Academic journal article IUP Journal of Brand Management

Can You Feel It? - the Effect of Brand Experience on Brand Equity

Academic journal article IUP Journal of Brand Management

Can You Feel It? - the Effect of Brand Experience on Brand Equity

Article excerpt

Introduction

Experiential marketing has been praised as a new, revolutionary concept compared to traditional marketing (Holbrook and Hirschman, 1982). Providing a pleasurable experience full of sensory stimulation is expected to differentiate a brand from its numerous competitors better than traditional marketing. Traditional marketing-with its analytical approach to stressing the tangible features and benefits of a product for its rational consumers-does not seem to create the attention needed to build a 21st century brand. Although the conceptualization and scale of brand experience have been largely analyzed, as well as its impact on consumer perception and behavior, its effect on brand equity has not been analyzed yet. This is the aim of this paper.

Literature Review

The Brand Experience Concept

Holbrook and Hirschman (1982) identified new aspects of consumption which "seeks fun, amusement, fantasy" (p. 135). They first introduced the powerful idea that consumption also has-besides a rational component-an experiential dimension. In contrast to traditional marketing, which views consumers as rational decision makers who base their purchasing choice on functional features, experiential marketing acknowledges that consumers are also emotionally driven and aim to achieve pleasurable experiences. "Experiences provide sensory, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and relational values that replace the functional values" (Schmitt, 1999, p. 57). Experiential marketing also has a strong effect on branding. Since a brand does not only consist of functional benefits, creating brand experience can influence the brand's essence. Brakus et al. (2009, p. 53) define brand experience as "subjective, internal consumer responses (sensations, feelings, and cognitions) and behavioral responses evoked by brand-related stimuli that are part of a brand's design and identity, packaging, communications, and environments".

With consumers looking for "fantasies, feelings and fun" through consumption (Holbrook and Hirschman, 1982, p. 132), companies are forced to entertain, stimulate and emotionally affect consumers through experiences (Schmitt, 1999). Pine and Gilmore (1998) speak of the "experience economy" where companies transition from selling services to selling experiences. They claim that this transition is an equally great economic shift as from the industrial to the service economy.

The transition towards experiential marketing has occurred as a result of three major developments over the last years (Chu et al., 2013): Firstly, advertising overexposure by traditional communication channels forces marketers to change their ways to gain consumers' attention and reach them with their messages (Mortimer, 2009). Secondly, saturation of markets has led to fierce global competition-driven by the phenomenon that functional product benefits are becoming exchangeable. This complicates strategies for companies to differentiate on functional product features (Fransen and Lodder, 2010). Pine and Gilmore (1998) claim that since "goods and services become commoditized, the customer experiences that companies create will matter most" (p. 97). Thirdly, more and more consumers lead hedonistic lifestyles and look for pleasurable experiences (Fransen and Lodder, 2010).

Measuring Brand Experience

Efforts have been made by various researchers to develop operational typologies to scale and measure brand experience. "These dimensions provide a framework by which companies and brands can engage consumers in an experiential manner" (Sands et al., 2008, p. 299).

Hirschman and Holbrook (1986) propose the Thought-Emotion-Activity-Value (TEAV) model with four dimensions as a framework: "thought" includes cognitive processing, i.e., mental events; "emotion" involves feelings, expressive behaviors, and physiological responses; "activity" includes physical and mental events; "value" includes evaluative judgements. These four areas were empirically validated by Lofman (1991) through a large exploratory study. …

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