The impact of brand owner on consumers' brand perceptions : a development of Heider's Balance Theory
Studies have shown that the brand “owner” is very influential in positioning the brand and when the brand “owner” ceases his or her active role the brand will be perceived differently by the consumers. Balance Theory (HBT), a cognitive psychological theory, studies the triadic relationships between two persons and an entity and predicts that when a person’s original perception of the relationship is disturbed, the person restructures to a new balanced perception. Consequently, this research was undertaken to: conceptualize the brand owner’s impact on consumer’s brand perception; test the applicability of both the static and dynamic predictions of the Heider’s Balance Theory in brand owner-consumer-brand relation (OCB); construct and test a model of brand owner-consumer-brand relation; and examine if personality has an influence on OCB. A discovery-oriented approach was taken to understand the selected market segment, the ready-to-wear and diffusion lines of international designer labels. Chinese Brand Personality Scale, fashion proneness and hedonic and utilitarian shopping scales were developed, and validated. 51 customers were surveyed. Both traditional and extended methods used in the Balance Theory were employed in this study. Responses to liked brand have been used to test and develop the model, while those for disliked brand were used for test and confirmation. A “what if’ experimental approach was employed to test the applicability of dynamic HBT theory in OCB Model. The hypothesized OCB Model has been tested and validated. Consumers have been found to have separate views on the brand and the brand owner; and their responses to contrasting ethical and non-ethical news of the brand owner are different. Personality has been found to have an influence and two personality adapted models have been tested and validated. The actual results go beyond the prediction of the Balance Theory. Dominant triple positive balance mode, dominant negative balance mode, and mode of extreme antipathy have been found. It has been found that not all balanced modes are good for the brand. Contrary to Heider’s findings, simply liking may not necessarily lead to unit relation in the OCB Model.