Customer brand experience has risen to the forefront of the market research landscape, but it is often confused with several other brand constructs to which the concept is related. Brand attachment, brand attitudes, brand personality, and brand engagement are all terms that marketers and advertisers bandy about, giving them a familiar ring. Customer delight and customer satisfaction are subjective brand experiences that are also in the current market research vernacular. How, then, is customer brand experience unique and how can it be measured?
Comparing and Contrasting Brand Constructs
The dimensions of customer experience are grounded in cognitive theory and cognitive science, a philosophy that addresses knowledge and perception, and the staged experiences market research studies conducted by Pine and Gilmore (1999).
- Brand attitudes are automatic emotional or effective reactions that consumers experience, which are typically based on their beliefs. When a consumer conveys "I like that brand" in some manner, the consumer is expressing a brand attitude. A customer brand experience relates something about the experience associated with the brand, not just a general evaluation or judgment of the brand. A consumer who relates personal responses to brand-related stimuli that says "I like the brand experience" is communicating about a strong consumer brand experience.
- Brand attachment is revealed through a strong emotional bond that a customer has with the brand. Brand attachment is expressed in terms of affection for the brand, passion for the brand that takes the shape of customer advocacy, and connection or engagement with the brand. Customer brand experience is not fundamentally characterized by emotions.
- Customer delight is an aspect of customer satisfaction that is characterized by positive affect and a fairly high degree of arousal. Customer delight occurs after consumption of the brand, and it must have an element of surprise. Customer brand experience need not be surprising; in fact, it can be unexpected or it can be expected and anticipated. Also, customer brand experience occurs whenever there has been an interaction with the brand, either direct or indirect. Customer brand experience does not need to follow consumption of the brand.
- Brand personality is an interesting aspect of brand association, wherein consumers endow a brand with five different dimensions that, taken together, make up a personality. These dimensions, from the work of Jennifer Aaker, 1997, are (1) sincerity, (2) sophistication, (3) competence, (4) excitement, and (5) ruggedness. Brand personality has to be inferred because consumers project their enthusiasm onto a brand. In this way, brand personality differs from brand experience, in which the enthusiasm of the consumer is felt rather than projected. Brand personality has been defined as "the set of human characteristics associated with the brand" (Aaker, 1997, p. 347).
How Brand Experience Can Be Used to Predict Consumer Behavior
Brakus, et al. (2009) hypothesized that brand experiences would positively affect consumer satisfaction and consumer loyalty and that brand experience would positively affect brand personality. They conducted a research study to explore the relationship between brand personality and brand experience. Brand personality is inferred by the consumer from any number of brand associations, including the following:
- Types of people associated with the brand
- Attributes of the product
- Associations with the product category
- Brand name
- Messaging and communications about the brand
In the study, using the scale developed by Brakus, et al. (2009), 209 students provided ratings on descriptions of their brand experience, brand personalities, and satisfaction and loyalty toward brands. The study participants rated 12 different brands in six consumer product categories, consisting of computers, bottled waters, clothing, sports shoes (sneakers), cars, and newspapers.
The data was analyzed using factorial analysis and a structural equation model. The research confirmed that brand experience can be measured on four dimensions: sensory, affective, intellectual, and behavioral. The study also demonstrated that brands evoke these dimensions in ways that can be distinguished (differentiated). The authors conclude that brand personality enhances product differentiation and impacts the consumer brand experience.
Aaker, J. L. (1997). Dimensions of Brand Personality, Journal of Marketing Research, 34 (August), 347-356.
Brakaus, J. J., Schmitt, B. H., and Zarantonello, L. (2009). Brand experience: What is it? How is it measured? Does it affect loyalty? Journal of Marketing, 73 (May), 52-68.
Pine, J. B., II, and Gilmore, J. H. (1999). The experience economy: Work is theatre and every business a stage. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.