Why are some brands better than others at engaging with their customers?

Brand engagement and consumer experience: why both matter

This article is based on research by Michele Quintano

How can managers and executives benefit from understanding consumers' intentions? Esade Visiting Professor Michele Quintano talks about the relationship between brand engagement and consumer experience, and what makes people feel more attached to a brand and more willing to pay a premium price.

Published in the British Food Journal, the research findings are a joint collaboration between Quintano and researchers Marcello Risitano and Annarita Sorrentino from the Università degli Studi di Napoli Parthenope and Rosaria Romano from the Università degli Studi della Calabria.

Do Better: What was the ultimate goal of your research?

Michele Quintano: The consumer experience is becoming more and more appealing both for firms and for researchers, as customers are becoming increasingly demanding in their experience of consumption. What consumers seek is an augmented value that goes beyond the basic utility and functional benefit of what they buy. In this regard, the role of emotions and perceived feelings are crucial in the consumption process as they influence repeated purchases and word-of-mouth.

Consumers seek an augmented value that goes beyond the basic utility of what they buy

Why did you target the food industry in your research?

Regarding the role of emotions in the consumption experience, food is considered one of the main relational products as it satisfies not only the utilitarian need of nutrition but also – and increasingly – the desire to socialise, to know different cultures, and to enjoy events, to experiment and so on. The brand plays a relevant role in these experience processes that consumers adopt.

What are the main findings in your paper?

The study demonstrates that the consumer brand engagement is an antecedent of brand experience – we show a positive relationship between the two. We prove that brand engagement precedes the consumer's intention to buy – that is, her willingness to accept a brand extension and her willingness to pay a premium price. However, we also show that brand experience has a positive influence only on the willingness to accept a premium price.

The second part of our analysis provides interesting findings on product categories: pasta versus coffee. In particular, we find that there is higher engagement between people and coffee brands in the Italian context.

Coffee shop Italy
Customers in a coffee shop in Naples, Italy (Photo: Bertrand Borie/Unsplash)

What do you mean?

This higher engagement in the Italian context is stressed in the relationship between engagement and the willingness to pay a premium price. Coffee is seen as a more engaging product than pasta, which is considered more functional. Coffee generates engagement and people are willing to pay a higher price to receive a better experience from that consumption due to its more consistent symbolic value. Coffee is a symbol of taking a break, of energy, of celebrations and of socialisation.

Engaged consumers tend to include particular brands as a part of their self-image

What is the difference between consumer brand engagement and brand experience?

Brand engagement is the relationship between a brand and consumers derived from a mental activation process of a customer towards a brand. In other words, engaged consumers tend to include particular brands as a part of their self-image.

Brand experience is conceptualised as the sensations, feelings, cognitions and behavioural response after a certain consumption. Normally, consumers who have a high engagement with a brand have a positive experiential response and show positive behavioural intentions.

How can managers and brands benefit from these research findings?

Marketing managers should take into consideration the fact that brand engagement is an antecedent of brand experience. This could help to improve their brand engagement in order to attract new consumers and keep existing ones.

This is extremely important now that brands compete not only for consumers' loyalty but also for various affective relationships, such as emotional attachment. The example of brand extensions is representative of how important brand engagement can be in decisions regarding whether to expand a brand to new food product categories.  

The results also demonstrate the critical role of the consumer response to the marketing stimulus. By monitoring the consumer engagement and experience with brands, companies should measure the gap between push strategies and market responses.

Companies can improve the policy or the relationships post-purchase. As shown by the positive relationship with behavioural intentions, positive or negative brand experiences can also affect digital word-of-mouth by influencing the virtual social community.

All written content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.