BUILDING RESISTANCE TO BRAND SWITCHING DURING DISRUPTIONS IN A COMPETITIVE MARKET: AN IDENTITY THEORY PERSPECTIVE
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The impact of identity on brand loyalty has taken precedence as an area of focus in recent marketing research. This has taken place in an era defined by technological revolution, which has created market disruptions and there are implications for customer–brand relationships. Nonetheless, the extant literature on brand loyalty does not extensively acknowledge the impact of socio-psychological attributes but rather functional utility maximisation. The brand loyalty literature has the notion that the perceived value of a brand is conceptualised and operationalised as a functional utilitarian value. Knowledge that illuminates how firms can reposition themselves to sustain brand loyalty when disruptions occur in today’s complex and globalised business environment is explored in this study, through empirical investigation into the phenomenon of brand switching behaviour among consumers in a specific competitive market, namely, the Smartphone Industry. The current study explores how resistance could be built from an identity theory perspective. As highlighted above, much emphasis has historically been placed on the functional utility of products at the expense of social meanings. Given the relative paucity of literature on identity and brand loyalty, this study adopts a grounded theory methodology based on a survey and a series of in-depth interviews across Ghana and the UK to access consumers’ insights and experiences of specific brands in the Smartphone industry. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and coded, utilising the three-stage process of analysing data; specifically, open, axial and selective coding. This study is the first to combine brand loyalty literature, identity theory and grounded theory to study the behaviour of brand switching in the Smartphone Industry. This study identified a gap in knowledge in the brand loyalty literature, as it focuses only on how brands perform under normal market conditions. Hence, this study provided consideration for market disruptions in the Smartphone industry. Empirical data from Smartphone users confirmed in this study that underlining factors which are non-utilitarian factors such as socio-psychological benefits, motivate consumers to continue buying the brands they buy. The study also established that the sustainability of brand loyalty could be accomplished from an identity theory perspective by adapting and advancing a customer–brand identification (CBI) model, to examine the phenomenon of brand switching in the Smartphone industry at a more matured and competitive stage.
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