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. Literature review

In this chapter the already existing literature on the topic of this research will be overviewed and studied. Also a conceptual modal with some expectations for further research will be formed based on the literature in this section.  

The consumer-brand relationship

A consumer-brand relationship indicates that there are relationships qualities between the consumer and the brand (Breivik & Thorbjornsen, 2008). According to the conceptual model of Fournier (1998) a relationship between a consumer and a brand is based on the creation of meaning, the elaboration between the brand and the consumer and the reinforcement processes. This basis is formed by meaningful brand behaviours and by meaningful consumer behaviours. The quality of the brand relationship is determined by these two indicators. According to Chang and Chieng (2006) depends the consumer-brand relationship on the successful establishment of the brand meanings in the mind of the consumer. Brand meanings include the brand personality, the brand association and the brand attitude. These brands meanings are formed by the experiences of a consumer with the brand. Besides that, these brand meanings are becoming crucial mediators between the brand experiences of the consumer and the consumer-brand relationship.

The brand attitude a consumer has, can be seen as the starting point of their behavioural intention and ultimately of their actual behaviour (Sheeran, 2002). A study of Praxmarer and Gierl (2009) shows that there are three important determinants that form the brand attitude of a consumer namely, brands cognitions, ad cognitions and affect. Brand cognitions stands for the positive or negative thoughts a consumer has towards a brand. Ad cognitions are based on the arguments towards the advertisement of a brand and affect represent the reaction of the consumer towards the advertising stimulus. All three elements can affect the brand attitude in both a positive as negative way. Besides that, also the brand associations a consumer has and the brand personality of the brand itself have a direct effect in the forming of the brand attitude of the consumer (Chang & Chieng, 2006).

The way a consumer sees a brand is determined by three environments namely, the marketing environment, the social environment and the individual environment. The marketing environment stands for the advertising and other media producers use for the promotion of the brand image. In this way the producers try to manage the marketing environment. But their messages have to compete with other information sources like the marketplace beliefs of the consumer and the word-of-mouth promotion. These information sources are not under control of the producers but they also determine the brand meaning. The social environment indicates the symbolic interaction between the public versus private consumption contexts. It involves the role of the reference groups for the consumer and their influences. Besides that, socialization agents like parents, peers and the media are important for the building of values, emotions and attitudes which can stimulate the approach and the avoidance behaviours of the consumer towards a brand. At the end this can lead to the acceptance of a brand or to the rejection of a brand.  The last environment, the individual environment involves the childhood memories of the consumer and the activation or the implication of the self through the interpretive discourses. The childhood memories are a very important stimulus for acceptance and/or for the rejection of a brand. They can stimulate liking and/or disliking of a brand and possible that can encourage aversion what can lead at the end to rejection behaviours as avoidance and/or abandonment. The social and the individual environments are crucial for the creation and the circulation of brand meanings in the marketplace (Hogg et al., 2009).

An important note to the consumer – brand relationship is the complexity of relationships. Relationships are not essentially linear and relationships cannot be complied with an if-then-else approach. Therefor it may be possible that although consumer dislike a brand or even hate a brand, they still continuing with buying products from that brand (Demirbag-Kaplan, Yildirim, Gulden & Aktan, 2015). This can be called spurious loyalty (Dick & Basu, 1994), what can be defined as a situation where despite having negative feelings for, and/or being dissatisfied with the brand, the consumer repurchases it (Demirbag-Kaplan, Yildirim, Gulden & Aktan, 2015, pp. 141). Reasons for this phenomena are that there is a lack of (better) alternatives, the lower economic costs for the consumer and inertia. Also nostalgia is a reason why consumers are loyal to a brand even they are dissatisfied with the brand and/or even when they dislike a brand. Nostalgia prompt a strong emotional brand attachment between the consumer and the brand. Therefore, the assumption for the consumer – brand relationship, that loyalty or avoidance towards a brand will lead to positive or negative feelings and to satisfaction or dissatisfaction, is rational but it is not always realistic (Demirbag-Kaplan, Yildirim, Gulden & Aktan, 2015).  

The concept of anti-consumption

A negative brand attitude in the mind of the consumer can have an effect on their post purchase reactions. It can affect their frequency of use of the brand, so negative emotions towards a brand can cause anti-consumption (Gelbrich, 2009). Anti-consumption means against consumption. It can be defined as the avoidance of certain brands and/or products (CAU, 2013).  Rejection can be found at the heart of anti-consumption (Hogg et al., 2009).

There are three ways of anti-consumption, namely avoidance, aversion and abandonment. Disliking a brand is part of the aversion a consumer can have towards a brand, as aversion towards a brand is expressed in disliking, disgusting and revulsion.  “Aversion stands for the psychological or physical action of turning away from something” (Hogg, Banister & Stephenson, 2009, pp. 153). Aversion is most of the time formed by the affective aspects of the attitudes that consumers have, whereas avoidance and abandonment are more formed by the behavioural aspects of the attitudes of the consumer. Therefore, the aversion is the starting point of the other two forms of anti-consumption as it seems that aversion has a stimulating effect on the behavioural responses of both avoidance and abandonment (Hogg, Banister & Stephenson, 2009). Brand avoidance can be defined as the incidents in which consumers deliberately choose to reject a brand ( Lee et al., 2009, pp. 170). There are three types of brand avoidance namely, experiential brand avoidance, identity brand avoidance and moral brand avoidance. Experiential brand avoidance is based on the negative experiences a consumer has had with a brand. Consumers avoid brands due to negative first hand experiences. These negative experiences are about unmet expectations of the consumer. Identity brand avoidance occurs when the brand identity is different than the identity of the individual consumer. They avoid brands that they perceive as symbolically incompatible with their own identity. And moral brand avoidance means that the brand values and/or brand associations do not match the individual consumer's beliefs, it occur when consumers think that certain brand management policies have a negative effect on the society in total (Lee et al., 2009). Portwood-Stacer (2012) said in their study that ‘moral anti-consumption describes practices that are motivated by judgments about right and wrong' (pp. 96).

Rindell, Strandvik and Wilén (2014) proposed from a customer's perspective four reasons for brand avoidance divided among four dimensions. Their first reason is manifest brand avoidance which is on the explicit and persistent dimension. This reason is related to earlier experiences of the consumer with a brand. The second reason is transient brand avoidance on the explicit and temporary dimension. This reason is about the sensitivity of the consumers towards the actions and communications of the company related to their concerns. The third reason is ambiguous brand avoidance on the latent and persistent dimension. This reason is related to the choices a consumer has to make in trade-off situations. And the last reason is vague brand avoidance on the latent and  temporary  dimensions and this reasons stands for unknown reasons regarding the brand avoidance.

As there are several  reasons for anti-consumption, the study of Iyer and Muncy (2009) shows that there are four types of anti-consumers. These four types can be placed in a two-by-two matrix which consist of the object of anti-consumption and the purpose of anti-consumption. There are two objects of anti-consumption namely, the general form what stands for anti-consumption for all consumption and the specific form what involves anti-consumption for individual brands or products. Also for the purpose there are two forms namely, the societal concerns a consumer may have and the personal concerns for a consumer. Based on this division, consumers can be placed in one of the four types of anti-consumers boxes. The first one are the global impact consumers on the general and societal dimension. These consumers want to reduce the general level of consumption for the good for the society and/or the planet. The two main reasons for this anti-consumption belief are the environmental concerns and the material inequity. On the general and personal dimension, the simplifiers can be found. These consumers want to drop out the fast-paced and the high-consumption society and they want back to a simpler and less consumer oriented lifestyle. Main reasons for this are that this group believes that the current way of consumption has undesirable consequences like stress. But there may be also spiritual and ethical reasons for these consumers. The third type of anti-consumers are the market activists on the brand and societal dimension. These consumers try to use the power of money to have an impact on societal issues. They may avoid a brand as they think that that brand causes a societal problem. And the last group are the anti-loyal consumers on the brand and personal dimension. These consumers exhibits the opposite of brand loyalty. They avoid a certain brand because of the perceived inferiority or because of a negative experience they have had with that brand.

Reasons for disliking a brand

The study of Romani, Grappi & Dalli (2012) shows that the negative emotions a consumer can have towards a brand can come in six different forms. These six forms are: anger, dislike, embarrassment, worry, sadness and discontent. Disliking a brand means the negative judgement expressed by the consumer and/or implied in the choice not to buy (Dalli, Romani & Gistri, 2006, pp. 87). There are two approaches of disliking, a collectivistic approach, as consumers care about values, rights and individual wealth that are not related to their own individual interests and the individualistic approach as consumers do not interact with brands that are inadequate partners in their minds. In between these two approaches of disliking, dislike as social communication can be found, which consist of both collectivistic as well as individualistic reasons (Dalli, Romani & Gistri, 2006).

Disliking can occur at three levels namely, the product brand, the user brand and the corporate brand. The product brand can be placed in the individualistic approach, the user brand can be placed between the two approaches, at the dislike as social communication   and the corporate brand can be placed at the collectivistic approach. The product brand level stands for disliking a brand based on an unfair price/quality ratio, so if consumers are dissatisfied with the product. In this category, consumers are dissatisfied with the product and/or service characteristics of the brand. This can happen based on monetary exchange related reasons and based on a mismatch between the expectations of the brand on forehand and the performance of the brand. The user brand level indicates disliking reasons based on an unfavourable stereotype that the consumer associate with the brand. The associate the disliked brand with a negative stereotype, a stereotype which they do not want to be involved with. The last level, corporate brand involves disliking reasons based on  the illegal, immoral, unethical behaviours and activities of the company in total (Dalli, Romani & Gistri, 2006). These three levels of disliking can be compared with the three types of brand avoidance of the study of Lee et al. (2009) (Demirbag-Kaplan, Yildirim, Gulden & Aktan, 2015).  

The results of the study of Demirbag-Kaplan et al. (2015) shows the same reasons for disliking a brand as the study of Dalli et al. (2006). Their respondents disliked brands based on a product failure in the form of the performance of the product and in the form of price-performance ratios. Also in their study, ideological and/or moral reasons were mentioned for disliking a brand. As consumers do not form their brand perceptions only based on their experiences with the product itself but also based on other aspects of the brand.

The self-image congruity theory says that consumers chose for a brand based on the cognitive matching between their self-concept and the symbolic meaning of the brand . With self-concept is meant the ideas of an individual about his/her self and all the thoughts and feeling an individual has towards him/herself as an object (Sirgy, 1982). It includes his/her own perception of their perceived abilities, limitations, appearance and characteristics (Graeff, 1996). Consumers prefer brands when they experience and consider that the brand have a similar image compared to their own self-concept and consumers reject brands when they experience and consider that the brand image is dissimilar compared to their own self-concept (Dolich, 1969). So it is possible that a consumer do not like a certain brand as there is a lack of fit between the brand and the self-concept. Another explanation of brand disliking can be theory of Ogilvie (1987). Ogilvie made the distinguishing between the ideal self, the real self and the undesired self. If a brand matches the undesired self of the consumer, the consumer will probably not like that brand and maybe they will even avoid that brand.   

Consumers can have negative meanings in their mind towards a brand. These negative brand meanings are formed by some main factors in the market place. These factors are corporate imagery, user stereotypes, product features, service, intergenerational influences and childhood memories (Hogg et al., 2009). The study of Bryson, Atwal and Hultén (2013) shows that the country of origin of the brand, the consumer dissatisfaction with the brand, the notably with the customer service and the negative stereotypes that the consumer has of the existing brand users are reasons for hating a brand in the luxury sector. Also Corporate social performance might be a potential reason why consumer hate a certain brand, as the consumers think that luxury brands should act in a responsible way as that is according to the consumers a way to avoid potential dissonance in the perception consumers have of the brand. The study of Fuches, Markley and Davis (2009) showed four motivation reasons a consumer can have for retaliation towards a brand namely, product failure, perceived injustice, situational like waiting time, crowds, etc. and service recovery failure. Besides that, over time in a relationship, the perceptions a consumer has about alternatives will become less favourable. Once a consumer feels satisfied with and committed to a brand, the consumer will evaluate other brands in a negative way. A consumer will devalue these alternatives as they want to protect their ongoing relationships with the brand, which they feel committed to (Johnson & Rusbult, 1989).

Another study by Rindell, Strandvik and Wilén (2014) shows three reasons why ethical consumers would reject brands. First of all, their reasons for the rejection of a brand are often based on historical events. Consumers take a negative attitude and a negative pattern of action towards a brand based on their holistic evaluation of the actions of the total organisation over time. So the consumer's image heritage is essential for forming an attitude towards a brand and based on these image heritage a consumer can dislike a brand. Besides that, ethical consumers are sensitive to corporate actions and communications of the brand in general which relate to their concerns and which react to the companies' inconsistent behaviour in this regard. This leads to the fact that all brands who fail regarding this specific concern of the consumer are unacceptable and therefore, ethical consumer dislike certain brands. And the last reason is that ethical consumers may engage in trade-offs among their concerns. When there are alternatives among brands and these alternatives do not fulfil their ethical concerns, the consumer will than chose for the brand that is least harmful. So, ethical consumers may dislike a certain brand as there are brands that better fit with their concerns.

Consequences of brand disliking

The negative emotions a consumer can have towards a brand can influence their behaviours. According to Grégoire, Tripp and Legoux (2009) the negative emotions of a consumer towards a brand can lead to two behaviours, namely avoidance and revenge. Revenge involves ‘a customer exerting some harm to a firm in return for the perceived damages the firm has caused (Grégoire, Laufer & Tripp, 2010, pp. 739). Revenge can occur in two different behaviours, the direct revenge behaviour which occurs at face-to-face communication and the indirect revenge behaviour what takes places behind a firm's back. Indirect revenge behaviour includes vindictive complaining and marketplace aggression and the indirect revenge behaviour stands for online complaining, negative publicity and negative word-of-mouth. These two behaviours have different consequences for the firm of the brand (Grégoire, Laufer & Tripp, 2010).

The Disliking of a brand can activate consumers is such a way that it will lead to various types of negative behavioural responses to brands. Disliking motivates action and therefore is it reasonable that consumers are orientated towards different forms of negative behaviour that can occur based on their negative attitude towards the brand. These different forms of behaviour are depending on the type of negative emotions a consumer has towards a brand. Sadness leads to the fact that consumers talk very little about their experiences and the consumer makes no effort to improve the circumstances of the relationship or even to re-establish a positive relationship with the brand. Discontent with the brand leads to a similar behaviour. Worry leads to brand switching and anger leads to a contrary reaction and to complaining. Embarrassment leads to passivity in the consumers, this is almost similar to the behaviours that occur with sadness (Romani, Grappi & Dalli, 2012).

The negative emotions a consumer has towards a brand can affect the consumers' post purchase reactions like the consumer loyalty and the frequency of use both in a direct way as also in an indirect way as these negative emotions reduce the satisfaction of the consumer (Gelbrich, 2009). Besides that, an outcome of such negative emotions towards a brand is the purposeful and deliberately intention of the consumer to avoid or reject that certain brand. The consumer may even show act out behaviours that demonstrates this rejection towards a brand like negative worth-of-mouth, negative blogging, protesting in public, boycotting and sabotage of the complete organisation (Bryson, Atwal & Hultén, 2013).

Dissatisfaction with a brand can lead to fact that the consumer will reject that brand (Oliva, Oliver & MacMillan, 1992). Brand rejection can be defined as ‘the incident in which consumers deliberately choose to reject a brand' (Lee et al., 2009, pp. 170). The theory of exit, voice an loyalty of Hirschman (1970) explains the reaction of the consumer when they had an experience regarding a service failure of the product. The theory says that when consumers are dissatisfied, they give a voice to their complaint to the company or they exit the relationship they have with a certain brand. Exit the relationship can be defined as ending the relationship with the brand in the form of stopping with buying products of that brand.

‘Customer retaliation is a deliberate response to unfair treatment and can have a detrimental effect on company goals' (Funches et al., 2009, pp. 237). There are four different behavioural categories for consumer retaliation towards a brand, these are; cost/loss, consumption prevention, boycott and purchasing slow down and exit, voice and betrayal. At the end, retaliation can have a positive and a negative side. The positive side stands for the feeling of satisfaction or vindication a consumer can experience after the retaliation action. The negative side involves experiences that are based on the resentment towards the offending firm or can be based on the regret the consumer can experience of having to engage in retaliatory behaviours (Funches et al., 2009).

The behaviour a consumer will show as a result of their negative emotions towards a brand depends on the level of self-relevant the relationships consist of. If a consumer -  brand relationship consist of a high level of self-relevant, it is more likely that the consumer will show anti – brand behaviours if the relationship with the brand will end (Johnson, Matear & Thomson, 2011). This can be explained by the fact that consumers who are having a strong relationship with a brand are more critical than consumers who have just a normal relationship with the brand (Grégoire & Fisher, 2008). Therefore, the study of Park, Eisingerich and Park (2013) shows that when a consumer dislikes a brand, the willingness of that consumer to perform anti-brand actions will increase. Consumers who are having just a neutral relationship with a brand are more likely to just avoid that certain brand (Johnson, Matear & Thomson, 2011).

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