Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 15

_______________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________

Report Information from ProQuest


March 19 2015 08:50
_______________________________________________________________

19 March 2015

ProQuest

Table of contents
1. Brand communities for mainstream brands: the example of the Yamaha R1 brand community.................

Bibliography...................................................................................................................................................... 13

19 March 2015

ii

ProQuest

Document 1 of 1

Brand communities for mainstream brands: the example of the Yamaha R1 brand community
Author: Felix, Reto
ProQuest document link
Abstract: Purpose - The purpose of this study is to understand consumers' product use, practices, identity, and
brand meanings in the context of a brand community dedicated to a mainstream Japanese motorcycle brand.
Design/methodology/approach - A qualitative research approach was used in the form of netnography (i.e.
ethnography adapted to the study of online communities). Findings - On the product level, consumers
experience multiple conflicts and negotiations of meaning related to the use of the product. These findings are
reproduced on the brand level, where members of the brand community present a more differentiated look on
the brand, accompanied by lower levels of admiration and identification with the brand, as in previous reports of
brand communities for brands such as Apple, Jeep, or Harley-Davidson. The results suggest that consumers for
mainstream brands may be more prone to multi-brand loyalty instead of single-brand loyalty. Practical
implications - Marketers should monitor motivations, attitudes, and decision-making processes on both the
product and the brand level. Further, non-company-run online communities such as the Yamaha R1 forum bear
the risk of community members transmitting brand information in a way not desired by the company. Thus,
marketers should consider sponsoring an entire discussion website, a forum, or part of a forum. Originality/value
- Whereas previous studies on brand communities have concentrated predominantly on highly admired and
differentiated brands, such as Apple or Harley-Davidson, this study investigates consumer practices, identities,
and negotiations of meaning on both the product and brand level for a less differentiated mainstream brand.
Full text: An executive summary for managers and executive readers can be found at the end of this article.
Introduction to brand communities and literature review
Community-based brand relationships in marketing literature have been discussed commonly with a focus on
brand communities. A brand community is a "specialized, non-geographically bound community, based on a
structured set of social relationships among admirers of a brand" ([31] Muiz and O'Guinn, 2001, p. 412). Brand
communities have been found to be crucial in order to understand brand loyalty ([10] Fournier and Lee, 2009;
[29] McAlexander et al. , 2002, [28] 2003). They are based on a shared interest in the brand ([1] Algesheimer et

al. , 2005) and, more specifically, on the three characteristics of consciousness of kind, shared rituals and
traditions, and a sense or moral responsibility ([31] Muiz and O'Guinn, 2001). As a positive outcome of brand
communities, consumers may engage in cocreation ([39] Schau et al. , 2009), and religious-like relationships
between consumers and brands may evolve, as documented in the case of the Apple Newton brand community
([32] Muiz and Schau, 2005; [38] Schau and Muiz, 2006).
Because of their geographical independence, brand communities can exist in the form of local clubs or interest
groups ([1] Algesheimer et al. , 2005; [40] Schouten and McAlexander, 1995), entirely on the Internet ([19]
Kozinets, 1997; [32] Muiz and Schau, 2005), or in combined form ([21] Kozinets, 2001). Further, brand
communities have emerged for virtually any product, such as cars ([1] Algesheimer et al. , 2005; [25] Leigh et al.
, 2006; [27] Luedicke et al. , 2010; [29] McAlexander et al. , 2002; [31] Muiz and O'Guinn, 2001; [41] Schouten

et al. , 2007), motorbikes ([40] Schouten and McAlexander, 1995), computers ([4] Belk and Tumbat, 2005),
groceries ([8] Cova and Pace, 2006), or movies and television series ([6] Brown et al. , 2003; [21] Kozinets,
2001). The common denominator of the brands patronized in brand communities is a clear and unique
positioning in combination with consumers who strongly identify with the brand. Consumers define themselves
by the brands they consume as well as the brands they do not consume, and brands are clearly classified into
"our brands" and "other brands" by the community ([30] Muiz and Hamer, 2001). In other words, members of a
particular brand community are not only supposed to be more loyal to the own brand, but also substantially less
19 March 2015

Page 1 of 13

ProQuest

loyal to competing brands. This phenomenon has been described as oppositional brand loyalty by [31] Muiz
and O'Guinn (2001) and may lead to enhanced intergroup stereotyping, trash talk targeted at members outside
the community, and emotional pleasures from news about a rival's failure ([15] Hickman and Ward, 2007). In
extreme cases, oppositional brand loyalty can turn into active consumer resistance or anti-brand communities
([16] Hollenbeck and Zinkhan, 2006; [27] Luedicke et al. , 2010).
However, brand communities are not free of oppositional forces and negotiations of meaning coming from
inside. Rather, brand communities may embrace consumers who are critical with the brand or the product in
general, and it would thus be overly optimistic to expect equally high levels of loyalty from all visitors of a brand
community. For example, [20] Kozinets (1999) classifies members of virtual communities according to the
identification with the consumption activity (or brand) and the intensity of the social relationships with other
members of the community. Whereas insiders show both high levels of brand identification and social
orientation towards the community, other members may have lower levels of brand identification (minglers),
lower levels of social relationships with the community (devotees), or both (tourists). Especially consumers who
are simultaneously members in competing brand communities in the same product category may have high
levels of participation in the communities, but without showing high levels of brand loyalty or admiration for the
brands ([44] Thompson and Sinha, 2008). In an application of these segmentation approaches to a sample of
videogame players (Settlers of Catan) and a Swatch brand community, [35] Ouwersloot and OdekerkenSchrder (2008) find one segment of community members who are highly interested in the product, but not in
the brand (36 and 7 percent, respectively) and a second segment including consumers who are neither
interested in the product, the brand, or social relationships, yet still prefer to remain in the community (15 and 7
percent, respectively). Thus, it can be argued that consumer responses, such as satisfaction or loyalty, operate
not only on the brand, but also on the product level ([45] Torres-Moraga et al. , 2008). In the following analysis
of an online brand community for a Japanese mainstream motorcycle brand, it is shown how consumers
negotiate product and brand meanings, and how identity construction and brand attitudes are affected. The
analysis is divided into a first part on issues related to the activity and practices of riding a sports bike and the
identity of sports bike consumers in general, and a second part on brand attitudes and how brands mediate
identity construction.
Method
Netnography was used to explore brand relationships and identity construction for an online community of a
mainstream Japanese motorcycle brand. Netnography has been defined as "ethnography adapted to the study
of online communities" ([22] Kozinets, 2002, p. 61) and has been used in consumption contexts such as the X-

Files ([19] Kozinets, 1997), Star Trek ([21] Kozinets, 2001, [23] 2006), wedding messages ([34] Nelson and
Otnes, 2005), cars ([6] Brown et al. , 2003), and consumer gift systems ([11] Giesler, 2006). Similar to traditional
ethnography, netnography is open-ended, interpretative, flexible, metaphorical, and grounded in the knowledge
of the specific and particularistic ([22] Kozinets, 2002). However, netnography is usually faster, simpler, and less
expensive than traditional ethnography ([22] Kozinets, 2002, [23] 2006). Further, it has been argued that new
online communication technologies have "expanded the array of generalized others contributing to the
construction of the self" ([7] Cerulo, 1997, p. 386), and netnography as a tool of analyzing online communities is
thus able to integrate the broadened spectrum of agents involved in the construction of individual and collective
identity.
Data collection
Because of its size and relevance for the motorcycle community, the Yamaha R1 forum (www.r1-forum.com)
was chosen as the primary data source. Yamaha is one of four mainstream Japanese motorcycle brands with
worldwide sales of US$12.5 billion in 2009 ([47] Yamaha Motor Co., 2009). As a comparison, Harley Davidson's
same year consolidated sales from motorcycles and related products were US$4.3 billion ([13] HarleyDavidson, 2009). The Yamaha R1 forum is primarily dedicated to Yamaha's top-of-the-range sport bike, the
19 March 2015

Page 2 of 13

ProQuest

Yamaha R1, but there are also members subscribed to the forum who either have motorbikes from different
brands, such as Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, or Ducati, or who currently do not have a motorbike. As of June 14,
2010, the R1 forum had 107,249 subscribed members and more than four million postings in approximately
265,000 threads. The threads in the forum are organized into five different sections:
Community
R1-related discussion
Technique, racing, and stunt discussion
Marketplace/classified.
Misc. section.
After starting reading threads in the Community section, it was possible to identify preliminary themes and
issues by further browsing through the postings. At a very early stage of the research, evidence was found for
more complex and ambiguous brand relationships than in previous studies on brand communities. Following a
purposive sampling approach ([26] Lincoln and Guba, 1985; [46] Wallendorf and Belk, 1989), reading and
downloading posts were continued as long as analysis of the postings generated new insights and did not lead
to redundancy ([3] Belk et al. , 1988). At a later stage of the study, the forum's search engine was used to
immerse more systematically into the data. Over the period between August 2006 and June 2010, around
10,000 postings were read, of which approximately 300 were downloaded.
Organization, analysis, and ethical procedures
In a first step, downloaded postings were pre-classified into different categories and reoccurrences were coded
by assigning one or several codes to the statements in the postings. Using an iterative approach, jumping back
and forth between coded and uncoded statements facilitated the interpretation of the data. Codes were then
condensed into more meaningful constructs and subsequently into interpretive themes in order to obtain
relevant layers of meaning and richly textured interpretations ([2] Arnould and Wallendorf, 1994). This
procedure allowed a grounded, hermeneutic interpretation to emerge from the data that did not strive for
representativeness, but rather for analytic depth and relevance.
In order to impede the tracking of forum members' identities, user names were changed to generic member
names, such as "forum member 1." Deviating from [22] Kozinets' (2002) recommendations, permissions from
community members to use direct quotations were not requested. The reason for this decision was twofold:
First, in an initial attempt to contact community members, only one response out of ten emails sent was
obtained. If only those postings had been used that responses had been received for, the pool of usable data
had been reduced significantly. And second, [24] Langer and Beckman's (2005) reasoning was considered in
that postings in an internet community forum are intentionally public postings, comparable to readers' letters in a
newspaper, and that it would be highly unusual to seek permission to use direct quotations in this context.
However, Kozinet's concerns about adequate ethical procedures in netnography research are certainly valid,
and the pragmatic issue (non-responses for permission requests) finally was the one that complicated following
his recommendations.
The product level: practice and identity
Although recreational motorcycling in general is considered a high-risk leisure time activity, there are different
segments within the motorcycle community that distinguish themselves in attitudes and behaviors related to
riding style and speed. On one extreme of street bike riding are the easy-rider oriented owners of choppers or
touring bikes who prefer to ride at moderate speeds and enjoy the immediate experience with the environment.
On the other extreme are sports bike enthusiasts who prefer a fast, competitive riding style that is often
accompanied by the exhibition of riding skills and risky stunting maneuvers such as performing wheelies ([14]
Haigh and Crowther, 2005). Commercial sports bikes aim to be copies of racing bikes used by professional
riders at the Moto GP or Superbike competitions, and a modern liter bike, available at dealerships for under
US$15,000, accelerates from zero to 200 km/h (125 miles) in less than ten seconds and reaches speeds in
19 March 2015

Page 3 of 13

ProQuest

excess of 290 km/h (180 miles). A complete safety gear, consisting of helmet, leather gear, gloves, and boots,
is considered an obligation for any sports bike rider by some, but lead to mock comments by others, ridiculing
the "power ranger" outfit of sports bike riders.
An important number of psychological and social conflicts are derived from the inherent nature of sports bike
riding. Physical, functional, financial, psychological and social risks form a complex, multilayered field of
tensions and constraints that are constantly negotiated by the individual, both internally and externally, and
rarely resolved with simple heuristics. The actual or anticipated implications of an accident are dominant in
many of the comments on the R1 forum, as the following sequence of succeeding narratives related to
accidents and quitting riding suggests:
I quit riding one time in my life. I was just getting married, building a house, etc. [...] and coincidentally I was
involved in a string of near misses: cars cutting me off, almost getting side swiped by an idiot who didn't know
how to turn into his own lane, getting run off road and up over a curb through a gas station parking lot by a
garbage truck who just decided he wanted to cut across two lanes with no warning. It was my opinion that there
was just some bad energy around me right then, and with all the other stress in my life maybe it was adding to
the problem. I don't know. I hung it up for a few years, then got back into it when everything felt right again. It
still feels right [...] all the while I've witnessed bike wrecks, been close to others' fatal accidents, laid my own
bike down at a track day, etc. [...] but it still feels right for me. My single rule is that as long as my head is in the
game, then it's "right". If my head is constantly focusing on crashing, dying, etc. [...] then it's time to take another
time-out. Shouldn't be riding if you can't focus on what you're doing. Period. No shame in that (forum member
1).
I've seen bad accidents but also I believe its mental. With so many, "I've gone down" threads, it can eat your
confidence away and make riding not fun. If it ain't fun, that's a good time to step back and let time rebuild your
enjoyment (forum member 2).
[...] Subscribed [...] (forum member 3).
Personally everyday that I wake up and am fortunate enough to ride I tell my wife I love her I get my brain
focused and I always keep reminding myself that this could be my last ride and I think that is half the reason I
ride so responsibly on the street. I don't want to have a last ride I love this sport. I have been down once very
hard and that was a wake up call but I can't give up what I love and to all my friends and fellow riders if I do go
down and don't get up please keep riding for me cause I would do the same (forum member 4).
The conflict between the hedonistic and aesthetic pleasures of riding a bike and the inherent risks involved in
the activity becomes salient in forum member 2 comment about how riding a motorcycle should be related to
fun. Specific life events, such as those mentioned in forum member 1 narrative, amplify these tensions and may
lead to important changes in attitudes or behaviors. However, these attitudinal or behavioral changes are
frequently dynamic and unstable in time. For example, the decision to quit riding is in many cases a temporal
one, and forum members compare riding to an addiction such as drinking or smoking. This addiction-like need
to ride a motorbike then becomes an important factor in identity construction: From the point of view of the
individual, riders do not choose riding a motorbike in order to signal certain values. Rather, as expressed by
forum member 4, the activity forms a natural part of the self and is just there, similar to early conceptualizations
of gender or race in the essentialist identity logic. Riding a bike is elevated to a mission that does not leave
room for choices, and fellow riders are encouraged to honor the dead by continuing the mission and keeping the
spirit alive.
The inherent trait of being addicted to motorcycles is assessed critically in a reflective discourse by many riders.
For example, forum member 5 explains that he is aware of the multiple conflicts that surround his hobby, but
apparently resolves these conflicts by stating that riding is the most important thing in his life, and that he has
learned that riding makes him happy. The shared consciousness and discourse related to themes such as the
risk of experiencing a severe accident, losing a fellow rider, or problems with girlfriends, spouses, or the family
19 March 2015

Page 4 of 13

ProQuest

in general, leads to a collective identity that is constructed, complex, and deprived of precise classifications.
The brand level: attitudes mediating identity construction
The negotiations of meaning related to the practice of riding a sports bike are reproduced at the more specific
brand level. Whereas previous research on brand communities has been largely focused on communities with
extraordinary high levels of brand loyalty and commitment, members of the R1 sports bike community show a
more ambiguous and differentiated relationship with the Yamaha brand:
I'm really faithful to Yamaha, but when sitting on a new R1 and a new GSX-R1000 side by side, I have to say I
like the Suzuki. The R1 just feels so much [...] bigger. I don't know. Also, the magazines bitch about the
suspension [...] yet how many serious track people leave suspension stock anyway? Regardless, I'm too poor to
buy a new bike, so I'll continue riding my 02 R1 on the track (forum member 6).
Faithfulness in this context is not experienced as absolute loyalty to only one brand. Rather, it is legitimate to
question publicly the qualities of the favorite brand. Contrary to what might be expected, forum member 6
receives very few objections from the community members, and a relatively rational, attribute-based discussion
of the merits and disadvantages of different motorcycle brands and models follows. In general, discourses
presented by the forum members include few elements of real enthusiasm and emotional commitment for the
brand. Apparently, community members perceive both the products and the brands in the sports bike category
as little differentiated. This does not mean that R1 owners are dissatisfied with their bike or the Yamaha brand
in general. Rather, the specific situation of the sports bike community suggests customers who are highly
satisfied with their brand, yet nevertheless would switch to another brand easily. It has been suggested that
brand loyalty can be measured by asking individuals how likely it is they would recommend the brand to a friend
or colleague ([37] Reichheld, 2003). Because people new to sports bike riding frequently ask for advice on the
forum, a great number of posts are related to what bike from which brand would be recommended. Typical
answers include statements such as "any of the new bikes are great" (forum member 7) or "I've spent some
time on all the bikes and seriously there is no true winner, no matter what you get nowadays is a rocket out of
the crate and you will be getting a good bike! Each has its ups and down but overall I could see myself on any
of them really!" (forum member 8). Rather than showing indifference, consumers like and actually buy any of the
important sports bike brands. Using the conceptual partition of the awareness set into an evoked set, an inert
set, and an inept set ([33] Narayana and Markin, 1975; [42] Spiggle and Seawall, 1987), it seems that R1
community members place most of the important sports bike brands into the evoked set, whereas the inert set
is relatively small. Instead of a highly committed loyalty to one single brand, as in previous accounts of brand
communities, the Yamaha R1 brand community is, if anything, prone to multi-brand or split loyalty ([17] Jacoby,
1971; [18] Jacoby and Kyner, 1973). Identity is thus less defined by a specific brand, but rather by the activity of
riding a sports bike itself. Wherever brand personalities influence decision making, it seems that these criteria
are exclusive rather than inclusive. That is, the consideration set is not formed by the inclusion of a specific
brand or set of brands, but rather by excluding unattractive brands. For example, in the R1 forum, some
members distance themselves from Suzuki, one of Yamaha's main competitors, because they don't identify with
the people who ride Suzukis:
Yes, gixxer is by far the "squid bike" all the first time riders and newbies love the gixxers [...] Their mentality and
unfriendly attitude is because they are young, dumb, and think their bike is the best ever (forum member 9).
In motorcycle slang, Gixxer stands for Suzuki's GSX-R line of super sport motorbikes. Forum members do not
reject the Suzuki brand because of issues with the quality or performance of the product, but rather because of
the characteristics of the riders who use the brand. Squid, an expression that, according to some forum
members, is a combination of the two words "squirrel" and "kid," describes irresponsible motorcycle riders who
overestimate their riding skills and frequently wear inappropriate and insufficient riding gear. By claiming that the
Suzuki GSX-R series is the typical squid bike, attributes of the consumers are ascribed to the brand. Thus,
brand identity is built on exclusion ("this is not how we want to be") rather than on inclusion. Further, meaning
19 March 2015

Page 5 of 13

ProQuest

transfer in this case deviates substantially from the traditional symbolic consumption process. Symbolic
consumption suggests that individuals transfer the symbolic meaning of a brand to themselves, and
subsequently the audience, such as peers and significant others, assigns the attributes of the brand to the
individual ([12] Grubb and Grathwohl, 1967). However, meaning in the example above is transferred in the
reverse direction, from the user to the brand. Negative attributes of Suzuki brand users (such as being
squiddish, dumb, and inexperienced) are transferred to the brand and clash with the otherwise positively
perceived performance and quality of the product.
The identity of the R1 brand community is further formed by the relationship with two other groups of
motorcycles. On one hand, most forum members seem to admire the more exclusive Italian sports bike brands,
such as Ducati and MV Agusta. On the other hand, the relationship to Harley Davidson is not marked by a clear
distinction of acceptance versus rejection pattern, but rather by a complicated and sometimes ambiguous
pattern of mixed emotions toward the brand and its users:
There are a lot of douche bag riders, Harley and sportbike alike, but I will admit I've flipped off quite a few
Harley riders. I've gotten less camaraderie from Harley riders than anyone, but those are just the young
wannabies, the old guys are usually cool tho, hahaha (forum member 10).
Here, forum member 10 develops a differentiated look toward Harley-Davidson riders by explaining that the less
friendly Harley riders are typically those that are younger (and thus less experienced), whereas the older riders
seem to be more open. Both positive and negative feelings co-exist at the same time as the result of a cognitive
evaluation that avoids simple stereotyping found at other brand communities. Many R1 forum members
perceive the Harley-Davidson brand as both cool and obsolete at the same time, and this ambiguity toward the
brand is replicated for the users of the brand, where Harley-Davidson riders have been experienced as both
cool and authentic riders or as ignorant and unfriendly "weekend warriors." Thus, brands in the R1 community
are not iconic symbols that unambiguously communicate attitudes and lifestyles of brand users to the larger
audience via the meaning of the brand. Rather, brands are complex, multidimensional entities that gain
meaning only in the reciprocal relationship with the brand user. Unconditional single-brand loyalty and "we"
versus "us" stereotypes are replaced in large part by ambiguous, differentiated, and often critical attitudes
toward the own brand. Brand identity is based on exclusion (Suzuki is a typical brand for squids) instead of
inclusion, and within a relatively large evoked set, multi-brand loyalty is more common than religious-like brand
worshipping described for, e.g. the Apple Newton.
Conclusions and managerial implications
Brand communities have sparked the interest of marketing researchers and practitioners alike because of the
high levels of brand loyalty and commitment observed in previous studies on brands such as Apple, Jeep, or
Harley Davidson. However, the results of this qualitative study suggest that instead of single-brand loyalty,
consumers for mainstream brands may be more prone to multi-brand loyalty. As forum member 8 (see citation
above) expressed it, "[...] no matter what you get nowadays is a rocket out of the crate and you will be getting a
good bike! Each has its ups and down but overall I could see myself on any of them really!" The case of the
Yamaha R1 brand community thus presents preliminary evidence that specific industry conditions may shape
the relationships consumers have with their brand, and more specifically, that multi-brand loyalty is more
probable to occur for low levels of brand differentiation ([9] Felix, 2009) combined with more choices ([5]
Bennett and Rundle-Thiele, 2005). It follows that from the point of view of a company, having many members in
a specific brand community does not necessarily translate into a highly loyal customer base. Rather, under
certain conditions, higher levels of participation may actually increase the likelihood of adopting products from
competing brands, especially if individuals are simultaneously members in several brand communities ([44]
Thompson and Sinha, 2008).
The results of this study suggest that marketers should monitor and track consumers' motivations, attitudes, and
decision making processes on two levels: On the product level, it is important for marketers to understand
19 March 2015

Page 6 of 13

ProQuest

barriers and conflicts related to the general use of the product. In the specific case of a sports bike, the physical
risk (in the form of experiencing a severe accident) is probably the most important issue, which in turn may lead
to substantial social tensions, especially with family members. For other products, such as clothing, computers,
or food, the motivations why consumers may or may not consider a specific product category may be different,
but it remains essential to understand these reasons. On the brand level, it is important for marketers to
understand the degree of brand identification in the community as well as the way how consumers perceive a
consciousness of kind, share rituals and traditions, and experience a sense of moral responsibility ([31] Muiz
and O'Guinn, 2001).
In a world of online consumer-to-consumer communications, companies are increasingly losing control over
their brands. It is therefore important for marketers to get involved in the process of image building and brand
positioning in online communication platforms. Non-company-run communities, such as the Yamaha R1 forum,
bear the risk of community members transmitting brand information in a way not desired by the company ([43]
Stokburger-Sauer, 2010). Marketers thus should try to integrate consumers by either sponsoring an entire
discussion website, a forum, or part of a forum ([36] Pitta and Fowler, 2005). Finally, an unobtrusive and
authentic way of increasing a company's involvement in a non-company-run forum is exemplified by a company
that provides motorcycle braking systems. One of the company's employees invites Yamaha R1 forum
members to ask him brake related questions and explains that he is on the forum not to sell, but to educate
riders about brakes in general. By choosing a non-selling approach in the R1 forum, the company manages to
gain credibility in the community and to build customer relationships that are more consumer-focused and
authentic than many of the hard-selling approaches at the dealerships. The employee's thread on brake
questions has more than 600 postings, which is significantly above the forum's average of around 15 postings
per thread, and evidences the interest of the community in a direct contact with company representatives. The
example also suggests that online communities are not limited to relationships between consumers and the
brand and between consumers and consumers. Rather, consumers develop complex relationships with several
brands, products, marketing agents, and other consumers within the same community.
Avenues for future research
Future research may strive to examine in more detail the impact of overlapping (i.e. multiple) community
memberships ([29] McAlexander et al. , 2002). There are also questions about the specific impact of multi-brand
loyalty on brand relationships. For example, if multi-brand loyalty is the more adequate model to describe brand
relationships for mainstream brands, does that mean that commitment and brand love are divided among the
different brands in the evoked set? Or is it possible that several brands receive the same amount of
commitment and dedication, as might be claimed by a husband being in a polygynous relationship with several
wives? Finally, how can corporations increase their share in the multi-loyal brand set? As in many other
industries, differentiation on the product level seems to be difficult for sports bikes, but efforts in brand
communication, e.g. by using events and experiences to build brand image, might be a promising avenue to go.
References
1. Algesheimer, R., Dholakia, U.M. and Herrmann, A. (2005), "The social influence of brand community:
evidence from European car clubs", Journal of Marketing, Vol. 69 No. 3, pp. 19-34.
2. Arnould, E.J. and Wallendorf, M. (1994), "Market-oriented ethnography: interpretation building and marketing
strategy formulation", Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 31 No. 4, pp. 484-504.
3. Belk, R.W., Sherry, J.F. Jr and Wallendorf, M. (1988), "A naturalistic inquiry into buyer and seller behavior at
a swap meet", Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 449-70.
4. Belk, R.W. and Tumbat, G. (2005), "The cult of Macintosh", Consumption, Markets, and Culture, Vol. 8 No. 3,
pp. 205-17.
5. Bennett, R. and Rundle-Thiele, S. (2005), "The brand loyalty life cycle: implications for marketers", Brand
19 March 2015

Page 7 of 13

ProQuest

Management, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 250-63.


6. Brown, S., Kozinets, R.V. and Sherry, J.F. Jr (2003), "Teaching old brands new tricks: retro branding and the
revival of brand meaning", Journal of Marketing, Vol. 67 No. 2, pp. 19-33.
7. Cerulo, K.A. (1997), "Identity construction: new issues, new directions", Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 23
No. 1, pp. 385-409.
8. Cova, B. and Pace, S. (2006), "Brand community of convenience products: new forms of customer
empowerment - the case 'my Nutella The community'", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 40 Nos 9/10, pp.
1087-106.
9. Felix, R. (2009), "Explaining loyalty: the personal relationship analogy", in Kehoe, W.J. and Whitten, L.K.
(Eds), Advances in Marketing: Embracing Challenges and Change, Society for Marketing Advances,
Tuscaloosa, AL, pp. 59-62.
10. Fournier, S. and Lee, L. (2009), "Getting brand communities right", Harvard Business Review, Vol. 87 No. 4,
pp. 105-11.
11. Giesler, M. (2006), "Consumer gift systems: insights from Napster", Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 33
No. 2, pp. 283-90.
12. Grubb, E.L. and Grathwohl, H.L. (1967), "Consumer self-concept, symbolism and market behavior: a
theoretical approach", Journal of Marketing, Vol. 31 No. 4, pp. 22-7.
13. Harley-Davidson (2009), "Annual report", available at: www.harleydavidson.com/en_US/Media/downloads/Annual_Reports/2009/HD_Annual2009.pdf (accessed June 14, 2010).
14. Haigh, J. and Crowther, G. (2005), "Interpreting motorcycling through its embodiment in life story
narratives", Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 21 Nos 5/6, pp. 555-72.
15. Hickman, T. and Ward, J. (2007), "The dark side of brand community: inter-group stereotyping, trash talk,
and Schadenfreude", in Fitzsimons, G. and Morwitz, V. (Eds), Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 34,
Association for Consumer Research, Duluth, MN, pp. 314-9.
16. Hollenbeck, C.R. and Zinkhan, G.M. (2006), "Consumer activism on the internet: the role of anti-brand
communities", in Pechmann, C. and Price, L. (Eds), Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 33, Association for
Consumer Research, Duluth, MN, pp. 479-85.
17. Jacoby, J. (1971), "A model of multi-brand loyalty", Journal of Advertising Research, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 2531.
18. Jacoby, J. and Kyner, D.B. (1973), "Brand loyalty vs. repeat purchasing behavior", Journal of Marketing
Research, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 1-9.
19. Kozinets, R.V. (1997), "I want to believe: a netnography of the X-Philes' subculture of consumption", in
Brucks, M. and MacInnis, D.J. (Eds), Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 24, Association for Consumer
Research, Provo, UT, pp. 470-5.
20. Kozinets, R.V. (1999), "E-tribalized marketing? The strategic implications of virtual communities of
consumption", European Management Journal, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 252-64.
21. Kozinets, R.V. (2001), "Utopian enterprise: articulating the meanings of Star Trek's culture of consumption",
Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 67-88.
22. Kozinets, R.V. (2002), "The field behind the screen: using netnography for marketing research in online
communities", Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 39 No. 1, pp. 61-72.
23. Kozinets, R.V. (2006), "Click to connect: netnography and tribal advertising", Journal of Advertising
Research, Vol. 46 No. 3, pp. 279-88.
24. Langer, R. and Beckman, S.C. (2005), "Sensitive research topics: netnography revisited", Qualitative Market
Research: An International Journal, Vol. 8 No. 2, pp. 189-203.
25. Leigh, T.W., Peters, C. and Shelton, J. (2006), "The consumer quest for authenticity: the multiplicity of
meanings within the MG subculture of consumption", Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 34 No.
19 March 2015

Page 8 of 13

ProQuest

4, pp. 481-93.
26. Lincoln, Y.S. and Guba, E.G. (1985), Naturalistic Inquiry, Sage Publications, Beverly Hills, CA.
27. Luedicke, M.K., Thompson, C.J. and Giesler, M. (2010), "Consumer identity work as moral protagonism:
how myth and ideology animate a brand-mediated moral conflict", Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 36 No.
6, pp. 1016-32.
28. McAlexander, J.H., Kim, S.K. and Roberts, S.D. (2003), "Loyalty: the influences of satisfaction and brand
community integration", Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 1-11.
29. McAlexander, J.H., Schouten, J.W. and Koenig, H.F. (2002), "Building brand community", Journal of
Marketing, Vol. 66 No. 1, pp. 38-54.
30. Muiz, A.M. Jr and Hamer, L.O. (2001), "Us versus them: oppositional brand loyalty and the Cola wars", in
Gilly, M.C. and Meyers-Levy, J. (Eds), Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 28, Association for Consumer
Research, Valdosta, GA, pp. 355-61.
31. Muiz, A.M. Jr and O'Guinn, T.C. (2001), "Brand community", Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 27 No.
4, pp. 412-32.
32. Muiz, A.M. Jr and Schau, H.J. (2005), "Religiosity in the abandoned Apple Newton brand community",
Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 31 No. 4, pp. 737-47.
33. Narayana, C.L. and Markin, R.J. (1975), "Consumer behavior and product performance: an alternative
conceptualization", Journal of Marketing, Vol. 39 No. 4, pp. 1-6.
34. Nelson, M.R. and Otnes, C.C. (2005), "Exploring cross-cultural ambivalence: a netnography of intercultural
wedding message boards", Journal of Business Research, Vol. 58 No. 1, pp. 89-95.
35. Ouwersloot, H. and Odekerken-Schrder, G. (2008), "Who's who in brand communities - and why?",
European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 42 Nos 5/6, pp. 571-85.
36. Pitta, D.A. and Fowler, D. (2005), "Internet community forums: an untapped resource for consumer
marketers", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 22 No. 5, pp. 265-74.
37. Reichheld, F.F. (2003), "The one number you need to grow", Harvard Business Review, Vol. 81 No. 12, pp.
46-54.
38. Schau, H.J. and Muiz, A.M. Jr (2006), "A tale of tales: the Apple Newton narratives", Journal of Strategic
Marketing, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 19-33.
39. Schau, H.J., Muiz, A.M. Jr and Arnould, E.J. (2009), "How brand community practices create value",
Journal of Marketing, Vol. 73 No. 5, pp. 30-51.
40. Schouten, J.W. and McAlexander, J.H. (1995), "Subcultures of consumption: an ethnography of the new
bikers", Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 43-61.
41. Schouten, J.W., McAlexander, J.H. and Koenig, H.F. (2007), "Transcendent customer experience and brand
community", Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 35 No. 3, pp. 357-68.
42. Spiggle, S. and Seawall, M.A. (1987), "A choice sets model of retail selection", Journal of Marketing, Vol. 51
No. 2, pp. 97-111.
43. Stokburger-Sauer, N. (2010), "Brand communities: drivers and outcomes", Psychology &Marketing, Vol. 24
No. 4, pp. 347-68.
44. Thompson, S.A. and Sinha, R.K. (2008), "Brand communities and new product adoption: the influence and
limits of oppositional loyalty", Journal of Marketing, Vol. 72 No. 6, pp. 65-80.
45. Torres-Moraga, E., Vsquez-Parraga, A.Z. and Zamora-Gonzlez, J. (2008), "Customer satisfaction and
loyalty: start with the product, culminate with the brand", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 30213.
46. Wallendorf, M. and Belk, R.W. (1989), "Assessing trustworthiness in naturalistic consumer research", in
Hirschman, E.C. (Ed.), Interpretive Consumer Research, Association for Consumer Research, Provo, UT, pp.
69-84.
19 March 2015

Page 9 of 13

ProQuest

47. Yamaha Motor Co. (2009), "Annual report", available at: www.yamahamotor.co.jp/global/ir/material/pdf/2009/2009annual-e.pdf (accessed June 14, 2010).
Appendix
About the author
Reto Felix is an Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Monterrey, Mexico. He received his
Master's in Marketing and PhD in Business Administration from the University of St Gallen, Switzerland. He has
been a Visiting Scholar at the Marketing Group, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley,
and has published in journals such as Journal of International Marketing , Journal of Business &Industrial

Marketing , and Journal of International Consumer Marketing . Further, he has presented his research at
conferences hosted by the Association for Consumer Research, the American Marketing Association, the
Academy of Marketing Science and the Society for Marketing Advances. Reto Felix can be contacted at:
rfelix@udem.edu.mx
Executive summary and implications for managers and executives

This summary has been provided to allow managers and executives a rapid appreciation of the content of this
article. Those with a particular interest in the topic covered may then read the article in toto to take advantage of
the more comprehensive description of the research undertaken and its results to get the full benefits of the
material present. The topic of brand communities has provided the focus for much marketing literature. Brand
communities transcend geographical boundaries and contain people who exhibit passion for a particular brand.
These individuals also display similarities in consciousness while "shared rituals and traditions" is another
cornerstone of their social relationships. Some scholars have even noted the propensity for "religious-like"
associations to develop.
Evidence shows that groups can be based locally, online or a combination of both. A wide range of products
has supplied the inspiration for brand communities to form. In addition to strong consumer identification with the
brands, "clear and unique positioning" is viewed as a common characteristic among brands concerned. Brand
loyalty can be fervent to a degree that an "us and them" mentality often arises with regard to other brands.
Bonding within the community can generate stereotypes and outsiders are treated with some disdain. Any
failure of competitor brands is cause for celebration.
It is, however, a misconception to assume that brand communities are always homogenous. Significant internal
differences appear to be the rule not the exception. Relationship intensity with other members is subject to
variation because some are loyal to the brand while others may identify more closely with the product. Levels of
social orientation can similarly differ. Researchers have also pointed out the possibility of some individuals
lacking interest in brand, product and social relationships yet remaining in the community. Others might become
involved with different brand communities in the same product category, resulting in further dissemination of
loyalty.
Felix explores the topic in a study of an online Yamaha brand community principally devoted to the Japanese
manufacturer's R1 luxury sports motorcycle. Yamaha is one of the world's leading brands in its category and in
2009 boasted sales of $12.5 billion. At the time of the study, there were 107,249 registered members in the R1
forum. Some members did not currently own a motorcycle, while others possessed a different brand.
The author considers netnography as the most relevant study method for the investigation of brand
relationships and "identity construction of an online community". This approach is regarded as ethnography
adapted for the purpose of exploring online communities. Among other things, netnography has been
commended for its flexibility, open-endedness and interpretative qualities. Different researchers have used the
approach in a variety of study contexts including cars, consumer gifts and TV programs.
Following initial analysis of messages posted on the forum, the threads were arranged into five different
sections respectively labeled as: Community; R1-related Discussion; Technique, Racing and Stunt Discussion;
Marketplace/Classified; and Miscellaneous Section. Analysis of the threads enabled messages to be coded and
19 March 2015

Page 10 of 13

ProQuest

then organized into "interpretive themes" so that appropriate "layers of meaning" could be identified.
Message themes were analyzed at the product level to ascertain factors which influence practice and identity. In
general, considerable risk is associated with riding a motorcycle for leisure purposes. But the variation in
attitudes towards factors like speed and riding style means that different segments exist within the biking
community. At one end of the continuum are those who ride around at moderate speeds to savor the
experience with the environment. Positioned at the other extreme are bikers whose penchant for high speed is
often accompanied by an aggressive style of riding. Such individuals are also likelier to flaunt their biking skills
through dangerous maneuvers like pulling wheelies.
According to Felix, riding a motorcycle gives rise to various risks and conflicts that can be physical, functional,
financial, psychological or social in nature. The activity is therefore highly complex and generates a web of
"tensions and constraints" that the individual must constantly address internally and externally. Concern about
accidents is a recurring theme with community members referring to "actual or anticipated implications" in that
eventuality.
Message content reveals that conflict exists between knowledge of the intrinsic risks associated with bike riding
and the gratification derived from it. Forum members suggest that such tensions may prompt attitude or
behavioral changes, albeit sometimes fleeting in nature. This occurs because riding a motorcycle is almost
addictive and an important aspect of identity construction. Some comments imply that it is a "mission" that
simply has to be fulfilled. Even though members are aware of the conflicts which surround this pastime, the
desire to ride is the main driving force. Analysis reveals a "shared consciousness" about issues including
serious accidents, loss of a fellow biker, and problems relating to the family. The author ascertains a collective
identity that is complex in nature but difficult to categorize precisely.
An examination of meaning at the specific brand level reveals a relationship between forum members and the
Yamaha brand that is "ambiguous and differentiated". Instead of absolute loyalty to the brand, it is more evident
that people engage in balanced debate about its qualities and those of other motorcycle brands. Members
apparently perceive little differentiation between brands and may switch to another brand even if they are highly
satisfied.
Many studies have noted that some consumers can display loyalty to multiple brands and there is some
evidence of this tendency here. Messages seeking advice on future purchases are frequent and members
typically recommend a range of brands they consider decent. In the opinion of Felix, this indicates that riding a
sports motorcycle defines identity much more that the specific brand of bike.
Another significant finding is how decision making seems influenced more by exclusive than inclusive brand
criteria. A key example is the negative perceptions of the Suzuki brand among some R1 forum members. The
interesting fact about this hostility is that is has little to do with product quality concerns. Instead, such
evaluation arises because members question those who ride Suzuki sport bikes. With regard to identity
construction, meaning is normally transferred from brand to individual. Here, however, it is the negative traits of
Suzuki riders that are transferred to the brand. Some conflict with positive perceptions of the product
subsequently occurs.
That brands are complex and multidimensional is further illustrated by the contrasting ways in which R1
members relate to Harley Davidson. Positive and negative feelings exist simultaneously as the brand is
regarded as cool yet obsolete. Contrasting statements are likewise directed at Harley Davidson riders. One
important deduction is that ambiguity surrounds brand meaning, attitude and lifestyle conveyed within this
community.
This study indicates that consumer-brand relations might be shaped by "specific industry conditions". Marketers
are also alerted to lack of clear brand differentiation and the possibility that multi-brand loyalty will ensue, even
when a large brand community exists. Understanding what influences consumer attitudes, motivations and
decision-making at both product and brand level is essential. Certain factors may encourage or deter choice of
19 March 2015

Page 11 of 13

ProQuest

a particular product, while it is equally important to be aware of brand identification levels and collective
sensitivities among consumers.
Given the revealing nature of online communication, Felix suggests that firms might gain greater insight into
consumer thinking by becoming actively involved in non-company forums. An unobtrusive approach is
considered vital though. The aim should not be to sell but to build authentic consumer-focused relationships
with an emphasis on providing advice or information. (A prcis of the article "Brand communities for mainstream

brands: the example of the Yamaha R1 brand community". Supplied by Marketing Consultants for Emerald.)
AuthorAffiliation
Reto Felix, Department of Business Administration, University of Monterrey, San Pedro Garza Garca, Mexico
Subject: Brand identification; Motorcycles; Loyalty; Consciousness; Community; Communication; Braking
systems; Marketing; Studies;
Classification: 8680: Transportation equipment industry; 7000: Marketing; 9130: Experimental/theoretical
Publication title: The Journal of Consumer Marketing
Volume: 29
Issue: 3
Pages: 225-232
Publication year: 2012
Publication date: 2012
Year: 2012
Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing, Limited
Place of publication: Santa Barbara
Country of publication: United Kingdom
Publication subject: Business And Economics--Marketing And Purchasing
ISSN: 07363761
Source type: Scholarly Journals
Language of publication: English
Document type: Feature
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/07363761211221756
ProQuest document ID: 1008637915
Document URL: http://search.proquest.com/docview/1008637915?accountid=149759
Copyright: Copyright Emerald Group Publishing Limited 2012
Last updated: 2012-05-29
Database: ProQuest Research Library

19 March 2015

Page 12 of 13

ProQuest

Bibliography
Citation style: Harvard - British Standard
FELIX, R., 2012. Brand communities for mainstream brands: the example of the Yamaha R1 brand community.
The Journal of Consumer Marketing, 29(3), pp. 225-232.

_______________________________________________________________
Contact ProQuest

Copyright 2015 ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved. - Terms and Conditions

19 March 2015

Page 13 of 13

ProQuest