Brands, Close Relationships, and Consumer Well-Being

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Consumers have relationships with other people, and they have relationships with brands similar to the ones they have with other people. Yet, very little is known about how brand and interpersonal relationships relate to one another. Even less is known about how they jointly affect consumer well-being. The goal of this research, therefore, is to examine how brand and interpersonal relationships influence and are influenced by consumer well-being. Essay 1 uses both empirical methods and surveys from individuals and couples to investigate how consumer preferences in romantic couples, namely brand compatibility, influences life satisfaction. Using traditional statistical techniques and multilevel modeling, I find that the effect of brand compatibility, or the extent to which individuals have similar brand preferences, on life satisfaction depends upon power in the relationship. For high power partners, brand compatibility has no effect on life satisfaction. On the other hand, for low power partners, low brand compatibility is associated with decreased life satisfaction. I find that conflict mediates the link between brand compatibility and power on life satisfaction. In Essay 2 I again use empirical methods and surveys to investigate how resources, which can be considered a form of consumer well-being, influence brand and interpersonal relations. Although social connections have long been considered a fundamental human motivation and deemed necessary for well-being (Baumeister and Leary 1995), recent research has demonstrated that having greater resources is associated with weaker social connections. In the current research I posit that individuals with greater resources still have a need to connect and are using other sources for connection, namely brands. Across several studies I test and find support for my theory that resource level shifts the preference of social connection from people to brands. Specifically, I find that individuals with greater resources have stronger brand relationships, as measured by self-brand connection, brand satisfaction, purchase intentions and willingness to pay with both existing brand relationships and with new brands. This suggests that individuals with greater resources place more emphasis on these relationships. Furthermore, I find that resource level influences the stated importance of brand and interpersonal relationships, and that having or perceiving greater resources is associated with an increased preference to engage with brands over people. This research demonstrates that there are times when people prefer and seek out connections with brands over other people, and highlights the ways in which our brand and interpersonal relationships influence one another.





Brick, Danielle Jayne (2016). Brands, Close Relationships, and Consumer Well-Being. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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