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ISSN : 2288-4637(Print)
ISSN : 2288-4645(Online)
The Journal of Asian Finance, Economics and Business Vol.6 No.2 pp.147-160
DOI : https://doi.org/10.13106/jafeb.2019.vol6.no2.147

Brand Public Benefits and Consumer Engagement

Nak-Hwan CHOI1,Jing WANG2,Chang CHEN3
2 Master Candidate, Chonbuk National University, Jeonju, Korea.
E-mail: 812830164wj@gmail.com
3 Doctoral Candidate, Chonbuk National University, Jeonju, Korea. E-mail:
546285894@qq.com
1 First Author and Corresponding Author, Professor, Department of Business Administration, Chonbuk National University, Jeonju, Korea. E-mail: cnh@jbnu.ac.kr
December 19, 2018 January 18, 2019 March 30, 2019

Abstract

Compared with the research on consumer engagement in brand community, the research on consumer engagement in brand public has been relatively less. This research aimed at exploring how brand public characteristics such as information variety, various communications and no limitation in expressing self affect the brand public engagement. 274 questionnaires answered by Chinese consumers are used to conduct analysis. Principal component analysis is used to test the reliability and validity of each construct, and structural equation model is used to test hypotheses. The study finds the positive effects of information variety on information benefits, those of various communications on social benefits, and also positive roles of no limitation in expressing self to brand-related self-expression motivation. And each of the information benefits, social benefits and brand-related self-expression motivation is proved to positively affect brand public engagement. The study implies that marketers should give attention to characteristics of brand public, and provide the ways by which members of brand public engage the brand. Additionally, marketers should pay more attention to both direct and indirect engagement activities of consumers toward brand public in social media to better understand their target consumers.

JEL Classifications Code: C83, L81, M31, P46.

초록


1. Introduction

 

Brand public is an organizational space, which requires intermediary device to attract and maintain a series of activities. And brand public members are mutual strangers and not bound by any responsibility, morality or common values (Arvidsson & Caliandro, 2015). These characteristics of brand public in social media could enable individuals to have opportunities of expressing brand-related self-images or interests without any limitation of responsibility and morality, and also make them the opportunities of obtaining various information and making various communications, which could satisfy personal and social needs of consumers. Brand public engagement in this research refers to a series of direct or indirect activities of consumers towards brands in the brand public of social media. These direct activities refer to participating in brand public directly while indirect activities include consumer feedback, consumer influence and consumer referral. Through the brand public engagement, he or she is able to post, retweet and make comments and so on, which can satisfy his or her symbolic interactionism instincts.

On the other hand, the emergence of brand public points out the stewardship for many enterprises. Brand public on social media can not only bring visibility and publicity to consumers, but also make the brands and products of enterprises known to more consumers, which could help enterprises save a lot of resources and costs at the place of getting the information about their products or brands. The characteristics of brand public enable marketers to attract opinions from various members. Through brand public engagement, members post their own opinions and provide feedback based on their brand experience, which can be used by enterprises as a reference when making corresponding adjustments to the current products, as well as designing and producing future products.

There have been many literatures exploring consumer engagement in brand community recent years. However, up to now, few researches have focused on the brand public engagement. New researches are needed to explore consumer engagement in the brand public context. Considering that brand public is an emerging and promising concept, our research could be meaningful and valuable to the brand public theory and the enterprises who are concerned with taking advantage of the brand public.

This research mainly focuses on brand public engagement considered as dependent variable in this study. Through brand public engagement, members of brand public post, comment and provide various opinion and feedback. Therefore, brand public can provide various information to each other because of the mass characteristics of members in brand public (Arvidsson & Caliandro, 2015). In addition, brand public is an important information-getting channel through which consumers can master brands information, as well as an important driving force for consumers to consume products (Muntinga, Moorman, & Smit, 2011).

Previous studies have shown that people participate in social media for the purposes of achieving growth, maintaining and expanding their interpersonal relationships (Sheldon, 2008; Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007). The characteristics of the brand public in social media enable the public members variously access to the public to communicate brand information with each other which could help meet the members’ social needs.

Many people also have personal needs to express themselves. And the emergence of brand public makes it possible to express themselves without any limitation of morality and responsibility. Therefore, the purposes of this research are established as follows.

First, this research will review the concepts and characteristics of brand public and brand public engagement. Second, the role of information variety in brand public on information benefits will be explored. Third, the positive effects of various communications in brand public on social benefits, and positive roles of no limitation in expressing self through brand public to brand-related self-expression motivation will be identified. Fourth, information benefits, social benefits and brand-related self-expression motivation will be checked to explore whether each of them positively affect the brand public engagement.

  

2. Theoretical Background and Hypotheses

 

2.1. Brand Public Engagement

 

2.1.1. Characteristics of Brand Public

 

Brand community is formed by a group of consumers with organizational and social relations. In a well-developed brand community, members have a strong sense of identity and consider themselves as a part of community. Meanwhile, they pay attention to the common ritual and tradition in the community, actively participate in community activities, and have a strong sense of moral responsibility to the members in the community (Muniz & O'guinn, 2001). However, brand public members have no common value and identity and they are not bound by any limitation, responsibility (Arvidsson & Caliandro, 2015).

In recent social media research, the concept of "public" has been used to describe the form of social media development. In current research, people consider the public as a chaotic phenomenon, rather than an interactive form. This phenomenon was once called private dialogue by Tarde (1969). Scholars propose the public is a kind of mediation that enables strangers to communicate each other. But it doesn't last as long as the community does (Arvidsson & Caliandro, 2015). Like Weibo, users can post or participate in topic discussion through Weibo, which can be considered as behavior of users in the public.

Members in the community are constantly posting, expressing their opinions and communicating with each other. In the public, although they post, comment and express their opinions like the people in the community, they are independent and have no actual interaction with each other (Arvidsson & Caliandro, 2015). In other words, the public will not provide interactive communication space for interaction. In the public, users may just refer to other people's opinions and feel no limitations in expressing their opinions again, and most likely participate in the public only once or twice.

Brand public is formed when intermediary device attracting and gathering people's opinions is maintained. In public, members post their opinions on the Internet, and social media enables members to express their own opinions or retweet others' opinions (Page, 2012). Tags can also be thought as an intermediary device that could sustain the public (Papacharissi & de Fatima Oliveira, 2012).

In the public, the brand is thought as device for member collection rather than identity, reflecting various consumers (Lury, 2004). In the public, members are various, heterogeneous and unique. Members individually express their opinions and have no common identity. Like Weibo users, the users’identities are different from each other. They will not form common value and identity to maintain the public. Users post, comment or participate in topic discussion independently, compared with the members of community where common identity and value are necessary.

On social media such as Twitter and Instagram, people often use tags to express their opinions, and rarely discuss them again in the same environment (Zappavigna, 2011).

Although hot tags can stimulate people to participate in brand public, the majority is based on the connection between the brand and the environment. The brand tag function can render the appropriate environment atmosphere, so that photos can be posted through the theme tab on the relevant social media. For example, if a person wears a pair of famous shoes at a scenic spot and sends the picture on Twitter via a tag, it can be thought as a certain action of a user of the public. That is to say, in the brand public, participation is not through the interaction between members but through independent individual or collective influence (Arvidsson & Caliandro, 2015).

As a platform for people's activities, brand public encourages people to express themselves (Arvidsson, 2006). People will not think about how to discuss with others in social platform but use it as a means to express themselves (Marwick, 2013; Marwick & Boyd, 2011). So brand public is a kind of tool gathering opinions, wherein common value is not needed. Compared with the brand community, the number of people who participate in the brand public is larger. In the public, there are no fixed members to discuss with each other and any members do not form an interaction. They express their opinions propelled by the emotional atmosphere generated by the intermediary devices. For example, when tags are associated with emotional atmosphere and cause a wave of imitation, people will follow that trend to participate in the brand public. Truthfulness, subversive and public nature coexist in brand-related things, but they will not break down into common value (Thomas, Price, & Schau, 2012). Different from the brand community, the brand public as a communication tool does not have common value, but can provide brand’s visibility and publicity to consumers (Arvidsson & Caliandro, 2015).

Based on the above description, the comparison between brand community and the brand public is shown in Table 1.

 

 

 

 

2.1.2. Brand Public Engagement

 

Previous research has paid much attention to the concept of customer engagement. The definitions of customer engagement in existing literature are shown in Table 2. In the field of marketing, scholars believe that customer engagement is a series of activities of consumers to enterprises (Pansari & Kumar, 2017; Brodie, Hollebeek & Juric, 2011; Vivek, Beatty, & Morgan, 2012). However, the researches on consumer engagement in brand public are relatively less. Since brand public, as an emerging concept, has been proposed recently, it is necessary to explore consumer engagement in the brand public, namely, brand public engagement.

 

 

 

 

Band public engagement in this research refers to a series of direct or indirect activities of consumers towards the brand public. Consumers engage in brand community due to the common purpose, and all of their engagement behaviors are based on common identity, responsibility and ritual (Nambisan & Baron, 2009). However, compared with brand community engagement, little or no research has been done on brand public engagement. Therefore, this paper compares the differences between brand community and brand public, so as to well understand consumer engagement in brand public.

The public, different from the concept of community, is built by a group of people mutually unknown, which means people in the public are not bound by common identity, ritual or any responsibility. People gathering in the public do not catch a pre-purpose related to a specific brand. Inversely, some take part in the public due to their own interests; others may be in the public to be just out of mere conformity. Therefore, brand public engagement refers to a series of activities of members of the public towards the brand.

The brand public provides the visibility and publicity of the brand to the consumers, and the consumers may feel their uniqueness and self-satisfaction through their engagement in the public. When consumers perceive some benefits and values from the brand public, they could produce a series of engagement behavior.

Specifically, compared with direct purchase behavior as brand engagement, direct brand public engagement behavior can refer to actively and voluntarily being a member of the brand public. Namely, when consumers enjoy the public flow cognitively and affectively, they are willing to join the public and provide their opinions about the brand without considering a consensus between the public members. This behavior can be regarded as the antecedent of consumer brand public engagement. If consumers do not want to join the public, they won't make subsequent engagement behavior.

On the other side, referral behavior as a kind of indirect brand public engagement, refers to others' opinion exposed to them at the public when making decision about the brand. And consumers’influence on others as the indirect brand public engagement can be found in the situation where individuals actively post their own experiences specific to the brand. Through this kind of word of mouth behavior, consumers can influence others in the public. Finally, consumers’knowledge or feedback can be reflected to their giving online comments or just retweeting other's posting that they agree with. Take together, brand public engagement is regarded as consumers' direct or indirect activities toward the brand public.

 

2.2. Benefits Perceived from Brand Public and the Public Engagement

 

2.2.1. Information Benefits Based on Information Variety

 

Information benefits come from the influence contributed by various information for consumers, which help them make decision and judgment (Deutsch & Gerard, 1955). Consumers are more likely to be open to informational influence when they are selecting a complex product which is difficult to operate (Ford & Ellis, 1980; Price & Feick, 1984), or when they perceive a sense of risky in purchasing products (Woodside & Delosier, 1976), or when they are confused between brands (Assael, 1984). The diverse information helps consumers to learn more brand products (Fonner & Timmerman, 2009). And the brand information is an important driving force for consumers to consume the brand-related products. For example, people will search for the specifications of HuaWei mobile phones on the Internet and the latest series of Nike shoes, because the information could meet needs of pre-purchase surveillance, knowledge (Muntinga, Moorman, & Smit, 2011).

Prongsajapan (2009) shows that the information has a positive and significant influence on users' participation in social media. And the degree of informational influence is affected by characteristics of both the information receivers and influencers (French & Raven, 1959; Lascu, Bearden, & Rose, 1995; Wooten & Reed, 1998). The diversity of members of brand public determines difference of the information benefits from brand public. Inexperienced members tend to pay more attention to the information offered by authority or expert in brand public.

The brand public provides meaningful and various information about brand products, which is generated by posting, commenting or retweeting of the brand public members. Consumers could participate in the brand public when they want to benefit from the information and brand experience provided by other members, so as to meet their needs of information. Members can be positive to learning about interesting experience related to the brand products (Muniz & O’Guinn, 2001). Therefore, the various types of brand information provided by the brand public will affect the information benefits perceived by the public members.

 

H1: Information variety in brand public positively affects information benefits to consumers.

 

The information benefits perceived by the brand public members can usually refer to the valuable information obtained from the brand public. The brand public can provide a platform for feedback to members, and members 

can quickly obtain brand-related information and learn about information related to brand products, which will bring information benefits. Perceived valuable information benefits are important motivation for consumers to engage the brand online (Muntinga, Moorman, & Smit, 2011). When the information provided by the brand public is largely in line with the expectations of consumers and meets their information needs, they will actively retweet the information or make comments. Retweeting, posting and making comments are considered as brand-related activities in the brand public, namely, brand public engagement behavior. Therefore, formally,

 

H2: The information benefits positively affect brand public engagement.

 

2.2.2. Social Benefits Based on Various Communications

 

Consumers living in a society are usually influenced by norms, which can be considered as social pressure generated to cause conformity to mass (Burnkrant & Cousineau, 1975). Such normative influence coming from the society can bring significant impacts to consumer behavior (Rook & Fisher, 1995). Specifically, interaction between social members is able to affect members' brand-choice congruence, which means consumers tend to purchase offerings that others buy (Reingen, Foster, Brown, & Seidman, 1984). That is, members of brand public may make same brand choice through communicating with others. Besides, consumers have a tendency to behave in an expected way simply because most people do the same thing (Stafford, 1966). Members of brand public are more likely to buy the same brands or products if they find most of other members choose those offerings. However, consumers also will do the opposite of what members want them to do (Clee & Wicklund, 1980). For example, a member of brand public may decrease his purchase intention toward a specific brand if he feels most comments of the brand are fake.

On the other hand, one important need is social need which suggests individuals have needs for affection, friendship and belonging (Maslow, 1975). Symbolic interactionism theory also indicates that people who live in a society are motivated to interact with others based on instinct and physiological weakness (West, Turner, & Zhao, 2010). And individuals construct meaning about the world through communication with others. Literatures with regarding to the motivation of participating in social network suggest that people’s engaging in social network stems from the drivers of growing, maintaining and broadening interpersonal relationships (Sheldon, 2008; Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007). Through social interaction and communication with others, individuals are able to reveal their true feelings to satisfy their inner communication needs regardless of others' responses.

Because brand public is built by a variety of people who are mutual strangers, the members of brand public are neither trapped by ritual and responsibility, nor share a common identity or value. People can freely present their own views without any burden. And there is even no barrier stopping interpersonal communication as long as people are on line. Around a brand-related conversation, individuals can present various communications according to their independent thoughts, affects and interests. Cocanougher and Bruce (1971) point that the degree of contact with reference group determines its influence to members. Members of brand public as secondary reference group can indirectly affect others’behavior in the public. Therefore, members of brand public can contribute social influence to each other through various communications. Thus, it is various communications that give consumers an opportunity of gaining social benefits from brand public.  

 

H3: Various communications in brand public positively affects social benefits to consumer.

 

Even though the members of brand public are not gathered by interaction, brand public can be a discursive public square, and the public members are able to communicate with each other based on their inclinations. In other words, brand public could play intermediary roles in providing opportunities of interacting and communicating with each other. Social benefits come from the communication between the members (Gwinner, Gremler, & Bitner, 1998). Consumers engage in discussions to provide advice to others and to receive others' experience. Customers seek social advancement when they have a need to feel useful to and recognized in, society (Hars & Ou, 2002; Ho & Dempsey, 2010; Nambisan & Baron, 2010). People usually communicate with others out of instinct as well as they are living in a society (West, Turner, & Zhao, 2010). When people perceive that they are able to present their inner voice freely and willfully to the public, they are more likely to become a member of the public and give their comments to the public. In addition, they are more likely to provide their own experiences which have an influence on others. If people agree someone's opinion in brand public, they are willing to retweet it based on symbolic interactionism theory (West, Turner, & Zhao, 2010). Also they would like to take others' advices if they agree with them. In one word, the more social benefits consumers perceive from the public, the more possibility there will be that they will engage in brand public. Formally,

H4: The social benefits positively affect brand public engagement.

 

2.2.3. Brand-related Self-expression Motivation Based on No Limitation in Expressing Self

 

In brand public, consumers are not affected by the common values, identity or moral traditions in expressing brand-related opinions independently. Their expressions based on their individual brand experience are not affected by any conformity limits. These characteristics enable the members to freely express themselves through the platform of the brand public.

The brand public as a specific form of social media provides consumers with space for private dialogue, and it is used by members to carry out brand-related self-expressions. Consumers associate the brand with themselves by using the brand to express their personality and personal identity (Aaker, 1999) and have the opportunity of thinking about what brand content can be connected to themselves when they want showing their best sides. Muntinga, Moorman, and Smit (2011) pointed out a brand can be used to build a consumer's identity or personality. For example, in a certain brand game, consumers could independently establish their new role in playing the game, and they will express and shape their identities and personalities through conducting the established roles. The characteristics of the brand public that allow consumers to express their brand-related selves without limitation could promote their brand-related self-expression motivation. Formally,

 

H5: No limitation in consumers’expressing themselves positively affects the brand-related self-expression motivation.

 

2.2.4. The brand-related self-expression motivation and brand public engagement

 

Through brand-related self-expression, consumers can better establish and maintain their individual identities to engage in brand-related activities (Belk, 2013; Schau & Gilly, 2003). The identities of consumers encourage them to form and express identity-based beliefs and behavior that distinguish themselves from others (Escalas & Bettman, 2005). Brand public members do have not common but individual identities. Consumer labeling behavior associated with the consumer self will lead them to the appearance of triggering a range of identity-driven affects including actions based on identity (Reed II, Forehand, Puntoni & Warlop, 2012), such as engaging a series of brand-related behavior which make it possible to express themselves.

Aaker (1999) believes that when consumers make brand-related posts online, they can associate the brand images with themselves, and by thus, achieve the purpose of expressing their own personalities and personal identities. Ryan and Deci (2000) also believe self-expression is more likely to help people achieve a higher degree of brand engagement activities. The act of posting their pictures wearing a pair of Nike shoes on Twitter might be thought as a kind of Nike brand public engagement behavior based on the needs of expressing their brand-related selves. In this way, consumers who will express their brand-related selves will post their pictures with the brand on the brand public platform. Thus,

 

H6: Brand-related self-expression motivation positively affects brand public engagement.

 

In sum, all the hypotheses in this research can be delineated by Figure 1.

 

 

 

 

3. Research Method 

 

3.1. Measurement of Construct Concept

 

3.1.1. Measurement of Brand Public

 

Considering that consumers usually have their own interested brand, this study can not just choose one certain brand to conduct the empirical research. Therefore, firstly, we provide a definition of brand public to let participants better understand this concept, that is, "Brand public refers to an organizational space in social media where individuals can do a series of direct or indirect activities toward a specific brand, such as being a member of this public, commenting, posting and liking, but they here are not bound by any responsibility, morality or common values".

And following the illustration we select two representative examples presented in the form of pictures, one is the lipstick brand MAC-related conversations in social media which is popular to females; another is the shoes brand NIKE-related conversations in social media which is popular to males.

Finally, four questions are presented to measure consumers' interests in brand public and their experience of participating in the brand public. The first question is "Are you interested in joining any brand public focusing on the brand you are interested in?" with the options of "Yes, I am" and "No, I am not". The second question is "Have you ever directly or indirectly participated in a special brand public such like the examples in the pictures (e.g., joining the public, posting, giving comments or following other's opinion)?" with the options of "Yes, I have" and "No, I haven't". The third question is "Do you feel some responsibility, morality, or limitation at writing your opinions to the brand publics?" with the options of "Yes, I do" and "No, I don't". The final question is "Which brand public are you interested in?" Participators can response freely.

 

3.1.2. Measurement of Information Variety

 

Because there are the characteristics in brand public such as large amount and fast dissemination speed of information and wide participation groups, brand public can provide its members with diverse information which could satisfy their needs for knowledge or information. Referring to the information quality scale of Ahn, Ryu, and Han (2007), this research developed a scale of information variety to measure consumers' perception of information variety in brand public. Four items with 7-points scales (1= not at all, 7= very much) consist of "brand public provides me with various brand information", "brand public provides me with abundant brand information", "brand public provides me with complete brand information", "brand public provides me with sufficient brand information". 

 

3.1.3. Measurement of Various Communications

 

Since brand public is built by mutual strangers who are not bound by responsibility, rituals and shared value, members in the public can present their own opinions to the extent to which they like to do. Thus various communications means that members in brand public are able to make communication with others diversely. According to the definition of various communication, five items with 7-points scales (1= not at all, 7= very much) were developed, which include "brand public provides me with a wide communication space", "brand public provides me with a free communication platform", "brand public provides me with various communication means", "brand public can provide me with diverse communication channels", "There is no limitation in the range of communication contents for members in brand public".

 

3.1.4. Measurement of No Limitation in Expressing Self

 

Individuals usually possess more than one identity, and whether they tend to present one of their self-concept depends on situations. And considering the characteristics of brand public, there are not bounds formed by any responsibility, morality, rituals or a common identity, which make them freely show their individual identity or social identity as long as they like. Thus, based on the self-expression scales used in the research of Baldus, Voorhees, and Calantone (2015), four items with seven-point scales (1= not at all, 7= very much) were developed to measure the construct of no limitation in expressing self. They are "there are no barriers in expressing my self image to brand public", "There are no restrictions in expressing my true beliefs to brand public", "There are no limitations in expressing what kind of person I am to brand public". "There are no limitations in expressing who I really am to brand public".

 

3.1.5. Measurement of Information Benefit

 

Benefits in this study are regarded as the value that consumers can get from brand public. Thus, information benefit means that consumers can get contents valuable to them from brand public. Therefore, referring to Ahn, Ryu, and Han (2007), four items were developed to measure information benefit. They are "I can get reliable brand information from brand public", "I can get accurate brand information from brand public", "I can timely get brand information from brand public", "I can get useful brand information from brand public", which are measured on a seven-point scale (1= not at all, 7= very much).

 

3.1.6. Measurement of Social Benefit

 

Because brand public can play an intermediary role in providing opportunities of interacting and communicating with others, it is necessary to measure the social benefit that members in the public perceive. Referring to the meaning of social benefit defined in this research and the scale of social benefits used in Gummerus, Liljander, Weman, and Pihlström (2012), four items were developed to measure the social benefit. They are "I can communicate with other members in brand public with freedom", "I can interact with other members in brand public with no limitation", "I can share my ideas with other members in brand public freely", "I can present my own experiences to other members in brand public wilfully", which are measured on a seven-point scale (1= not at all, 7= very much).

 

3.1.7. Measurement of Brand-related Self-expression Motivation

 

Brand can be regarded as a meaningful symbol to help the users express their specific identity. Because of the symbolic value of brand, consumers could form motivation of using the brand to express their self-image. This psychological state is called as brand-related self-expression motivation. Thus, according to self-expression scales used by Baldus, Voorhees, and Calantone (2015) and Roy and Machado (2018), this research developed four items to measure this motivation, which are made of by "I want to express my self-image by using this brand", "I want to express my true beliefs by using this brand", "I want to express what kind of person I am by using this brand", "I want to express my real self by using this brand", all items are with a seven-point scale (1= not at all, 7= very much).

 

3.1.8. Measurement of Brand Public Engagement

 

Brand public engagement refers to consumers' activities toward the brand public in social media. Specifically, direct activity refers to actively and voluntarily being a member of a brand public. Indirect activities include individual members’referring to others' opinion exposed to them, actively posting their own experiences, and giving online comments or retweeting other's posting. Based on the definition in our research, the study developed eight items with 7-points scales (1= not at all, 7= very much), which consist of such four dimensions as direct activity, referral behavior, influence and feedback behavior.

Particularly, direct activity measurements include "I will voluntarily join this brand public", "I will actively register this brand public to become a member ".

Measurements of referral behavior include "when making decision about the brand, I will refer to the experiences of other members in this brand public", "when making decision about the brand, I will think about the opinions of other members in this brand public".

Measurements of consumer influence behavior include "I will actively post my own experiences related to the brand", "I will actively provide information I have known related to the brand".

Finally, measurements of feedback behavior include "When facing to others' postings related to the brand, I will retweet actively if I agree with them", "When facing to postings related to the brand, I will present my own view actively".

 

3.2. Data Collection

 

We made an English version of the questionnaire and then translated it into Chinese. We first collected 50 questionnaires for the pretest, and then adjusted the questionnaires according to the test results. In main survey, we have collected a total of 300 questionnaires, and after deleting 26 invalid questionnaires, we conducted analysis with 274 questionnaire data.

 

4. Empirical Investigation

 

4.1. Demographic Analysis Results

 

The last section of the questionnaire was about the demographic information of participants. The characteristics of the sample are shown by Table3. The results show that there are more female participants (N=184, 67.2%) than male (N=90, 32.8%). As for the age, the most participants were at 21-30 years old, which take 76.6%.

 

 

 

 

4.2. Frequencies of Using Brand

 

In the questionnaires, the participants were asked to write down the topics (i.e., brand name) of the brand public that they were interested to discuss. The result is shown in Table 4. Mac(N=33, 12.0%) is most mentioned and the following brands are Lipstick(N=8, 2.9%), Nike(N=7, 2.6%), Ysl(N=6, 2.2%), HuaWei(N=4, 1.5%), Dior(N=3, 1.1%), Gucci(N=3, 1.1%), Sulwhasoo(N=3, 1.1%), Cpb(N=3, 1.1%), Benz(N=3, 1.1%), XiaoMi(N=3, 1.1%), Longines(N=3, 1.1%) and others (N=195, 71.2%).

 

 

 

 

 

4.3. Reliability and Validity

 

Before analysing the hypotheses SPSS22.0 software was used to verify the reliability and validity of the measurement structure. To ensure reliability, Cronbach's α was used to test internal consistency. In order to explore validity, we adopted a principal component analysis based on Varimax. By the analysis, we removed items 'brand public provides me with various brand information' and 'brand public provides me with abundant brand information' of information variety; the item 'there is no limitation in the range of communication contents for members in brand public' of various communication; the item 'I want to express my self-image by using this brand' of brand-related self-expression and the items 'I will voluntarily join this brand public' and 'when making decisions about the brand, I will refer to the experiences of other members in this brand public' of brand public engagement to ensure a better result. The analysis results are shown in Table 5.

Seven components are brand public engagement (α=.934), no limitation in expressing self(α=.955), various communication(α=.935), information benefit(α=.947), brand-related self-expression(α=.919), social benefit(α=.944), information variety(α=.921).

 

 

 

 

4.4. Correlations among Constructs

 

The correlations among information variety, various communication, no limitation in expressing self, information benefit, social benefit, brand-related self-expression motivation and brand public engagement are shown in Table 6. The results include correlation coefficient and AVE. As Table 6 shows, all values of AVE are bigger than .7, and all of them are bigger than the squares of each correlation coefficient.

 

 

 

 

 

4.5. Testing Measurement Model

 

AMOS 22.0 was used to verify the measurement model. The model fit results shows that χ2=828.045(DF=303, p=.000), GFI=.816, AGFI=.770, CFI=.937, TLI=.927, IFI=.938, RFI=.890, NFI=.905, RMSEA=.080, and all the C.R. values are above 2. And all the AVE values which are calculated by the formula of Hair, Black, Babin, Anderson and Tatham (2006) are all above 0.7.

 

 

 

 

 

4.6. Testing Hypotheses

 

The AMOS 22.0 was used again to test the model. The model fit results shown in Table 8 are χ2=1103.770 (DF=315, p=.000), CFI=.906, TLI=.895, IFI=.906, RFI=.859, NFI=.874, RMSEA=.096. The results of testing hypotheses are shown as followings. 

First, the hypotheses 1, which explored whether information variety in brand public positively affects information benefit to consumer, is supported (C.R.=15.378, p=.000).

Second, the hypotheses 3, which explored whether various communication in brand public positively affects social benefit to consumer, is supported (C.R.=14.202, p=.000).

Third, the hypotheses 5, which explored whether no limitation in expressing self positively affects the brand-related self-expression motivation, is supported (C.R.=12.562, p=.000).

Forth, the hypotheses 2, which explored whether information benefit positively affects brand public engagement, is supported (C.R.=6.127, p=.000).

Fifth, the hypotheses 4, which explored whether the social benefit positively affects brand public engagement, is supported (C.R.=4.923, p=.000).

Sixth, the hypotheses 6, which explored whether consumers’brand-related self-expression motivation positively affects brand public engagement, is supported (C.R.=8.870, p=.000).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. General Discussion

 

5.1. Research Summary

 

In this paper, the factors affecting the brand public engagement as activities of consumers toward the brand public in social media were explored. The public members who do not know each other (Arvidsson & Caliandro, 2015) can obtain various information from brand public which could bring information benefits to the members, and make various communications to meet their social needs of maintaining and expanding interpersonal relationships which could induce social benefits. Furthermore, because the brand public is not subject to common responsibility and moral limitation, it could enable the members to express themselves without limitation. The members who perceive the information benefits, social benefits and self expression motivation related to the brand will produce a series of engagement behaviors toward the public.

We put forward the hypotheses according to theoretical background explored like the above. 274 questionnaire data from Chinese consumers were used to conduct empirical analysis. The results of testing hypotheses are as followings.

First, information variety in brand public positively affects information benefits to consumers. Second, various communications in brand public positively affects social benefits to consumers. Third, no limitations in expressing themselves positively affect brand-related self-expression motivation. Fourth, each of the information benefits, social benefits and brand-related self-expression motivation positively affects the brand public engagement. In sum, the brand public engagement activities including both participating in the brand public directly and posting, commenting, retweeting, or giving feedback etc. indirectly were affected by the information benefits, social benefits and self expression motivation from the public.

 

5.2. Theoretical Contributions and Managerial Implications

 

The contributions of this research can be divided into two categories, namely theoretical contributions and managerial implications.

In the perspective of academics, brand public engagement is a relatively new concept, and there has been little research on it. This study focuses on brand public engagement to verify the hypotheses by using structure model. Therefore, this research could have the significance to improving the brand public engagement theory by exploring the factors that affect the brand public engagement.

In the perspective of enterprises, if an enterprise wants to make the connection between the brand and consumers closer, it needs to make consumers have a deeper understanding of brand and identify with the brand.

Results of this study show information variety in brand public enables the members to obtain information benefits. As information providers in brand public, the members play an important role. The more information benefits members get, the more engagement behavior they will do. Therefore, marketers should actively advocate and encourage them to provide their product experience information to the brand public, so that the information could bring information benefits to, could be referred by, other members. When formulating the strategy of driving brand public engagement, marketers should fully understand the needs of consumers. At the same time, marketers also need to make full use of the characteristics of brand public to design sound and reasonable functions, so that public members can quickly and conveniently search for the brand-related information and meet their information needs.

Various communications provided by brand public makes it possible to acquire social benefits in brand public. Thus, through brand public platform, marketers should open up more communication channels and organize some offline activities to promote the communication between members of the online public to better meet their social needs. The integration of online and offline social relations can further deepen and strengthen the social connection between members. The more social benefits a marketer provides to its members in brand public, the more likely they are to engage the brand in brand public, thus making it more likely to maintain and attract more consumers.

The study also finds the positive effects of no limitation in expressing self on brand-related self-expression motivation. The characteristics of the brand public enable members to express themselves without limitation. Marketers should master the characteristics of the brand public so as to create more space to allow members to express their selves associating with brand, since, this kind of brand-related self-expression motivation will positively influence consumer engagement in the brand public.

 

5.3. Limitation and Future Research

 

However, this study has some limitations. First, the data collected in this study were mainly from China. Geographical distribution was not diverse. In future studies, the distribution should be considered to be more general.

Second, the researches on the dimension of brand public engagement have not formed an unified understanding or consensus in academic circles. In the future, it is necessary to explore operational indicators of brand public engagement.

Third, future studies could consider other variables such as rewards (Hwang & Jung, 2018), social media acceptance (Hooda, 2018) and lay theory (Choi, Wang, & Chen, 2018) to find the influence mechanism model by which marketers could understand the process of promoting the brand public engagement.

Figure

Table

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