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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The impact of fear on brand attachment Dunn, Lea Hunter


Throughout their daily lives consumers experience a vast array of emotions. At times these emotions are directly related to a consumption context, while other times these emotions are unrelated. While previous research on incidental emotion has generally found that negative emotions have negative outcomes for brands, the explicit effect of fear has been understudied. The present research explores the effect of fear on brand attachment. Across six experimental studies, this dissertation provides insight into the process by which consumers cope with fear and how this coping method has positive implications for brand attachments. This dissertation suggests that because people cope with fear through affiliation with others, in the absence of other individuals, consumers may seek affiliation with an available brand. This, in turn, will enhance emotional attachment to that brand. The first four studies of the dissertation highlight the basic process by which fear enhances emotional brand attachment. First, I show the basic fear-attachment effect (pilot study and study 1). Specifically, I show that a fearful experience, compared to a happy, sad, or exciting experience, results in higher emotional attachment to brands, even when consumers are unfamiliar with the brand. Second, I provide initial evidence for desire for affiliation, or perceived shared experience, as the underlying mechanism of the effect (study 1 and 2). Third, I provide stronger evidence for the process by ruling out simple increased consumption as an alternative explanation for the fear-attachment effect. In the last two studies, I examine factors that influence the fear-attachment process. First, I highlight the importance of product presence during the fear experience in order to allow for consumer coping (study 4). Second, I illuminate a distinction between two forms of brand attachment measurement: Thomson et al. (2005)’s emotional attachment and Park et al. (2010)’s more cognitive brand attachment. I demonstrate that a fear experience can facilitate initial emotional, but not cognitive, attachment without the necessity of time. In addition, this initial emotional attachment helps promote cognitive attachment over time (study 4). Third, I show that the fear-attachment process is unique to brands and not products in general (study 5).

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada