Brand Faithfulness and Economic Crisis. Brand and Quality Are Important but Price Counts for More

By Viviani, Debora | Italian Sociological Review, September 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Brand Faithfulness and Economic Crisis. Brand and Quality Are Important but Price Counts for More


Viviani, Debora, Italian Sociological Review


Abstract

Can the world and the system of meaning that create brands directed towards consumers, their lifestyles and their values be questioned in the light of the current economic crisis?

This essay aims to analyze the relationship between brand faithfulness and the economic crisis, assessing whether there have been changes in the way people follow brands caused by the difficulties consumers find themselves faced with today. More specifically, it will attempt to answer the following questions: over the threeyear period 2009-2011,

-have brands maintained their importance as a factor when purchasing consumer goods?

-have consumers stayed faithful to the brands they always purchased before?

-have the consumers stayed faithful to the brands with regard to the various retail sectors?

These questions take their place within a much broader setting which we will analyze in order to determine whether brand faithfulness is weaker now than before.

In the first section of the essay we will take make in-depth examination of consumption dynamics, with particular focus on the habits and customs of the families interviewed. The first issue is who does the shopping, then what types of goods are purchased and finally which criteria have the greatest influence on the choice of outlet. This will allow us to establish who it is who is responsible for the family purchases and then endeavour to understand what it is that families place most importance on when choosing shops.

Our reflections will then focus on the main point of this essay. After analyzing which factors have the greatest influence on the choice of products-with the aim of determining the level of importance of the role brand plays-we will take a closer look at brand faithfulness in the consumers interviewed. Our aim in doing so is to determine whether the individuals interviewed are change-oriented or prefer not to change their choices of products and brands. This will allow us to understand whether brand plays a crucial role in consumption dynamics, pushing consumers towards change, or whether, on the contrary, habit, being sure of what one is buying, is what really counts.

Keywords: consumer faithfulness, brand faithfulness.

Introduction: The brand faithfulness

The goods themselves have by now lost their role as the focal point of the consumer market; their value in terms of the use consumers get out of them has moved over to allow the symbolic dimension and system of meaning generated by the object to hold sway. Therefore, a web of principles determining, modifying and characterizing the lifestyles and social relations enjoyed by individuals has woven around the goods.

This process of dematerializing consumption (Lipovetsky, 2006; Fabris, 2010; Fabris, Minestroni, 2004; Semprini, 2006) and markets has become the key characteristic of the current market offer, which is today built around the symbolic density of goods, thus creating a new value: the value of image, in other words the possibility to deliberately create a veritable symbolic projection that the object gives substance to.

The traditional values of materiality and functionality lose importance and "what the good represents", both for the individual and for society at large, takes shape as the engine driving consumption. The empathy aroused by the product and its brands is not always directly proportional to the use value or exchange value of the object in itself, but these aspects run along separate tracks (Viviani, 2012). The close bond between the product and the lifestyle of the consumer and how it is represented in the social sphere push consumers to search for the meaning the object carries with it on the market. Around this meaning revolve a group of values and ideals and symbology that often detaches itself from the functionality of the object in itself.

In this case brand plays an important role as it allows products to be semanticized, thereby creating a profile by which they are recognized (very often dictated by the attempt to seem unique) or attributing new semantics to products that seem old or with little sex appeal, which perception may be caused by a change in the perception of certain values and the meanings they carry1 (Lipovetsky, 2010; Semprini, 2006). …

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