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|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Journal of Retailing, Volume 88, Issue 2, June 2012, Pages 262–275
The role of stories and their influence on communication have been widely discussed, yet despite recent advances, the elements that constitute a good brand story and their alignment with product types remain unclear. This study uses four between-subjects experiments to test hypotheses pertaining to the appropriate stories for both search and experience products. Authenticity, conciseness, reversal, and humor are generally useful in engaging readers, though brand story elements influence customer attitudes differently for search versus experience products. Authenticity is more important for experience than search products; conciseness has a significant influence on brand attitude only for search products; reversal is more critical to improve brand attitude for experience than search products; and humor exerts a relatively greater influence for search than for experience products. These findings provide insights for marketers who want to design brand stories that align with their products.
Stories can resonate with customers and thus create competitive advantages for a company. For example, the Walt Disney Company has a long history of telling delighting and inspiring stories about every product. Its storytelling ability even has become a core value for the international corporation, increasing the level of inimitability it enjoys over competitors (Boje 1995). Theoretically, stories provide an effective way to communicate with audiences, because contents conveyed in story form tend to be more affective than those presented in a list format (e.g., Mattila 2000). That is, stories create emotional connections with and understanding by receivers, which increases comprehension, communication, and judgment, according to research in a wide range of disciplines, such as psychology, linguistics, education, and sociology (West, Huber, and Min 2004; Woodside 2010). Researchers also have examined story comprehension and persuasion in the fields of advertising, leadership, and information processing (e.g., Deighton et al., 1989 and Escalas, 2007). Such studies indicate that consumers interpret their exposure to and experience with brands through stories. Despite these advances, some questions remain. What elements constitute a good brand story? How do customers respond to specific story aspects? In particular, some story elements appear in previous conceptual studies related to narratives (e.g., Taylor, Fisher, and Dufresne 2002), yet we know little about the relationship between brand story elements and customer attitudes. From a business perspective, understanding the elements of brand story and how these elements influence customer attitudes can help managers design a good brand story and increase consumer confidence. Furthermore, customers evaluate products differently, often because market offerings appear on a continuum ranging from “easy to evaluate” to “difficult to evaluate.” Researchers have argued that the influence of communication practices depends on the level of information asymmetry, or the search/experience classification paradigm (e.g., Weathers, Sharma, and Wood 2007). Wright and Lynch (1995) also demonstrate that advertising is superior in communicating search attributes, whereas direct experience succeeds in communicating experience attributes. This classification distinguishes search products, dominated by attributes about which customers can acquire full information before purchase, from experience products, which are those that customers can evaluate only after some consumption experience (Nelson 1974). Several studies (e.g., Hsieh, Chiu, and Chiang 2005Nayyar, 1993, Weathers et al., 2007 and Wright and Lynch, 1995) confirm that market offerings and the influence of communication practices vary with the level of information asymmetry, such that at high levels, companies can develop a competitive advantage by giving potential buyers incentives, through lower information acquisition costs, to buy. If elements of a brand story convey information and influence customer comprehension and judgment, they likely vary across search and experience products. For example, La Mer, an experience-based skin care product, provides consumers the following brand story: “Back in the 1960s, Dr. Max Huber, a NASA aerospace physicist suffered a horrific accident—a routine experiment exploded in his face—covering him with severe chemical burns. Neither science nor medicine offered sufficient promise of help; Huber therefore decided to help himself. After 12 years and more than 6,000 experiments, a miracle unfolded and La Mer was born” (http://www.cremedelamer.com/devotees/devotees.tmpl). With such a story, the company enhances readers’ attitudes toward La Mer's skin care product. In another example, this time for a search product, Evian's bottled water story attempts to enhance its brand identity, but it relies on short stories. “L’eau Des Tout Petits” (“water for all the little ones”) used a cute baby picture to demonstrate a sense of humor for example (http://www.evian.com/#/en_GB/94-An-extraordinary-saga-of-health-and-lifestyles). The styles of the two stories differ significantly, which suggests the need to distinguish the roles of brand story elements for search versus experience products.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Businesses use observable marketing tools such as price, brand name, and so on to signal unobservable product quality to consumers (Ho, Ganesan, and Oppewal 2011). Much literature has indicated the importance of story in this effort; however, by studying the elements of brand stories, our study suggests there is no “one size fits all” answer. A successful brand story is specific to the merchandise being sold (for similar evidence that marketing and communication strategies are differentially effective across product categories, see Hsieh et al., 2005, Weathers et al., 2007 and Wright and Lynch, 1995). The results provide some key strategic implications for companies that are seeking to enhance their customers’ brand attitudes and purchase intentions for search or experience products. Create an effective brand story for the retailer Studies of persuasion distinguish between arguments and stories. A brand story exerts a persuasive impact by transporting recipients into the world of the narrative. When consumers encounter a brand story, they produce few counterarguments and focus their cognitive capacities on story-cued product information, with elevated emotions. To create an effective brand story, marketers should use the four key elements of a story we have identified herein: authenticity, conciseness, reversal, and humor. These elements are generally useful in engaging readers in evaluations of the product and strengthening their related feelings, such that they create positive correlations with brand attitude and purchase intention. Understanding how story elements influence customer attitude can help managers design a good brand story. Stories also appear useful for brand-building purposes. Some brands even have revived themselves (e.g., Volkswagen's New Beetle; Brown, Kozinets, and Sherry 2003) or diversified over time by telling good stories. Recent studies explore a special type of retailing, the themed brand store (e.g., American Girl Place), which is characterized by historical ties to a nostalgically represented past, with an education-related mission (Borghini et al., 2009 and Hollenbeck et al., 2008, Kozinets et al. 2002). This culturally rich retail environment prioritizes myths and stories that involve consumers with the brand and store. Coca-Cola shares its brand history and encourages consumers to share their consumption stories in its brand museum or on the corporate website (http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/heritage/stories/index.html). The storytelling among visitors encourages them to listen and share and has become a relational activity. They exchange communal beliefs and values, which affirm their brand knowledge and deepen connections with the brand (Borghini et al., 2009 and Hollenbeck et al., 2008). Brand-building investments by manufacturers will also influence retailers’ communication and promotion decisions (Ailawadi et al. 2009). In the current competitive environment, substantial increases in price promotions are evidence of stores’ efforts to attract end consumers, though the decreased margin lowers their financial performance (Srinivasan et al. 2004). Recent research consistently finds that promotion effects diminish quickly; therefore, the question of how to coordinate marketing efforts by manufacturers and retailers is important to both of them. Sethuraman and Tellis (2002) find that when the brand uses advertising to differentiate itself, it suppresses consumers’ responses to retail price promotions; however, if a manufacturer's advertisement provides only product information and allows consumers to comparison shop, it increases their responses to retail price promotions. The advertisement the manufacturer uses to communicate its brand value thus can be categorized as a pull strategy, aimed at communicating directly to end consumers to induce them to seek the brand in the store (Ailawadi et al. 2009). A good brand story that builds product knowledge and positive emotion thus allows the manufacturer to highlight its differences and reduce consumers’ price sensitivities. Retailers then can add the strong brand to their assortments, to increase their store attractiveness and decrease the need for price promotions. Retailers can build their brands similarly through stories. Traditionally, a retailer's competitive advantage depended on the manufacturer brands it sold, but branding is becoming increasingly important for retailers, to differentiate them from competitors that sell similar manufacturer brands (Ailawadi and Keller 2004). A clear and customer-oriented retail brand is one important way to communicate with customers. Consumers often engage in consumption behaviors to achieve certain goals or solve problems; these goal-directed shoppers choose the retail store with a brand image that fits their goals (Puccinelli et al. 2009). A well-designed brand story might foster customer understanding of retail offerings and arouse positive emotion, which should imply a solution to consumers’ problems and goals and thus create a positive brand attitude and purchase intentions. For example, in a “back-to-school” Walmart commercial, a caring mom worries about her daughter's first day, but shopping at Walmart allows her to obtain all the needed supplies at a low cost, which then enables her to put her daughter proudly on the school bus. This reversal story results in a higher state of arousal and influences positive attitude for parents, which retailers can use to communicate the image and value of the brand thus can establish differentiation and build retail brand equity. Design different brand stories for search versus experience products Wright and Lynch (1995) demonstrate the interaction of attribute type and media type; that is, advertising is superior in communicating search attributes, and direct experience is superior in communicating experience attributes. Mattila (2000) shows that story-based communication is especially effective in portraying and conveying the value of experience products. Extending from these studies, we further find that a good brand story has a positive effect on brand attitudes and purchase intentions for both search and experience products, though across product types, brand story elements influence customers’ brand attitudes and purchase intentions differently. First, authenticity improves customers’ brand attitude for experience products, more so than for search products. As Deighton, Romer, and McQueen (1989) indicate, using advertising dramas may decrease the level of believability, which hinders the transmission of brand value. However, if the story contains greater authenticity, this drawback disappears (Deighton, Romer, and McQueen 1989). The problem is particularly critical for experience products, because customers are more skeptical of their advertisements (Ford et al., 1990 and Nelson, 1974). An authentic brand story can communicate the value of experience products; however, an inauthentic story will lower its effectiveness. Second, conciseness influences customers’ brand attitude only for search products. The insignificant influence of conciseness for experience products may be due to consumers’ inability to judge experience products before purchase. Greater uncertainty along the search–experience product continuum, which results from a lack of knowledge and information, implies higher perceived risk for consumers, which increases the importance of experience and prompts customers to look for detailed information to make decisions (Mitra, Reiss, and Capella 1999). A concise story might not provide enough detail for consumers to judge an experience product. In addition, a concise story may lack what Aristotle called the “magnitude” necessary to achieve a full panoply of emotional responses. Classical rhetoricians similarly note that magnification, emphasis, and restatement heighten emotional appeals (Laib 1990). Therefore, a longer story is needed in an advertisement for an experience product. Third, the influence of reversal on brand attitude is much higher for experience products than for search products. A strong reversal story communicates the obvious problem-solving abilities of the product, which remedies the problem of insufficient information when consumers evaluate experience products before usage. Moreover, a reversal story that outlines clear causal relations can elicit higher levels of positive emotional responses (Escalas, Moore, and Britton 2004), which is especially important for experiential offerings, because consumer judgments of experience products are highly subjective. Therefore, advertising for experience offerings must keep consumers both interested and engaged. A reversal brand story that describes others’ similar problems and provides surrogate experience information (Franke, Huhmann, and Mothersbaugh 2004) can arouse consumers’ interest in and engagement with the story. Thus, the influence is significantly stronger for experience products than for search products. Fourth, humor has a relatively higher influence for search than for experience products. Search products solve routine problems, and consumers have relatively low motivation toward them, so they engage in peripheral processing (Liebermann and Flint-Goor 1996). As a peripheral story element, humor thus has a relatively higher influence on customer attitudes for search products. Furthermore, low-involvement, search product consumers attend to the story without explicitly intending to learn from the contents. Instead, they are attracted by the humor, which causes them pay more attention to funny details and generate favorable product evaluations (Zhang and Zinkhan 2006). Align the brand story with the product type Returning to the two cases of La Mer and Evian, the examples reveal distinctly different styles that are appropriate for their product categories. For its experience product, La Mer highlights authentic elements with details about the creation of the product, and it emphasizes a reversal element that is arousing and eventually achieves a happy ending. Evian, as a search product, instead provides conciseness in the form of several short stories that save readers’ time and provide humor, with a cute, funny baby picture, to communicate the product benefits. For practitioners, the results of this study provide insights into how to design brand stories that align with their offerings. Limitations and further research directions We acknowledge several limitations of this study. The first pertains to the issue of external validity, namely, whether we can generalize the results beyond students, the products we studied, and Taiwan (the study setting). This study adopts an experimental design, rather than a survey, to examine the hypotheses. This experimental design focuses more on internal validity, which means it may limit the generalizability of the results and reduce external validity. Nevertheless, the similarity in cultural origins and the role of important economic bodies in Asia suggest that these results provide managerial implications for businesses intending to enter Asia. Finally, this study employs print advertisements, so caution should be exercised before applying our findings to other forms of media. It would be interesting to determine whether story-form advertising is equally effective in visual settings such as television. Further research also might address other elements that constitute a good brand story. We investigate the relationships among four brand story elements and attitudes for different products; additional research might extend these elements and test these relationships with different customer segments. For example, there may be gender-based differences in decision-making behavior and evaluations. Also, the present study selects two products for each category—high- and low-priced—to lower the possible effects caused by the price. However, price is unquestionably a critical marketplace cue that relates to retail store positioning; consumers can easily access price information and discover signals from a business (Ho, Ganesan, and Oppewal 2011). Additional research should explore how price influences the effect of brand elements on brand attitude and purchase intention. Finally, we conducted our study in a Chinese cultural context, which tends to be more collectivistic, whereas Western cultures often are characterized as individualistic (Hofstede 1980). Such cultural differences can influence communication behaviors; and further research should extend this study to other cultures to explore potential differences. Executive summary Stories can resonate with customers and thus create competitive advantages for a business. For example, the Walt Disney Company has a long history of telling delighting and inspiring stories about every product; its storytelling ability has become a core value for the international corporation and has increased the level of inimitability from competitors. Therefore, understanding the elements of a good brand story and how these elements influence customer attitudes are crucial for business practitioners. The present study provides several implications for developing brand stories. First, marketers can use the four key story elements we have identified herein: authenticity, conciseness, reversal, and humor. Authenticity is a sense that readers obtain from material that makes them believe. For example, in the La Mer brand story, authentic elements include the name of the inventor, his job, the R&D time, and the number of experiments associated with the product. Conciseness indicates a story presents complete thoughts in few words and still covers important points adequately; it helps readers discern the main points of a brand story rapidly and thus relate positively to brand attitude. Reversal entails a climax and a turning point in a story. For example, the initial stage of Dr. Max Huber in La Mer story builds the problem, which progresses through rising action to a peak (the accident, his inability to find a solution). The turning point occurred when he finally discovered a cream that provided a solution. Humor indicates the responses including smiles or laughter exhibited by an audience responding to a message. Viewing humorous material increases viewers’ attention and comprehension of the story. In addition, these four elements are useful not only for manufacturers but also retailers. A well-designed retail story fosters customer understanding of retail offerings, arouses positive emotion, and creates a positive brand attitude. For example, in a “back-to-school” Walmart commercial, a caring mom worries about her daughter's first day, but shopping at Walmart allows her to obtain all the needed supplies at a low cost, which then enables her to put her daughter proudly on the school bus. This reversal story results in a higher state of arousal and influences positive attitude for parents, which retailers can use to communicate the image and value of the brand thus can establish differentiation and build retail brand equity. Recent studies have shown that communication practices should differ on a product-by-product basis. We further find that a good brand story has a positive effect on brand attitude and purchase intention for both search and experience products, though across product types, brand story elements influence customers’ brand attitude and purchase intention differently. The results indicate that authenticity is more important for experience than search products; conciseness has a significant influence on brand attitude only for search products; reversal is more critical to improve brand attitude for experience than search products; and humor exerts a relatively greater influence for search than for experience products. Finally, the present study suggests marketers should align their brand stories with their product types. Comparing to the two cases of La Mer and Evian, the examples reveal distinctly different styles that are appropriate for their product categories. For the experience product, La Mer—an experience-based skin care product, highlights authentic elements with details about the creation of the product, and it emphasizes a reversal element that is arousing and eventually achieves a happy ending. Evian bottle water, as a search product, instead provides conciseness in the form of several short stories that save readers’ time and provide humor, with a cute, funny baby picture, to communicate the product benefits. For practitioners, these findings provide insights for marketers who want to design brand stories that align with their product categories.