The purpose of the literature review is to provide the readers an entire overview of previous studies and researches carried out on this area of study as well as to identify gaps in the literature before showing evidences as for why this study is important. In particular, the following literature review is targeted to critically assess the concepts of brand loyalty, brand community, brand fan pages and brand fan page participation. First, it will begins to study the concepts of brand loyalty and ways to measure it. After that, it will explores the definitions of brand community and the ways how brand communities have been used to raise brand loyalty. Next, the literature review will compares between brand fan pages and traditional brand communities before examining the antecedents of brand community participation. Finally, the framework of this research will be is established based on the uses and gratification theory.
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This chapter is designed on the purpose of providing readers an overview about previous studies and researches relating to the area of (give your name of research here)â€¦. as well as identifying the gaps in the literature before showing evidences as reasons supporting the important role of my study. In particular, the following literature review critically focuses on assessing the concepts of four brands: loyalty, community, fan pages, and fan page participation. On the stream of research, concepts and measuring methods of brand loyalty are examined first. Following is brand of community with its definitions along with the ways how this kind has been used to raise the brand loyalty. Running after is the comparison between brand fan pages and traditional brand communities before discussing the antecedents of brand community participation. Finally, the framework of this research is established based on the uses and (gratification theory).
2.1 Brand loyalty
Oliver (1999, p. 34) defines brand loyalty as:
A deeply held commitment to rebuy or repatronise a preferred product/service consistently in the future, thereby causing repetitive same-brand or same brand-set purchasing, despite situational influences and marketing efforts having the potential to cause switching behavior.
This definition encompasses the two different aspects of brand loyalty – behavioral and attitudinal – that have been illustrated in previous research on the concept. Definitions of brand loyalty vary considerably among researchers. Some researchers who concentrate on the behavioral aspect of the loyalty defined brand loyalty as a sequence (repetition) or selection (purchase) of the same brand in all cases of purchase (Brown, 1952), and as a percentage of total purchases of a particular brand in comparison with other competitor brands (Cunningham, 1956). On the other hand, some scholars who are concerned with the attitudinal aspect of loyalty referred to brand loyalty as ‘the extent in which a customer holds positive attitudes towards the brand, commitment and intention to repurchase this brand in the future’ (Mowen and Minor, 2001, p.210). Also, there was a definition that included both the behavioral and the attitudinal concept. According to Jacoby and Kyner (1973, p.6), brand loyalty is the ‘biased behavioral response expressed over time by some decision-making units with respect to one or more alternative brands out of a set of such brands and is a function of psychological (decision-making, evaluative) processes’. The difference between these definitions reflects changes in the concept of brand loyalty over time from the behavioral through the attitudinal to the combined concept.
Brand loyalty plays a vital role in the success of a company in current highly competitive business environments. Brand loyalty is a prerequisite for a company’s competitiveness and profitability (Aaker, 1991, 1996; Reichheld, 1996). Also, brand loyalty can help companies to gain bigger market share when loyal consumers repeatedly purchase the same brand (Assael 1998), to reduce marketing costs, to get more new customers and to obtain greater trade leverage (Aaker, 1991). More importantly, brand-loyal customers feel pleased to pay more for a brand (Jacoby and Chestnut 1978; Reichheld 1996). Loyal consumers not only bring long-term profits to a company but also remain with the company over time even if the supplier does not offer the best price (Reichheld 2003). Additionally, brand loyal customers also create positive word-of-mouth marketing by often talking positively about the brand as well as introduce it to their acquaintances (Anderson,1998; Dick and Basu, 1994). In this context, such loyal clients become a network of unpaid sales persons and provide benefits for that brand. Since loyalty plays such a significant role in a firm’s success, many studies have focused on exploring ways to accurately measure it, which is always a challenging task.
Based on the literature of brand loyalty, there are three main ways that researchers have used for measuring it, including the behavioral, the attitudinal and the combined approach. The initial studies on brand loyalty adopted the behavioral approach. Some researchers who chose this approach (Brown, 1952; Cunning ham, 1956; Ehrenberg et al., 1990; Kahn et al., 1986) believed that repeat purchasing could measure the loyalty of a consumer towards the brand of interest. The behavioral aspect of loyalty concentrates on a measure of proportion of purchase of specific brand (Dick and Basu, 1994). However, it seems to be inaccurate to consider loyalty simply as a behavior because a customer may repeatedly purchase one brand without commitment to this brand. In other words, in this case it does not indicate that she/he is loyal to the brand. For example, a client keeps on buying the same brand because of feeling indifferent, inertia, reduction of perceived risk, or comfort of not being forced to make a new choice, instead of being committed to the brand (Bloemer and Kasper, 1995; Holland and Baker, 2001). Thus, it is very easy for such a customer to change her/his mind to buy another brand that offers better benefits such as a greater deal, a sale-off coupon or promotion gifts. This situation is defined as spurious brand loyalty (Bloemer and Kasper, 1995) and the approach that is based on repeat purchasing behavior has been criticised as being too one-dimensional and unable to differentiate between true loyalty and spurious loyalty (Day 1969; Bloemer and Kasper, 1995; John and Shiang-Lih, 2001).
To overcome the limitation of the behavioral approach, researchers started to pay more attention to the attitudinal aspect in studying brand loyalty. Some researchers who adopted the attitudinal approach thought that an attitudinal loyalty to brand was premise of real loyalty. The attitudinal loyalty to brand was preferable and continuing attitudes toward the brand that purchased. For example, Guest (1964), who is one of pioneers in using the attitudinal approach, suggested the measure of loyalty through attitudinal loyalty by asking consumers to select only the brand they prefer out of a set of brands. In the framework of this approach, researchers examined the psychological commitment of customers in their purchase, without necessarily taking the purchase behavior into account (e.g., Jacoby, 1971; Jarvis and Wilcox, 1976). However, like the behavioral approach, the attitudinal approach to loyalty was also inadequate and narrow in scope to measure the real brand loyalty. Hence, researchers developed the integrated approach which takes into account both the behavioral and attitudinal models. For instance, Day (1969) recommended a combination between customers’ attitude towards the brand and their repeated buying behavior to develop a composite index for loyalty. The attitudinal constituent that mentioned here refers to a strong internal disposition of customer to continue purchasing the same brand.
To date, most researchers admit that a combination of the attitudinal and behavioral approach is the best way to measure the brand loyalty. This approach measures the customer loyalty through product and brand preferences, repurchase, the total purchased quality, and changing the brand (Hunter, 1998; Pritchard and Howard, 1997). Thus, this method raises the predictive power for measuring brand loyalty. The two-dimensional composite measurement approach has been employed as an effective tool to comprehend brand loyalty in several fields, such as retailing, recreation and airlines (Day, 1969; Jacoby and Kyner, 1973; Pritchard et al., 1992; Pritchard and Howard, 1997). It is a more completed and appropriate way of understanding loyalty, and by taking into account both the behavioural and attitudinal aspects of loyalty, firms are more likely to find out what makes a truly loyal customer. According to Gremler (1995), both the attitudinal and behavioural dimensions need to be included whenever loyalty is being measured. In that sense, the researcher of this study therefore adopted the composite approach to brand loyalty. For this study the brand loyalty was measured through the attitude, the commitment, the repurchase and the recommendation of customers toward a brand.
On the other hand, enhancing the loyalty of customers is as important as measuring it accurately. Keeping the customer satisfied and loyal enough to frequently buy just one brand has been a considerable challenge with which companies have faced for a few decades. The customer relationship management and direct marketing literatures indicates that regularly contacting with customer can help firms increase customer loyalty (Marko and Mika, 2004). In the same fashion, brand literature also reveals that by deepening consumer-brand relationships marketers can raise brand loyalty (Aaker, 1996; Fournier, 1998; Kapferer, 1998; Keller, 1998). Consistent with this, relationship marketing focuses on attracting, maintaining, and enhancing long-term customer relationships. Such long-term relationships create a competitive advantage and strategic resource for the company (Webster 1992). However, it is not always efficient to maintain one-on-one relationships with customers since time spent developing the relationship can take away from time spent actually serving the customer (Gruen and Ferguson 1994; Iacobucci 1994). To deal with this issue, companies employ brand communities to connect and interact with their customers and therefore remain their loyalty to the brand. Since brand communities can perform important functions on behalf of the brand such as sharing information, perpetuating the history and culture of the brand and providing assistance, they provide social structure to the relationship between marketer and consumer (Muniz and O’guinn, 2001). They also add that by exerting pressure on members, communities can maintain and raise the members’ loyalty to the brand. The literature of brand community as well as the link between brand community and brand loyalty will be studied in the next section.
2.2 Brand community and brand loyalty
A brand community is a specialized, non-geographically bound community, based on a structured set of social relationships among admirers of a brand (Muniz and O’guinn, 2001, p.412).
Since the last decade, brand community has been a central topic of branding research, and marketers have increasingly focused on building, managing, and maintaining brand communities (Muniz and O’Guinn 2001; McAlexander et al., 2002). The definition of brand community has considerably varied over time. Rheingold (1993) defines it as a group of people who have longtime interactions with rich individual affection, which is mediated by computers online. Differently, Cova and Pace (2006) define a brand community as any group of people that possess a common interest in a specific brand and create a parallel social universe rife with its own myths, values, rituals, vocabulary and hierarchy. Despite the difference between the definitions, it is believed that there are stable relationships within brand community. Initially, some scholars who focused on studying brand loyalty argued that there is merely the customer-brand relationship within brand communities (Gardner and Levy 1955; Aaker 1996; Aaker 1997). This argument is likely limited because it does not take into account the relationship between brand community’s members. After that, the topic was more extensively studied, and Muniz and O’Guinn (2001) revealed that there are two crucial relationships in a brand community: the relationships between the customers and the brand and between community’s members. However, their statement is inadequate because it does not encompass the company and the product. Subsequently, McAlexander et al. (2002) added two other relationships, including the relationship between the customer and the firm and the relationship between the product and the customer.
Based on those findings, brand communities have increasingly been used as an effective approach to establish and foster such consumer-brand relationships. A brand community can provide a useful venue for consumers to share brand experience and information, to solve problems and to meet peer consumers and company representatives (McWilliam, 2000). Consequently, brand communities bring great benefits for companies. For example, building brand communities can help companies not only nurture brand champions and ‘super users’ but also reduce service costs through customer-to-customer solution for product issues (Noble et al., 2012, Bagozzi and Dholakia, 2006). More importantly, brand communities can allow companies to enhance their relationship-marketing communication since brand communities are viewed as an additional communication channel that is used for establishing linkages to devoted users (McAlexander et al., 2002; Adersen, 2005). Hence, brand community can be utilised to support marketers in building and maintaining the brand loyalty of customers.
A number of previous studies on brand community reveal that brand community has a positive effect on brand loyalty. According to Muniz and O’Guinn (2001), brand communities directly affect all four of these components of brand equity, namely perceived quality, brand loyalty, brand awareness, and brand associations (Aaker, 1991). A strong brand community can result in a socially embedded and entrenched loyalty, brand commitment (Jacoby and Chestnut 1978; Keller 1998), and even hyper-loyalty (McAlexander and Schouten 1998). Furthermore, Kim et al (2008) demonstrate that there is a link between online community commitment and brand commitment. Their research also discovers that members of a brand community had stronger brand commitment than customers who are not members of the brand community. In the context of consumer-brand relationship, community commitment indicates members’ attitude toward the community. In this regard, members expose their community commitment through actual behaviors in the community, such as participating in community activities, providing help to the community and solving problems for others (Won-Moo et al, 2011). On the other hand, studies on the mediating role of community commitment have examined that this construct positively impact on brand loyalty (Jang et al., 2008; Fuller et al., 2007). According to
Algesheimer et al. (2005), brand community members who are committed to the brand community perceive brand more positively and clearly, and they also show stronger attachment to brand relationship quality. Therefore, it can be concluded that there is a positive link between brand community commitment and brand loyalty.
2.3 Brand fan pages and traditional online brand communities
Brand fan pages are viewed as a special type of brand community because they are created and organised around a single brand, product or company (De Vries et al. 2012). Brand fan pages are one of services that are introduced by Facebook for companies in order to contact and communicate with their customers. Facebook is the most popular social networking site with more than 873 billion active members (Facebook statistic, 2012). Social networking sites are defined as ‘web-based services that allow individuals to construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system’ (Boyd and Ellison, 2007, p.211). One of prominent property of social networking site is that it allows its users to post information about themselves, post links of websites or pictures they like, comment on postings of their friends, and accept invitations for events. These users also can receive invitations to become fans of particular brands, organizations, or celebrities (Raacke and Bonds-Raacke, 2008).
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Since brand fan page is a special category of social networking sites, it possessed all such features. Furthermore, brand fan page has its own distinguishing attributes. One distinct feature of Facebook brand fan page is that it belongs to a brand or a company instead of individuals, and the purpose of operating a brand fan page is to help companies to establish and build up the brand-customer relationship with their customers. Therefore, brand fan page is an open social networking site that allows each fan to actively interact with both the company and other peers. The other special feature of brand fan page is the ability to connect with fans’ Facebook profiles. To become fans of a brand fan page, a Facebook user needs to press the “like-button” on the page, which implies that he/she likes this brand. Subsequently, this preference is added to the user’s profiles, and any new content of this brand will automatically appear on the user’s personal Facebook news feed. Therefore, with this function brand fan page is considered as an excellent vehicle for fostering relationships with customers (De Vries, Gensler and Leeflang, 2012).
Although brand fan pages and traditional online brand communities (forums, bulletin boards) are quite similar and are sometimes used interchangeably, there are differences between the two types. One of the crucial distinctions is that fan pages are embedded in an organic grown and not brand-related network of social site ties (Benedikt and Werner, 2012). Hence, members of a fan page can connect to other people called “friends” who are not fans of the brand within the social network site (Boyd and Ellison, 2007). This function allows these friends to update all their friends’ activities on brand fan pages, and they can also comment on some topics or post something on the wall of pages although they are not fans of these brand fan pages, whereas other categories of traditional brand communities do not have this property. Furthermore, in a classical brand community, most activities often focus on the brand, and the community is ‘based on a structured set of social relationships among admirers of a brand’ (Muniz and O’Guinn, 2001, p.412). In contrast to this, a brand fan page gives more priority to a connection between customers and the brand and activities include both brand-related and non-brand-related topics. Thus, fan-page usage and engagement motivation might differ from traditional brand communities.
2.4 Brand fan page participation
One of the most important purposes of developing a brand fan page is to develop a setting that makes consumers committed and willing to participate in interaction with both the brand and peers. Members’ participation in a virtual brand community is viewed as a key to warrant the success of the community (Casaló, Flavián and Guinalíu, 2007), a principal factor for the development and sustainability of the community (Luis, Carlos and Miguel, 2007). Therefore, exploring antecedents and effects of consumers’ participation in virtual brand communities has been one of central topics of brand community research (Mathwick, 2002; Luis, Carlos and Miguel, 2007). In organizational context, participation is defined as an activity taking part in or contributing to events, and it is measured by specific behaviors, activities and assignments (Barki and Hartwick, 1994; Vroom and Jago, 1988). In a virtual brand community, participation refers to posting messages, reading messages posted by others and engaging in dialogue with others by answering messages posted by others (Mathwick, 2002; Nonnecke, Andrews, & Preece, 2006). These activities raise group cohesion because members can share information and experiences relevant to the brand around which the community is developed (Luis, Carlos and Miguel, 2007). Once a consumer has the high level of participation in a virtual community, she or he tends to share knowledge, disseminate ideas and create emotional supports for other members (Koh and Kim, 2004). Algesheimeret al (2005) also state that the participation may enhance the members’ identification with the community and therefore raise the value of the community. Besides, members’ participation in the virtual community is considered as a significant element to ensure the community’s survival in the long term (Koh and Kim, 2004).
As for antecedents of participation, in order to increase the level of participation of consumers in the virtual brand community, it is recommended that trust and satisfaction must be created in the community. Casaló, Flavián and Guinalíu (2007) confirm that trust in a virtual community has a positive and significant effect on members’ participation in the virtual community activities. Besides, firms also must satisfy some of consumers’ needs to promote consumer participation in virtual communities (Luis, Carlos and Miguel, 2007). In addition, the result of previous interactions between members and the brand also affect the level of participation. Ridings et al (2002) argue that a key factor that affects significantly on members’ participation is perceived responsiveness in the community. If a member posts some messages and there is no response, consequently the level of participation of the member will go down (Luis, Carlos, and Miguel, 2007). On the other hand, some researchers note that the content of posts in brand communities has a huge impact on the participation of members. For instance, Holland and Baker (2001) emphasize that to ensure customers’ involvement brand communities must provide relevant and valuable content as well as create sufficient depth and breadth. As can be seen from previous research, it is clear that there are many various factors that significantly affect the participation of members to an online community. However, their findings are insufficient and unconvincing because they are unable to encompass all possible motives of members systematically.
In terms of outcomes of participation, there are a number of previous studies prove that participation in a brand community may increase customers’ loyalty to the brand (Andersen, 2005; Algesheimeret al., 2005; Muniz and O’Guinn, 2001). Some researchers have found that there is a positive link between the level of participation in a brand community and the intention to purchase and use the brand products in the future. For example, in research on a Jeep community, McAlexander et al. (2002) discover that members who regularly participate in events of the community have the higher level of intention to buy this product in future than others. With a study on free software (FS) virtual communities, Luis, Carlos, and Miguel (2007) also demonstrate that customer loyalty to the FS products is directly and positively affected by the level of participation in a FS virtual community. Additionally, Algesheimer et al (2005) illustrate that once customers actively participate in a brand community, their commitment, identification and emotional ties with brand are increased. These linkages likely arise from the interaction with other community members through discussion about topics related to the brand. Thus, it can be concluded that there is a positive linkage between high participation and high loyalty.
In the context of brand fan pages, since it is only one of additional functions of Facebook that has been introduced to companies for two years, there are few studies on brand fan pages, particularly in marketing aspects. One of early studies in this field is a work of Cvijikj, Spiegler and Michahelles (2011) that investigates the relationship between posts and the levels of interaction of members based on the data collected from 14 brand fan pages. By analysing the effects of moderator post characteristics, such as post type, category and posting day, on the user interaction in terms of number of comments and likes and interaction duration, they reveal that there is a significant effect of the post type and category on number of likes and comments as well as on interaction duration. They demonstrate that different types of moderator posts, categories and posting weekdays cause different levels of member’s interaction. However, their research has two main limitations. First, although they unveil the relationship between categories of posts and interaction of members, it could not identify which category attracts member most. Second, the level of interaction of each category in their study is determined according to the number of likes, comments and time of interaction. This may result in inaccurate conclusions because the number of comments is also influenced by the content of comments that members create. For example, if one member posts some initial controversial comments for a particular topic, this will create a high number of responses.
Another research that has the same approach is a study of De Vries, Gensler and Leeflang (2012). The research is based on analysing 355 brand posts from 11 international brands spread across six product categories to identify possible drivers for brand post popularity. The findings of the study indicate that the position of a brand post may escalate its popularity. For instance, these posts that are located at the top of the wall of a brand fan page seem to attain more likes and comments than at other positions. They indentify three main drivers that impact on the number of likes and the number of comments. Different drivers have different impacts on the number of likes and the number of comments. They conclude that the number of likes can be enhanced by using vivid and interactive brand post characteristics as well as sharing positive comments on a brand post while the number of comments can be escalated by the interactive brand post characteristic and the shares of both positive and negative comments. Although their study unveils some determinants of brand post popularity in order to recommend marketers ways to enhance the participation of members, these findings are inadequate due to their approach of conducting the research. Since they determine key drivers of the participation of members based on counting the number of likes and the number of comments on each brand post characteristic, it is unconvincing and limited because the results depend significantly on the number of brand post characteristics that marketers often use to post on their brand fan pages. For example, posting a quiz can enhance the participation of members, but the marketers do not recognise its important roles and they therefore do not use it. Consequently, this factor could not be taken into the research if researchers use the above approach. De Vries, Gensler and Leeflang (2012) also admitted that they excluded a few variables such as quizzes and events from the analyses because brands did not of post them.
As can be seen from two above studies, analysing the number of likes and comments of brand posts to determine key drivers of the participation of members is limited. Therefore, the studies could not include all possible determinants that enhance the participation as well as identify elements that motivate members to participate in a brand fan page. To overcome these weaknesses, a new approach is designed for this research to investigate main drivers of the participation of members as well as examine outcomes of high participation on brand fan pages. First, the researcher will establish a theoretical framework by reviewing literature and constructing hypotheses. After that, these hypotheses will be tested through analysing data that will be collected by conducting a survey in which brand fans will answer a questionnaire. In the next section, the theoretical framework of this research will be introduced.
2.5 The theoretical framework
After reviewing literature, the researcher established a theoretical framework. The basic idea of the framework is that people participate into a brand fan page to satisfy their particular needs, if the brand fan page fulfils their needs adequately, their participation will increase. Once the participation of members is enhanced highly, it results in high brand loyalty. In order to identify key drivers of the participation of members on a brand fan page, the researcher considered reasons that motivate people to enjoin into the brand fan page based on the uses and gratification (U&G) theory, introduced by Katz (1959). U&G theory attempts to explain why people have different media-usage patterns. According to U&G theory, individuals utilise media to satisfy various needs and to reach their goals. Many scholars who have used this theory confirm that it is useful for application to new media like the internet, online communities, social networking, and blogs (Raacke and Bonds-Raacke, 2008; Sheldon, 2008; Ko et al., 2005; Ruggiero, 2000). In general, essential needs of participants can be classified into two main areas, including a content-oriented area based on the information provided by the media and a relationship-oriented area based on social interaction with others. In the content area, the researcher distinguishes between the functional and hedonic values that are created by brand fan pages. Similarly, in the relationship area, the researcher also differentiates two major types of interaction, namely the interaction with other users, and the interaction with the brand or company behind the brand.
2.5.1 Functional values
Functional values refer to purposeful and rational values derived from completing pre-determined tasks, such as buying a product, solving a problem, or obtaining and providing information using the Internet (Dholakia et al., 2004). One of main purposes of community members when they access to the internet is to seek functional benefits. These benefits may include advice, information and expertise for learning. Researchers state that members participate in online communities for exchanging information and other resources what are aggregated in the online community (Hagel and Armstrong, 1997; Preece, 2000; Maria and Mariola, 2008). Virtual communities enable users to give and receive information on topics they may be interested in. This exchange of information can allow all online community members to access to a greater amount of essential information needed to make decisions. Sangwan (2005) identifies three key drivers for virtual community use, including functional, emotive and contextual needs. He also emphasise that the most significant motivation is related to the information acquisition and more for surfing for entertainment. Dholakia et al. (2004) also argue that informational value is one of benefits that members want to achieve from getting and sharing information in the virtual community. For example, members of a virtual community may obtain knowledge about the attributes of a particular product or technology, or gain up-to-date information. Tonteri et al.,(2011) reveal that participation in a virtual community is significantly driven by the expectation of functional benefits, which in this case means obtaining knowledge on business- and economics-related issues. Based on this the researcher propose the following:
Hypothesis 1: There is a positive relationship between functional value and fan page participation.
2.5.2 Hedonic values
Hedonic values indicate to feelings of amusement, relaxation and refr
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