Investigating the Role of Attachment Dimensions As Predictors of Satisfaction in Consumer-Brand Relationships

Matthew Thomson, University of Southern California
Allison R. Johnson, University of Southern California
EXTENDED ABSTRACT - The relationship marketing literature has recently generated considerable interest in the process and consequences of developing strong relationships between consumers and brands (Fournier, 1998). Research in both psychology and consumer behavior indicates that as the satisfaction of parties in a relationship increases, so too does the strength and longevity of relationships (Sheth and Parvatiyar, 1995; Simpson, 1990). It is not surprising, then, that as relationship marketing has received attention by both practitioners and academics, there has been a call for advances in understanding consumer satisfaction (Fournier and Mick, 1999).
[ to cite ]:
Matthew Thomson and Allison R. Johnson (2002) ,"Investigating the Role of Attachment Dimensions As Predictors of Satisfaction in Consumer-Brand Relationships", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29, eds. Susan M. Broniarczyk and Kent Nakamoto, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 42.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29, 2002     Page 42

INVESTIGATING THE ROLE OF ATTACHMENT DIMENSIONS AS PREDICTORS OF SATISFACTION IN CONSUMER-BRAND RELATIONSHIPS

Matthew Thomson, University of Southern California

Allison R. Johnson, University of Southern California

EXTENDED ABSTRACT -

The relationship marketing literature has recently generated considerable interest in the process and consequences of developing strong relationships between consumers and brands (Fournier, 1998). Research in both psychology and consumer behavior indicates that as the satisfaction of parties in a relationship increases, so too does the strength and longevity of relationships (Sheth and Parvatiyar, 1995; Simpson, 1990). It is not surprising, then, that as relationship marketing has received attention by both practitioners and academics, there has been a call for advances in understanding consumer satisfaction (Fournier and Mick, 1999).

The resurgence in satisfaction research has included a movement towards more broadly construed measures that incorporate non-cognitive aspects of satisfaction. This progression marks a movement away from the traditional measures of satisfaction employed by the expectancy disconfirmation paradigm. Because consumers purchase products for a variety of reasons, including economic, functional, social, psychological, and emotional motivations, measures of satisfaction need to assess whether all these needs are being fulfilled. In this paper, we study two dependent variables, the first a traditional measure of consumer satisfaction drawn from recent research, the second a measure of satisfaction emotions that we design.

The purpose of our study is to consider whether a relationship orientation variable, about which research has proliferated in psychology, can add predictive and explanatory power to the study of satisfaction in consumer-brand relationships. Specifically, research on Attachment Theory (Bowlby, 1979; Ainsworth, 1989) has found that an individual difference variable, attachment style, predicts satisfaction in close interpersonal relationships (Collins and Read, 1990). In marketing, where research abounds on consumers’ relationships with service providers, special possessions, brands, and other objects, Attachment Theory may contribute to the recent efforts made in understanding the structure of, and influences on, consumer-brand relationships. Specifically, it is predicted that the dimensions of attachment identified in the psychological literature (Avoidance and Anxiety) will predict consumers’ levels of satisfaction in relationships. The Avoidance dimension taps a tendency to shun relationships due to a discomfort with intimacy and a feeling that others are not dependable and trustworthy. The Anxiety dimension assesses a fear of abandonment and rejection in relationships.

In our study, we test three hypotheses involving the two dimensions of attachment that predict an individual’s emotional reaction in a relationship. First, we predict that consumer high in Anxiety will report lower levels of satisfaction in their brand relationships. Second, we predict a negative relationship between Avoidance and satisfaction. These predictions are derived from findings that Anxiety and Avoidance are related to diminished experience of positive emotions (Simpson, 1990). Finally, the interaction of both these dimensions is predicted to have a significant effect on satisfaction scores. That is, as Avoidance and Anxiety increase simultaneously, satisfaction scores will decrease more than with increases in either of them alone.

Using regression analysis, our results show support for these hypotheses. Both Avoidance and Anxiety are significant predictors of a measure of satisfaction emotions, and significant predictors of a traditional cognitively-defined satisfaction measure as well. Furthermore, there is a significant interaction between Avoidance and Anxiety regressed on both the emotional and traditional measures of satisfaction. However, the direction of the interaction is not what was expected. Consumers who are either low or high on both attachment dimensions are likely to report high satisfaction scores, while those who are high on either dimension (and low on the other) are likely to report low satisfaction scores.

To discern whether the attachment dimensions account for variance in satisfaction emotions after removing the variance accounted for by the traditional measure of satisfaction, we also perform a hierarchical regression. Results show that while a traditional measure of satisfaction is a significant covariate, the attachment dimensions remain significant predictors of the measure of satisfaction emotions. These results indicate that the attachment dimensions account for variance in the measure of satisfaction emotions that is not captured by the traditional measure of satisfaction.

In conclusion, the prediction of satisfaction by attachment styles may be useful in segmentation as an individual difference. Attachment styles may also help to explain the existence and characteristics of "relationship averse" segments identified by Price and Arnould (1999). Finally, our results may help to enlighten future research on both satisfaction and relationship marketing by highlighting the importance of emotions.

----------------------------------------