Consumers and Their Brands: Developing Relationship Theory in Consumer Research

32 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2013

Date Written: December 1, 1998


Although the relationship metaphor dominates contemporary marketing thought and practice, surprisingly little empirical work has been conducted on relational phenomena in the consumer products domain, particularly at the level of the brand. In this article, the author: (1) argues for the validity of the relationship proposition in the consumer-brand context, including a debate as to the legitimacy of the brand as an active relationship partner and empirical support for the phenomenological significance of consumer-brand bonds; (2) provides a framework for characterizing and better understanding the types of relationships consumers form with brands; and (3) inducts from the data the concept of brand relationship quality, a diagnostic tool for conceptualizing and evaluating relationship strength. Three in-depth case studies inform this agenda, their interpretation guided by an integrative review of the literature on person-to-person relationships. Insights offered through application of inducted concepts to two relevant research domains — brand loyalty and brand personality — are advanced in closing. The exercise is intended to urge fellow researchers to refine, test, and augment the working hypotheses suggested herein and to progress toward these goals with confidence in the validity of the relationship premise at the level of consumers’ lived experiences with their brands.

Keywords: Brans, Brand Relationships, Customer Relationship Management, Consumer Behavior

Suggested Citation

Fournier, Susan, Consumers and Their Brands: Developing Relationship Theory in Consumer Research (December 1, 1998). Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 24, March 1998, Available at SSRN:

Susan Fournier (Contact Author)

Boston University ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States
617 353 2773 (Phone)

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