Brodie 1997), it is suggested by some, that the well known
marketing mix elements are particularly relevant for the transactional approach,
while people and the development of personal contacts amongst individuals are the
key interest of the relational approach. This is in line with the initial relationship
marketing viewpoint, where it has been argued that personnel, technology, knowledge
and time are the elements that have to keep the promises to the customers (Gronroos
1996). This initial way of examining relationship marketing implies that there is
some form of contact between the customers and the company and it is somewhat
expected and logical, since relationship marketing emerged from the services and
business-to-business marketing (Gronroos 1994; Gummesson 1996). Although it
is appreciated that the relational approach is a feasible strategy in mass consumer
markets (Sheth and Parvatiyar 1995; Christy, Oliver and Penn 1996, O'Malley and
Tynan 1999; 2000), when the relationship itself is investigated, even today, the
research and the development of theory in the area mostly deals with the analysis
of the social links formed between people, either in the business-to-business context
(i.e. Evans and Laskin 1994; Williams 1998; Weitz and Brandford 1999; Hunt,
Arnett and Madhavaram 2006), the services sector (i.e. Dall'Olmo Riley and de
Chernatony 2000), or both (i.e. Cann 1998; Durvasula, Lysonski and Mehta 2000).
However what is the situation in industries where the contact between customers and
employees, is somewhat unclear.
It has been suggested that companies should increase their 'customer focus' in
terms of becoming more customer-oriented, increasing the contact with consumers
and targeting specific consumers (Brondie et al. 1997). Firms producing consumer
products and services need to find new ways to approach their customers. However
managers recognise that it is not practical to market in an individual way (Coviello and
Brondie 1998), especially when the firm has a large customer base. Therefore consumer
companies appear to rely more on the marketing mix than business-to-business firms
in their strategies (Coviello and Brondie 2001; Coviello et al. 2002). Although it is
suggested that this finding indicates the use of higher levels of transactional marketing
(Coviello and Brondie 2001; Coviello et al. 2002), it has also been acknowledged
that there is a need for a marketing mix base for relationship development (Coviello
and Brondie 1998; Coviello et al. 2002). It has been recognised that relationship
marketing should be revisited to find the missed link to assist in the understanding
of how relationships develop and to affirm that the 4P variables are fundamental to
business relationships (Lye 2002). After all, transactional marketing and relationship
marketing are complementary (Baker, Buttery and Richtel-Buttery 1998), while an
exchange in consumer markets is likely to be characterised by both transactional and
relational elements (O'Malley and Tynan 2000) and that the relational element in an
exchange has implications for how appropriate money is to be saved or spent, and, if
spent, on which products and services (McGraw, Tetlock and Kristel 2003; McGraw
and Tetlock 2005).
The relationship with mental images, 'symbols and objects', can be one of the many
aspects that can be used as a basis of a relationship (Gummesson 1994). It has been
appreciated that individuals develop relationships with brands in order to reduce
their choice set (Sheth and Parvatiyar 1995), while consumers' bonds with specific
brands and services seem to be somewhat similar in nature (Johnston and Thomson
2003). Therefore, one could argue that consumers may develop relationships with
specific brands.
This paper aims to investigate whether there is a relationship formed between
consumers and product brands, and whether there are specific dimensions in this

Veioutsou Identifying the Dimensions of the Product-Brand

relationship. Using a multidisciplinary approach, it first attempts to define what


is a relationship and summarises the literature proposing that consumers have the
capability to form relationships with the brands. It then outlines the aim and the
methodology used for the collection of the primary data, and presents the results
where it is suggested that there are two main dimensions in the relationship that
consumers form with brands. The concluding section addresses the study limitations,
managerial implications and recommendations for further research.
TOWARDS THE DEFINITIDN OF THE RELATIONSHIPS
In the marketing literature there is no agreement on what the relationship really
is. Marketing relationships are often seen just as the outcome of the relationship
marketing activities (Eiriz and "Wilson; 2006). This is because relationship marketing
is mainly concerned with the management of the relationship and not with the nature
of the relationship itself. It is acknowledged that the term 'relationship' has not been
defined in the marketing and management literature and there is a need for defining
and measuring relationships (Broom, Casey and Ritchley 1997; Egan 2001 (p.3O);
Varey 2002 (p. 48)). Although thirty different types of relationships have been
identified (Gummesson 1994), marketing theorists seem to emphasise the process of
establishing, developing and maintaining successful rational relationships. Indeed in
a content analysis of 26 definitions provided for relationship marketing by several
well-established academics, seven conceptual categories of relationship marketing
were revealed. They were the creation, the development, the maintenance of the
relationship as well as the interactive nature of the relationship, its long term nature,
the emotional content and the expected output for one or both of the parties (see
Harker 1999). The most commonly mentioned categories in these definitions are the
development, the interactivity and the maintenance, while the less mentioned are the
emotional content, the output and the long-term nature of the bond (Harker 1999).
Even when academics assess the future trends of relationship marketing, the factors
identified as influential are associated with the scope and the process of relationship
marketing and not with the characteristics of the relationship itself (Veioutsou, Saren
and Tzokas 2002). Even though it has been proposed that relationship marketing is
a long-term process (Grossman 1998) and focuses of long-term transactions leading
to emotional or social bonds with consumers (O'Malley and Tynan 2000), the nature
of these bonds has not yet been investigated.
Relationships have always been very important for humans. This was evident from
the ancient times, where relationships were analysed by philosophers. Most of the
focus of this analysis was focused on friendships. In Nichomahean and Eudemian
Ethics Aristotle develops a description and typology of friendship. He suggests that
friendship is an action, activity or mode of life, directed towards happiness as a
good, it is reciprocal, exists fully only between equals and in its higher form it is
not instrumental (Ruckh 2004). He views friendship as a tool motivating justice
and morality, since only virtuous persons can truly be friends in the highest sense
and enjoy their friendship (Murphy 1997; White 1999; Jacuette 2001; Sokolowski
2001). Similar views on the role of friendship in ethical development were expressed
by Confucius, although he appreciates that friends could be unequal (Tan 2001).
However, even philosophers admit that the attitude towards friendship has changed
since the time of Aristotle. Today it seems that we choose friends on the basis of
shared interests, mutual enjoyment and compatibility. We demonstrate with our

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Q^m Journal of Marketing Management, Volume 23

behaviour a sort of commitment to the other person, at least an endorsement of the


kind of person that he or she is and physical plus emotional support (White 1999).
Generally there is goodwill and affection towards those one would call friends (Tan
2001).
It has been appreciated by social psychologists that interpersonal relationships
involve processes of incredible complexity, but that does not mean that understanding
them is impossible (Hinde 1995). There are definitely many types of relationships,
ranging from work, love relationships, friendships to everyday coping, non-specific
social contacts and negotiations with officials and others (McCarthy 1999). It has
been acknowledged that although the conditions under which an interpersonal
relationship moves from that of casual acquaintanceship to a close friendship is a
fundamental issue, it has been only indirectly addressed (Falk and Noonan-Warker
1985). Social psychologists imply that a relationship occurs when two or more parties
interact, and their interaction has certain qualities, including its intensity, the content
and presentation of the verbal material and the non-verbal communication signals
(Hinde 1979; 1981; 1995; 1997; McCarthy 1999). However, a relationship exists
over time (Hinde 1995) and may continue over periods in which the participants do
not interact or communicate with each other (Hinde 1981). This is partly because
for a relationship to truly exist, some short of interdependence between partners
must be evident (Hinde 1979, Hinde 1995), as well as compromise and closeness
(Hinde 1997). The participants in the relationship should demonstrate some sort of
intimacy and reveal themselves emotionally, cognitively and physically to each other
(Monsour 1992; Hinde 1995). Some suggest that relationships involve some form
of attachment, while attaining and maintaining proximity to and communications
with some other preferred individual is attachment behaviour (Bowlby 1991). For
the development of closer relationships, people are willing to provide personal
information about their thoughts, needs or feelings to others, demonstrating some
level of self-disclosure (Falk and Noonan-Warker 1985). Furthermore, individuals
obtain satisfaction by interacting with other individuals they classify as friends. They
like these individuals, they are interested in future interactions, they are willing to
further develop the relationship over time and they are willing to confide personal
information (Falk and Noonan-Warker 1985).

BRANDS AS RELATIONSHIP BUILDERS


Views on the Existence of Consumer-brand Relationships

Long before the development of strong national and international brands, customers
used to develop relationships with the retailers on a personal level (Webster 2000).
This can still be the case for some markets, especially in business-to-business markets
and for some consumer markets where the role of the personnel delivering the
product is of outstanding importance, such as in some services, or when the product
is of minor importance for the buyer. However, for most of the products markets,
the situation is different. Products and brands create value for their customers. The
dominance of brands during the last century was obvious in all markets, principally
in the consumer market. Consumers may even switch stores, or postpone their
purchase, when they cannot find their desired brand in the store were they normally
shop. The extent of this behaviour emerges depends on the product brand and the
customers, but surprisingly even store loyal consumers tend to switch stores as much

Veioutsou Identifying the Dimensions of the Product-Brand

as the not store loyal (opportunist) consumers when they cannot find the product
brand they require (Verbeke, Farris and Thurik 1998). This attitude indicates that a
bond with the brand exists, since these consumers are not willing to buy alternative
brands in the same product category available in the stores.
In the past, it has been suggested that producers have to decide the emphasis
that they will give to the brand element and the relationship element when they
position their products, choosing from a continuum of low-high emphasis for both
elements (Palmer 1996). This is hardly the case for most of the branded products
nowadays, since customers buy products that they perceive as satisfying them more
effectively and can relate to them. This trend has been so increasingly obvious that
it has been suggested that relationship marketing consists of the management of a
network of relationships between a brand and its customers (Ambler 1997). In reality,
the relationship concept connecting the customer and the brand is the interaction
between the attitudes of the two parties, the customers and the brands (Blackston
1992; 1993). Recent research findings support that the positive brand and personal
interaction are central to the building of successful brand relationships (O'Loughlin,
Szmigin and Turnbull 2004).
Although some consumers might be unwilling to accept that they form a
relationship with brands (Bengtsson 2003), past research supported that the brandconsumer relationship might take a number of forms, depending on the personahty
of customers and the manner they develop relationships in general (Fournier 1998).
Their existence has been documented in various contexts. It is evident, especially in
well-defined groups of consumers and sub-cultures. For example, gay men develop
specific relationships with their brands. They identify with some local retail businesses
(community members), they have positive emotions and reciprocity towards some
brands (political allies), while they have a negative relationship with other brands
(political enemies) (Kates 2000). Similarly, others tried to identify potential links
with the brands. For example, Fajer and Schouten (1995), attempted to classify the
potential person-brand relationships in a continuum, having as extremes the lowerorder relationships and in the other the higher-order (loyal) relationships. In their
conceptual work, they identify five potential stages in the friendship: potential friends
(brand trying), casual friends (brand liking), close friends (multi-brand resurgent
loyalty), best friends (brand loyalty) and crucial friends (brand addiction). In a more
detailed study of the consumer's perspective, at least fifteen forms of relationship
have been identified and their labels vary from an arranged marriage and many
types of friendships to enslavement, resulting in relationships with different quality
(Fournier 1998, Sweeney and Chew 2002).
Customers may form attachments with more than one brand in the same category
(Fournier and Yao 1997), as long as they are familiar with them. As it is the case for
human relationships, no bond can be created and further developed if the brand is
unknown.
Elements of the Brand Expression that Could Contribute to the Developnnent of
Relationships

The question however remains. Although it has been supported that consumers may
relate to a brand, an object or a firm (Daskou and Hart 2002), most of the analysis
examined the types of the relationship and not the specific brand dimensions which
could be used in order to develop and maintain it over a long period of time. To
fully appreciate the contribution of a brand to the development of relationship, one

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^ ^ Q Journal of Marketing Management, Volume 23

should first understand what a brand really represents and then attempt to identify
whether the different components of the brand could work as relational builders.
Although in principal it has been suggested that the Brand Identity consists of the
brand as a product, the brand as organisation, the brand as a person and the brand as
a symbol (Aaker 1996), it can be argued that it has two main dimensions the brand
organisation and the brand expression. The brand expression consists of the brand
as a symbol, the brand as a product and the brand as a person (Veioutsou 2001).
The brand as a symbol serves as a recognition cue. However, the other two elements
of the brand expression are attempting to do much more than communicating a
brand image to the market and are tools for developing connections with the target
market.
Most scholars who attempt to analyse the existence of a bond between customers
and brands concentrate their efforts on the analysis of the contribution of brand
personality. They claim that brand personality is the element that can relate the
brand with the customer and develop bonds with the consumer (Fournier and Yao
1997, Blackston 2000), to the extent that some even examine the termination of
the relationship and the dissolution of the person-brand relationship (Fajer and
Schouten 1995). Brand is a perceptual entity rooted in reality, but it also reflects the
perceptions and perhaps even the idiosyncrasies of consumers. The development of
a strong brand identity will naturally contribute to the development of customerbrand relationship (Blackston 1992; 1993, Aaker and Fournier 1995). In this respect,
brands are perceived as having their own personality which the customer can relate
to (Blackston 1992; 1993; Fournier 1998).
Following this school of thought, the brand can be treated as "an active
contributing partner in a dyadic relationship that exists between the person and the
brand" (Fournier 1995). Customers can perceive brands as characters. For example,
research indicates that consumers can think of brands as if they are celebrities (Rook
1985), or as if they have a character of their own (Blackston 1992; 1993). They tend
to develop relationships with brands that have different dimensions. The association
can be voluntary versus imposed, long term versus short term, public versus private,
formal versus informal and symmetric versus asymmetric forming different types of
relationships (Fournier 1998). However, again a lot of effort has been given to labelling
the relationships, while much less effort has been dedicated to the identification of
the elements that will contribute to the development of a voluntary association with
the brand.
Nevertheless, the development of a relationship is a two way process and the
brand has an important role to play in the creation and the maintenance of the
relationship. For the brand to transform to a legitimate relationship partner, it has to
surpass the personification qualification stage and behave as an active, contributing
member of the dyad (Fournier 1998; Berry 2000). It is important for the customers
to feel that brands have positive behaviour and attitudes towards them (Blackston
1992; 1993). This approach can be very complex, since brands do not think or
behave actively. Every single one of its actions derives from the decisions taken by
the people behind it, the brand team. It has been suggested that customers want to
deal with companies that they see as innovative, ambitious to succeed, ingenious
and hardworking (Blackston 1993). This might be the case for some specific target
markets, but not for the totality of the potential customers, depending on their
personality. For example, research suggests that when consumers feel that the brand
has a desired attitude towards the issues that they perceive as important to their
system of values, they tend to support and buy the brand (Kates 2000). The brand

l/e/oufsou Identifying the Dimensions of the Product-Brand

team is the force that should support some sort of consistency in the behaviour and
the expression of the brand.
A stable brand personality will reduce the emotional risk that the buyers experience
every time they purchase a brand and will increase its credibility. This process can
result in the development of trust and satisfaction, especially when customers believe
that the brand supports their needs, and eventually to the creation of a bond between
the buyer and the brand (Blackston 1993).
The views on whether or not the brand as a product contributes to the development
of relationships are contradicting. Some argue that the product, even the augmented
product, is a pre-fabricated package of resources and features that is ready to be
exchanged (Gronroos 1996; 1997). However others imply that it can aid in the
development of relationships. Buyers develop relationships with the product, the
object (Saren and Tzokas 1998). They are looking for brands that they perceive
as carrying specific features and quality, undoubtedly elements of the object they
purchase. The strength of the bond depends on the degree to which customers can
identify themselves in respect to the physical characteristics of the brand. Consumers'
knowledge and feeling about the brand influences their evaluation of the products
carrying this brand (Aaker and Keller 1990; Dacin and Smith 1994; Brawn and
Dacin 1997). These views have been supported by some recent research finding,
where the product has been identified as fundamental in the development of business
relationships (Lye 2002).
AIMS OF THE STUDY
Both academics and practitioners outhne the importance of a brand as a contributor
in the development of relationships (Schlueter 1992; Aaker and Fournier 1995;
Fournier 1995; Palmer 1996; Duncan and Moriarty 1997). Although it has been
long appreciated that studies on relationship marketing in the consumer markets,
especially for consumer products as opposed to consumer services industries are
particularly lacking (Sheth and Parvatiyar 1995), the situation has not changed a lot
since. The emphasis on the examination of brand relationships in services contexts
could be partly due to the fact that services have traditionally focused on relationship
development, while manufactured goods on brand development (Palmer 1996).
However this divide is narrowing, as producers of manufactured products need to
improve their approach to the final customers. They are increasingly forced to use
their brands to achieve this goal since they have very little other contact with the
consumers.
When examining the literature on brand customer-brand, it is surprising to see
that a number of researchers acknowledge that it is extremely limited and call for
further research in this area (Blackston 1992; 1993; Fournier 1998; Blackston 2000;
Kates 2000; Dall'Olmo Riley and de Chernatony 2000). Most of the publications
discussing brand relationships are fully conceptual and do not present empirical
findings. Even in the limited number of studies presenting empirical results the focus
is on the services brands (Blackston 1992; 1993; Dall'Olmo Riley and de Chernatony
2000, Sweeney and Chew 2002,0'Laughlin, Szmigin and Turnbull 2004), rather than
on branded products. Research attempting to examine relationships with product
brands, investigated the relationship from the product rather than the consumer side
of the dyad (Martin 1998). Therefore, there is clearly a need to further explore the
concept of consumer branded product relationships. This paper explores whether or

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^ ^ Q Journal of Marketing Management, Volume 23

not consumers form relationships with brands.


Furthermore, in the marketing literature the relationship analogies have been
questioned and it has been suggested that what marketers call intimacy is what
some customers see as interaction (Smith and Higgins 2000). However, there is no
quantitative instrument in the literature to assess the strength of the relationship,
which could vary for different individuals and different product categories. Using
knowledge originating on the definition of the term "relationship", this paper
investigates whether or not there are specific dimensions in the relationship that
consumers form with the brand and to develop a scale to measure this construct.

METHODOLOGY
Development of the Data CoUection Instrument

There was no available instrument in the literature to measure the relationship with
the brand. Therefore, all items used in a quantitative data collection instrument
(questionnaire) had to be identified and developed for this study.
Researchers have been concerned with the reliability and validity of multi-item
scales used for more than two decades (Churchill 1979; Peter 1979), and the
discussion on what are the best practices for developing reliable and valid measures is
still ongoing (Hinkin 1995). A rehable measure is free from errors and therefore yields
consistent results. This when both the views of the same respondents are investigated
over time, or, when the views of respondents with comparable characteristics are
examined (Peter 1979). A valid measure is free of errors and measures exactly what
it is supposed to measure in a conceptual level (Peter 1981). The unidimensionality
of a measure has been another concern for numerous researchers (Anderson and
Gerbing 1982; Gerbing and Anderson 1988). Therefore, when a multi-item measure
is not reliable or valid, or it does not measure one construct, it has very limited value.
It is clear that the development of a reliable, valid and unidimensional measures to
capture the different dimensions of the relationship with the brands requires the
understanding of the construct itself. Therefore, a number of steps were employed to
secure that the developed measure will be appropriate. Figure 1 provides an overview
of the steps employed for the scale development, which followed to a great extend
the advice given in the past for scale development (Churchill 1979; Hinkin 1995).
Since there was no clear definition of the term, initially researchers had to
understand what the construct is (step 1). The manner in which the term relationship
is used by the marketing academics has been considered. It appears that, although
there is not enough evidence from the existing marketing literature, the interpersonal
relationship metaphor might be an agreeable approach to analyse marketing
relationships (Grossman 1998; O'Malley and Tynan 1999, 2000). Similarities
between social and marketing relationships have been identified (Daskou and Hart
2000; Daskou and Hart 2002; Jancic and Zabkar 2002; Johnston and Thomson
2003; McGraw et al. 2003). Therefore, the relevant hterature was reviewed. It
became apparent that even in social psychology there is no ubiquitously useful means
for describing relationships (Hinde 1995). Further, different methods to access the
strength of a relationship might be needed when different groups of individuals
are studied with different purposes (i.e. Falk and Noonan-Warker 1985; Pulakos
1989; Bell and Calkins 2000). Some require the detailed description of behaviour
for a long time (i.e Hill, Harrington, Fudge, Ruttel and Pickles 1989; McCarthy

Veioutsou Identifying the Dimensions of the Product-Brand

1999). It seemed that relationships could be described by two broad dimensions, the
communication and the emotional content.
There was very limited evidence that consumers form any form of relationships
with branded goods and services in that form. Therefore, 10 interviews with students
were performed to investigate whether these relationships exist and how they are
described by the subjects (step 2). The informants were encouraged to describe
their feelings towards brands that they had either a very positive or a very negative
view about. When the transcripts of these interviews were content analysed it was
supported that the subjects really did form relationships with brands, and therefore
it was decided to proceed with the development of the scale.
After the conclusion of this process and based on a collection of relationship
marketing definitions provided by (Harker 1999), the views on what a relationship
is today expressed by philosophers (White 1999) the views on the content and
ingredients of relationships expressed by social psychologists (Hinde 1979, 1981;
Falk and Noonan-Warker 1985; Hinde 1995, 1997) and a content analysis of the
10 interviews, a list with views and items forming several relevant describers were
developed (step 3). These describers formed the initial list of statements, which were
considered for inclusion in the research instrument.
The content validity of the views needed to be further investigated (step 4).
Therefore, three focus groups with five participants possessing different profiles (age
groups) were performed. This qualitative phase of the project was aiming to support
the existence of the two dimensions suggested by the analysis of the relationship
marketing theory in various contexts, the social psychology and philosophy and
the initial interviews for the description of the relationship for branded products.
FIGURE 1 Steps Employed in Developing the Brand Relationship Scales

STEPl
Literature review to identify the
dimensions of the term
'relationship'

STEP 5
Pilot testing and refining
the questionnaire

STEP 2
Interviews to investigate the
existence and dimensions of
brand/consumer relationship

STEP 6
Collect data

D
C
0)

c
o
U

STEP 3

STEP 7

Literature review and content


analysis of the interviews to
sepcify relevant constructs

Assess reliability

STEP 8
STEP4
Focus groups to evaluate the
constructs and redefine the
scale

Assess discriminant and


convergent validity

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Q^m Journal of Marketing Managennent, Volunne 23

Furthermore, the participants were asked to score the generated items in terms
of their relevance for describing the specific dimension in a 5 point scale (l=not
relevant, 5= very relevant).
It became apparent that it was important to have a specific focus on the discussion.
Furthermore, in order to successfully test the concept, it was decided to use a
specific product category, which potentially could be important for consumers. It
was also clear that, due to the fact that the researcher was a female, it would be
easier to contact female respondents rather than men. It has been appreciated that
"relationship-friendhness" depends on certain characteristics of both market segments
and products features (Christy, Oliver and Penn 1996), while others suggest that the
development of a relationship is feasible for high involvement products characterised
by inelastic demand, where regular interaction with consumers occurs (O'Malley and
Tynan 2000). Thus, it was decided to use a product category which is perceived as
an important purchase and is targeting this population. From three broad product
categories (clothes, personal care products and cosmetics), one of the products that
the informants in the focus groups seemed to use and have a relevant preference
was lipstick. In the final instrument, the respondents were asked to respond to the
questionnaire having in mind their favourite brand of lipstick. After content analysing
the transcripts a list of eighteen items describing the two parties' relationship was
developed. Each item within the questionnaire was drawn either from the literature
or from expressions employed by the informants during the course of the qualitative
study.
The drafted questionnaire containing the developed statements was pilot tested
with a convenience sample of twenty female students in a Scottish university (step 5).
This led to the development of the final instrument, which included thirteen of the
original items. They were all measured in a seven point Likert scale with end-anchors
(1= strongly disagree, 7=strongly agree).
Data CoUection Procedures

The primary data collection for this study (step 6) was conducted over a period
of six months in Glasgow. During the first five months, the research instrument
was developed and pre-tested, while in the final month the quantitative data was
collected. The respondents were randomly selected from marketplaces and near a
university campus.
In total, there were 277 usable responses (Table 1). The sample size is sufficient to
perform this analysis, since it is higher than the adequate 15:1 ratio of respondents
to items (Hulin, Cudeck, Netemeyer, Dillon and McDonald 2001, p. 58) or even the
very strict 20:1 ratio of respondents to items suggested by some as needed for the
adequate usage of exploratory factor analysis (Hair, Anderson, Tatham and Black,
1998, p. 99). In addition, the Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure of samphng adequacy
(KMO) was applied. The KMO is an index for comparing the magnitude of the
observed correlation coefficients to the size of the partial correlation coefficients.
When the KMO approaches 1.0 there are likely to be patterns of correlation in
the data indicating that factor analysis might be an appropriate technique to use
(Hutcheson and Sofroniou 1999; Bloch, Brunei and Arnold 2003).
Data Analysis

Factor analysis was initially used to test if there are specific dimensions of brand
relationships. This is a widely accepted approach for assuring unidimensionality of a

Veioutsou Identifying the Dimensions of the Product-Brand

construct (Gerbing and Anderson 1988). This approach provides the factorial validity,
which can assess both convergent and discriminant validity (Straub, Boudreau and
Gefen 2004) (step 8). In each factor analysis application undertaken in this study,
an approximate initial solution was obtained using Principal Components Analysis.
This solution was then rotated using the orthogonal rotation algorithm Varimax,
the most frequently reported in the management literature for scale construction
(Hinkin 1995).
All factors with eigenvalues greater than 1.0 are reported. Items with a factor
loading of at least .65, and that were not split loaded on another factor above .50
were perceived as components of one factor. This decision rule meets the suggested
minimum standard of .30 for factor loadings (Gorsuch 1974, Leary 1995).
To examine the reliability (internal consistency) of the measures (step 7), for items
loading on the same extracted factors Cronbach's Alpha was calculated. In addition,
to further test the internal consistency of the measure (Gerbing and Anderson 1988),
the inter-correlations of the items loading in the same factor and the item-to-total
correlations are reported.
The validity of the measures was further examined (step 8). It has been argued
that the inter-correlations of the items could be a good indication of the discriminant
vahdity of a measure (Straub et al. 2004). To assess the convergent validity of the
measure, the dimensions revealed were inter-correlated. This method is very similar
to the approach used by various researchers conducting management research to
assess the validity of a measure (Hinkin 1995; Straub et al. 2004).
RESULTS
During the focus groups, it became apparent that consumers form some sort of
interaction with their brands. Some expressed feelings towards branded products,
TABLE 1 Steps Employed in Developing the Brand Relationship Scales

Age

Education

-20
21-25
26-30
31-35
36-AG
41-45
46-50
51-55
56+
High school
HND/HNC
Undergraduate
Graduate
Postgraduate
N/a
Total

No
36
64
22
31
24
37
20
29
U
63
38
61

77
37
1
277

%
13.00
23.10
7.94
11.19
8.66
13.36
7.22
10.47
5.05

link

\zni
ll.Ql
27.80
13.36
0.36
100.00

17

18

g^m Journalof Marketing Management, Volume 23

very similar to those that one expects when describing interactions with other
humans. Although they did not necessarily accept that they have a relationship with
brands, they acknowledged that brands were very important for them and that they
actively looked for specific brands when they were shopping. That was even more
evident when the discussion was about product categories that the consumers have
had high involvement with. Therefore, there was scope to further investigate the
nature of the relationship and attempt to unfold specific dimensions. Table 2 provides
the descriptive statistics of the data used for the analysis.
The first task when the quantitative data was collected was to determine whether
the sample is suitable for the performance of the appropriate tests. The data set had
a KMO value of .92, which is characterised as "marvellous" (Kaiser 1974). Thus the
data set is considered suitable for the performance of factor analysis and it is expected
that the items will form specific factors (Hutcheson and Sofroniou 1999).
To begin, all the factors with eigenvalues greater than 1.0 were extracted (Table 3).
The two factors extracted by the principal components analysis explains 65.75% ofthe
overall variance. Each one of these factors clearly represents a conceptual dimension
of a relationship as it is suggested by social psychologists. More specifically:

The first factor explains 56.5% of the overall variance and has an eigenalue of 7.44.
It consists of six items with loadings .66 or above. They are expressing various
communicational issues. Five of the items loading on this factor are describing the
communication originating from the brand and having as receivers, consumers.
However, the last item is describing a communication v/here the source is the
consumer and the receiver the brand owners. This indicates that the communication
between consumers and their brand is not necessarily a one-way process as some
have suggested. Therefore, the factor was labelled "Two way communication".

TABLE 2 Descriptive Satiatics of the Study's Items


Mean

sd

5.00
4.70

1.54
1.61

4.80
3.09
4.97

1.72
1.64
1.57

4.85

1.68

I care about the developments relevant to my preferred brand of lipstick

4.79
4.90

1.56
1.52

My preferred brand of lipstick and I complement each other

I want to be informed about my preferred lipstick brand


[ am more willing to learn news about my preferred brand of lipsticl< than
for other brands
I listen with interest to info about my favourite lipstick brand
If leaflets are sent to me from my preferred lipstick brand, I get annoyed
I will be willing to be informed about my preferred brand of lipstick in the
future
I am willing to give feedback to the manufacturer of my preferred lipstick
brand
My preferred brand of lipstick means more to me than other brands

4.70

1.50

I feel comfortable with my preferred brand of lipstick

5.70

1.07

My preferred brand of lipstick is like a person with whom I am close to

3.95

1.86

Both my preferred brand of lipstick and I benefit from our link

4.19

1.88

Over time my preferred brand of lipstick becomes more important to me

4.29

1.85

1= strongly disagree, 7=strongly agree

Veioutsou Identifying the Dimensions of the Product-Brand

In the second factor a total af five items were loading with a value of .70 ar abave.
It explains 9.3% af the overall variance and has an eigenalue of 1.21. The items
loading are describing some sort af closeness between consumers and their
brands, as expressed by the consumer. They portray some sort af psychological link
between consumers and their brands as well as comfort end enjoyment, which is
due to this interaction between the twa parties. This factor was labelled "Emotional
exchange".

Although the relationship of consumers with the brands cannot be characterised as


strong, the average value for Two Way Communication and the Emotional Exchange
is higher than 4, which is the median for the Likert scale used to measure the various
items.
Both measures appear to have very high internal consistency (reliability). The
Cronbach's Alpha for the first factor was .8969 and for the second .8961. These
values are higher than the anticipated acceptable level of at least .70 (Hinkin 1995).
All items are contributing in the scales, since the value of the Cronbach's Alpha will
not increase if they are deleted (Tables 4 and 5). Therefore, all items were included
in the two scales developed. The reliability of the scales is confirmed by the Pearson
inter-correlation of the items included in each scale. They are all positive with values
higher than .40 and all significant at a .001 level. The item-to-total correlation for

TABLE 3 Factor Analysis Results

I want to be informed about my preferred lipstick brand

0.73

0.43

I am more willing to learn news about my preferred brand of lipstick than


for other brands
I listen with interest to info about my favourite lipstick brand

0.67

0.45

0.73

0.49

If leaflets are sent to me from my preferred lipstick brand, I get annoyed*

0.77

0.14

I will be willing to be informed about my preferred brand of lipstick in the


future

0.82

0.25

I am willing to give feedback to the manufacturer of my preferred lipstick

0.66

0.23

My preferred brand of lipstick means more to me than other brands

0.48

0.63

I care about the developments relevant to my preferred brand of lipstick

0.52

0.70

My preferred brand of lipstick and I complement each other

0.43

0.71

I feel comfortable with my preferred brand of lipstick

0.53

0.20

My preferred brand of lipstick is like a person with whom I am close to

0.12

0.86

Both my preferred brand of lipstick and I benefit from our link

0.25

0.83

Over time my preferred brand of lipstick becomes more important to me

0.32

0.76

Eigenvalue

7.34

1.21

% of variance explained

56.47

9.28

Mean

4.87

4.41

Sd

1.32

1.46

brand

1= strongly disagree, 7=strongly agree * reverse soore

19

20

Journal of Marketing Management, VoLunne 23

all items is higher than the suggested and widely used benchmark of .50 used in
the past (see Bearden and Netemeyer 1999, p. 4), for all items in both scales under
investigation. Although the inter-correlations and the item-to-total correlation of the
final item of Two Way Communication (table 4) is not as high as the correlations of
the rest of the items included in any of the two scales, this item was not removed
from the scale, since it's inclusion does not affect negatively the Cronbach's Alpha
value and it is adding value to the scale because of the two way communication it
implies that exists.

TABLE 6 Evaluation of the Two Way Communication Scale


1

_
2

_
3

,
A

_
5

I.
. . . . Alpha if
Item to total
, .
Item
correlation
, ,
deleted

.
1.1 want to be informed about my
1.00
preferred lipstick brand
2.1 am more willing to learn news about
my preferred brand of lipstick than for 0.68 1.00
other brands
3.1 listen with interest to info about my
0.73 0.67 1.00
favourite lipstick brand
4. If leaflets are sent to me from
my preferred lipstick brand, I get
0.59 0.51 0.60 1.00
annoyed*
5.1 will be willing to be informed about
my preferred brand of lipstick in the 0.70 0.62 0.70 0.65 1.00
future
6.1 am willing to give feedback to the
manufacturer of my preferred lipstick 0.49 0.50 0.58 0.40 0.49
brand
* reverse score

0.78

0.87

0.72

0.88

0.81

0.86

0.66

0.89

0.78

0.87

0.58

0.90

Item to total
correlation

Alpha if
item
deleted

1.00

0.75

0.87

0.78 1.00

0.72

0.88

0.59 0.55 1.00

0.75

0.87

0.64 0.63 0.67 1.00

0.78

0.87

0.59 0.55 0.72 0.69

0.75

0.87

TABLE 5 Evaluation of the Emotional Exchange Scale

1. I care about the developments


relevant to my preferred brand of
lipstick
2. My preferred brand of lipstick and I
. complement each other
3. My preferred brand of lipstick is like
a person with whom I am close to
it. Both my preferred brand of lipstick
and I benefit from our link
5. Over time my preferred brand of
lipstick becomes more important to
me

Veioutsou Identifying the Dimensions of the Product-Brand

The convergent validity of the Two Way Communication and the Emotional Exchange
is somewhat supported by the inter-correlation of the two scales. The Pearson
correlation of the scales in .71, significant at the .001 level, indicates convergent
validity.
CONCLUSION
The traditional approach focusing on the marketing mix elements alone, is believed
as giving less and less value to a company. An increasing number of companies are
developing tools that can contribute to relationship development, aiming at increased
commitment and loyalty from the customer's side. This is probably the main
reason why companies are increasingly employing a relational approach. Although
relationship marketing was at first reported and analysed mainly for organisational
markets and the service industry, it is clear that it is expanding to consumer markets
and products.
Whatever approach a company employs, even today it should supply products and
services to the very same customers that they are aiming to develop relationships with.
This is a fact that is not going to change. Consumers will buy brands and services and
although they might not admit it as such and might not be aware in their conscious
mind about its existence, they often build bonds with companies. The bonds between
consumers and the producers are really the secondary result of an original need that
individuals have to make transactions to satisfy their needs and desires and to reduce
risk when buying a certain product. The addition of the relationship is due to the
increased sophistication of the exchange process and in some occasions satisfies a
secondary need for interaction.
In the marketing literature the term "relationship" has been widely used but not
sufficiently explained. Most research analysing the relationships between consumers
and organisations focuses on the links between individuals working in these
organisations and the consumers. However, consumers may form links with mental
images, including brands.
The brand relationships are expected to vary in strength, from distant to close, but
exist. This variation though can be observed in any relationship. The characteristics
of the person and the brand in the relationship will influence the way that the bond
will form and the requirements of each side. For some product categories customers
are expected to form stronger relationships than for others. For example, for
technically complex products, when customers do not have the required knowledge
and proficiency but are highly involved, they will trust brands more than they will
do in a less complex or a low involvement product. However, the existing research
does not provide any guidelines on the way that the strength of the relationship with
a brand can be measured.
In this paper a measurement instrument of Brand Relationships has been developed
and empirically tested. The results clearly indicated that Brand Relationships is a
multidimensional concept, since there are two different dimensions in the relationship
that consumers form with branded products. They both demonstrate high internal
consistency (validity). The first dimension is the Two Way Communication. Consumers
seem to be willing not only to hear news about the brands of their choice, but also to
provide feedback to the brand team if required. This two-way process suggests that
there is some interaction between consumers and the brands, at least in their own
perception. The second dimension is the Emotional Exchange. Consumers appear

21

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^ ^ Q Journalof Marketing Managennent, Volume 23

to develop feelings towards the brands. They value the brands of their choice. They
sense a closeness to them and feel that they benefit from this interaction. Both scales
exhibit strong internal consistency and a reasonable degree of validity and could
be used in the future to assess the strength of relationships between consumers and
brands.
Companies however, should be very careful when attempting to enhance these
long-term relationships between consumers and their brands. The brand attributes
that should be communicated must be relevant to the customer. An unsuitable brand
identity could harm a very good and high quality (in technical terms) offering. They
should attempt to develop brands that consumers will want to interact with both in
terms of communication and feeling. This could have an implication on the way that
companies and the brand team supporting each brand really perceive and support the
brand expression. The scales developed in this paper could be used by companies to
assess the strength of the relationship that their customer base is forming with their
brands. It can be argued that the strength of the relationship that consumers' form
with a specific brand could be used as an indicator of the consumer based brand
equity.
This study is somewhat exploratory in nature. The scale was developed having
in mind only one product category. Therefore, there is a need for replication using
other product categories and different contexts. Products could include fast moving
consumer good products or various durable products. One could also try to explore
whether the scale could be used for some services products where the interaction
with the staff is not perceived as being the key feature of the service provided.
Furthermore, confirmatory factor analysis could be performed in larger sample sizes
to back up the validity of the scale. Researchers in the future might want to use
this instrument in order to investigate what could drive consumers to form strong
relationships with various branded offers.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND CORRESPONDENCE


Cleopatra Veioutsou is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing in the School of Business and
Management of the University of Glasgow. She holds an MBA and was awarded a
PhD from the Athens University of Economics and Business in Greece. Her primary
research interest is on Brand Management and Marketing Organisation, focusing
mostly on the Brand Management structure and the hrand support in general. She
has also worked in Relationship Marketing and Marketing Gommunications. She has
puhlished in these areas and her papers have appeared in various academic journals,
including the European Journal of Marketing, the International Journal of Advertising,
the Joumal of Business and Industrial Marketing, the Journal of Marketing Management,
the Journal of Product and Brand Management and the Journal of Services Marketing.
Dr. Veioutsou is also on the editorial board of the European Journal of Marketing,
Management Decisions and the Global Business and Economic Review, while she has
been awarded the Highly Gommended Award for her paper published in the European
Journal of Marketing in 2005.
Dr. Gleopatra Veioutsou, Department of Management, University of Glasgow, The
Gilbert Scott Building, West Quadrangle, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK.
T -f 44 141 330 4055
F -f-44 141 330 5669
E G.Veloutsou@mgt.gla.ac.uk