Review Article: 2023 Vol: 27 Issue: 4
Udayangani Rathnayaka, University of Peradeniya
Citation Information: Haque, M. Akhtar, MD., Bala, R., & Azam, M. S. (2023). The role of sensory brand experience on customer brand engagement: testing the moderating effect of brand love: a case of fast food retail outlets sri lanka. Academy of Marketing Studies Journal, 27(2), 1-16.
In the modern world’s ultra-competitive marketplace where the companies are engaged in a cut throat competition to secure their market share and the mind share, a growing attention was paid on delivering a sensory brand experience for the consumers. The purpose of the study is to analyze the impact of sensory brand experience on customer brand engagement based on the theory of embodied cognition and the triangular theory of brand love.The concept of brand love has been identified as the mediating effect on the relationship between sensory brand experience and customer brand engagement and, four hypotheses were developed based on the relationships with the purpose of finding answers for the four research questions. Survey strategy was used to collect data through a self-administered questionnaire which the reliability was assured with the pilot test conducted prior to collect data for the master study. 420 complete responses from the consumers in the Western province who had a recent experience with the franchised fast food outlet were received for the study based on the quota sampling technique. SEM technique was used to test the hypotheses and all the hypotheses were supported. The results of the data analysis revealed a positive and significant impact made from the sensory brand experience on customer brand engagement, sensory brand experience of brand love and brand love on customer brand engagement. Further, it was reported a partial mediated effect of the brand love on the relationship between sensory brand experience and customer brand engagement.
Sensory Brand Experience, Brand Love, Customer Brand Engagement, Theory of Embodied Cognition.
As a top priority activity, sensory branding plays a key role in exerting a powerful influence on the consumer buying decisions by integrating the sensory stimulations in to the brand communications (Biswas, 2014). As depicted by the sensations in the human body are created with the simulation of five sensory organs namely eye, ear, nose, skin and tongue with the sensors of sight (visual), sound (auditory), smell (atmospheric), touch (tactile) and taste (gastronomic).This will ultimately create a sensory brand experience which strengthens the engagement of the consumers to the brand. The concept of sensory brand experience can be defined as the “sensations aroused by the brand-related stimuli that are part of a brand’s design, identity, packaging, communications and the environment” As depicted by Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel”. Traditional marketing strategies such as advertising, sales promotion and direct marketing that are used to attract and retain customers are no more relevant for the fast food industry in today’s competitive era (Hussain, 2018).
Merely appealing visual sense and auditory sense may not be the only ways to attract customers as they are given a big bunch of options to switch from one to another under a zero cost. It is essential to understand and address the human senses as they are important elements in better understanding the consumption processes. Sensory branding is a revolutionary new trend in the discipline of marketing in which marketers stimulate the human five senses and create an emotional level of attachment in the consumer mindset towards the brand (Hussain, 2018).
Sensory marketing can be identified as one of the newest strategies that today’s marketers utilize in order to attract and retain customers by providing them a holistic consumer dining experience within the outlet via stimulating the five senses that is engaging and memorable (sight, smell, touch, hear, and taste). The research has shown that, the sensory elements create sensory expressions and influences positively on consumer behavior (Dissabandara & Dissanayake, 2019; Elangovan et al, 2017), intentions to purchase the brand, customer loyalty (Fernando et al, 2018; Hussain, 2018; Nadanyiova et al, 2019), consumer touching behavior brand differentiations (Galande, 2019; Hassan, 2016), sensory identity brand reputations (Ozyer, 2016), perceived likeability (Rifqiya et al, 2016), value co-creation. However it has been extensively studied by the different scholars that the sensory brand experience possesses a positive influence on attracting a consumer to a particular brand of an organization. The attention which has been paid towards the consumer brand engagement, in the stream of marketing literature is rapidly increasing (Brodie et al, 2011; Hollbeek et al, 2016. Further, customer brand engagement has been identified as a strategic imperative which directly influences on the firm performance.In fact, the concept of consumer brand engagement is viewed as a key research priority. Lindstorm (2005) stated that, the sensory brand experience is all about building emotional ties between consumer and product, evaluating and incorporating the different sensory touch points defined the sensory brand experience as of how individuals response when a firm, in offering and delivering brands, goods or services, participates in the purchase and consumption processes through the involvement of the five human senses that appeal the consumers in a highly emotional manner. By looking at a different track, Bakman et al (2013) defined the sensory brand experience as a strong predictor of an individual’s place, dependence, which will provide emotional benefits to the individual. Particularly, Hepola et al (2017) defined the sensory brand experience similarly as the mean by which the individuals experience their brands through the five senses and thereby creating a positive emotional attachment Research has shown that sensory brand experience evidenced a positive influence on the cognitive, emotional and behavioral dimensions of customer brand engagement (Hepola et al., 2017).
Even though several studies have been conducted in the domain of sensory branding, because of its novelty this concept raises a lot of gaps to be filled by the academics (Riza, & Wijayanti, 2018). Similarly, it is evidenced that, the marketing managers in the field of sensory marketing remains in its infancy (Dissabandara et al., 2019; Hepola et al 2017). It has been argued that, the sensory brand experience and customer brand engagement dichotomy is particularly intriguing due to its controversial relationship (Calder et al, 2009; Hollebeek et al, 2014).
Research has shown that the sensory brand experience and customer brand engagement still remains largely unconnected (Hepola et al, 2017) and the researchers are encouraged to study the experience-engagement dichotomy in a greater extent in the future. Even though a majority of companies in the fast food industry have started utilize the sensory brand techniques as a marketing tool (Hepola et al, 2017) the outcomes of these marketing efforts have not been measures to a larger extent.
Since different scholars (Bakman et al., 2013, Hepola et al., 2017) have defined the sensory brand experience in different ways, working definition has been developed for the study as, “the sensory brand experience is the stimulation of human five senses through brand related stimuli which ultimately make individuals feel their brands, which directs consumers in developing an emotional attachment towards the brand”.
Customer brand engagement is defined as “the level of a customer’s cognitive, emotional and behavioral investment in specific brand interactions” (Hollebeek et al, 2014; Hollebeek and Chen, 2014; Dwlvedi, 2015; Hepola et al 2017; Brodle et al, 2011).
The concept of customer brand engagement is viewed by different scholars as a multidimensional phenomenon (Brodie et al, 2011; Hollebeek et al, 2014; Dwivedi, 2015) which comprises with cognitive, affective and behavioral dimensions. Cognitive dimension revealed “a consumer’s level of brand related thought processing and elaboration in a particular customer-brand interaction” (Hollebeek et al, 2014).The Affective dimension is “a consumer’s degree of positive brand related affect in a particular consumer-brand interaction” (Hollebeek et al, 2011; Hepola et al, 2017).Behavioral dimension is defined as “a consumer’s level of energy, effort and time spent on a brand in a particular consumer/brand interaction”(Hepola et al, 2017).
It was claimed that, the relationship between experience and engagement is controversial thus it is fascinating (Hollebeek et al, 2014; Calder et al, 2009). Therefore, due to its important application in the modern marketing context, and the dearth of studies remaining in the existing literature (Hepola et al, 2017), researchers are encouraged to examine the sensory brand experience- engagement dichotomy to a greater extent in the future.
According to Carroll brand love is defined as an enthusiastic and powerful connection created in between a satisfied customer and a brand. Though, the concept of brand love appears in recent research studies as a newest phenomenon, the same brand–consumer resume relationship has been tested since the 90’s through the general constructs such as brand commitment, brand loyalty and brand trust (Chaudhuri; Fournier, 1998; Fournier and Yao, 1997; Samuelsen and Sandvik, 1998). Therefore, there is a dearth of studying the application of brand love as a phenomenon which depicts non-interpersonal love.
Recent years, two notions of the marketing literature have fascinated the interest of the scholars in the field of marketing namely the brand love; Batra et al, 2012;:) and the brand engagement (Brodie et al, 2011; Hollebeek et al, 2014) as they are directly linked with the psychological state of the humans (Suarez et al, 2016). Though, there can be seen a plenty of research studies which have been conducted separately, the theories stems those two constructs are different and remain largely unconnected. (Suarez et al, 2016). Moreover, in order to bridge the gap between the concept of brand love and the customer brand engagement, developed a model of brand love for intangible assets. Even though few studies have come out, due to the novelty of this area, still there is a dearth of research studies which are different relationships including antecedents and consequences (Suarez et al, 2016). Thus it became worth of studying the relationship between brand love and the customer brand engagement.
As stated by there can be observed a bulk of research studies conducted in the domain of sensory experience (Dissabandara et al, 2019; Elangovan et al, 2017; Fernando et al, 2018; Galande, 2019; Hassan, 2016; Hussain, 2018; Nadanyiova et al, 2018; Ozyer et al, 2016; Rifqiya et al, 2016; but paid a limited attention on the underlying processes and a very few of them utilized the theory of embodied cognition in their studies as for the base of their study. Moreover, they have depicted that, the existing body of knowledge is not provides sound literature on how unconscious bodily simulations directed the consumers in making judgment and decision making regarding a particular product, brand or a company Dissabandara, 2019 & Dissanayake, 2019).
Grounded on the research problem of the study, the researcher conducted a detailed literature survey and the theory of embodied cognition was identified as the base theory for the research study. According to this theory, it is assumed that, the people in the general world acquire information from various sources through the five human senses namely sense of vision, sense of smell, sense of sound, sense of taste and sense of touch and those information will be undertaken to a process which will ultimately directs people in to specific behaviors. This theory argues that, the human mind set works as an information processor where the inputs from different external stimulus which are available in the external environment takes through human five senses without conscious awareness and those inputs will entered in to information processes and then it will directed to the specific human actions and cognitions regarding a particular phenomenon; Paivo, 2006. Since marketers started realizing the power of unconscious stimuli on bodily sensations in determining the decisions they make, the attention towards delivering a sensory brand experience for the customers was emerged Dissabandara, 2019 & Dissanayake, 2019; Elangovan et al, 2017; Hussain, 2018; Nadanyiova M.et al,2018; Fernando H.S.M.et al, 2018; Galande, 2019; Hassan, 2016; Nadagopal et al, 2014; (Ozyer .Y et al, 2016; Rifqiya .A et al, 2016).
Since that engagement or the behavior is related to a phenomenon that can be identified as a brand related engagement behavior and that will be identified as the customer brand engagement (Hapsari et al., 2016).
Accordingly, the concept of sensory brand experience becomes the predictor variable of the study and the customer brand engagement becomes the dependent variable of the study. The relationship between the sensory brand experience and the customer brand engagement has established in the existing body of knowledge through direct and indirect relationships (Hepola et al., 2017; Prentice et al., 2019; Farhat et al., 2020). The present study proposed to bring in a new variable namely brand love as a mediating variable for the relationship between sensory brand experience and customer brand engagement. There are no adequate evidences of research studies found in the existing body of knowledge which has tested the sensory brand experience impact on customer brand engagement through the mediation of brand love. The relationship between sensory brand experience and the brand love has been strongly predicted by in his seminal book on Multisensory Brand Experiences and Brand Love: Myth or Reality. Even though there are no adequate evidences of quantitative research studies to establish the relationship between sensory brand experience and brand love, it was found few research studies which have tested the relationship between brand experience and brand love (Bicakcioglu et al., 2018; Huang, 2017; Garg et al., 2015; Sarkar et al., 2019). The relationship between the concepts of brand love and customer brand engagement have already established in the recent studies; Suarez et al., 2018; Pandir & Yasin, 2017; Tolbert and Gammoh, 2012). Thus the proposed conceptual model for the study is depicted as follows.
The relationship among the sensory brand experience and the customer brand engagement have been established in recent research studies (Hepola et al., 2017; Prentice et al., 2019; Farhat et al., 2020). Based on the study done by Hepola et al. (2017), it has found that, sensory brand experience exhibits a positive impact on the cognitive, affection and behavioral dimensions of the customer brand engagement. In this study they have used the customer brand engagement as a mediating variable which directs the brand equity but they are further suggesting the research community to seek the direct or indirect relationships between the sensory brand experience and the customer brand engagement. Consistent with the above discussion, following hypothesis is developed.
H1: There is an impact of sensory brand experience on customer brand engagement
Majority of the scholars who have undertaken studies have claimed that, the external stimulus provided by the marketing practitioners to be unconsciously stimulated by the consumers will eventually create a strong emotional bond with the brand itself. The relationship between the sensory brand experience and the brand love has been strongly predicted by in his seminal book on Multisensory Brand Experiences and Brand Love: Myth or Reality. In this book, as a means of making brands stand out in a competitive environment and inducing feelings of love towards a brand has discussed widely. Accordingly, it has been proven from that, the sensory brand experience has identified as central to express the sensory brand values to a customer that direct to create an emotional engagement with the brand (love) over the time. However, there are few studies found in the literature, which have already established the link between the brand experience and the brand love (Bicakcioglu et al., 2018; Huang, 2017; Garg et al., 2015; Sarkar et al., 2019). This discussion informs the following hypothesis;
H2: There is an impact of sensory brand experience on brand love.
The concept of brand love and customer brand engagement was identified as the two concepts which captivated the interest of scholars in the marketing; Batra et al, 2012; Caroll; Brodie et al, 2011; Hollebeek et al, 2014). By bridging these two concepts, Suarez et al., (2016) in his study established a link between brand love and customer brand engagement through a qualitative approach. Few research scholars conducted their studies to establish the link between the brand love and customer brand engagement; Suarez et al., 2018; Pandir & Yasin, 2017; Tolbert and Gammoh, 2012). Consistent with this view, the following hypothesis is developed:
H3: There is an impact of brand love on customer brand engagement.
Engagement implies with the connection between two phenomenon) and this connection is strengthen purely based on the interactivity (Brodiel et al., 2011; Hollebeek et al., 2014). This connection or the interactivity is not purely based on the casual relationships but based on the long term relationships and there, in order to maintain such a long term relationship, both parties have to play an active role (Hollebeek, 2011). When the individuals are trying to make a long term relationship between themselves and the brand, it becomes customer brand engagement and this connection leads to repeat patronage behaviors (Hapsari et al., 2016. Customer experience with a brand will always tend to creates emotional bonds and the connections with the brand (Cleff et al., 2018) and enhances the emotional attachment Bairrada et al., 2018). Such types of emotional attachments created between brand and the consumer will eventually leads to cause continuous purchases, brand recommendations, developing relationships with brand and becoming a loyalty customer. Accordingly, following hypothesis is developed.
H4: There is a mediating impact of brand love towards the relationship between Sensory brand experience and customer brand engagement.
As per the nature of the objectives of the present study, it falls under the positivist paradigm. This is because the researcher is working with observable social realities and the end result can be generalized to similar circumstances. The researcher sees the examination of the research problem as an objective reality which is separated from the convictions of people. Moreover, the researcher is not a part of the issue being examined; rather she watches the circumstance freely, being out of the specific situation, so as to maintain a strategic distance from individual bias in portraying the issue. Thus, the researcher is part of the objectivist ontology. According to, in some cases, epistemology influences data collection methods as well as the research methodology. Thus, the current research methodology is influenced by the researcher’s empiricist epistemological interpretation. According to the ontological and epistemological views held by the researcher, the current study follows a quantitative methodology.
The current study will undertake the deductive approach with a self-administered structured survey strategy. One strategy will consider in data collection at the mono method whereas multiple method uses two or more strategies in collecting data. The research has the opportunity to select one of the time horizons available for a study based on the way that the study will collect data. By adopting cross sectional study, the research will collect data at one given point and adopting longitudinally the researcher can collect data over a considerable higher time period.
Since the fast food outlets are not maintaining a proper list of consumers who visit the stores, it is hard to develop the sample frame which is meant by the list of elements of the population. Thus researcher selected non-probability, Quota sampling technique as per the sampling technique of the study. Quota sampling is identified as two-staged restricted judgmental sampling. The first stage involves the process of developing the quota and the second stage involves selecting the sample elements from the population based on the convenience or judgment. Accordingly, the present study has developed the quota as based on the usage rate and the age groups population in Western Province. Three main age categories have identified from the information retrieved by Census and Statistics Department of Sri Lanka (2012) as 20-29, 30-39 and 40-49 respectively. Based on the population density for each of the group, the quota has been decided and in the second stage of quota sampling, the sample respondents were selected based on the convenience sampling method.
The unit of analysis of the proposed study is the individual level. Thus the unit of analysis in the current study is the consumer who have recently visited a fast food outlet in Sri Lanka in order to have a dining experience.
Due to its quantitative nature, the proposed study will intended to collect primary data through a self-administered structured questionnaire. The mode of questionnaire will comprise mainly with the online (Google form). The questionnaire, once developed, was sent to five people including one university academic staff members, two fast food retail outlet executives and two customers, for their comments. These participants were given the questionnaire and asked to examine it for meaningfulness, relevance, and clarity. After the pretest, 50 respondents were given edited questionnaires for the pilot test. The purposes of the pilot test are to identify and eliminate potential problems in the questionnaire design (Malhotra & Peterson 2006) and to examine the validity and reliability of the measures used in the questionnaire (Sekaran & Bougie 2009).
Pre- Structural Equation Modeling Technical Analysis
As per the necessity of approximating the number of assumptions hold by Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) analysis in order to ensure a trustworthy results, Missing data analysis, Identification of outliers, Test of multivariate assumptions namely, Normality, Linearity, Homoscedasticity, Multicollinearity, Common Method Variance, Test of adequacy of sample and Unidimensionality of the data were performed.
The test of multicollinearity was performed in order to identify whether there are any multicollinearity issues are in existence. Based on the analysis it affirms that the tolerance values are greater than 0.1 and the VIF values are less than 10, evidencing that there is no multicollinearity in existence.Harman’s single factor test was performed in order to analyze the Common Method Variance.The test revealed that, the largest extracted factor explained less than 50% of the variance (i.e., 19.841%). The common method bias is only a concern when more than 50% is explained and this suggests the estimates were not biased (Padsakoff, Mackenzie, Podsakoff, 2003). KMO analysis and the Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity was performed in order to test the adequacy of sample for the study. The test results confirmed that, The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin values are >.5 as acceptable. Therefore, it can be concluded that factor analysis is appropriate for these data set. Moreover, for these data set, Bartlett's test is highly significant (p < 0.05), and therefore factor analysis is appropriate.
Structural Equation Modeling (SEM)
The Structural equation modeling is characterized by two basic components namely; the measurement model and the structural model (Hair et al., 2014). Accordingly, a Confirmatory Factor Analysis was performed in order to assess the contribution of each of the measurement item as well as to identify the extent to which, the scale measures the concept which is simply assuring reliability. It is recommended to evaluate the Goodness of Fit (GOF) when assessing the model fit (Hair et al., 2010). Mainly there are three types of indices namely, absolute fit indices, incremental fit indices and model parsimony. To ensure the model fit and convergent validity the standardized factor loadings below 0.5 were removed from the initial model applying the stepwise deletion method where the items with lowest factor loadings were removed first (Hair et al., 2014) in order to refine the initial model of the study. As a result one item (UNI 2) was removed. Hence, through CFA it was confirmed that the items did not fit with the current context in reality. According to Hair et al. (2014) modification indices of approximately 4.0 or greater suggest that the fit could be improved significantly by freeing the corresponding path to be estimated. Hence, modification indices were taken in to consideration and were corrected accordingly to further refine the model Figure 1.
Cronbach’s Alpha reliability test was performed for the data set in order to provide an indication of internal reliability of indicators used to measure constructs In other words, it assesses how highly interrelated the indicators are used together to measure their associated construct (Hair et al, 2014). Given the recommended Cronbach’s alpha greater than 0.7 (Hair et al; 2014), the analysis shows acceptable reliability, with the coefficient alpha for more than 0.7 for all dimensions namely Volume (0.746),Uniqueness (0.701),Consistency (0.897),Affection (0.756) and Passion (0.885).Validity is a “test of how well an instrument that is developed measures the particular concept it is intend to measure” (Sekaran & Bougie, 2013). As mentioned above, in order to achieve the ultimate objective of CFA construct validity should be guaranteed.The purpose of discriminant validity is to check whether concepts or measurements that are not supposed to be related are actually unrelated (Sekaran & Bougie, 2013). High discriminant validity provides evidence that a construct is unique and captures some phenomena other measures do not (Hair et al., 2014). One of the tests to mark discriminant validity is to compare the AVE values for any two constructs with the square of the correlation estimate between these two constructs. If the AVE is greater than the squared correlations, discriminant validity can be established (Hair et al., 2014).The respective AVE, CR and discriminant validity measures of the constructs in the final measurement model are given below. Consequently, all the AVE values are above the threshold of 0.5 and similarly CR values are above 0.6 for which indicates validity of the dimensions Table 1.
|Table 1 Convergent and Discriminant Validity|
Convergent and Discriminant Validity
Square of inter construct correlations and the AVE for all constructs.
Structural Model and Hypotheses Testing
The proposed structural model for the current study is composed of four major latent constructs, of which two are exogenous (SBE, BL) and one is endogenous (CBE).Following figure depicts the structural models.SEM GOF Indices for Structural Model Tables 2 & 3.
|Table 2 Square of Inter Construct Correlations and the AVE for all Constructs|
|Table 3 Structural Model and Hypotheses Testing|
|GOF Measure||Model Values|
|Absolute fit indices||CMIN/DF||2.431|
|Incremental fit indices||IFI||0.655|
|Parsimony fit index||PRATIO||0.815|
Hypotheses Testing: Direct Relationships
Following table presents the results of testing the hypothesized direct relationships among Sensory brand experience, Brand love and Customer brand engagement. The table also includes the standardized path coefficients, t-values, and the corresponding significance levels Table 4.
|Table 4 Hypotheses Testing: Direct Relationships|
|H1 : There is an impact of sensory brand experience on customer brand engagement||SBE → CBE||0.395||0.003**||Supported|
|H2: There is an impact of sensory brand experience on brand love||SBE → BL||0.816||0.000**||Supported|
|H3: There is an impact of brand love on customer brand engagement||BL→ CBE||0.645||0.000**||Supported|
Hypotheses Test Results for the H1, H2 and H3.
Hypothesis 1 investigated the impact of sensory brand experience (SBE) on customer brand engagement (CBE). It was hypothesized that there would be an impact of sensory brand experience (SBE) on customer brand engagement (CBE).
The results demonstrates a positive and significant path (β=0.395, p value of 0.003). Thus, hypotheses one (H1) was supported.Hypothesis 2 investigated the impact of sensory brand experience (SBE) on brand love (BL). It was hypothesized that there would be an impact of sensory brand experience (SBE) on brand love (BL). The results demonstrates a positive and significant path (β =0.816, p value of 0.000). Thus, hypotheses two (H2) was supported.Hypothesis 3 investigated the impact of sensory brand experience (SBE) on customer brand engagement (CBE). It was hypothesized that there would be an impact of sensory brand experience (SBE) on customer brand engagement (CBE). The results demonstrates a positive and significant path (β =.645, p value of 0.000). Thus, hypotheses three (H3) was supported.
Hypotheses Testing: Moderating Relationships
The indirect effect of brand love (BL) on the relationship between sensory brand experience (SBE) and customer brand engagement (CBE) was positive and statistically tested for significance (β = 0.526, p value of 0.001).
These findings indicate that the relationship between sensory brand experience (SBE) and customer brand engagement (CBE) is partially mediated by brand love (BL). Thus, hypothesis four (H4) was accepted Table 5.
|Table 5 Findings of the Mediator Effect|
|Hypothesis||Direct Effect||Indirect Effect||Total Effect||Mediation Effect|
|H4: There is a mediating impact of brand love towards the relationship between Sensory brand experience and customer brand engagement||Path||SBE→CBE||SBE→BL→CBE||0.921||Partial mediation|
What is the Impact of Sensory Brand Experience on Customer Brand Engagement?
The findings of the current study on hypothesis one (H1) is consistent with few of the recent research studies conducted by research scholars. The sensory approaches to create consumer experience are considered as a vital tool in brand management, Lindstorm, 2005, Sensory brand experience created for the customers through sensory marketing strategies create a disruptive, innovative and constantly seeking out ways to amaze, shock and get people talking about the brand and thereby make them engage with the brand (Experience team, 2019). The research commissioned by brand consultant Lindstrom (2017), depicted that, the media that appeals to more than three senses can increase the brand impact and engagement by over 70 percent. Based on the accessible literature, it is evident that, a very few scholars have paid their attention on testing the direct dichotomy of sensory brand experience and customer brand engagement. Hepola et al., (2017), exhibited a positive impact of sensory brand experience to customer brand engagement. Apart from the study conducted by Hepola et al.,(2017) there are few other studies who have tested the relationship between sensory, intellectual, behavioral brand experience and the customer brand engagement. A study conducted by Prentice et al., (2019) revealed that, the concept of brand experience has a significant and hierarchical effect on customer engagement in relation to the airline customers. With the examination of the type of relationship that exists between brand experience and online customer brand engagement, Yasin et al., (2019) predicted a positive and significant relationship. This has been further justified by the research studies conducted by; Salgado & Vela, (2019), that there is a positive significant effect between brand experience and customer brand engagement in developing brand advocacy and revisit intentions.
However, there are few inconsistencies identified in the existing body of knowledge on the findings of the current study. Hepola et al., (2017) in his study found that the affective component of the customer brand engagement makes a higher impact when compares to the cognitive and behavioral component in determining the customer brand engagement. Nevertheless, findings of the current study revealed that, there will be an equal impact made by cognitive, behavioral and affective component in determining the customer brand engagement. This has been further argued by Kaushik et al., (2017) that the customer brand engagement is equally determined by the cognitive, behavioral and affective component thus an equal importance to be given for each of the component. One of the first research studies conducted to test the brand engagement in Higher Education Industries by Farhat et al., (2020) did not find a significant direct relationship between sensory, intellectual and behavioral brand experience with the customer brand engagement unlike the findings of the previous studies (Hepola et al., (2017); Prentice et al., (2019); Yasin et al., (2019); Salgado & Vela, (2019). However, the results validated the significant direct and mediated relationship between brand interactivity and brand engagement, confirmation to the earlier studies (Brodie et al., 2011; De Vries & Carlson, 2014).
However, due to its intense competition which is observed in the real world scenario, creating a differentiation through a functional value has become obsolete and the requirement of a differentiation through emotional value has emerged. This has been evidenced by the research study which has been undertaken by Barker et al., (2015) in USA, surveying 20,000 consumer on a weekly basis. Accordingly he found that, the company performance is closely linked to the brand love and it has become a superior indicator which determined the company performance as the wining brand in today’s context are the ones who have been able to transform their consumers to brand lovers.
Despite the efforts taken by research scholars in validating the measurement properties for the concept of brand love, due to its novelty, there are no any adequate evidences to show the direct relationships except the studies conducted by in establishing the link between sensory brand experience and brand love. However, the studies conducted by Singh et al.,(2020), Zhand Xi, 2019), Prentice et al., (2019), Bicakcioglu et al., (2018), Huang, (2017), and Sarkar et al., (2019) found that the sensory dimension of the brand experience plays a pivotal role in determining the brand love.
Accordingly, Suarez et al., (2016) pioneered in establishing the link between the brand love and the customer brand engagement through a qualitative approach. They have developed a conceptual framework which embodied the schema for consumers’ ties to brands while revealing the pathway from the initial affective relationship (likeability) to the zenith of the process (engagement). Due to its growing interest Suarez et al., (2018) presented their study to the existing body of knowledge by proving a strong empirical evidence on the relationship between brand love and customer brand engagement. It was observed in the existing body of knowledge that the concept of brand love has been tested as a mediating variable, moderating variable as well as an independent variable. The link between brand love and customer brand engagement has tested by various scholars through quantitative approaches Doorn et al., 2010). By confirming the previous studies few researchers tested impact made by brand love on customer brand engagement recently. Pandir et al., (2017) proved the link which was established between brand love and customer brand engagement through a quantitative approach. With the same direction in their study of examining the effects of brand love and brand image on customer brand engagement, found that, both brand love and brand loyalty has a positive and significant influence on the customer brand engagement. Apparently, Prentice et al., (2019) and Junaid et al., (2019) in their recent research study provided another empirical evidence for the existing body of knowledge by testing the impact made by brand love on customer brand engagement.
Apart from the consistencies to the findings of the hypotheses three (H3) which was developed to find answer for the research question three, there are no adequate literature evidences in the accessible literature which provides contradictory views on the relationship between brand love and the customer brand engagement.
With its emergence of marketing 3.0 and 4.0, the role of the brands were not merely considered as for identifying the products, services or companies. Consumers try to acquire those brands that allow them to especially meet their deeper needs for social, economic, and environmental justice (Suarez et al., 2017). In such instances, the customer brand relationships should be broaden thus, the brand love and the customer brand engagement plays a pivotal role in building emotional brand relationships and by making them engage with the brand (Suarez et al., 2017; Caroll & Most of the companies are compelling to transform their brands in to “Love Brands” in the world of customer engagement.
Does Brand Love Mediate the Relationship Between Sensory Brand Experience and Customer Brand Engagement?
According to the hypotheses test results, the fourth hypothesis under the fourth research question was accepted and the results says that, the brand love partially mediated towards the relationship between sensory brand experience and customer brand engagement in the franchised fast food outlets in Sri Lanka. Mediation effect of brand love on the relationship between sensory brand experience and customer brand engagement was not justified in a single model in the existing literature. However, the relationship between sensory brand experience and brand love; and brand love and customer brand engagement were tested and justified in the existing literature. The relationship between sensory brand experience and brand love as the mediating variable has been tested by. However, the relationship between brand experience and brand love has been tested by different scholars; Singh et al., 2020; Zhand Xi, 2019; Prentice et al., 2019; Bicakcioglu et al., 2018; Huang, 2017; Sarkar et al., 2019) and found that, the sensory dimension of the brand experience plays a pivotal role in determining the brand love. The relationship between brand love as the mediating variable of the current study on the association of customer brand engagement has widely tested and proven by few research scholars Doorn et al., 2010; Pandir et al.2017; Prentice et al., 2019; Junaid et al., 2019). Apart from that, the concept of brand love has been tested widely as a mediating effect in different studies. In that, Prentice et al. (2019) in his study tested the mediating effect of brand love on the relationship between brand experience and service quality; and customer brand engagement with reference to the airline sector and reported a partial mediation of brand love on the relationship between brand experience and service quality; and customer brand engagement. Moreover, the antecedents and the consequences of the concept of brand love were widely tested by the previous scholars. Accordingly, customer satisfaction and brand experience was identified as one of the most prominent antecedents of brand love while intention to pay price premium, brand loyalty, positive word of mouth and customer engagement (Ranaweera and Menon, 2008;; can be identified as the consequences of brand love. As depicted by a favorable brand experience will always directed towards the brand love. Thus, it will further justify the mediating effect on the relationship between sensory brand experience and customer brand engagement.
With the purpose of achieving the key research objective of the study developed based on the research problem of identifying the impact made by sensory brand experience on customer brand engagement, the research framework of the study was developed grounded on the literature review and the theory of embodied cognition. Accordingly the research framework comprised with three main constructs namely sensory brand experience, brand love and customer brand engagement. While achieving the research problem and the key research objective of the study, four specific research questions were developed aligning with four research objectives and four research hypotheses formulated based on the relationships identified through the constructs of the research framework of the study. Hence the pilot study was assured the reliability of the study, the data collection for the master study was started with a survey method from a sample of 420 respondents selected through convenience, quota sampling. Descriptive statistics along with the structural equation modeling techniques were used to analyze the data and a preliminary analysis was conducted prior to running the structural equation modeling analysis in order to test the multivariate assumptions. Hypotheses test results of the revealed the empirical evidences on the positive impact between sensory brand experience and customer brand engagement, sensory brand experience and brand love and brand love and customer brand engagement. Moreover, it was reported a partial mediating impact of brand love on the relationship between sensory brand experience and customer brand engagement. Finally, a discussion on the findings was carried out, followed by the managerial implications and theoretical implications. To achieve a better customer brand engagement, it is required to develop a brand love which is a strong faith or the bond and is something beyond the emotional attachment towards a brand. Based on the study findings, it was predicted that, in franchised fast food outlets, sensory brand experience exposes to the customers is a meaningful way of achieving the brand love. Particularly, the study findings were further justified by the existing literature. Thus, the marketer’s role is to design the store environment in a particular manner in which leads to appeal the five human senses and delivering a memorable sensory brand experience that will always provide an assurance on determining the brand love. When designing the sensory brand experience to be delivered for the customers who come in to dine in for the fast food outlets, it is essential to focus on the volume, uniqueness and the consistency of the level of sensory brand experience delivered for the consumers that will leads to create a cognitive, behavioral and emotional level of customer brand engagement.
This study provides a meaningful contribution to the franchised fast food industry literature by providing more productive understanding on the impact of sensory brand experience on customer brand engagement via the mediating effect of brand love. By achieving the research objectives of the study it has been able to bridge the knowledge gap, empirical gap and the performance gap articulated at the beginning of the study.
Limitations of the Study
Though this research makes a significant contribution in terms of both theoretical and practical points of view, there are some limitations associated with the study, which are described below. An examination of those limitations will assist future researchers to direct their studies towards them. Due to the limited number of observations collected through the survey questionnaire, data was limited to the area tested, and therefore, the results may not be generalizable to other contexts. As this study focused solely on the franchised fast food industry, no conclusions can be drawn about other product or service categories. The respondents were able to evaluate their own favorite brand, which limits the generalizability of the results.
Directions for Further Studies
Future research work should consider the longitudinal research design which can be undertaken to capture the consumer engagement levels at different time intervals. Future research should consider the online environment (social media etc.) and other industries and also are invited to analyze the characteristics of the brand or individual characteristics of the customers in this research model. The role of demographic and psychographic factors can also be considered while exploring the customer brand engagement because these factors will be able to create a brand meaning for the customers.
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Received: 14-Nov-2022, Manuscript No. AMSJ-22-12860; Editor assigned: 16-Nov-2022, PreQC No. AMSJ-22-12860(PQ); Reviewed: 30-Nov-2022, QC No. AMSJ-22-12860; Revised: 27-Dec-2022, Manuscript No. AMSJ-22-12860(R); Published: 19-Jan-2023