It has been thought and noted that there is a so-called relationship between consumers and products. Nowadays, one-on-one marketing has predominantly pervaded the world of brand marketing. This type of marketing has raised the need to address its theoretical development. This case study has the objective of presenting the relationship of consumers with brands they use based on data of three women and the brands they were using. It also introduces new ideas on brand loyalty and brand equity.
Harvard Business School (596093-PDF-ENG)
Jan 22, 1996 (Revision: Feb 13, 1997)
Case questions answered:
- What kinds of connections form between the women and the brands in the case? What is the root of that connection, the deeper value or meaning of the brand for each woman?
- Is it appropriate to say that these consumers have formed ‘relationships’ with the brands they know and use? In what ways yes and in what ways no? Be sure to address both yes and no.
- While this case is not focused on marketing strategy, identify and explain one or two higher level implications for marketing connected to your etic analysis. Put differently, the broad strategic ideas must be connected to some of your deeper insights.
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Exploring Brand-Person Relationships Case Answers
1) Jean forms strong connections with some of the brands she always buys. She has established a firm relationship with these brands. The roots of these relationships and the deeper value of the brands are her Italian heritage, her desire to be affiliated with others, her hard-working spirit, her wanting to be a successful mother and wife while pursuing the American values and norms. The Emic evidence, the detailed facts of Jean, reveals her identity. Jean believes in family, independence, and hard work. The actual self of Jean is someone who “grew up in the house her grandfather from Italy built” but being “an outsider in her home.” Lacking the love from her family, Jean’s ought self-turned into someone who wants desperately to be caring and being cared by others, to be hardworking and have the best things and to be affirmed by the society as a successful mother and wife. Thus, her actual self is all about working hard to achieve her ought self.
To achieve her ought self, she makes sure she takes good care of her family. Being Italian, she makes spaghetti sauce; this is habitus when cultural knowledge becomes embodied. When making the sauce, she chooses the best brands, Italian style products and will always buy them. She works hard for the best, and she wants the best for her friends and family too. She has never been to Italy, but her cooking style is still Italian. Showing her internal identification, the felt sense of commonality and belonging to the Italian group.
Jean believes that she deserves the Shimmer Lights shampoo, showing the American Values, work hard then you deserve it. Always buying the brands she uses demonstrates that she has established strong relationships with these brands. Buying these brands alleviate a source of tension from a pain point (to help her play the role of a successful mother and wife), bring enchantment to her life, and help her to communicate with others, functionally, relatively, emotionally and culturally. The choosing process for these brands involves perception. Personal factors (her mother) influence her choices. Self-product congruence (choose products when attributes match aspect of self) also happens when she wants these brands. For example, she prefers General Electric because it is stable and long-lasting, which fits her personality, someone who is caring, hardworking, loyal and deserves the best.
Karen has different selves as her life is undergoing the phase of transition. On ought-self, she has to meet culture norms, which is being a responsible mom and taking good care of her two daughters. Functionality and affordability are the two main concerns when making her purchasing decisions. On this case, Karen doesn’t form secure connections with brands she buys for daily purposes (such as Cheer, Tide, and Success Rice). She tends to pick the alternatives that are at a discount or better fit her fast-paced life and chooses big brands because the schema she has for big names is high-quality. Furthermore, being a single mom raising two girls by herself causes economic pressure. Hence she uses coupons to purchase detergent. Her perceptual filters based on her experience also influence her decisions on purchasing. For example, she keeps buying brands like Mop & Glo, Palmolive Joy, Lysol cleaner up, Ban and Mayonnaise because her ex or mom (whose image doesn’t fit her ideal self) used them in the past without even noticing it.
While on ideal-self, Karen has always wanted to rise above her station in life. She sticks with the brands that are congruent with her ideal-self. For example, for brands like Mary Kay and Dove cleansing cream, their product usage equals her personal image, can feel that her skin is glowing by using them and that makes her become the way she likes. She has strong connections with those brands and is willing to spend more on them. As to Reebok shoes and Coke, they just remind her of her actual self, they are homey and have a mnemonic property that recalls her times in the past.
Viki bought Ivory, soft and dry, musk because of the self-congruence theory. She associated these products to herself and what her friends ought to think of her. Viki grew up being loyal to her friends and family. Therefore, this was instilled in her feelings towards brands as well. If a product were good to her, she would return the favor by staying loyal and genuine to the brand. She was not against trying out new products, but it was certainly difficult to break the bond she had with her brands of choice. She used the process of perception when it came to selecting a brand that would speak volumes to her. For e.g. picking musk she gave this careful thought, and it was not as simple as choosing the first brand on the shelf. As she was in the “early adulthood” phase of her life, this also had an impact on her selection of individual brands. There was certainly an element of pressure which made her choose things that were ideal to her situation. For example, she bought floral bras to make her feel more attractive, partly because it was relevant and the in thing to do. Or she bought a lot of occasional products like her seven shampoos or 3 perfumes that she thought was ideal for different settings.
For the comparison of each, please refer to Appendix
Price: Karen is most affected by price, for e.g. she chooses the cheapest products when it comes to cleaning such as selecting an item on sale in detergents section. Jean is not affected by price at all, and Vicki did not mention it ever being an issue. She did, however, make it evident she follows trends to stay “cool” and relevant which should suggest price not being that much of an issue.
Loyalty: It was apparent that Jean is by far the most loyal to products she likes. She was very skeptical about changing to new alternative products. Vicki showed signs of being loyal but never talked about using the products now, and the fact that she now uses a new toothpaste would suggest she is not very loyal. Karen is not very loyal apart from a few products she does not see as different when you change.
Transformation: Jean is not going through a big transition, and we think she is very set in her ways and happy where she currently is. Viki and Karen, however, are going through a great transition, in the divorce and leaving home for the first time.
Self-Image: Using the looking glass self-theory, we perceived Jean as not caring as much as Karen or Viki regarding what people thought of them. Karen is still conscious about how she looks especially after the divorce and trying to find a new partner. Viki is going through a huge transition and relies heavily on social satisfaction from friends.
2) Jean: Has formed stable ‘relationships’ with the brands she uses and admires. Either she buys a brand forever, or she never buys it again. For example, always buys Pastene and Philip Berio and other brands to make the best sauce for her friends and family members. She relies on the brand names a lot, and she is very connected to these brands. She would not switch to other brands. But for brands she bought and thought were not the best, she will never buy again. A good example would be Skippy peanut butter. She tried Jif and Natural, but she thinks Skippy is the best, so she always sticks to Skippy.
Karen: We would say yes and no in Karen’s case. The no part is the brands she chose for basic daily needs and based on affordability and function. She only chose big name brands because the schema she has for them is useful and she thinks that they are all alike. She might as well choose other brands due to better functions or lower price. We’d say she isn’t loyal to those brands. For the yes part, she is intensely loyal to the brands that are for her personal use, because her self-image and product are congruent. She can’t live without them, and there are no substitutes for them.
Vicki: For Vicki, she hasn’t formed relationships with any of the brands she used. She used to be an “Ivory girl” and would have freaked out without Soft’n Dry, but now she’s in the transition phase of her life, trying to identify herself. She keeps up with new trends and isn’t ready to make any commitment yet. She makes mention of the fact that she only uses Crest toothpaste but at the end changed her mind and mentioned she was using a new toothpaste called Mentadent. We think this has a lot to do with her identity crisis she is currently going through. She also states how a brand “should be true to me if she is going to be true to it”. Which is contradictory to her chopping and changing other brands as she clearly was not true to Crest after all this time of the brand staying loyal to her.
3) In Jean’s case, she believes that the superior performance of household tasks could be a useful way to demonstrate self-worth, so she strives to be a good mother and wife. Keeping this thought in mind, she tends to choose brands that will help her to achieve this goal and products with attributes matching aspect of her – self-product congruence. Self-product congruence is a crucial point in marketing strategy. Consumers are the center of marketing, and they tend to choose products matching their self-image. Thus, a critical moment in the process of marketing strategy would be targeting the right consumers for brands and products and letting them know the product is the best choice for them.
For Karen, she sticks to the brands that fit her image and make her confident. Brands like Mary Kay and Dove, they alleviate the tension of having effects of time (pain point) for Karen, even though life is crazy for her that she has to wake up early every day without much sleep, she still gets to look young and beautiful. For this type of customer, marketing should focus on communicating emotional values with their clients, such as why this product matters to them and how it brings enhancement to their lives.
For Vicki, she is living away from home and will need guidance on how to be independent from her family. Marketers should look at ways to make her transition away from home a lot less stressful and present products or services that will be of assistance and make her feel more like an adult (self-product congruence). As there is a certain degree of unhealthy loyalty with Vicki marketers could also use this information to come up with strategic ways to keep her as a customer.