Brand passion: Antecedents and consequences

Brand passion: Antecedents and consequences

Journal of Business Research 66 (2013) 904–909 Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect Journal of Business Research Brand passion: Antec...

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Journal of Business Research 66 (2013) 904–909

Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect

Journal of Business Research

Brand passion: Antecedents and consequences Noel Albert a,⁎, Dwight Merunka a, b, 1, Pierre Valette-Florence c, 2 a b c

EUROMED Marseille, Domaine de Luminy BP 291, 13288 Marseille Cedex 9, France University Paul Cézanne Aix-Marseille (IAE), and EUROMED Marseille. Clos Guiot, 13540 Puyricard, France University PMF of Grenoble (IAE), Domaine Universitaire, BP 47, 38040 Grenoble, France

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history: Received 1 July 2011 Received in revised form 1 October 2011 Accepted 1 November 2011 Available online 5 January 2012 Keywords: Brand passion Brand commitment Brand trust Brand identification Partial least squares

a b s t r a c t This research explores the antecedents and consequences of brand passion. Consumer–brand relationship constructs (brand identification and brand trust) may influence consumers' passion for a brand. Brand passion in turn may influence brand commitment, willingness to pay a higher price for the brand, and positive word of mouth. A partial least squares structural equation model applied to data collected from a representative sample of 1505 study participants demonstrates that brand passion depends on brand identification and brand trust. Consumer's passion for a brand has great managerial relevance and a direct effect on word of mouth and commitment, as well as an indirect effect on willingness to pay a higher price, as mediated by commitment. © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction Brands help define consumers' lives and play a central role in people's consumption behavior (Ahuvia, 2005a; Wallendorf & Arnould, 1988). Strong relationships bind consumers and their preferred brands (Fournier, 1998), such that some consumers may develop into a true cult for some brands (Belk & Tumbat, 2005). Consumer brand relationship constructs such as brand trust (Hess, 1995), brand identification (Escalas & Bettman, 2003), and brand commitment (Fullerton, 2005) appear central to many branding studies. Affective constructs such as brand love (Carroll & Ahuvia, 2006) or brand attachment (Park, MacInnis, & Priester, 2006) also influence consumer behavior. The recently proposed concept of brand passion (i.e., a strong positive feeling toward a brand) features examples and evidence of consumer enthusiasm (Bauer, Heinrich, & Marin, 2007; Belk, Ger, & Askegaard, 2003; Matzler, Pichler, & Hemetsberger, 2007) and activities such as belonging to a brand community (Schouten & McAlexander, 1995). However, the relationship of brand passion to other consumer–brand relationship constructs remains unclear, as does the position of this concept in a nomological network that includes managerial outcomes such as positive word of mouth (WOM) or willingness to pay a price premium for the brand.

Two studies explicitly explore the concept of brand passion and demonstrate that brand passion relates to brand characteristics (Bauer et al., 2007) or consumer characteristics (Matzler et al., 2007). Studies in social psychology show that the relationship between two individual entities also can be a source of passion (Driscoll, Davies, & Lipetz, 1972). The influence of the relationships between consumers and their brands on the development of passion for a brand remains an open question though. Passion is a relational construct, and therefore, the consumer– brand relational constructs that branding literature establishes as important also may influence brand passion. This study explores brand passion according to the influence of consumer brand relationship constructs, adding a new dimension to the understanding of passion for a brand. This investigation also aims to measure the impact of brand passion on end-effect relational constructs (e.g., brand commitment). The overall objective is therefore to build a model that establishes the nomological relationships between brand passion and other well-known consumer brand relationship constructs. Demonstrating the existence of such relationships may confirm the importance of brand passion, from both academic and managerial perspectives. 2. Consumer brand relationships This section defines the main concept of brand passion and introduces the relational constructs in the model.

⁎ Corresponding author. Tel.: + 33 491 827 800. E-mail addresses: [email protected] (N. Albert), [email protected] (D. Merunka), pierre.valette-fl[email protected] (P. Valette-Florence). 1 Tel.: + 33 442 280 829. 2 Tel.: + 33 476 825 611. 0148-2963/$ – see front matter © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2011.12.009

2.1. Brand passion Hatfield and Walster (1978, p. 9) define passion as “a state of intense longing for union with another. Reciprocated love (union with other) is associated with fulfillment and ecstasy …, a state of

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profound physiological arousal.” Baumeister and Bratslavsky (1999, p. 52) provide another definition and indicate that passion involves “strong feeling for the other person. These feeling are typically characterized by physiological arousal and the desire to be united with the other person in multiple senses.” Therefore, interpersonal passion implies the partner's presence in the person's thoughts, the idealization of both the partner and the relationship, sexual attraction, and a desire for reciprocity (Hatfield, 1988). Some of these characteristics are irrelevant in a consumption context; consumers probably do not expect full reciprocity from the brand (Ahuvia, 2005b) though loyal and committed customers might anticipate better rewards from their brand partner (Palmatier, Dant, Grewal, & Evans, 2006). In a consumption context, brand passion is “a primarily affective, extremely positive attitude toward a specific brand that leads to emotional attachment and influences relevant behavioral factors” (Bauer et al., 2007, p. 2190), which “describes the zeal and enthusiasm features of consumer–brand relationships” (Keh, Pang, & Peng, 2007, p. 84) and “reflects intense and aroused positive feelings toward a brand” (Thomson, MacInnis, & Park, 2005, p. 80). A passionate consumer engages in an emotional relationship with the brand and misses the brand when unavailable (Matzler et al., 2007). Therefore brand passion appears to be an intense feeling of consumers toward the brand (Bauer et al., 2007; Hatfield & Walster, 1978; Keh et al., 2007; Thomson et al., 2005). This feeling implies the consumer's willingness to form a close relationship with the partner (brand) and his or her physiological arousal from possessing or consuming that brand (Baumeister & Bratslavsky, 1999; Hatfield & Walster, 1978). Brand passion encompasses two components: the presence of the brand in the consumer's mind and the idealization of the brand (Albert, Merunka, & Valette-Florence, 2008). Building on these developments, this study defines brand passion as a psychological construct comprised of excitation, infatuation, and obsession for a brand. Bauer et al. (2007) study the determinants of brand passion and find influences of four brand characteristics: uniqueness, selfexpression ability, prestige, and hedonic features. Brand uniqueness is an antecedent of brand passion, though conceptually this element is considered as a dimension of consumer's affect (Ahuvia, 1993; Albert et al., 2008; Vincent, 2004). Brand passion also reflects individual factors, such as extraversion (Matzler et al., 2007). Yet other determinants, such as brand identification or brand trust, remain ignored, despite their influences on consumers' feeling of affect toward the brand (Albert, Merunka, & Valette-Florence, 2010). 2.2. Relational concepts Previous developments indicate that a limitation of brand passion models is the lack of integration into the consumer–brand relationship paradigm (Fournier, 1998). Following Fournier's (1994, 1998) relationship quality theory, this study proposes that brand passion derives from other components (trust, self-connection, brand identification) and can influence brand commitment. In contrast with prior models that decompose consumer brand relationships to identify these components, the present investigation seeks to establish relationships between these components. The focus centers on brand trust and brand identification as determinants of brand passion; both concepts empirically determine brand affect. Brand commitment also appears in the proposed model, because this component is a consequence of brand affect (Carroll & Ahuvia, 2006; Chaudhuri & Holbrook, 2001). Brand identification is central to consumption (Escalas & Bettman, 2003; Fournier, 1998), as research into the importance of special possessions and consumers' self-concept already details (Belk, 1988; Kleine, Kleine, & Allen, 1995). Brand identification refers to the brand's ability to deliver information (e.g., values, personality) about the consumer (Fournier, 1998) or the degree of integration of


the brand into the consumer's self-concept (Escalas & Bettman, 2003). Because a brand has a symbolic value (Belk, 1988; Keller, 1993), the brand can help consumers define themselves as persons. Several studies demonstrate the importance of brand and product identification (Belk, 1988; Csikszentmihalyi & Rochberg-Halton, 1981; Kleine et al., 1995), in that consumers buy brands with an image or personality congruent with their self-concepts (Sirgy, 1982). Brand trust is critical to relational marketing (Hess, 1995; Kennedy, Ferrel, & LeClair, 2000) as a determinant of brand commitment (Morgan & Hunt, 1994) and affect (Chaudhuri & Holbrook, 2001). This trust refers to consumers' expectations about the brand's reliability in a risky situation (Delgado-Ballester, Munuera-Aleman, & Yaguë-Guillén, 2001) or willingness to rely on the brand to perform stated functions (Chaudhuri & Holbrook, 2001). Trust can be unidimensional (Morgan & Hunt, 1994), bidimensional (Ganesan, 1994; Kumar, Scheer, & Steenkamp, 1995), or tridimensional (Hess, 1995). If multidimensional, brand trust comprises ability, honesty, and altruism. Finally, brand commitment represents the strength of the relationship between a consumer and a brand or organization (Fullerton, 2005; Garbarino & Johnson, 1999; Morgan & Hunt, 1994). Defined as “an enduring desire to maintain a valued relationship” (Moorman, Zaltman, & Deshpande, 1992, p. 316), commitment usually comprises two components, affective and cognitive (Fullerton, 2005; HarrisonWalker, 2001). Affective brand commitment rests at the heart of brand–consumer relationships, grounded in identification, attachment, and shared values. This construct stems from a holistic judgment and does not depend directly on brand evaluations. Affective commitment may explain brand loyalty (Belk & Tumbat, 2005) and encourages customers to join brand communities (McAlexander, Schouten, & Koenig, 2002). Other studies investigate cognitive brand commitment (Anderson & Weitz, 1992; HarrisonWalker, 2001) and note that consumers prefer relationships with brands when they confront a lack of credible alternatives or develop positive brand personality judgments (Fullerton, 2005). Because brands have important meaning for consumers (Ahuvia, 2005a; Wallendorf & Arnould, 1988), switching brands implies a loss of associated meaning. For the present study, commitment represents a global construct that includes both components (Fullerton, 2005). 3. Research hypotheses Consumer brand relationship literature provides a foundation for the proposed model, which includes major brand relationship constructs (brand trust, brand identification, and brand commitment), as well as major behavioral outcomes: WOM and willingness to pay a higher price for the brand. Fig. 1 depicts the proposed model. When a consumer identifies with a brand, she or he develops positive feelings (Harrison-Walker, 2001). Passion for a brand then should develop if the brand plays an important role in the consumers' identity construction. Ahuvia (1993) demonstrates that an object or brand must appear to be part of the consumer to induce love. A loved object expresses the consumer's deeply held values and

Brand Identification


Brand Passion


Word of Mouth





H3 Brand Trust


Brand Commitment

Fig. 1. Research model.


Willingness to Pay More


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highlights the consumer's identification with the brand (Carroll & Ahuvia, 2006). A self-expressive brand also encourages brand passion (Bauer et al., 2007). H1. Brand identification relates positively to brand passion. Brand identification and brand commitment should link, in that both represent a strong relationship between the consumer and the brand (Keh & Xie, 2009). Fullerton (2005) also indicates that brand commitment takes root from the consumer's identification with the brand; in an organizational context, the shared values between a supplier and a firm increase the supplier's commitment to the firm (Morgan & Hunt, 1994). A company with high customer identification also benefits from customer loyalty (Keh & Xie, 2009). Finally, research into brand communities demonstrates that identification with a brand community leads to brand commitment (Algesheimer, Dholakia, & Herrmann, 2005).

H7. Brand passion relates positively to word of mouth. If committed consumers pay premium prices for valued brands (Chaudhuri & Holbrook, 2001; Keller, 1993: Palmatier et al., 2006; Reichheld, 1996) and engage in positive WOM activities (Dick & Basu, 1994), then the following hypotheses should receive empirical support. H8. Brand commitment relates positively to willingness to pay more for the brand. H9. Brand commitment relates positively to word of mouth. Bauer et al. (2007) study brand characteristics as antecedents of brand passion, and Matzler et al. (2007) focus on consumer characteristics. The proposed model instead concentrates on brand relationship antecedents and consequences of brand passion to extend existing knowledge of and understanding about brand passion.

H2. Brand identification relates positively to brand commitment. In an interpersonal context, trust associates closely with affection (Fehr, 1988). Because brand trust has a positive influence on affective constructs such as brand affect (Chaudhuri & Holbrook, 2001) and brand love (Albert et al., 2010), with brand passion conceptualized as a component of brand love (Thomson et al., 2005), this study extends the potential influence of brand trust to brand passion and proposes: H3. Brand trust relates positively to brand passion. Trust is an important antecedent of commitment in relational marketing because trust is involved in highly valued relationships (Chaudhuri & Holbrook, 2001; Garbarino & Johnson, 1999; Morgan & Hunt, 1994). Both trust and commitment increase the value of relationships for consumers. Because commitment represents a potential sacrifice and vulnerability on the part of the consumer, he or she may need to trust the brand before being committed (Garbarino & Johnson, 1999). H4. Brand trust has a positive influence on brand commitment. From a conceptual standpoint, a consumer who idealizes and feels excitement about or infatuation for a brand should prefer to maintain the relationship. Dick and Basu (1994) indicate that the consumer's emotional state in relation to the brand influences loyalty, and several studies demonstrate the influence of brand love or brand affect on brand loyalty (Carroll & Ahuvia, 2006; Chaudhuri & Holbrook, 2001; Thomson et al., 2005). Because commitment is an attitudinal component of brand loyalty (Oliver, 1999), brand passion likely influences brand commitment. H5. Brand passion relates positively to brand commitment. Regarding the consequences of brand passion, robust findings indicate that the more a consumer values a brand, the more willing he or she is to accept a price increase (Aaker, 1991). Brand passion similarly influences consumers' acceptance of a high price (Bauer et al., 2007; Thomson et al., 2005). H6. Brand passion relates positively to willingness to pay more for the brand. Consumers may become important spokespersons for brands (Dick & Basu, 1994; Fullerton, 2005; Harrison-Walker, 2001), especially those who value and develop positive affect for the brand, prompting positive WOM (Aaker, 1991; Keller, 2003). From a conceptual standpoint, a consumer's infatuation with or excitement about a brand leads to speaking about experiences with the brand (Bauer et al., 2007; Matzler et al., 2007).

4. Methodology and results The data collection relied on an online panel in France. Of the 1505 consumers who participated in the survey (mean age = 36 years), 79.2% had active employment, 8.7% were students, and 12.1% were unemployed. Participants indicated a favored brand, of their own choice, and responded to the survey relative to that brand. The measurement scales came from prior research: brand passion (Albert et al., 2008), brand identification (Escalas & Bettman, 2003; Salerno, 2002), brand trust (Chow & O, 2006; Gurviez & Korchia, 2002), brand commitment (Fullerton, 2005), word of mouth, and willingness to pay a higher price (Carroll & Ahuvia, 2006; Cristau, 2006). All scales either were developed in or translated to French (translation/back-translation procedure). Table 1 presents the scales' reliability test results. The check for discriminant validity between the latent variables relied on a more formal test, based on covariance structure analysis. For each of the four concepts (trust, commitment, passion and identification), sequential tests either allowed the correlation between concepts to be freely estimated or constrained the correlation to equal 1. As Table 2 shows, the best fit systematically emerged for the model with freed correlations between latent variables. These tests confirm that the concepts differ. Finally, we tested the fit of the measurement and structural models separately through structural equation modeling (SEM) (Gerbing & Anderson, 1988). All fit indexes are satisfactory both for the measurement and structural models (Table 3). The estimates of the model parameters used partial least square path modeling (PLS) because PLS is a distribution free analysis whereas SEM requires a multinomial distribution of data which was not fully respected here. The data fit the model well; the relative goodness-of-fit index (GoF; Tenenhaus, Esposito Vinzi, & Amato, 2004; Wetzels, Odekerken-Schröder, & van Hopper, 2009) equals .59. Wetzels et al. (2009) recently proposed that a GoF greater than .35 in the social science field indicates very good fit.

Table 1 Scale reliability. Scale

Reliability (Joreskog's Rho)

Trust Identification Passion Commitment WOM Willingness to pay more

.921 .928 .908 .858 .872 .925

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Table 2 Discriminant validities. Latent variables


χ2 free model (ddf = 344)

χ2 constrained model (ddf = 345)

χ2 difference


(Identification)–(trust) (Commitment)–(trust) (Passion)–(trust) (Commitment)–(identification) (Passion)–(identification) (Passion)–(commitment)

.560 .768 .593 .884 .804 .810

4731 4731 4731 4731 4731 4731

7112 5216 6343 4909 5367 4831

2381 485 1612 177 636 100

0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000

Brand commitment features three antecedents (adjusted R²= .756). The results reveal influences of passion (β = .361), trust (β = .304), and identification (β = .341) in support of H5, H4, and H2, respectively. This study therefore indicates the influence of brand passion on the attitudinal component of brand loyalty (commitment). This result is managerially important, because passion influences consumers' willingness to maintain a long-term relationship with the brand. Furthermore, the influence of brand passion on brand commitment has a similar magnitude to that of brand identification and brand trust. This finding demonstrates the importance of this new construct in the consumer–brand relationship literature.

passion and brand commitment). Not surprisingly, the direct link becomes significant (β = .097, p b .05). Therefore, brand commitment fully mediates the relationship between brand passion and willingness to pay a higher price for that brand, in support of H8. The two WOM antecedents explain approximately 50% of its variance (adjusted R² = .498). Passion (β = .340) and commitment (β = .408) both influence positive WOM, in support of H7 and H9. The former path is consistent with previous results (Bauer et al., 2007; Matzler et al., 2007) and confirms the managerial importance of brand passion. Fig. 2 displays these results graphically. Finally, a test of the stability of the model estimated the moderating effects of two consumer characteristics: extraversion (low/high) and gender. Both variables influence passion, in line with social psychology and marketing literature. First, extraversion influences passion for a partner (Davies, 2001; White, Hendrick, & Hendrick, 2004), because the attributes of an extraverted person (e.g., positive affect, sociability, self-disclosure) encourage such attitudes. In a marketing context, Matzler et al. (2007) similarly demonstrate a significant impact of extraversion on brand passion. Second, gender has an impact, in that men tend to be more passionate, whereas women are more affectionate in their relationships (Davies, 2001; Traupmann & Hatfield, 1981). A multi-group analysis, conducted to test the moderating effects of both gender and extraversion on the structural relationships, reveals the absence of significant moderating effects for either variable. This absence suggests the model's stability across conditions (i.e., women or men, extraverts or introverts).

4.3. Behavioral outcomes

5. Discussion and conclusion

Brand passion does not directly influence consumers' acceptance of a higher price (path coefficient = .054, non significant) which does not support H6. The absence of a significant link between brand passion and the price premium is surprising, because previous studies find a significant relationship (Bauer et al., 2007; Thomson et al., 2005). In this study, brand commitment encourages higher price acceptance. Therefore, brand passion appears to influence consumers' acceptance of a higher price, through the mediation of brand commitment (indirect effect = .36 × .57 = .21). To test the full mediation of brand commitment between brand passion and willingness to pay a higher price, another analysis considers the direct effect of brand passion on willingness to pay (in the absence of a link between brand

Research on brand passion is recent, offering limited insights into the antecedents and consequences of this construct. Whereas previous research focused on consumer and brand characteristics as drivers of brand passion (Bauer et al., 2007; Matzler et al., 2007), the proposed model establishes and tests a nomological network that features well-established consumer–brand relationship constructs, including both antecedents and consequences of brand passion. Brand passion depends on brand identification and, to a lesser degree, on brand trust. This result seems surprising in light of social psychology research that tends to associate trust with affection more than passion (Hatfield, 1988). By nature, trust requires time, interaction, and

4.1. Antecedents of brand passion Brand identification and brand trust explain approximately 60% of consumers' passion for a brand (adjusted R² = .594). Brand identification has the greatest influence (β = .640), followed by brand trust (β = .207), in support of H1 and H3. Although the influence of brand trust is significant, this antecedent is three times less important than brand identification. The congruence between the brand and a consumer's personality or values seems crucial for the creation of brand passion. However, the influence of brand trust on brand passion is a new result that implies trust might be important for passion to develop. 4.2. Antecedents of brand commitment

Table 3 Fit indexes of the structural and measurement models. Fit indexes

Structural model

Measurement model

RMSEA NCI McDonald GFI AGFI NFI Bentler–Bonett NNFI Bentler–Bonett Rho Bollen Delta Bollen Chi-Square ddf p value

.071 .827 .952 .923 .955 .945 .936 .961 4691.0 349.0 0.000

.073 .807 .946 .919 .950 .943 .935 .957 4731.00 344.0 0.000

Brand Identification

Brand Passion


Word of Mouth



0.408 0.361


0.341 Brand Trust


Brand Commitment


Fig. 2. Results (path coefficients).

Willingness to Pay More


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deep knowledge of the partner; passion usually corresponds to a phase in a love relationship when partners have limited knowledge of each other. This newly revealed relationship between brand trust and brand passion may reflect the specific nature of passion in the context of brand relationships though. Whereas interpersonal relationships are bidirectional, brand–consumer relationships tend to be more unidirectional (Fournier, 1998). Consumers do not expect a brand to reject or betray them (Ahuvia, 2005b) and can therefore build trust in the brand more quickly. Whereas many interactions must take place before a person can trust a romantic partner, a few interactions may be sufficient to develop trust in a brand. Therefore, trust may develop early in a brand relationship context and influence the consumer's passion for the brand. This study confirms the importance of brand identification in terms of the influence on brand passion. This sense of identification, from the consumer toward the brand, appears to be critical for establishing a passionate feeling for the brand. In a consumption context, previous research has underlined the importance of identification for the consumer's affect toward a brand (Ahuvia, 2005b; Ahuvia, 1993; Bauer et al., 2007). These results clearly indicate the importance of the brand in terms of reflecting, participating in, or creating consumers' identity. Regarding consequences, brand passion influences brand commitment and positive WOM but does not directly affect willingness to pay. Because brand passion entails idealization and excitement about the brand, a passionate consumer likely wants to share this excitement. Sharing passion for a brand might involve convincing others to feel the same way or justifying a passionate relationship that seems difficult for others to understand. Positive WOM thus emerges because speaking to others about a passion-inducing brand is an important part of the identity construction process of such consumers (Holt, 1997). The impact of brand passion on brand commitment is in line with findings by Thomson et al. (2005), who establish the impact of passion on a declarative measure of brand loyalty, and Bauer et al. (2007), who find an effect of brand passion on declarative measures of repeat purchase. Therefore, passion for a brand leads to a desire to maintain a long-term relationship with that brand. The idealization of the brand and its obsessive presence in the consumer's mind explains why the consumer wants to maintain a relationship. Social psychologists propose that passion links to various intense emotions (Hatfield, 1988); a passionate consumer similarly feels intense emotions for his or her brand (Belk et al., 2003). The emotional benefits of the brand also influence the desire to maintain the relationship. Finally, the consumer's passion for a brand reflects the value he or she obtains from that brand, which limits the number of credible alternatives. The lack of a direct effect of passion on willingness to pay more for the brand may arise because a passionate consumer is not prepared to accept major changes to the brand's characteristics or policies, including prices. From a conceptual standpoint, passion implies that the consumer does not expect any major changes, because his or her passion is for the brand as is. A change in the brand's price, especially if unexpected, may conflict with the consumer's idealization. Many examples of such behaviors exist, including the reactions of passionate consumers to the introduction of New Coke or the reactions to the change in the Starbucks logo. From a managerial perspective, this study indicates that communication that highlights the brand's values or personality may offer benefits by influencing consumers' sense of identification. Generally, identification generated through multiple paths (e.g., advertising, packaging, brand name, style, retail outlets) creates favorable conditions for passion for the brand. Because brand trust also influences brand passion, brand managers should ensure the brand's ability to deliver on promises (e.g., quality, service, innovation) and work to develop the brand's images of confidence and benevolence.

The concept of brand passion remains new, and a good understanding of the key determinants and outcomes demands more research. The present research does not test all possible consequences of brand passion. Models of brand passion could integrate other constructs that likely relate to passion, such as impulsive buying or acceptance of congruent brand extensions. Other research could study the consequences of brand passion if the brand were to betray the expectations of the passionate consumer (e.g., unexpected brand extensions, delivery or quality failures). Would brand passion save the relationship, or would unexpected negative events disrupt the passionate relationship? Finally, researchers should investigate potential boundary conditions. Passion for a brand is probably a feeling that few consumers embrace for only a very limited number of brands. Therefore, establishing the conditions for passion (e.g., types of brands, product categories, consumer characteristics) offers an interesting direction for further research.

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