Brand leaders are responsible for leading brand building activities in very complex systems within organizations (e.g., sales, marketing, operations, finance). Firms spend an enormous amount of resources to support brand building activities in their complex systems. Ad spending worldwide reached $513 billion in 2015, 5% growth versus 2014. Global R&D spending reached $480 billion in 2015. Despite this level of spending and focus, brand deaths occur (e.g., Oldsmobile, Plymouth, and Woolworth Stores). Yet, some (e.g., John Deere) have demonstrated continued brand growth over time. The fact is that some brand leaders are successful at driving brand performance and some are not. What is the secret to staying relevant to consumers across generations of consumers (e.g., Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials)? Research shows that brands with the ability to emotionally connect with their consumers have innovative product offerings that create value with consumers. But, what impact do the feelings and behaviors of brand leaders and consumers have on brand engagement to drive brand performance?
I began my research journey (study #1) with the goal of exploring the differences between growing brand leaders and declining brand leaders. I found that leaders who exhibit emotional intelligence, hope, and social identity build stronger emotional connections between their brands and consumers, which leads to sustainable brand growth.
In study #2, I explored how organizational behavior impacts a brand leader’s market orientation. This study was the first to link the feelings and behaviors of leaders to market orientation. Based on my findings, I discovered that a brand leader’s shared values with the firm and participation in their brand community impact a firm’s level of market orientation. I believe these findings start to reveal insights into how brand leaders drive business performance by increasing brand engagement with consumers.
In study #3, I answered what motivates a consumer to participate in a brand community. I believe these findings will provide key insights to brand leaders trying to build stronger emotional bonds between their brands and consumers. Previous research has shown the outcomes of consumers interacting with brands in a brand community and the results of consumers participating in a brand community. However, there is a gap in research regarding why consumers are motivated to participate in a brand community. I found evidence to suggest that a consumer’s conformity motivation, brand loyalty, and attachment style increase their brand community participation.
This research shows that the feelings and behaviors of brand leaders and consumers increase brand engagement to drive brand performance. I found that the brand community is a source of the emotional connection that drives engagement between the brand leader and the brand as well as the consumer and the brand. It is truly a tale of two individuals (brand leader and consumer) engaging with the brand at a crossroads called brand community. I believe these will be important learnings for researchers and practitioners who seek to understand this phenomenon to position their brands for sustainable long-term growth.