Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Marketers have long observed, or at least assumed, that people buy certain products or brands as a means of expressing themselves. Marketing researchers have studied this phenomenon from the perspective of "self-congruity," assuming that a fit between the consumer's understanding of self (i.e., self-image) and the brand's image (or "brand personality") should drive the consumer's purchase behavior. This stream of research has vigorously explored the relations between the fit (i.e., "self-brand image congruity" or "self-congruity") and various behavioral outcomes. Nonetheless, this research stream has not succeeded in finding clear and strong evidence of the assumed effects on such a vital outcome as emotional brand attachment. Moreover, little research has directly explored the relations between self-congruity and emotional brand attachment. In this context, the main purpose of this dissertation is to shed light on this little understood relationship. Specifically, this research proposes that consumers' brand experience and self-congruity jointly create the strong driving force that directs consumers to an emotional attachment to the brands. Here, brand experience is conceptualized as the positive impact of brand-related stimuli or the "magnitude" of consumer responses to the stimuli that reflects a consumer's past interactions with brands or brand-related information. On the other hand, self-congruity can be understood as the "direction" that indicates which brand image a consumer wants to go with. The existing research has focused exclusively on the "direction." Taking the "magnitude" into account, this research aims to develop the theory that explains the assumed effects of self-congruity on emotional brand attachment as well as clearly demonstrate the effects, by proposing the interaction effects between self-congruity and brand experience. By synthesizing multiple research streams that have been recently growing, a comprehensive explanation was developed to explicate how consumers' perception of self-brand image fit and their past interactions with brands affect the formation of emotional brand attachment. In order to test the hypotheses that were derived from the theory, data were collected from 397 U.S. consumers using an online survey. The proposed interaction effects were clearly detected, along with the direct effects of self-congruity on emotional brand attachment, which the previous study had not been able to identify. The research revealed that brand experience boosts the positive effects of self-congruity on emotional brand attachment.
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