Components of Marketing Communication driving Brand Avoidance

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Literature Review

This section is looking into a broader view of anti-consumption and does not limit the literature review to solely brand avoidance. This is for the reader to get a broader understanding of brand avoidance and how it connects to previous research. Further, relevant features of advertising and marketing communication are presented.

Brand Avoidance

Brand avoidance is the “phenomenon whereby consumers deliberately choose to keep away from or reject a brand” (Lee et al., 2009a). When financial means are not the dilemma, availability exists, and conscious actions are comprehended, these are existing circumstances when consumers still tend to avoid certain brands (Knittel et al., 2016).

 Brand and Branding

Traditionally, a brand is viewed as something that visualizes what the company offers. According to a study of Chernatony and Dall’Olmo Riley (1998) a brand is much more than that. They describe a brand as a multidimensional construct, where managers extend a product with values to match the needs of a consumer. Branding is the action one comprehends by promoting the actual brand (Fill, 2013, p.116). There are many definitions of what a brand is, however, there are various themes used in describing a brand and its functions; value system, personality, image, logo and risk reducer. Even if all of these definitions do not consider both the firm and the consumers, every definition takes the view of either stakeholder in determining the antecedents and the consequences of the brand. Hence, the activities of the company and the perceptions of the consumers are the two main aspects of the brand construct. The company positions the brand through the marketing mix, which establish a brand identity and personality. The consumers, based on their own self-images and functional and emotional needs, then perceive the brand identity and personality (Chernatony & Riley, 1998).


Peneloza and Price (2003) define anti-consumption as “A resistance against a culture of consumption and the marketing of mass- produced meanings” (p.123). Cherrier (2009) allures anti- consumption as both an attitude, when one declines material growth, and an activity, when refusal of consumption appears. According to Cherrier (2009), anti-consumption is related to resistance and it is both an activity and an attitude. Anti-consumption is an aim to withstand a specific brand or product, its marketing activities or the marketplace as a whole. Anti-consumption is associated with words such as resistance, distaste and resentment of consumption in general. It can also be referred to as the confrontation against a culture of consumption and the marketing of mass-produced meanings. There are various reasons and ways to explain and view the topic of anti-consumption. Dissatisfaction, undesired self and self–concept incongruity, organizational disidentification, boycotting, and consumer resistance are some key topics that can help to explain brand avoidance (Lee et al., 2009b). Brand avoidance is a particular form of anti-consumption and in order to understand anti-consumption deeper it is helpful to explore brand avoidance (Lee et al., 2009a).
In 2008 Sandikci and Ekici introduced the concept of politically motivated brand rejection (PMBR) as an extended and stronger form of anti-consumption. It is the act of a consumer, which permanently refuses to buy a brand because of its’ political ideology (Sandikci & Ekici, 2008). In the mentioned authors’ paper, they state that there are three major areas that are researched and answers to why consumers resist a product: political consumerism, undesired self and image congruence, and organisational disidentification.
Political consumerism is when a consumer bases decisions on attitudes regarding values and justice in the society. The act can be displayed both in a positive manner through increased consumption (buycott) and as a negative act whilst consumption decreases (boycott) (Sandikci & Ekici, 2008). Boycotting is a term that is greatly connected with brand avoidance (Lee et al., 2009b). However, the most obvious difference between the two is that boycotting is often caused by opinions of how a brand is dealing with political decisions. Hence, the duration of the resistance is also a difference, whereas boycotting does normally not proceed as long as buycotting. An example is the “Do not buy anything Day”, which was a one day boycotting event demonstrating against the American industry, which people believed was too dependent of the consumers (Friedman, 1985).
Undesired self and image congruence (Sandikci & Ekici, 2008) or undesired self and self-concept incongruity (Lee et al., 2009b), is when consumers choose to not consume depending on the connection they believe a certain brand or product category has with a lifestyle they avoid to be associated with.
Organizational disidentification suggests that people withdraw themselves from companies and boycott their products and services, which they feel are unrelated to their own values. Since a brand is a constellation of values, if a person does not agree with those values, he or she will feel motivated to avoid that brand (Lee et al., 2009b). Sandikci and Ekici (2008), define organizational disidentification as a self-perception based on a cognitive separation between one’s identity and one’s perception of the identity of an organization and a negative relational categorization of oneself and the organization. In conclusion, literature specifies that consumers may refrain from using a specific product or brand in order to impact on business practices and promote what is good for the society, or as part of their need to avoid social groups, roles and identities that represent the negative self (Sandikci & Ekici, 2008).
A more recent study introduces two concepts, consumer-brand identification (CBI) and consumer brand disidentification (CBD), as symbolic drivers for brand identification. CBD is especially interesting since it can be useful in order to understand consumers’ brand relationship (Wolter, Brach, Cronin & Bonn, 2015).
In the research conducted by Sandikci and Ekici (2008) the concept of brand dislike was not included. The same as with brand avoidance, brand dislike is largely overlooked in today’s research since the application of the information is not positively stated for the companies (Demirbag-Kaplan, Yildirim, Gulden & Aktan, 2015). According to Romani, Grappi and Dalli (2012) the two most endearing negative emotions towards brands are dislike and anger. Demirbag-Kaplan et al. (2015) also mean that negative feelings towards brands in situations where the consumers have made a deliberate choice not to consume, has also helped draw attention to the topic as it can be a potential factor for brand avoidance.

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Four Types of Brand Avoidance

Brand avoidance can evolve due to diverse reasons. Experiential, identity and moral brand avoidance (Lee et al., 2009b) together with deficit-value avoidance (Lee et al., 2009a) and advertising (Knittel et al., 2016) are the identified contributing factors of the existing conceptual frameworks based on why consumers choose to avoid certain brands.

Experiential brand avoidance

Dissatisfaction most often occurs as the experience of a product or a service is lower than what they were expected to be. If expectations are not confirmed, they can either be better or worse than expected. However, the negative disconfirmation is what in some cases can be connected to brand avoidance (Lee et al., 2009b). Oliver (1980), argues that one’s level of expectations are influenced of the product itself, prior experiences of the brand or product, brand connotations and symbolic elements to name a few.
Experiential brand avoidance is based on previous first hand experiences with a certain branded product or service, resulting in a negative perception of the brand (Lee et al., 2009b). The negative impression of the brand emerges from unmet expectations (Oliver, 1980) which resolves from poor performance of the product (Folke, 1984), inconvenience of the product such as price or service resulting in customer- switching behaviour, or an unpleasant store experience due to its environment (Bitner, 1992; Knittel et al., 2016).
When product performance is not coherent with the consumer’s expectations, brand avoidance may occur (Lee et al., 2009a; Folke, 1984), which can further evolve into a negative attitude and behaviour towards the brand. This event can affect sales and profit in non-beneficial ways due to consumers recognizing the retail- and product brand in future purchasing situations, leaving them to constantly avoid that brand (Lee et al., 2009b). Brand avoidance due to inconvenience of a service or product is the notion whereas e.g. pricing, core expectations of service, and/or ethical manners fail to satisfy the consumer, usually leading to customer switching behaviour (Knittel et al., 2016) – a phenomenon supported to be identified with brand avoidance (Lee et al., 2009a). Several authors suggest that a well-designed and appealing store environment tend to increase the probability of purchase, implying the opposite to be a factor for brand avoidance (Kotler, 1973; Bitner, 1992; Knittel et al., 2016).

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Identity brand avoidance

This phenomenon evolves from an appearing conflict between a brand image and the individual’s identity (Lee et al., 2009b), disallowing brands fulfilment of consumer’s identity requirements (Hogg & Banister, 2001; Knittel et al., 2016). From the consumer’s perspective, unfavourable symbolic viewpoints of a brand are further connected to affect brand avoidance. Consumers tend to reject brands that are not consistent with one’s relation to their reference groups or symbolically compatible with one’s self-concept (Bhattacharya & Elsbach, 2002; Knittel et al., 2016). The following statement supports the idea of identity brand avoidance:
“We always laugh about it, but we would never buy cheap toilet paper, because that just says something, you just think if you walk into a bathroom and there’s cheap toilet paper… it says something about you, how you portray yourself… I guess it’s important because that’s how you see yourself. I’m not cheap and nasty (…).” (Lee et al., 2009b)

Moral brand avoidance

Whilst ethical consumption increases, so does brand avoidance due to moral concerns. Moral brand avoidance develops from inconsistency amongst the consumer’s individual and ideological beliefs, and the characteristics of a brand (Rindell, Strandvik & Wilén, 2014). Moral brand avoidance concerns the purchasing decisions one take with thoughts beyond the self, having societal aspects in mind, and therefore avoiding brands accordingly (Kozinets & Handelman, 2004; Lee et al., 2009b). Two factors of this concept are country issues and anti hegemony. Country issues related to moral brand avoidance is the perception a consumer has towards the product’s country of origin (COO). Consumers tend to evaluate and consider the product’s quality depending on the COO (Bloemer, Brijs & Kasper, 2009; Knittel et al., 2016). Anti hegemony brand avoidance can be explained as not wanting to support monopolies and large multi-national companies or brands because they act irresponsibly, and actively chooses to avoid their products (Rindell et al., 2014). The consumer may also consider the company’s actions in relation to socio-economic and political standards and because of these issues avoids the brand (Kozinets & Handelman, 2004; Lee et al., 2009b).

Deficit-value brand avoidance

This issue appears when consumers avoid certain brands due to their costs which one perceives as inconsistent with the level of value and quality of the product (Lee et al., 2009a). Price and quality are the main factors affecting purchasing decisions and brand avoidance. The notion behind this type of brand avoidance happens due to unfamiliarity (Richardson, Jain & Dick, 1996), thus the consumer does not view the product adequate offering low value (Knittel et al., 2016).
Aesthetic insufficiency is further a component of deficit-value avoidance, a phenomenon in this topic where one’s glimpse of a product leads to judgements of its’ functional value. Moreover, food favouritism is identified as a part of deficit-value brand avoidance because food is a sensitive product in purchasing decisions. People tend to avoid food products from diverse deficit-value brands (Green, Draper & Dowler, 2003). However, one does not neglect other products from the same brand (Lee et al., 2009a). Deficit-value brand avoidance and experiential brand avoidance can easily be confounded as the same phenomenon. However, deficit-value brand avoidance does not demand previous first hand experience with a product to make brand avoidance decisions (Knittel et al., 2016).
Experiential, identity, moral, and deficit-value brand avoidance are the first four drivers of brand avoidance identified and developed in a conceptual framework by Lee et al. (2009a) (see framework: Four Types of Brand Avoidance below). Further research in the area of brand avoidance has been investigated by several authors with various foci, directions and alignments (Knittel et al., 2016; Rindell et al., 2014; Sandikci & Ekici, 2008).

1 Introduction
1.1 Problem Discussion
1.2 Purpose
1.3 Definitions
1.4 Delimitations
1.5 Contribution
2 Literature Review 
2.1 Brand Avoidance
2.2 Advertising
3 Method & Data 
3.1 Methodology
3.2 Method
3.3 Method of Analysis
3.4 Trustworthiness
4 Empirical Data
4.1 Interviews
4.2 Focus Groups
5 Analysis
5.1 Components of Marketing Communication driving Brand Avoidance
6 Conclusion
7 Discussion 
7.1 Contribution
7.2 Limitations
7.3 Further research
8 References

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