Brand love matters to Millennials: the relevance of mystery, sensuality and intimacy to neo-luxury brands

Publication Date18 November 2019
Date18 November 2019
AuthorClarinda Rodrigues,Paula Rodrigues
Brand love matters to Millennials: the
relevance of mystery, sensuality and intimacy
to neo-luxury brands
Clarinda Rodrigues
Linneaus University, Kalmar, Sweden, and
Paula Rodrigues
Faculty of Economics and Management, Lusíada University, Porto, Portugal
Purpose This paper aims to investigate the mediating effect of brand love on purchase intention and word-of-mouth through mystery, sensuality
and intimacy as brand image dimensions in the context of neo-luxury brands. It also explores the moderating effect of duration and intensity of
consumer-brand relationships on brand image dimensions.
Design/methodology/approach The data collection was done via an online survey of a representative group of Millennials. Data analysis was
performed using structural equation modeling and multi-group analysis.
Findings The paper suggests that brand love mediates the relationship between brand image, purchase intention and word-of-mouth for both
Apple and Michael Kors brands. This study also identies differences in the effects of intimacy, sensuality and mystery on brand love. Additionally, it
is demonstrated that the moderation effect of intensity and duration of consumer-brand relationships varies among the two neo-luxury brands.
Research limitations/implications Further research should aim at investigating other categories of products and services in the eld of neo-
luxury, as this study focus on fashion and mobile brands. Other antecedents and outcomes of brand love should also be evaluated, as well as other
moderating variables.
Originality/value This paper contributes to the fast-growing consumer-brand relationships literature by exploring the role of brand love in the
context of the emergent neo-luxury paradigm. It also intends to provide a better understanding of how to build and nurture an effective brand
image through a multidisciplinary approach that combines mystery, sensuality and intimacy.
Keywords Word-of-mouth, Brand image, Brand love, Purchase intention, Intimacy, Mystery, Neo-luxury, Sensuality
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
Research into positive consumer-brand relationships has
investigatedbrand love from different perspectives, with a focus
on its conceptualization (Ahuvia, 1993), its measurement
(Carroll and Ahuvia, 2006;Bagozzi et al., 2017) and brand
performance (Zarantonello et al.,2016). A great body of
research has also identied importantpredictors of brand love,
such as brand image (Ismail and Spinelli, 2012), brand
identication (Albert andMerunka, 2013;Bergkvist and Bech-
Larsen, 2010), trust (Albert and Merunka, 2013), a sense of
community with other brand users (Bergkvist and Bech-
Larsen, 2010), perceived quality, anthropomorphism
(Rauschnabel and Ahuvia, 2014),brand uniqueness and brand
prestige (Bairrada et al.,2018). Additionally, several outcomes
of brand love have been identied,such as brand loyalty (Batra
et al., 2012;Bergkvist and Bech-Larsen, 2010;Carroll and
Ahuvia, 2006;Bairrada et al., 2018;Albert and Merunka,
2013), trust (Albert et al., 2009), positive word-of-mouth
(WOM) (Batra et al.,2012;Albert and Merunka, 2013;Carroll
and Ahuvia, 2006;Ismail and Spinelli, 2012;Bairrada et al.,
2018;Albert and Merunka, 2013;Fetscherin, 2014), purchase
intention (Fetscherin,2014), resistance to negative information
about brands (Batra et al., 2012), forgiveness of brand failures
(Bauer et al.,2009), willingness to pay premium prices (Albert
and Merunka, 2013;Bairrada et al.,2018;Bauer et al.,2009),
brand commitment (Albert and Merunka, 2013) and active
engagement (Bergkvistand Bech-Larsen, 2010).
Brand love is conceptualized as the degree of passionate
emotional attachment a satised consumer has for a particular
trade mark(Carroll and Ahuvia, 2006,p. 81). This relational
construct has been successful because of its relevance for
understanding the emotional connection consumers form with
brands (Albert et al., 2008;Batra et al.,2012). Nevertheless,
little is known about what generates a love relationship in the
context of neo-luxury (e.g. brand image as an important
predictor of brand love) and what its behavioral consequences
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on
Emerald Insight at:
Journal of Product & Brand Management
28/7 (2019) 830848
© Emerald Publishing Limited [ISSN 1061-0421]
[DOI 10.1108/JPBM-04-2018-1842]
Received 4 April 2018
Revised 27 November 2018
30 January 2019
15 March 2019
16 March 2019
Accepted 18 March 2019
may be (e.g. purchase intention and WOM). Notably, the
study of the mediating effectof brand love is extremely relevant
in the postmodern era. After many decades of growth in the
luxury segment, scholars acknowledge the need to understand
how the meaning of luxury has evolved(Kapferer and Laurent,
2016;Mundel et al., 2017). In this regard, an interesting
discussion emerged in the luxury marketing literature by
contrasting old luxuryanchoredon the luxury object itself to
new luxurywhich is perceived by consumers as highly
experiential (Florin et al.,2007). Indeed, extant research has
highlighted the connectionof traditional luxury to conspicuous
consumption as a way for theupper classes to demonstrate their
status, wealth and power through prestige and ostentation
(Fionda and Moore,2009;Kumar and Paul, 2018).
More specically, traditional luxury has been positioned as
being, sensing and sharing (Cristini et al.,2017), which
corresponds to the luxury core valuesof high levels of aesthetic
beauty, excellent quality, high prices, scarcity or uniqueness,
and authenticity (Jung et al.,2014;Kapferer, 1997). In a clear
contrast to traditional luxury, the concept of neo-luxury (also
referred to as new luxury or masstige luxury) has emerged to
reect the transformative aspects of luxury consumption, in
which worthiness and belonging merge with the need for
hedonic experiences (Cristiniet al., 2017;Atwal and Williams,
2009). As Roper et al. (2013) note, we have moved from a
conspicuous-elitist logic to an individualism-democratic logic,
in which consumers seem to prefer luxury brands that visually
whisper instead of brands that shout on the status quo
(Kauppinen-Räisänen et al., 2018). In this context, neo-luxury
is conceptualized as products and services that possess higher
levels of quality, taste and aspiration than other goods in the
category but are not so expensive as to be out of reach
(Silversteinet al.,2005,p.1).
Interestingly, the concept of neo-luxuryreects new patterns
of luxury consumption among Millennials, who are dened as
those born between 1977 and 2000 (Shin et al.,2017). With
overall positive performance across all segments, the luxury
global market reached e1,2 trillion globally (Bain & Company,
2018a, 2018b) and is expected to grow by ve per centin 2019
(Danziger, 2018). More specially, it is estimated that
Millennials and Generation Z will account for 45 per cent of
the global personal luxury goodsby2025 (Bain & Company,
2018a, 2018b). Moreover, evidenceis provided that affordable
luxury goods are in high demand in largely developed Asia
Pacic markets, though it is expected potential for future
growth worldwide (Bain & Company,2018a, 2018b). These
projectionsshed light on the strategic importance of Millennials
to the growth of affordable luxury brands worldwide especially
in slow markets as Europe and USA,at the same time it entails
additional challenges to brand marketers of how to target
different generationalcohorts effectively.
The millennial generation is portrayed as an age group with
high purchasing power and luxury expenditure, constituting
more consumption-oriented and sophisticated shoppers than
Baby Boomers as they are more technology savvy and worldly
enough to identify and see through many advertising
techniques (Noble et al.,2009;Shin et al.,2017). Additionally,
they are described as the best educated and most culturally
diverse generation, extremely tolerant and open-minded
toward different lifestyles (Noble et al.,2009). They also grew
up with both economic and social uncertainty, which makes
them disillusioned, pragmatic and skeptical (Hennigs et al.,
2012). Moreover, they are seen as unableto delay gratication
and are more inuenced by symbolic aspects of luxury (Shin
et al., 2017). In this context, market research studies
highlighted that status symbols as represented by luxury
brands do not have the same meaning for Millennials.They still
value status, but for them it is status dened by who they are
and what they have achieved, nothow much money they spent
buying some overly-expensiveluxury brand(Danziger, 2017).
Generational theories also highlight signicant differences
between Millennials and Babyboomers in how they relate to
brands (Hwang and Kandampully, 2012;Schade et al.,2016;
Ismail and Spinelli, 2012;Lissitsa and Kol, 2016;Loroz and
Helgeson, 2013). Indeed, it is claimed that Millennials are
often very passionate and evangelicalabout the brands they like
(Giovannini et al.,2015) and they tend to place greater
emphasis on emotional value compared to price-conscious
Baby Boomers, who mainly expect value for money (Kumar
and Lim, 2008). Thus, Millennials may be inuenced by a
luxurious brand imagedifferently from Babyboomers especially
because they look for different meanings in luxury when they
search for or buy neo-luxury brands. In this context, it is
important to integrate the existing generational theories with
the neo-luxury concept to investigate the impact of brand
image on how consumer-brand relationships are created and
nurtured. Understanding the inuence of cognitive, sensory
and affective elements of brand image on the broad and long-
term luxury consumer-brand relationship with Millennials is
crucial to react on the growing brand skepticism and lack of
brand loyalty. This scenario calls both scholars and academics
to nd new and innovative ways of capturing and retaining the
attention of Millennials toward neo-luxury brands and
ultimately engage them to the point of loving those brands.
With a total spending power that is set to overtake any other
generations, the urgency to Hence, this study builds on
theories about brand love, neo-luxuryand generational cohorts
to investigate the role of brand image dimensions (mystery,
sensuality and intimacy) in purchase intentions and WOM
through the mediation of brand love. Grounded on research
conducted in the eld of consumer goods and places, the
authors predict that brand love has a mediating effect on
behavioral and emotional aspects of neo-luxury consumption,
such as purchase intention and WOM (Batra et al.,2012;
Albert and Merunka, 2013;Carroll and Ahuvia, 2006;Ismail
and Spinelli, 2012;Bairrada et al., 2018;Albert and Merunka,
2013;Fetscherin, 2014). In clear opposition to Thomson et al.
(2005), the authors of this study do not conceptualize brand
love as a post-consumption evaluative judgement, but instead
propose that strong emotional connections to neo-luxury
brands leverage the intention to buy and recommend it. In
addition to the direct effects, it also providesa focus on the role
of consumer-brand relationships intensity and duration as a
moderator in eliciting brand love. Apple and Michael Kors
have been selected, in the context of this empirical study, as
neo-luxury brands as they were identied in our rst study as
brands that deliver high levels of symbolic, experiential and
functional value at affordable prices. Therefore, the aim of this
paper is to contribute to the fast-growing consumer-brand
relationships literature, by exploring the role of brand love in
Brand love matters to Millennials
Clarinda Rodrigues and Paula Rodrigues
Journal of Product & Brand Management
Volume 28 · Number 7 · 2019 · 830848

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