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Customer Engagement: Perceived Benefits and Effect of Individual and Brand Personality on Engagement Behaviors

Customer engagement has been defined as “the customer’s behavioral manifestations that have a brand or firm focus, beyond purchase, resulting from motivational drivers” (van Doorn et al. 2010, p. 254). The term is often used to refer to creating experiences that allow companies to build deeper, more meaningful and sustainable interactions with their customers (The Economist 2007). While practitioners have been very interested in customer engagement as it is believed to lead to loyalty, academic interest toward customer engagement as a separate construct has been somewhat limited (van Doorn et al. 2010). This research extends the literature on customer engagement by looking at internal and external motivational factors driving engagement and by showing that individual and brand characteristics affect consumer inclination to engage. This dissertation consists of two essays. Essay 1 presents a typology of customer engagement behaviors based on perceived motivational benefits driving those behaviors. This typology will be useful to marketers as it outlines important benefits derived from engaging in an extensive list of engagement behaviors and suggests how to motivate groups of behaviors based on salient benefits. In addition, the typology can be extended to new social media networks which may become available in the future. Further, understanding what motivational benefits are important for different groups of behaviors is key in order to encourage desired engagement behaviors. Essay 2 examines the effect of individual and brand personality on customer engagement. In particular, we explore how individual attachment style impacts one’s likelihood to engage with brands. We also study whether consumer perceptions of the brand as sincere or exciting affect customer engagement and brand attachment. Further, we examine the role of brand familiarity on the relationship between brand personality, attachment style, and engagement. Essay 1 draws upon the Uses and Gratifications Framework (Blumler and Katz 1974; Katz et al. 1974) which has been used to explain various engagement behaviors including participation in virtual communities, social networking, and blogs (Raacke and Bonds-Raacke 2008). We apply this framework to understand a wider range of customer engagement behaviors. In addition, we extend the four benefits comprising the framework (cognitive, social integrative, personal integrative, and hedonic), to include an additional type of benefit — economic benefits. This essay contributes to the theory on customer engagement by creating a typology of engagement behaviors. Currently, marketers are concerned with increasing engagement as a whole, but due to the broad scope of this construct, it might be more effective to target specific clusters of engagement behaviors instead. Essay 2 examines the effect of individual and brand personality on customer engagement behaviors. This essay makes three primary theoretical contributions. First, it begins to shed light on what are some of the personality characteristics differentiating engaged consumers. In particular, this essay shows that consumers with secure attachment styles tend to be more engaged than consumers with anxious attachment styles. Second, this research also contributes to the literature on brand relationships: we explore whether the way consumers relate to others mirrors the way they relate to brands. Last, to our knowledge, the effect of brand personality on customer engagement has not been examined. This essay has several managerial implications. First, it helps marketers identify personality characteristics that differentiate consumers that are more likely to engage. In addition, this essay also identifies some important brand characteristics that draw consumers to engage. This dissertation is one of the first attempts to use an integrative approach toward examining online customer engagement behaviors. Previous studies have either focused on one specific behavior or have conceptually discussed customer engagement. In this research, we create a typology of customer engagement by categorizing the different engagement behaviors on the basis of their perceived benefits. By classifying an extensive list of engagement behaviors with respect to their perceived motivational benefits, we create a nuanced typology of engagement behaviors which contributes to the theory on customer engagement. We also show that individual attachment style and brand personality affect customer engagement. In particular, we show that consumers with secure attachment style are more likely to engage with brands compared to consumers with anxious attachment style. Last, this research shows that brand familiarity is an important factor affecting engagement especially for consumers who have anxious attachment style.
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