Happy consumption strengthens bonds with brands


Happy consumption experiences like increase psychological ownership for brands and products and can influence consumer behavior.

“The concept of psychological ownership refers to the feeling we have when use the word ‘mine’,” explains WU Professor Bernadette Kamleitner. “Psychological ownership and legal ownership don’t always overlap. Take my office chair, for example: I think of it as my chair, but legally it belongs to my employer.” Bernadette Kamleitner heads WU’s Institute for Marketing and Consumer Research and has spent many years investigating how feelings of ownership emerge and what effects they have on behavior. Together with the coauthors of her latest studies, she looks at how positive emotions that people experience when consuming products and branded goods influence psychological ownership for these brands. “In addition, we wanted to find out whether these feelings of ownership would also affect consumer behavior – in other words, we looked at whether positive consumption experiences can increase customer loyalty and consumers’ willingness to buy specific products and to pay more for them,” Kamleitner explains.

Positive emotions during consumption increase willingness to pay

The researchers carried out a total of five studies with different study designs (field studies, lab studies, online studies) to test a wide variety of products, e.g. popcorn, laundry detergents, and energy drinks. In their first study, they found that positive emotions triggered by an animal video translated into positive effects on how participants rated a fictitious popcorn brand they consumed while watching the video. Specifically, those who watched a positive video while consuming a branded product indicated stronger feelings of ownership for the brand, expressed higher loyalty intentions, and were willing to pay just as much for the fictitious brand as for the market-leading brand. Increased loyalty and a higher willingness to pay could both be attributed to the boost in psychological ownership, because willingness to pay remained unchanged for the market-leading brand. “From these results, we can conclude that people who experience positive emotions don’t just rate all brands more positively. Instead we observed that the effect was specific to the particular products we used in the study,” explain Professor Kamleitner and her coauthor Carina Thürridl from the University of Amsterdam. In another study, the researchers found that the transfer of positive emotions to a branded product and the increase in psychological ownership only occur when people actively engage with the brand while experiencing positive emotions. “This means that it’s not enough to watch your favorite movie and have the popcorn close by. To increase your bond with a specific brand, you have to actually consume the branded product during the emotional experience,” Kamleitner points out.

“Happy products” create stronger bonds with brands

The observed effects were particularly strong for brands that promise positive emotions in their communication. “One takeaway for manufacturers of branded goods might be that it’s particularly important to create an atmosphere that facilitates positive emotions in settings where people engage directly with the product, for example by playing happy music during a wine tasting event,” says Carina Thürridl.

C. Thürridl, B. Kamleitner, R. Ruzeviciute, S. Süssenbach, S. Dickert (2020): From happy consumption to possessive bonds: When positive affect increases psychological ownership for brands, Journal of Business Research, Volume 107, pages 89-103, ISSN 0148-2963,

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