Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The lore of the brand: an investigation into how organisations can build consumer engagement and brand affinity through a shared narrative

Fowlestone, Mark G.


Mark G. Fowlestone


This thesis aims to explore how organisations can build consumer engagement and affinity through establishing the conditions for a shared narrative. It is set against a backdrop where brands are facing up to a serious collapse in consumer confidence, which is having an increasingly detrimental effect on the trust that people choose to place in brands and a consequential erosion in the depth of emotional connectivity between them. The consensus view amongst practitioners is that brand engagement appears to be at best fragile and exacerbated further by how the internet is redefining the way consumers interact, influence and ultimately consume. The literature describes a deepening disconnection between brands and consumers and it is clear that any future prevailing societal model will require brands appealing more to consumers’ hearts, minds and aspirations. As a result, practitioners need to re-evaluate how brands can achieve deeper mutual bonds and be provided with rich insights to assist in this. The research will investigate firstly what appears to be causing the breakdown and examine what the barriers and enablers are to achieving a more mutually effective relationship. The most recent literature has laid the foundations of where a support mechanism may exist, that in encouraging an open and shared narrative to be developed with consumers. This thesis therefore aims to explore how organisations can build consumer engagement and affinity through creating
the conditions for a shared narrative. The literature review will emphasise that knowledge in this area is underdeveloped and lacks empirical evidence and hence the real value, and timely nature of this study.
The thesis adopts an interpretivist perspective and gathers qualitative data through seven in-depth interviews with senior marketing professionals of global brands and via twelve consumer focus groups. The data was analysed using a thematic framework, which, using a colour identification process, allowed the themes to be highlighted along the thesis journey from literature to recommendations. The process has established a number of salient findings such as: understanding where we are now - the disconnect; where we need to get to - a deeper, emotionally connected relationship; and how we should get there - the gap in the research and the insights to assist in practical application.
Firstly, there are a number of factors influencing the breakdown in brand and consumer affinity, from the increased power and choice afforded to consumers via the internet, to a lack of organisational openness and a willingness to engage with consumers. It is apparent that the old models of engagement are ill at ease with the modern branding landscape and that a new understanding of engagement is required.
Secondly, and apparent in all three cases under investigation, is that the foundations for deeper emotional relationships with consumers has to be via establishing authenticity. A number of drivers were identified that evoke authenticity cues: a shared corporate ethos, a staff passion for the brand, an engagement with community, and absolute corporate transparency. The broad raft of drivers identified resonates with consumers and lays the groundwork for developing a mutual narrative – the real driver of affinity.
Next the research uncovered a number of insightful narrative drivers that had real value in the cases for stimulating narrative between not only the organisation and consumers, but also broader consumer to consumer. These drivers are diverse, including a call to humanize the brand, having a corporate cause, having and showing flaws and ensuring all staff believe. Finally, the research concludes with a vision and a framework for how narrative can and should continually flourish and how this image of branding should sit at the very heart of the brand essence. Since this research is fundamentally exploratory in nature, the thesis also identifies opportunities for future research for academics and practitioners and, born out of the zeitgeist, an alternative and practical branding route map to consider.
The growing scepticism consumers have for brands, the effects of the global economic crisis on organisations and the deep illumination into companies that the web has offered to consumers, all mean the volatile brandscape is new and unchartered. Insights to assist practitioners in navigating through it and to ultimately assist in building consumer engagement are timely and it is affirmed that this thesis will provide the enlightenment to assist in recalibrating the situation.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jun 26, 2013
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords Consumer engagement; brands; consumer affinity; corporate ethos; transparency; community engagement
Public URL
Contract Date Jun 26, 2013
Award Date 2013-06


Downloadable Citations