The Impact Of Brand Name On Consumer Behavior In Purchasing Gifts
A brand is one of the most distinguishing features of any product and many companies are aimed at strengthening their brand names to create higher brand recognition and customer loyalty. The question is: does brand name have an impact on consumer behavior in purchasing products as gifts? While, some researchers suggested that gifts are purchased based on the popularity of brand names, others argue that unique brand associations are superior and critical in the evaluation of a brand as a gift. Thеrefore, the paper tries to distinguish the impact of brand features on the choice in the gift-giving process. As it was mentioned before, gifts are not only evaluated based on their volume and financial aspects but also based on the expressive value. In the case of branded items, the expressive value of a gift may be related to brand associations such as dependability or high quality. To depict consumer behavior differences occurring in gift-giving situations involving brands considerations, first, it is necessary to differentiate between product involvement and brand involvement and then provide a branding framework.
Clarke (2006) suggested that there is a distinct differentiation between product and brand involvement. The former is about consumer intention to find an object from a particular product class, for example, to buy a bike for a child on Christmas. While the latter refers to the consumer interest in making the brand selection. Thus, in gift-giving situations involving brand considerations, people are rather focused on brands and associations that arise with them rather than on product attributes. What kind of associations can brands offer to gift givers? Trying to conceptualize consumer-based brand equity, Keller (1993) distinguished among four brand association benefits: symbolic (prestigious, expensive), experiential (exciting, fun), functional (useful, practical) and non-product related (price and packaging). Brand associations help people “[…] to have greater control over the symbolic meaning being communicated” through gifts.
Parsons (2002) in his study discovered that people are more likely to buy brands for people who are superior in their position or status relative to the donor’s position, therefore, functional characteristics of a brand would be considered. Experiential benefits and higher expenditures are considered while choosing a gift for close relatives. Personal friends appear to receive gifts that are “unique” and “different” as donors want to give exclusive, prestigious, expensive and fun gifts, thereby, overlooking functional characteristics. Insignificant others are rarely considered as recipients of exclusive branded gifts. Non-product related benefits such as packaging were found to be insignificant in evaluations of brands because the packaging is not an indicator of a brand quality.
Some income and age differences among givers of brands were found in the study. Surprisingly, low-income households appeared to be ready to spend on branded gifts but only for close relatives choosing “symbolic benefit of prestige”. Regarding the age differences, younger group (under 30s) preferred exciting brands for their colleagues and friends, while the group over 60s preferred to give “excitement” to their personal friends.
A very interesting observation was made by Clarke (2006) in his study of parents’ involvement to give branded items as gifts to their children on Christmas. Nevertheless, a parents-children relationship is the strongest and Christmas is a significant and highly involving occasion to give gifts to strengthen those relationships. It appeared that parents have a moderate level of involvement on giving branded items for Christmas to their children and parents “[…] consider gifts in terms of product category first and then choose the brand”. Parents prefer to substitute and find suitable alternatives for children’s requests, thereby, highlighting the lack of involvement of giving branded items to children. The explanation for such behavior may lay in the advertisement of children’s brands that are negatively perceived by adults, who consider advertisements as a form of corruption, what hinders them to give brands as gifts.
To conclude, gift givers choose brands as gifts because they are “risk reduction agents”. However, different brand benefits are considered for different types of recipients. Income and age may have a significant impact on brands chosen to be gifted. The main implication of these findings for managers is the need for awareness of brand benefits.