In 1998, Sue Fournier did a lot of research on people's relationships with brands. Through 3 in-depth life-history case studies Fournier intrusively investigated and interpreted the respondents’ brand usage histories. She described consumers' relationships with brands and concluded that consumers’ relationships with brands are remarkably similar to relationships consumers have with other people. Her categorizations of brand relationships ranged from committed marriages(on the positive side) to indemnities (on the negative side). Here’s the citation:
Fournier, Susan (1998), “Consumers and Their Brands: Developing Relationship Theory in Consumer Research,” Journal of Consumer Research, 24 (March), 343-373.
This takes us to Christmas.
Christmas consistently ranks as the favorite day of the year for Canadians. It is a day (better described as a season) that is glued together by relationships. For the vast majority of Canadians, Christmas is the day when family and friends get together to wine, dine, and exchange gifts under a tree; it is one time of the year when donations and volunteerism sky rocket as the most generous inclinations of people are unleashed; it is the season when childhood memories surface and when "kids of heart" relive their past Christmases through the excitement of the kids. Of course, the day is even more important to Christians, who mark the birth of their personal savior and Christ. To put it in perspective, at its core, Christmas is about love for the Christian and secularist, for the Buddist and the agnostic. And, for most Canadians, Christmas is the most intimate day of the year.
There are many directions that I could take this blog tonight. We could look at how high-end purchasing patterns change (e.g. Consumer “upgrade” to Haagen Dasz from Nestle), we could examine how some brands got linked to the holiday traditions (e.g. Pot of Gold, Butterball, Crown Royal), or we could look at holiday advertising (any guesses what the most played Christmas carol has been on advertisements?). Tonight, I am going to give an pristine example of just how right Fournier was with her research.
Check this out. A few days ago I went to one of the largest grocery retailers. On display: John Deere Christmas ornaments for $6.99. I was told they sold pretty well too. This means, there are a group of folks out there who are decorating their trees with a farm/lawn equipment manufactuer’s logo. A quick Google search shows you could deck out your tree with Harley Davidson, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Apple and the University of Western Ontario. The “ah ha” moment here is this. Just think how emotionally invested a consumer is in a brand to spend money to purchase a Christmas tree ornament, and place it on the centerpiece of the home Christmas decoration. The tree is the place where families and closest friends exchange and open gifts. This is the place where many Christians place their Creche. This is the most popular spot for an engagement ring to be opened up. This is the most intimate place in a home - on the most intimate day of the year. For some consumers, John Deere is right there. That’s exactly the kind of relationship stuff that Fournier was talking about.