Brand equity in social media-based brand community

Abstract Purpose: The main purpose of this research is to examine the effects of social media-based brand community (SMBBC) markers on customer-based brand equity (CBBE). Moreover, this research evaluates the mediating effect of brand community commitment, and moderating effect of customer gender. Design/methodology/approach: This research collected data from a questionnaire survey with the participants who are the members of Xiaomi Community in Vietnam on Facebook (XCVF). Finally, 512 valid and usable questionnaires were tested by applying structural equation modelling (SEM) approach. Findings: The results showed that three components of brand community markers significant influence two aspects of CBBE. Moreover, brand community commitment plays the mediating role in the relationship of shared consciousness, ritual and traditions and CBBE. In addition, the influence of SMBBC on CBBE is stronger for women in comparison with men. Research limitations/implications: The sample selected is limited for only members of XCVF, which may have an inadequate view in comparison with other brand communities. This research can eliminate some other important variables that can contribute to this relationship. Originality/value: This research is among the first works that have focused on the importance of SMBBC markers on CBBE, the mediating role of brand community commitment, as well as the moderating effect of customer gender. Keywords: social media; brand community; customer – based brand equity; brand community markers; brand community commitment. 1. Introduction “Xiaomi is a brand making effective use of online brand community marketing. Xiaomi has gained the benefit of a new media era. “Born for enthusiasm” is the brand concept and behind the large sales figures, as the company is very successful in fostering a fans culture. Its fans, self-proclaimed as “MI fans” which sounds like mifen (米粉 rice noodle) in Chinese, have become an important force making the Xiaomi brand popular. Xiaomi stimulates its fans’ participation spirit and satisfies their self-realization needs by constructing a virtual space, MIUI (MI User Interface) forum” . The advance of technology in the Internet age has totally changed our daily life and firms’ activities as well. For instance, with the development of social media, marketing activities are much more complicated in comparison with conventional marketing (Habibi et al., 2016). Recently, the concept “social media-based brand community” (SMBBC) has frequently used to express brand community that is created on the social media platforms such as Facebook, Weibo (Habibi et al., 2014). Brand community relates to specialized, non-geographically bound community, based on a structured set of social relations among admirers of a brand (Muniz and O'Guinn, 2001). Nowadays, with the evolution of Web 2.0 platforms, customers’ role was transformed from passive in Web 1.0 platform to active. Hence, social media supports brand community members creating content themselves as called “user-generated content” (Kumar et al., 2016) or customer co-creation value (Hidayanti et al., 2018) that was confirmed as the determinants of word-of-mouth (Chu and Kim, 2011), which in turn, influenced on customer engagement, buyer-seller relationship quality (Sashi, 2012a), as well as brand awareness, brand loyalty and purchase intention (Jamali and Khan, 2018). Moreover, previous research indicated that SMBBC stimulated customer satisfaction, customer relationship capabilities, and firms performances as well (Clark et al., 2017). Furthermore, owing to SMBBC, customer can significant participate in the brand value co-creation process (Merz et al., 2018). But previous research also showed the necessary to clearer understand the role of SMBBC in the marketing field because of its value for the firms in the Industry 4.0 (Merz et al., 2018). SMBBC comprises people who like specific brand(s) of firms, are the members of the brand community created by firms or by the subsidiary/ agent of firms in a country (Munnukka et al., 2015). With this important significance, SMBBC has recently gained great attention from marketing scholars and practitioners (Munnukka et al., 2015; Habibi et al., 2014; Hur et al., 2011; Kamboj and Rahman, 2018; Islam et al., 2018). For instance, (Kamboj and Rahman, 2018) asserted principal antecedents and the outcomes of SMBBC as well as the possible moderators and mediators. They also showed a lot of research gaps and called for further research in terms of other possible determinants and/ or outcomes. In the same line, other researchers stated the importance of deeper evaluating the effects of customers’ perception and behavior on CBBE (Habibi et al., 2016; Munnukka et al., 2015). CBBE refers to the customers’ perception regarding the overall betterment of a brand in comparison with other related brands (Hassan and Luis V. Casaló Ariño, 2015). This research gaps is needed for further and deeper examining because it is crucial for companies in building and maintaining the competitive advantage of their brands in new technology based business as suggested by (Palazon et al., 2018), Kamboj & Rahman, 2018. Based on the literature review, this research propose and utilize two aspects of CBBE, namely, brand awareness and brand loyalty. Moreover, the development of social media platforms challenges firms to establish and manage their SMBBC. Through SMBBC firms can understand more about their customers’ demands or suggestions to optimize their products, their adaptability and competitiveness (Cui and Wu, 2015; Kang et al., 2016; Carlson et al., 2018). Moreover, SMBBC facilitates customers in searching and understanding information concerning products and services of the firms, as well as experiences, feedbacks of other customers. Well managed SMBBC can lead customers to be more loyalty to the firms (Poulis et al., 2018) to form citizenship behavior. Although such importance, a lot of firms have not adequately apprehended the role of SMBBC yet. In addition, most customers still lack the willingness to participate actively (Kamboj and Rahman, 2018; Jain et al., 2018; Kaur et al., 2018). Furthermore, previous scholars regard the social, economic, psychological and functional motivation of customers as the factors influencing CBBE (Poulis et al., 2018; Godey et al., 2016), but overlooking the impact of brand community commitment. Brand community commitment is not innate, but can be influenced by the markers of SMBBC and establishing a sense to firm belonging. So that, the research of CBBE should proceed from the markers of SMBBC, and in-depth analysis with the mediating effect of brand community commitment. Thus shaping a systematic analysis, the research has important significance for obtaining CBBE. Recently, (Hook et al., 2018) suggested that future researchers need to deeper examine long – term consequences of customer brand community participation. They also indicated the necessary to investigate the terms “brand community markers” and “brand community commitment” together, rather than researching in separation. In the same vein, (Kamboj & Rahman, 2018) showed that it is necessary to further examine the new mediating variables such as brand community commitment. Moreover, because of the different in biology, previous indicated the necessary to differ in behaviors between male and female customers (Correa et al., 2010). Therefore, this work attempts to answer to the research questions as follow: RQ1: How do SMBBC markers influence CBBE? RQ2: Which component of SMBBC markers is more significant related to specific aspects of CBBE? RQ3: How does brand community commitment mediate the relationship between SMBBC markers and CBBE? RQ4: Does customer gender moderate the relationship between SMBBC markers and CBBE? To answer the above questions, this paper proposes and empirical tests a research model to clarify the correlation between SMBBC markers and CBBE directly and indirectly via brand community commitment and customer gender. The remains of this research is organized as follow. This research starts with theoretical background and research design, which followed by the data analysis results and conclusion. 2. Theoretical background and hypothesis development 2.1. Social media based brand community The notion of brand community was proposed by (Muniz and O'Guinn, 2001) and relates to the organized social relationship based on brand admirers, a specialized community organization without geographical boundaries. This concept provides a better way to solve the two challenges of one-to-one customer relationship management and customer classification faced by firms. With the rapid development of Internet which is one of the most important innovations of human life, the brand community is easier than ever in terms of timely, geographical restrictions. Its application forms and implementation technologies are constantly evolving. Many firms are gradually building SMBBC on the basis of computer cyberspace, social media and other virtual platforms. In one hand, SMBBC is the combination of social media and brand community (Algesheimer et al., 2005) or brand communities created on the platforms of social media (Habibi et al., 2014; Kaur et al., 2018; Zaglia, 2013). In the other hand, (Arnone et al., 2010) indicated that SMBBC relates to customers gathered together because of similar brand preferences or ideas, and sharing brand experience as well as values through social media platforms. Although a wide types of social media platforms, scholars all agreed that shared consciousness, shared rituals and traditions and obligation to community are the components of SMBBC (Habibi et al., 2014; Muniz and O'Guinn, 2001; Habibi et al., 2016). Therefore, this research inherits their assertion to test the relationship with their consequences. In which, shared consciousness relates to connection among members of a brand community that decide the difference between its members with outsiders (Zhou et al., 2012). Besides it, shared rituals and traditions refers to the social responsibility of members towards the community and its members (Muniz and O'Guinn, 2001). Moreover, obligation to community indicates that members think about and act for the benefits of the community and its members. This can explain the reason of willingness to mutual help of members in a community (Muniz and O'Guinn, 2001). In addition, previous researchers considered that SMBBC is based on a series of relationships among members with brands, products and firms to form four kinds of relationship (Habibi et al., 2016; James H. McAlexander et al., 2002). In the reality, many firms have established SMBBC not only for establishing and maintaining the above four relationships and also stimulating members to share brand experience and innovative ideas to improve the quality of products or services (Casaló et al., 2010; See-To and Ho, 2014). Because through the knowledge acquisition from social media, firms can improve the brand innovation strategy (Bang et al., 2015). Moreover, SMBBC influences on customer satisfaction, trust, and loyalty with the brand (Algesheimer et al., 2005; Zhou et al., 2012; Tsai et al., 2012). Obviously, SMBBC also has some negative effects, called “dark side”, such as leading to normative pressure on members, thereby reducing community identification, recommendation and participation as well (Poulis et al., 2018). 2.2. Customer – based brand equity Brand equity refers to the perception of the customers about the overall betterment of a brand when they compare to other related brands (Hassan and Luis V. Casaló Ariño, 2015). In the perspective of customers, brand equity relates to CBBE (Yoo et al., 2000; Datta et al., 2018). That means customers acquaint with certain brand and revoke uniqueness of brand such as its name, logo and motto (Torres et al., 2015). These factors stimulate customers’ perception of the brand and other factors of the brand such as its importance or positioning (Keller, 1993). CBBE is an interesting and important topic that recently has gained the attention of researchers and practitioners in marketing (Poulis et al., 2018; Yoo et al., 2000; Datta et al., 2018). But to date, its dimensions are still in disputable. For instance, (Godey et al., 2016) divided customer based brand equity in brand awareness and brand image; (Chahal and Rani, 2017) considered brand awareness, brand image and brand loyalty as the dimensions of brand equity; brand awareness, brand loyalty, perceived quality of brand and brand association (Sasmita and Norazah Mohd Suki, 2015); brand awareness, brand quality and brand loyalty (Guzmán and Davis, 2017); brand associations, brand image, perceived quality and brand credibility (Vogel and Watchravesringkan, 2017). Among the different approaches, most of researchers highlighted that CBBE combines two main components, namely, brand awareness and brand loyalty (Poulis et al., 2018). For this reason, by inheriting and utilizing these two dimensions of CBBE, this research develops and tests a new framework to clarify the related relationships. In which, brand awareness relates to the power of brand existence and perception in the customer’s head and thinking (Molinillo et al., 2017). Hence, customers can easily distinguish a specific brand among other brands in term of logo, name and motto. Brand awareness can be created and maintained through marketing communication such as advertising or through social media platforms (Barreda et al., 2015; Sasmita and Norazah Mohd Suki, 2015; Bruhn et al., 2012; Schivinski and Dabrowski, 2014) Along with brand awareness, brand loyalty relates to the customers’ first choice of a specific brand among other brands (Yoo et al., 2000). Previous research confirmed that loyalty customers even may not consider buying other brands (Aaker, 1996) or selecting as their default preferred brand (Yoo et al., 2000). In a sense, brand loyalty refers to one of the main goals for marketing activities which in turns can increase sales and market share (Schivinski and Dabrowski, 2014). Likewise, brand loyalty affects the purchase decisions of the customers to the same product (Huang et al., 2010). Previous research showed that social media is a type of communication that acts as an important role in promoting customer engagement (Hollebeek et al., 2014; Sashi, 2012b). They also showed that SMBBC significant correlates with customer - based brand equity (Godey et al., 2016; Sasmita and Norazah Mohd Suki, 2015; Jiao et al., 2018). In the next section, the authors clarify the relationship between SMBBC markers and CBBE.
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