In marketing practice, brand experience has attracted much attention(Brakus, Schmitt & Zarantonello, 2009). It is important for marketing professionals to understand how customers experience brands and how the brand experience affects marketing strategies for services and products. Nowadays, customers are not satisfied with buying products for functional benefits. Many researchers suggested that the pervasive influence of emotional response in product consumption and shopping(Holbrook, Chestnut, Oliva & Greenleaf, 1984; Batra & Ray, 1986; Westbrook, 1987; Batra & Holbrook, 1990; Cohen, 1990). Schmitt(1999) said consumers increasingly make choices based on the experiential factor that the product offers. It has been suggested that an emotion-rich experience provides not only brand differentiation and consumer loyalty but also sales increase and promotion of the brands(Morrison & Crane, 2007). It means that brand experience can affect the customer-brand relationship.
Relationship Marketing has been studied by using Fournier(1998)'s conceptualization of Brand relationship quality (BRQ). Brand relationship has arrived a new stage to be one of the principal focus of research on consumers and brands(Aaker, Fournier & Brasel, 2004; Breivik & Thorbjornsen, 2008; Chang & Chieng, 2006; Hass, 2007; Huber, Collhardt, Matthes & Vogel, 2009). Brand relationship quality is usually used to evaluate the relationship strength and the depth of consumer-brand relationship(Xie & Heung, 2009). The advantage of studying brand relationship is the ability to provide insights into the impact of brands on customers and their needs (Breivik & Thorbjornsen, 2008; Fournier, 1998; Monga, 2002). But empirical studies that deal with whether brand relationship quality could influence consumers' purchase intentions and behaviors are scant(Xie & Heung, 2009). Researches regarding the correlation between consumers' experiences of brands and brand relationship quality are also limited.
Therefore the purpose of this study is to examine how brand experience affects customer-brand relationship quality. This could be a contribution for marketing managers to improve their knowledge about the relationship between their brands and customers and to understand their customers more accurately.
THEORETICAL BACKGROUND AND PROPOSITION
Brand experiences are "subjective, internal consumer responses(sensations, feelings, and cognitions) and behavioral responses evoked by brand-related stimuli that are part of a brand' s identity, packaging, design, environments and communications" (Brakus, Schmitt & Zarantonello, 2009). Consumer and marketing research has shown that experiences happen when consumers search for products, when they are shopping for products or receive services, and when they consume products or services (Arnould, Price, & Zinkhan, 2002; Brakus, Schmitt, & Zhang, 2008; Holbrook, 2000).
The types of brand experience are related with product, shopping and service, and consumption experience. Product experiences occur when consumers interact with products (Hoch 2002). First, the product experience happens directly when there is physical contact with the product (Hoch & Ha, 1986) or indirectly when a product is presented virtually or in an advertisement(Hoch & Ha, 1986; Kempf & Smith, 1998).
Second, shopping and service experiences happen when consumers interact with a store' s physical environments, its policies and practices (Hui & Bateson, 1991; Kerin, Jain & Howard, 1992). Thus, research in this area investigates how atmospheric variables and salespeople affect the consumer' s experience (Arnold et al., 2005; Boulding et al., 1993; Jones, 1999; Ofir & Simonson, 2007).
Third, consumption experiences arise when consumers consume and use products. These are multidimensional and contain hedonic dimensions, such as feelings, fun and fantasies(Holbrook and Hirschman, 1982). …