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The "Harry Potter" Brand. Sense of Community, Attitudinal Loyalty, and Purchase Behavior

Master's Thesis 2015 114 Pages

Communications - Public Relations, Advertising, Marketing, Social Media

Excerpt

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Summary

PLAN SUMMARY

List of Abbreviations

List of Tables and Figures

Introduction

1. Literature Review
1.1. The Harry Potter Phenomenon
1.2. Sense of Community
1.3. Attitudinal Loyalty
1.4. Purchase

2. Conceptual model
2.1. The Problematic
2.2. The Hypotheses
2.3. The Final Model

3. Methodology
3.1. Type of Research
3.2. A Quantitative Study
3.3. Pretesting
3.4. Data Analysis

4. Data Analysis
4.1. Demographics
4.2. Frequency Analysis
4.3. Reliability Analysis
4.4. Multiple Regressions

5. Managerial implications

6. Conclusion

7. Further Research

References

Table of Contents

Appendix

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Professor Carlos M. Rodriguez for agreeing to be my thesis director, and for helping me throughout my work. His support and help were greatly useful from the beginning until the very end. He taught me to stay focused at all times and to surpass what was expected of me. I am thankful for the precious time he spent directing my steps, answering my questions, and advising me when in doubt. I consider myself truly lucky and grateful to have learned from such a competent Professor and to have had the privilege to be his student.

Summary

This research’s objective is to evaluate the impact of a person’s sense of community on his or her attitudinal loyalty and purchase behavior regarding the Harry Potter brand.

Within the past decade, Harry Potter has become a multi-billion dollar brand with millions of fans all over the world. The fan base community has developed with the rise of the Internet and new means of interaction. They have had a real power of decision over the brand’s managers, and are a key element to the success of Harry Potter. This study will focus on people’s sense of community and on the existence of a relationship between this sense of community and people’s loyalty and purchase behaviors towards the Harry Potter brand.

The problematic to this study is “How does a person’s sense of community impact its attitudinal loyalty and purchase behavior regarding the Harry Potter brand?”.

This question will be answered by adopting a quantitative research method that will comprise two phases. In the first phase, I will assess the relationship between people’s sense of community within their own personal community, and their attitudinal loyalty towards the Harry Potter brand. In the second phase, I will assess the relationship between people’s attitudinal loyalty and their purchase behavior, both regarding the Harry Potter brand. The dimensions measuring these variables will be drawn from the researches cited in the literature review.

The sample will be analyzed first in its entirety, and then divided into two groups (fans and non-fans of Harry Potter) in order to deepen the findings and look for nuances within the results. The analysis of the collected data from 602 respondents showed that in the first phase, only the Shared Emotional Connection dimension of Sense of Community positively impacts people’s Attitudinal Loyalty towards Harry Potter. The second phase indicated that all three Affective, Cognitive, and Behavioral dimensions of Attitudinal Loyalty impact Purchase in a different way depending on the group studied.

This research proved the existence of a relationship between a person’s sense of community and his or her attitudinal loyalty and purchase behavior towards the Harry Potter brand, and identified the dimensions within those variables that have a significant impact in the relationship.

List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

List of Tables and Figures

Figure 1 Timeline of the Harry Potter books and movies releases

Figure 2 Measures of Sense of Community (McMillan & Chavis, 1986)

Figure 3 Measures of Attitudinal Loyalty (Rosenberg & Hovland, 1960)

Figure 4 Research Model

Figure 5 Research Steps for the Quantitative Study (Hermel, 1995)

Figure 6 Levels of Regression used in the study

Table 1 Studies conducted until 1986 on Psychological Sense of Community

Table 2 Division of the Likert Scale of Frequency between Non-Fans & Fans of HP

Table 3 Cronbach’s Alphas in the reliabilities of the Sense of Community variables

Table 4 Cronbach’s Alphas in the reliabilities of the Attitudinal Loyalty variables

Table 5 Cronbach’s Alpha in the reliability of the Purchase variable

Table 6 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Affect at the Aggregate Level

Table 7 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Affect at the Aggregate Level

Table 8 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Cognition at the Aggregate Level

Table 9 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Cognition at the Aggregate Level

Table 10 Coefficient Table of Force Entry Regression of Behavior at the Aggregate Level

Table 11 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Behavior at the Aggregate Level

Table 12 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Purchase at the Aggregate Level

Table 13 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Purchase at the Aggregate Level

Table 14 Summary Table of the Forced Entry Regressions at the Aggregate Level

Table 15 Summary Table of the Stepwise Regressions at the Aggregate Level

Table 16 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Affect for Non-Fans

Table 17 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Affect for Non-Fans

Table 18 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Affect for Fans

Table 19 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Affect for Fans

Table 20 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Cognition for Non-Fans

Table 21 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Cognition for Non-Fans

Table 22 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Cognition for Fans

Table 23 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Cognition for Fans

Table 24 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Behavior for Non-Fans

Table 25 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Behavior for Non-Fans

Table 26 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Behavior for Fans

Table 27 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Behavior for Fans

Table 28 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Purchase for Non-Fans

Table 29 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Purchase for Non-Fans

Table 30 Coefficient Table of Forced Entry Regression of Purchase for Fans

Table 31 Coefficient Table of Stepwise Regression of Purchase for Fans

Table 32 Summary of the Forced Entry Regressions at the Group Level

Table 33 Summary of the Stepwise Regressions at the Group Level

Introduction

In 1997, British author J.K. Rowling published the first book of a 7-volume fantasy series called Harry Potter. Little did she know that the spell she had just cast onto the world was the beginning of a unique success story.

As soon as the book came out in the United Kingdom, the buzz around the series started growing exponentially, and soon enough Harry Potter was part of an entire cultural and generational phenomenon. The fandom created among Harry Potter was exceptional, leading to a whole fan base universe. New vernacular such as “Pottermania” (the Harry Potter fan phenomenon), “Quidditch” (the official wizarding sports game), or “muggle” (non-magical people) are now used in everyday language and have even been added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2003.

The Harry Potter books extended into eight movies, hundreds of online fans websites and forums, worldwide exhibitions, conventions, merchandises, video-games, and many other additions that transformed Harry Potter into a multi-billion dollar brand. Harry Potter broke dozens of records in the box-office like in the sales industry. And even though the series has ended, the phenomenon goes on and continuations of the brand keep the magic going.

The marketing surrounding the Harry Potter brand used new techniques to promote the brand worldwide, mainly benefiting from the rise of the Internet and new technologies, as well as the fan base community. This fan community played a key role in the development and promotion of the brand and in the decision process of the brand managers during the “Harry Potter decade”. The online buzz and word-of-mouth related to Harry Potter originated from its fans who used new technology to create websites and forums. These platforms allowed people from all over the world, of any age and any background, to participate in the Harry Potter adventure and become part of the phenomenon. Added to live and local activities such as Quidditch games, role-playing games or Harry Potter conferences, these gatherings – real and virtual – allowed the fans to interact between each other and develop the community by their own.

A lot of works have already been done on the elements that drove the Harry Potter brand to success. Whether it is the rise of the Internet, the story of the author, the teasing marketing techniques, the good story, or the fans involvement… dozens of reasons are part of the success of the brand. What I am interested in understanding here is the role of people’s sense of community in relation with their opinion of Harry Potter. We know that the community of Harry Potter grew larger and larger every year, but is there a relation between the sense of community within people and their loyalty to Harry Potter, and in consequence their purchase behaviors regarding Harry Potter?

This research’s goal is to answer the question “How does a person’s sense of community impact its attitudinal loyalty and purchase behavior regarding the Harry Potter brand?” .

In order to do so, I will start by gathering secondary data into a literature review about the Harry Potter brand, Sense of Community, Attitudinal Loyalty, and Purchase. The literature review will define all the variables used in this study. It will explain the reasons behind the success of Harry Potter, and go into the details of the different dimensions of Sense of Community, Loyalty – and more specifically, Attitudinal Loyalty – and Purchase.

Then, I will conceptualize the model of this thesis and draw propositions and hypotheses from the problematic and the research questions. The model will be composed of two phases: a first phase will evaluate the relationship between people’s sense of community in general and their attitudinal loyalty towards the Harry Potter brand, and a second phase will evaluate the relationship between people’s attitudinal loyalty and their purchase behavior regarding the Harry Potter brand.

The next chapter will cover the Research Methodology, which will take the form of a quantitative method using a questionnaire. This will allow primary data to be collected from a sample of respondents, and analyze the findings in the Data Analysis.

Finally, I will draw conclusions from the results of the data analysis in order to provide managerial recommendations.

1. Literature Review

1.1. The Harry Potter Phenomenon

1.1.1. An introduction to Harry Potter

The Harry Potter novels tell the story of a wizard teenager named Harry Potter. At age one, he became orphan when Lord Voldemort, the most powerful dark wizard of all times, killed his parents during his quest to conquer the world. However that same night, when trying to kill Harry, the curse backfired and Lord Voldemort vanished, making Harry Potter forever famous as the boy who survived against Lord Voldemort. He grew up with his muggle (non-magical people) aunt and uncle never knowing what he was. At age 11, Harry is sent to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry after discovering he was a wizard. New students are divided into the four houses of Hogwarts, each corresponding to a certain type of character. With his two best friends Ron and Hermione, Harry discovers the magical world of wizards, and leads his people against the inevitable return of Lord Voldemort.

The 7-book series was written by British writer J.K. Rowling. With its two main publishers Bloomsbury in Britain and Scholastic in the United States, the series sold over 450 000 million books, translated into 73 languages, and became bestsellers in more than 200 countries in the world. Three years after the first book was released, Warner Bros started adapting the story into 8 movies, which all together brought back almost $8 billion at the box office. Harry Potter has broken records over records, from fastest-selling DVD to becoming a best-seller only with the pre-orders of the last book (before its release), to second top grossing movie of all times.

The books and movies releases during the Harry Potter decade followed this order:

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Figure 1: Timeline of the Harry Potter books and movies releases

With:

HP 1: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (UK)

HP 2: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

HP 3: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

HP 4: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

HP 5: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

HP 6: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

HP 7: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows [part (1) and part (2)]

1.1.2. Harry Potter as a worldwide brand

Within the past few years, the definition of a brand evolved and has taken a more cultural approach. A brand is characterized by a name, a logo, and other features that differentiate its product from other seller’s products. Now we can see brands representing writers, schools, businesses, and even some States are their own brand (Brown, 2005). The gap between culture and business is smaller than ever. Today, brands are not just about the product they sell, but they have cultural traits such as symbols, indicators, and are topics of discussion.

Although Harry Potter started as a series of books, it has now become a brand on its own. In 2014, the Harry Potter brand was estimated to be worth $15 billion (Thompson, 2008).

Harry Potter is also a societal brand, which is a brand that “not only fulfills a need but also creates a relationship that can be experienced among groups of people within or across cultures” (Gunelius, 2008, p.39). Thanks to the Internet and new means of communication, the cultural aspect of the brand brought a whole generation together around one passion, overlooking race, religion, geographical location, and culture.

According to Gunelius (2008), branding is characterized into 3 main steps:

1- Definition: Defining the desired image that the brand will represent in the marketplace.
2- Communication: Communicating the message of the brand.
3- Persistence and consistency: Being persistent and consistent with the brand message and image.

The next chapters will demonstrate how these three steps covered the essential elements that transformed the Harry Potter series into a brand. The definition of the Harry Potter brand had been clearly defined from the beginning by its author J.K. Rowling. Then, the communication of the brand message is thoroughly conveyed by herself, the brand’s marketers, and in majority by the fans. At last, persistence and consistency played a key role in establishing long-lasting loyalty from the customers, and therefor creating the long-term success of the brand.

1.1.3. Reasons behind the success of Harry Potter

1.1.3.1. A good product

Behind any successful brand is a good product. Although we are discussing the unique marketing techniques that were used to promote the Harry Potter books and movies, it is important to stress the fact that none of it would have led the Harry Potter brand that far if it wasn’t a good product to begin with.

The financial success of the series and testimonials of millions of fans can attest the quality of the content of the story. Because it is a 7 book series, only a good story could enchant that many readers into being addictively drawn until the last page. But what makes a good story?

1.1.3.1.1. What Makes A Good Story?

According to Christopher Booker (2004), the 7 basic master plots that make any story successful, from gothic novels, grand opera, to video games, are: rags-to-riches, rebirth, the quest, overcoming the monster, tragedy, comedy, and voyage and return.

All of those plots have been depicted in the Harry Potter series with elements such as:

- Rags-to-riches: the very story of the author, J.K. Rowling, as well as the fate of Harry Potter from living in a closet under the staircases to being rich and famous (Rowling, 1997).
- Rebirth: Harry has to die in the last book in order for the villain to be weakened, and comes back to life to defeat him once and forever (Rowling, 2006).
- The quest: Harry needs to find the seven “horcruxes” (powerful magical objects) in order to defeat the Dark Lord (Rowling, 2005).
- Overcoming the monster: In each book, Harry and his friends fight all kinds of evil monsters.
- Tragedy: a lot of lives are lost in the story, starting with Harry’s parents (Rowling, 1997).
- Comedy: the books are written with pleasant British humor by J.K. Rowling and include humorous characters such as the Weasley twin brothers.
- Voyage and return: in the last books, Harry and his friends must go find the horcruxes somewhere in the world, and return back to the School to fight the final battle (Rowling, 2006).

Another study from Palmer (1991) claims that good novels are made of a mix between convention and invention. While bringing her own creativity into the story, J.K. Rowling was inspired by many conventional references and story-telling tools from (Smadja, 2001):

- Fairy tales themes (the death of one or both parents at the beginning of the story),
- Mythical stories and its creatures (giants, centaurs, elves…),
- Legends (Santa Claus’s legend represented through the chimney powder)
- Magical elements (flying brooms, owls messengers, sorcerer’s hats, wands…)
- Real history facts (the villain, Voldemort, has character traits of Adolf Hitler, wanting to exterminate everybody who does not characterizes as “pure blood”)
- Children’s books (obvious differentiation between good and evil)

Even if the author created a magical world, she always put reason above superstition, and education above any sign of obscurantism (Smadja, 2001), which made the books more “approachable” for anyone to read. The story was unique, and it appealed to both children and adults, which in consequence allowed the book to deal with a bigger market, and was one of the only books that could be appreciated by people of any age.

Therefore, by creating a whole new universe, and by using successful story-telling techniques, J.K. Rowling offered the world 7 bestsellers that would quickly become legendary.

1.1.3.1.2. The Secret Ingredient

The key element to its success is something that almost nobody had done previously. Something that isn’t related to the story nor the marketing or selling techniques. Something so simple, but that made the whole difference between any other series. And that secret is that the product ages with the consumer (Dalsace, Damay, Dubois, 2007; Dalsace, 2008).

Until now, almost all book series had their characters set in a defined age. Neither Hergé’s Tintin nor Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese grew old during their years of publishing. But in this case, seven books –each representing one year – would tell the story of Harry Potter from 11 years old to 18 years old. Each book represented one year of school, before graduating and becoming an adult. And the whole “Harry Potter generation” would grow up at the same time as the character in the book.

As we can see in the Figure 1: Timeline of the Harry Potter books and movies releases in the previous chapter, the books were released fast enough so that the readers would grow up at the same pace as their hero (releasing one book or one movie a year, with the exception of some small breaks). Furthermore, each book became darker and more complicated, as to keep up with the evolution of its teenage readers. Even the writing style of J.K. Rowling evolved during the series, as to be understood by her growing audience.

This is also the reason of why it is called the “Harry Potter generation”. Although it is clear that the books can be appreciated by anybody at any age, the biggest part of the readers were the Y generation, because they could relate better to the hero and his friends, and because they could experience the same evolution within them during the decade it was made. This was one of the keys to customer’s eternal loyalty.

That fundamental secret in J.K. Rowling’s novels was so significant that many different brands after her considered adopting the same techniques. Frederic Dalsace published a paper in 2008 inviting brands of clothing to follow its customers’ needs throughout the decades, and change its style according to their evolution, rather than trying to attract new customers every decade. It is known that it is easier to retain a loyal customer than to gain a new one, so this tactic would ensure a lifelong loyalty from the customer to the brand.

1.1.3.2. The story behind the author

One of the several techniques marketers used to make the books more appealing to the population was the strategic use of the author’s image. The author J.K. Rowling not only knows how to tell a story, but she is a story by herself (Brown, 2005). It is very common today to promote the author of a book as part of the promotion of the book itself. We live in an era where celebrities are acclaimed and followed. Their fame has sometimes nothing – or almost nothing – to do with their actual job or action they are known for, but mostly with their lifestyle, their past stories, their opinions, and their personality.

Authors become more and more famous as celebrities rather than authors. The image that the author projects is very important when promoting his or her book, and their level of popularity among readers can be especially influential on their sales. Therefor, a good promotion of the person who writes the books is a good strategy to multiply sales.

1.1.3.2.1. A Rags-To-Riches Profile

In the case of J.K. Rowling, her story was bound to get successful. She had the exact rags-to-riches tale that consumers admire (Dietel, 2011). The press loved telling her story: a young, moneyless, and almost homeless single-mother with a baby would go to a bar in London every day for years in order to write the first Harry Potter novel, because she couldn’t afford the heater at her own place. After being rejected a dozen times by several of the best editing companies for over a year (including Penguin, Transworld, and Harper Collins), she finally got the attention of a literary agent called Christopher Little who worked for the – now famous – Bloomsbury Editions (Beahm, 2004).

J. K. Rowling is now the richest novelist of all times (Watson, 2004).

Although this “fairy tale” has been objected by J. K. Rowling herself, who stated in an interview that the press had overly exaggerated the facts and that she had done proper literature studies and wasn’t on the verge of being homeless, the story was too appealing for people to hear otherwise. Everybody loves an underdog. In any event, promoting the author as a former hopeless person who managed to become richer than the Queen of England is a story that sells. People need to dream, to hope, and to follow leaders who “were just like them” and became a success. Thanks to the right promotion of her own life story, J. K. Rowling became a role model and an influencer for millions of people throughout the world.

But of course, her past story is not enough to make her the role model that she is today. Her fans follow her because she conveys an exemplary lifestyle. She often donates generously to charitable associations to promote children literacy, and is a lead speaker and donator for multiple sclerosis associations, disease from which her mother died. She is also an influential speaker for other causes such as social protection or handicap children’s abuse (Brown, 2005).

1.1.3.2.2. J.K. Rowling As Brand Guardian

J. K. Rowling’s rise to the top was also determined by her smart managerial choices. She has stated herself guardian of the Harry Potter brand, which committed her to ensure that all communications and business activities would be done with consistency to the Harry Potter brand image (Brown, 2005). Every partnership related to the brand has to go through her agreement. She owns the rights to all her books (paper and electronic books), movies, and every derived product (Vanlerberghe, 2011).

This has allowed her to refuse financially attractive offers from different possible partners (such as McDonald’s or big movie studios), when she didn't think that her hero would be given the appropriate image (Gunelius, 2008). Harry Potter has only about 400 merchandising products in the whole world (compared to usually thousands of derived products in series such as Star Wars or Star Trek), consisting mostly of video games, Lego games, candies, stationary and clothing. Although it is a considerable low number compared to the importance of the brand, it accounted for already more than $7 billion sales in the year 2001 (during the release of the first movie) (Gonzales, 2009).

Coca-Cola Company was one of the few partners that J.K. Rowling accepted to be tied to her brand, but under strict conditions. Coca-Cola, who had won the right to be partnered with a bid of $150 million, agreed (on the author’s request) to donate $18 million to Reading is Fundamental (another association to help children literacy) as well as more money to other community groups. Furthermore, Coca-Cola was forbidden to use any Harry Potter image for its products, and no Coca-Cola product would be placed in the films (contrary to what is usually done with partnerships between films and other brands) (Gunelius, 2008).

As for the films, it wasn’t until two years of negotiations that she finally agreed with Warner Bros on the movie series they would make of her books. The same selective treatment was given to the cast of the movies, with J. K. Rowling rejecting famous directors such as Steven Spielberg for the first movie (she said that it he would “Americanize” the movie too much) (Brown, 2005).

In a certain way, J. K. Rowling did not just fulfill the mission of writing the famous series, but she stood out as a famous public figure and a smart decisional owner of the brand.

1.1.3.3. The marketing tools

Although we established in the previous chapter that Harry Potter was a good product by itself, no matter what the marketing tools were, it would be unreasonable not to mention the other contributors of its global success.

To make a good product a successful product, it is necessary to market it the right way. People will not know about a product if it is not presented to them directly. Harry Potter is an interesting example of using unordinary marketing practices that led the brand to the top.

1.1.3.3.1. Teasing And Scarcity

Teasing and scarcity were one of the major marketing techniques that the brand used to create more demand everyday. Teasing marketing consists in giving the minimum to the customer so to always leaving him wanting more. It is the opposite of traditional marketing where the supplier always tries to satisfy the consumer to the maximum. From the moment the author and her editors realized that Harry Potter was going to be big (during the 3rd book release), they changed their marketing techniques and acted like a luxurious brand. Therefor, at the release of the 4th book, a real teasing marketing campaign began and was successful.

Harry Potter marketers always made it so that people weren’t fully satisfied and were left with growing curiosity concerning the next events. Stephen Brown (2005) depicts the marketing technique of Harry Potter to be constituted of three elements: first, countdowns of the days and hours left until the release of the new book were posted on all the Harry Potter websites and bookstores, then rumors began spreading (for example the number of deaths in the new book), and finally an “incident” would occur a couple weeks before the release of the book (for example some copies of the book were stolen a couple of days before the release). Even J.K. Rowling’s website was filled with teasing messages. She would herself post enigmas, mysteries, fake clues, and riddles to play with her fans and give them something to hold onto before the next book was out.

The scarcity techniques that marketers used were inspired by luxurious brands. It is well known that people always want what they don’t have or what they can't get. By making the product unattainable and rare, it increased the demand and the desire to acquire it even more. Luxury brands only make short and rare appearances. If they are too much present in people’s lives, people will get bored of the brand rapidly. The more we see something, the less interested we become about that thing. So their technique was to appear rarely, but when they did, it was memorable. They proceeded that way for example with the author’s appearances and interviews. Giving her the most privacy they could under the circumstances and allowing the media to interview her only once in a while would always create an enormous buzz when those appearances happened. For instance, she only gave three or four official interviews of the upcoming book, and the night of the release of the 4th Harry Potter book, she made an unscheduled appearance at Waterstone’s bookstore in Edinburg, to sign copies of her new book (Brown, 2005).

Marketers used the same technique of teasing and scarcity when providing the public with new exclusive information. The title, the number of pages and the prices of each book were only publicly revealed two weeks before the release date (Gunelius, 2008). Contrary to the usual process of book release, no copy of the book were given to the press beforehand, and translators of other languages had to wait the same release date than the public to get a copy of the book and start translating it (Peras, 2007).

Extreme security measures were taken for the last books, to ensure that nobody could read it before the release, which made the product even more secret and therefor desirable. Distributors and booksellers had to sign strict confidentiality contracts, and some bookstores were allowed to showcase one copy of the book locked in a cage for a very short time period before the release. For the 7th book, security guards were put around the warehouses where the book was printed. Amazon was required to store its copies in secret and secure locations, while Bloomsbury didn't deliver the book until the day before its release, shipped in crates bound with steel chains. It was the first time in history that such caution measures were taken to release a book (Ahl & Guillot, 2007; Gunelius, 2008). And to add on the teasing bit, a television coverage would be aired one week before the release, showing the reinforced security trucks and therefor warning the customers that this next issue was going to be a big deal.

1.1.3.3.2. Word-Of-Mouth And Online Buzz

Word-of-mouth was probably the main marketing tool that propelled Harry Potter to the top. Whether on the web or face-to-face, the fans didn't miss an opportunity to praise the series and to convince everyone to try it out. Their level of loyalty was uniquely high, and they were said to try to “convert” non-Harry-Potter-readers into reading the books and becoming addicted too (Brown & Patterson, 2010).

As we will see in the next Chapter on the role of the Internet and the power of fans, marketers used this new means of communication (the Internet) to promote the books and movies, not only by feeding information themselves to the customers, but by simply letting the customers express themselves and nourish the buzz. Likewise, distributors such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the books’ publishers Bloomsbury and Scholastic, created platforms on their websites such as forums, comments sections and “chats” in order to facilitate interaction between readers, and encouraged them to give their free opinion and ratings about the books (Blake, 2002). That way, the customer was even more convinced of the quality of the book because he had read the testimonials of real readers and knew they weren’t influenced by any marketing strategy. This simple and costless process of creating more room on the website for the customer to give its opinion, multiplied the sales of their online products and increased the fandom community of Harry Potter.

The movies benefitted as well from the Internet buzz. David Heyman, who produced all the eight Harry Potter movies, stated that until now, the press would play a capital role in the promotion of a movie. However today, the best means to promote any movie is the online media, because it is online that the audience is found (Gonzales, 2009).

1.1.3.3.3. Brand Consistency

Brand consistency is very important today for the survival of a brand. It is key to a customer’s loyalty. Because there are more marketing means than ever before, a brand is represented on many different platforms, from social networks and paper magazines to apps and websites. The brand message must be clear and coherent over time. Even more for a brand such as Harry Potter that was already bound to last over a decade (with 7 books and 8 movies), it was crucial to stay faithful to its message. A clear and steady message gives the consumer something to hold onto and a brand to stay loyal to forever (or at least for the time we want them to stay loyal).

Harry Potter can be considered as a relationship brand because it relies on experience (Gunelius, 2008). By giving the opportunity for the customer to experience the product (Harry Potter book or movie) on an individual level, they can develop their own feelings and emotional involvement to it. Because J.K. Rowling was the brand guardian and was ensuring the consistency of the brand message, the readers would feel secure enough with the brand to let themselves attach emotionally and to develop their brand loyalty, thereby giving the brand value.

According to Gunelius (2008), the 3 “S”s of customer loyalty are defined as:

1- “Stability: Customers are driven to emotional involvement in a product when that product (or brand) sends a consistent message.
2- Sustainability: Customers are driven to emotional involvement in a product when they expect that product to be with them for a long time or at least a specific amount of time with a clear end.
3- Security: Customers are driven to emotional involvement in as product when that product gives them a feeling of comfort or peace of mind.” (Gunelius, 2008)

The three stability, sustainability and security attributes were met when J.K. Rowling announced from the beginning that Harry Potter was a series of 7 books (the customer knew in advance for how long he or she should expect to be involved with the brand), and stayed true to her values and message throughout the entire decade of Harry Potter.

The time period in which the brand was developed was also part of the consistency of the brand image, since the books and movies were released more or less with even breaks in between (see Figure 1: Timeline of the Harry Potter books and movies releases in Chapter 1.1.1). The first 4 books were released each year from 1997 to 2000, so to hook the customer better. Because the first 3 books are more “childish” than the rest of the series (the hero is 11 to 13 years old), it is the 4th book that really catches adults’ attention with a much darker turn of events in the plot, and makes readers extremely interested in the outcome of the story. During the break between books 4 and 5, the movies start coming out each year, to satisfy customers’ greed for “more Harry Potter” while waiting for the next book. This allowed a greater part of the population (those who watched the movies) to become interested in the book series and therefor to keep the sales going. After that, the last books and movies releases were a series of evident successes. The consistency of knowing that each year, a new Harry Potter book or movie would be released kept customers’ loyalty to the highest.

Meanwhile, by becoming brand guardian, the author made sure that the brand, her characters, her story, and her message were delivered to the world by her standards, from the beginning to the end. This consistency in the brand message and values are the reason why fans stayed loyal to Harry Potter. They knew what to expect, so they couldn't be disappointed. Furthermore, brand consistency made it easier for the fans to participate in the promotion of the product (Harry Potter). Because they came to know it well over the years, they knew exactly how to represent it and to sell it to others. By “selling”, I mean convincing others to be part of the adventure, to discover the series, by communicating to them the same message that the author expressed.

It is interesting to notice too that not only did the message and values J.K. Rowling was promoting for her brand were kept consistent, but the message and values inside her books also were consistent. From the first to seventh book, the main characters value the same things, even though they have grown up and faced terrible endeavors on their path. The hero and his friends fight selflessly for the good to win and evil to lose, for family and friendship to prevail, and for the “right thing to be done”. Despite the many temptations to do bad, which most of the time is the easiest path to success, they will stay true to their commitments until the end. The same can be said about their author, who stayed true to her values and commitments until the end of the series. Although she became the richest novelist on Earth and gained incredible success, she kept fighting for the same causes she used to (adding some along the way), by helping children to literacy and donating to health charities, but most of all by staying the same genuine person she was at the beginning, and protecting her brand from any dilution along the way.

Therefor, the marketing tools used to promote the Harry Potter series and gain customers loyalty consisted mainly in using teasing and scarcity techniques to make customers always want more, take advantage of the online buzz and word-of mouth to gain their trust, and establish a consistent message and values that allowed fans to stay loyal on the long term.

1.1.3.4. The role of the Internet and other technologies
1.1.3.4.1. A Perfect Timing

Some say that one of the reasons of the success of Harry Potter was its perfect timing with the rise of the Internet and other technologies in the world (Anelli, 2008; Beuth, 2007; Gunelius, 2008). With the first book released in 1997 and the first movie in 2001, it was a happy coincidence that the Internet got popularized during that same time period. It allowed fans websites and forums to spread, and on-line social networks to feed information about the series. It also helped the brand to spread its message to the rest of the world quickly and easily. Without the Internet, fan communities would probably not have been as big and would not represent a vast diversity of cultural backgrounds.

Another advantage that the popularization of Internet and technologies offered at that moment was creating a competition-free market for the Harry Potter books (Gunelius, 2008). Because the late 1990s – early 2000s were characterized by the increase of video games, computer games, and the rise of the Internet, children were no longer interested in reading books. Although it could have played a negative role in selling the books, it actually made it easier for the author to rise among all. Because marketers were busy developing customers’ interest for new technologies, they weren’t advertising books like before. Only Harry Potter and some other few series benefited from this change of trends to demark themselves and profited from less competition from other authors. And instead of resisting changing and rejecting technology, Harry Potter marketers used that same technology to their advantage. They turned an obstacle (the rise of technology against old books) into an asset.

Today, more than 330 million results come up on Google when typing “Harry Potter” (when only 128 million results appear for “The Lord of the Rings”, a similar generational science-fiction series that has been around for many more decades and which movies were released at the same time than the Harry Potter movies). On Facebook, hundreds of Harry Potter fan groups have been created, and dozens of Harry Potter fan websites exist on the web.

As we will see in the next chapter on the power of fans, the fan websites and J.K. Rowling’s personal website played an immense role in the marketing of the brand.

1.1.3.4.2. Technology For Marketing Tools

While the Internet provided a useful means of communication, other technology media were used as marketing tools as well. Indeed, people started using mobile phones a lot more during the 2000s, which led marketers to use these tools of communication to gather information about customers and to promote new products.

For example, as part of the first Harry Potter movie campaign in 2001, Warner Village Cinemas worked with Flytxt and Ignition Marketing Group to launch an “SMS campaign” to influence people to go see the movie (Tran, 2003). The goal was also to gather a database of moviegoers for future campaigns. Contestants could win tickets for the preview screening of Harry Potter or an annual pass if they pre-booked the tickets over the phone. The SMS medium was more attractive to teenagers, which were the targeted population for that campaign. However, parents and siblings were also invited to text-in for free tickets, which turned the campaign into a family experience.

Also in the cellphone business, Electronic Arts partnered with the Harry Potter brand, bringing all sorts of downloads to cellphones customers, such as wallpapers, voice and ring tones, and mobile games associated with the brand (Warner, 2007).

Six years later, to promote the 6th Harry Potter movie, Warner Bros partnered with Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions, launching an exclusive online website, “Competish”, on MSN UK (Gunelius, 2008). This website hosted a contest where fans would answer a series of questions about the 5th Harry Potter book every week from November to December 2007. The winner would receive a walk-on role in the new Harry Potter movie.

Many games and competitions like those were created by the Harry Potter brand while partnering up with technological groups in order to attract more customers with new and exciting means of communications.

1.1.3.4.3. Piracy And Other Limits

Since the start of the Internet and illegal downloads, piracy has cost the movie industry to lose a considerable amount of money, representing about $6 billion of loss per year in 2008 (Gunelius, 2008).

China was by far the country generating the most loss to piracy for the Harry Potter brand. Not only did they download the movies illegally at an impressive rate, but they also had to deal with trouble concerning the books. Indeed, during the wait between the 4th and 5th Harry Potter book, a Chinese author took advantage on fans impatience by publishing a fake 5th Harry Potter book, entirely written by himself. Even though people knew it wasn't the real deal, and despite the warnings from J.K. Rowling, the book sold quickly and in large numbers on the street markets, generating more fake Harry Potter volumes (including “Harry Potter and the Leopard Walk-Up-To-Dragon”, or “Harry Potter and the Chinese Porcelain Doll”) (Brown, 2005).

Because they couldn’t control nor forbid the illegal downloads of the 4th Harry Potter movie, distributors decided to release the DVD two weeks earlier in China than the official North American release date, and they reduced its price as well. That way they could hope for a better chance for Chinese people to buy the legal DVD.

The book industry also suffered from piracy, although less than the movie industry. Because today people read more and more on electronic devices such as e-readers or smart tablets, the electronic version of the books faced considerable piracy. In France, the last book was completely downloadable (illegally) on the Internet only 12 hours after its release in the stores (Martin, 2007).

The rise of the Internet in the early 2000s and the new technological means of communications helped the Harry Potter marketing to spread faster worldwide. Piracy was the origin of big financial losses, but contributed to the popularization of the brand as well.

1.1.3.5. The power of fans

The community of fans that was created around Harry Potter played an important and unusual role when promoting the brand. Indeed, contrary to other communities of fandom, the Harry Potter one was a lead actor in its promotion. Calling themselves “potterheads” or “pottermaniacs”, the members were pro-active and took initiatives to create by themselves events, website, forums, clubs, conferences, and other types of activities to feed the fandom world of Harry Potter and to spread an even bigger buzz worldwide.

1.1.3.5.1. The Online Community

The first Harry Potter fan websites were created with the rise of the Internet around 1997-1998 by teenagers around 12 years old who were reading the books. The websites got more and more popular when the first movie came out in 2001, and there are now hundreds of fan websites around the globe, of which the most famous are The Leaky Cauldron, Mugglenet, and Harry Potter Lexicon (a Harry Potter encyclopedia). In 2005, Mugglenet.com, the most famous one, was already attracting over 27 million visitors from 183 countries (Gunelius, 2008).

These unofficial websites would offer news about upcoming Harry Potter books or movies, and would discuss rumors about them. Forums were created in order to communicate within the fan community and share their opinions. These forums were very popular – and still are – among fans, who would discuss their preferences about the story and the characters, share their opinions about the books or movies, create podcasts about Harry Potter (mugglecast, pottercast …), share their drawings or novels inspired by Harry Potter, and debate about future storylines of the book (Frankel, 2012).

At first, these online forums and websites created conflicts between fans and the distributors. Warner Bros, J.K. Rowling, and both editors Scholastic and Bloomsbury, initially objected to these sites in order to preserve copyrights (Brown, 2005). They started suing some of those websites in court, but quickly realized their mistake. The lawsuits made the fans angry and rebellious, which was not a good strategy for the popularity of the brand. So they decided to adapt and adopt their communication means, and to use forums as a costless means to collect data about the fans, to keep them posted on upcoming events, and to feed the on-line word-of-mouth buzz. Warner even invited the webmasters to visit the set of the Harry Potter movie they were shooting, so they could publish on their websites pictures, interviews, and other elements that would contribute to the teasing marketing tactics already observed. Rather than creating needs for the customer and convincing them to buy, marketers could benefit freely from online commentaries in order to adapt to the already existing demand among fans. They were dealing with pull marketing, which was much easier and cheaper than push marketing.

From that day, J. K. Rowling has been supporting those fan sites too. She created her own website in 2004, a few years after the beginning of the online buzz, well aware of the importance of such means of communication. Eight weeks after the launch, her website had received 220 million visits. She stated that she takes into account the things said in these forums, and sometimes even participate in them. Since 2004, she even announced a “Fan Site Award” on her official web site, which she would give to the most exceptional Harry Potter fan site (Anelli, 2008).

1.1.3.5.2. Other Pottermania Activities

We have described the important fan base online community of Harry Potter. But what about real life interactions? Is Harry Potter exclusively a virtual community or does it extend to other forms of communal loyalty? It is certain that the Harry Potter brand benefited mainly from its activity on the web, and enabled fans to gather among online forums and websites to nourish the buzz. That permitted a bigger international aspect of the community and easier information spreading. However, local physical communities also formed, expanding the fandom to more real-life activities. From role-playing games to sports clubs in Colleges or annual conventions, fans of any age could participate in Harry Potter-related activities.

Quidditch

In 2005, a College in Vermont started playing “Muggle Quidditch” (“muggle” being the term used to qualify non-magical people and “Quidditch” is the official sport of wizards). This team sport, supposed to be played while flying on broomsticks and throwing balls in three hoops while seeking for the “golden snitch”, a flying golden small ball, had its rules revisited to match “muggle” abilities. The players run on the ground with brooms between their legs, pass the balls between players of the same team (a bit like handball), and score by throwing it through three hoops installed above the ground. The golden snitch is represented by a live person dressed in golden costume with a tail. He hides during the game and appears at one point, and players have to catch his tail to end the game and earn points (Hack, 2013).

This activity started to play in several Colleges throughout Canada and America, and soon enough spread to the world (Frankel, 2012). It is now governed by the International Quidditch Association (IQA), who holds the Quidditch World Cup. In 2014, the IQA counted more than 200 registered College teams and 4000 members, including Colleges such as Cornell, McGill, UCLA, Harvard, Stanford, etc. Muggle Quidditch is played among adults in Colleges or even some company sports teams, and a modified version of the game (softer) called Kidditch has been invented for younger people to play.

By inventing a new sport, J.K. Rowling opened new horizons and enabled a fan-fiction community to gather around a common sport. It brings together all kinds of people, and disregards religion, race, and gender. Because it is a team sport played against other teams, it involves high levels of team membership, and over all high sense of community. It strengthens the relationship among players, all gathered because of their one passion (Quidditch, and therefor Harry Potter). But like any other competitive sport, it also allows them to meet, interact, and compete against other teams from different States and different countries around the world. This is a great way to form a worldwide community based on mutual respect, gender equality, and “Quidditch love” (also called “quove”).

Conventions and conferences

Fan conventions and conferences were another way to consolidate the Harry Potter fan community, and to expand its fantasy world. Several conventions are held every year, including the most famous ones: Prophecy, LeakyCon, Infinitus, Asciendo and Azkatraz. They offer all kinds of activities such as academic conferences with professional keynote speakers or members of the Harry Potter cast, interactive games (wizarding chess, Quidditch games…), podcasts, Harry Potter bands concerts, etc… Most of the conventions are a fun way to meet other fans from different cultures, which is a great way to exchange information and create relationships within this community. Some other conventions such as Lumos in 2006 (a 3-day convention with more than 100 conferences) have a more serious tone to them and are strictly reserved for adults (Cadwalladr, 2007). The talks tackle subjects like political views on Harry Potter or relationships between characters.

In any event, whether the goal is just to have fun with peers or to reflect more deeply about a Harry Potter related matter, these types of gathering play a big part in the expansion of the Harry Potter fandom community.

Music bands

During the early 2000s, rock bands associated with Harry Potter started to appear. They are called wizard rock, or “wrock”. It originated in Massachusetts with a now famous band called Harry and the Potters, and has now grown internationally (Pyne, 2011). They usually dress as Harry Potter characters and sing lyrics from the point of view of that character. There are now more than a hundred wrock bands, many of which released more than two albums and performed worldwide at numerous concerts and conventions, attracting even listeners outside of the Harry Potter fan base.

1.1.3.5.3. Fans As Marketers, Influencers, Sellers And Buyers

Online websites and forums created by the fans fed the buzz in so many ways, from communicating new information to allowing fans to create and share their own fan-fiction stories. Meanwhile, outdoors activities such as Quidditch games, conventions, role-playing sessions, or concerts, enabled the community to meet and to strengthen the bonds between fans from all over the world. All of those contributed to the financial success of the brand. In November 2006, What will happen in Harry Potter 7: Who lives, who dies, who falls in love and how will the adventures finally end, a collection of predictions of fans from the website Mugglenet.com was published, selling 300,000 copies (Schoen, Spartz & Gordon, 2006; Gunelius, 2008).

Fans of Harry Potter were also big consumers as well as sellers of on-line Harry Potter merchandises. Harry Potter fans are among the biggest buyers and sellers on the website eBay (Brown, 2005). Everyday, thousands of Harry Potter products are put on sale by fans on that website, and almost as many products are bought every day. Indeed, the fan community sells as much as they buy, and therefor are considered to be an integral part of the brand’s business.

The potterheads go beyond selling, buying and participating in events. They are also great influencers on the decisional processes of distributors of the brand. As we’ve established earlier, marketers were not creating demand for the Harry Potter brand, but created products in response to the needs of the customers. Likewise, distributors were very aware of fans needs and requests (awareness gained again with the online circles), and more than once had to revise their decisions in order to fit fan’s demands. For example, the release of the 5th Harry Potter movie in Australia was due on the 6 September 2007, two months after its release in North America. Only 2000 signatures from disappointed Australian fans were sufficient enough for Warner Bros to move the date to July 11th 2007 (the same date as the American release) (Gunelius, 2008).

The Harry Potter fan community rose with the Internet and contributed to the development and the promotion of the Harry Potter brand. Online interactions within forums and websites as well as outdoor activities such as Quidditch games or Harry Potter conventions strengthened the bond between Harry Potter followers. They became leaders in the marketing strategies of the brand and influenced decision-making concerning future steps.

1.1.4. Harry Potter today

Because most of the buzz around Harry Potter was done online through the fans and the author’s websites, should we expect, now that the series have been all released, to see the phenomenon continuing on the World Wide Web, or have other means been implemented to secure the future of the brand?

Fans websites, online groups and forums have indeed continued to feed the Harry Potter phenomenon. In 2015, four years after the last movie was released, websites such as Mugglenet.com, Harry Potter subreddits on Reddit.com, and Facebook groups about Harry Potter keep posting information every day. They follow closely the career and personal life of the cast of Harry Potter, discuss issues of the books or movies, and continue praising their hero.

But the main attractions after the Harry Potter decade are the new website called Pottermore.com, created two years ago, and the Harry Potter themed-parks.

1.1.4.1. Pottermore

In 2012, J.K. Rowling and Sony launched a website called pottermore.com, which would be the official website dedicated to Harry Potter (Witt, 2011). It is an interactive website where visitors create a unique account in their name, and go through the Harry Potter books (in chronological order) by playing on the website, and unlocking each chapter. They collect all sorts of elements during their quest, get sorted into one of the 4 Houses, and compete against each other for the House Cup. When unlocking new chapters, J.K. Rowling unveils new and untold content about the story. She also explains her creative process on different aspects of her books.

Pottermore is the only platform in which to order the Harry Potter e-books and audiobooks today (Vanlerberghe, 2011). The website has been translated into 6 languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese). Like she did for the marketing of her books and movies, J.K. Rowling uses teasing techniques, by uploading very slowly each part of her books onto the website, and revealing little secrets from time to time, to keep her readers on the edge, coming back everyday to unlock more of the story.

Pottermore’s interface is a sort of continuation of the Harry Potter books, giving the fans more to read, allowing them to shop in the “Pottermore shop” section, keeping them posted on news and keeping the community within a single website. The Harry Potter story started with books, then movies, and this is the third means on which to rediscover the story.

1.1.4.2. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

In 2010, Universal and Warner Bros opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a Harry Potter-themed expansion from the Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida, where people could walk into the Harry Potter universe (Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, shops, and Harry Potter-related roller-coasters). In 2014, Universal opened another Harry Potter-themed area at Universal Studios Florida, adding different rides, including the famous train (The Hogwarts Express) fully functioning, and Kings Cross Station. That same year, they opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, and are planning on opening a 4th Harry Potter themed park at the Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles, California in 2016.

These themed-parks are a great way to keep the universe of Harry Potter flourishing forever. It is something that they hadn’t done during the Harry Potter decade: bringing the world of Harry Potter to life in real size landscapes, where fans could come and physically experience the magical universe. They are able to enter the same shops their hero went into, drink the same drinks he does in the books, buy wands for themselves, etc… It is another level of reaching emotional involvement within the customer. They are no longer viewers, readers, or a member of the audience, but they are actors themselves. The universe they were watching or reading has materialized for them to be part of as well.

1.1.4.3. Other continuations

More events have been created since the end of the Harry Potter decade, including exhibitions, studio tours, and even new magical school camps.

Harry Potter: The Exhibition, is an exhibition of the props, landscapes and costumes created and used for the Harry Potter movies. The exhibition started in Chicago in 2009 and has since travelled the world, stopping at locations such as Boston, Toronto, Seattle, New-York, Sydney, Singapore, Tokyo, and Paris in 2015. Outside London, in Leavesden, a Studio Tour brings tourists to the set of the Harry Potter films, where they can wander inside the streets and through magical world of Harry Potter. Recently, children themed summer camps in Britain include a Harry Potter theme where kids role play scenes of the book and stay in castles, wearing Hogwarts wizard robes. As for grown-ups, they can now enroll at the Czocha College of Wizardry in Poland where they practice live-action role play (Khan, 2014), stay at the Czocha Castle and reincarnate their favorite heroes by becoming students at this school and attending classes such as Fighting the Dark Arts or Training as a Healer. Students over 18 come from all over the world to this new school and once again strengthen the bonds within the Harry Potter worldwide fan community.

The Harry Potter phenomenon did not stop after the end of the releases of the books and movies. Until today and for many years to come, the author as well as the fans continue to create gatherings, activities and new means to rediscover the Harry Potter series and live in the magical world of Harry Potter.

Now that I have established the foundations surrounding the Harry Potter phenomenon, I will continue to deepen this literature review on the topics of Sense of community, Attitudinal Loyalty and Purchase.

1.2. Sense of Community

1.2.1. Early studies

The concept of Sense of Community was first introduced by the psychologist Seymour B. Sarason in 1974. He is known to be one of the first leaders of the community psychology movement, and he presented the key concept of what he called “Psychological Sense of Community” (PSOC) in his community psychology studies. Presenting the concept to the world in his seminal book Psychological Sense of Community: Prospects for a Community Psychology in 1974, he states that Psychological Sense of Community is an essential base for self-definition.

The first definition of PSOC given by Sarason described it as "the perception of similarity to others, an acknowledged interdependence with others, a willingness to maintain this interdependence by giving to or doing for others what one expects from them, and the feeling that one is part of a larger dependable and stable structure" (1974, p.157).

In 1975, Gusfield divided community in two dimensions: territorial and relational. The most common kind of community was territorial or geographical communities, such as countries, cities, and neighborhoods. Meanwhile in the relational community, the communities are created according to the quality and nature of their relations, independent from the members’ location. Such communities can include people studying a same topic, or religious communities throughout the world. Although most of the 20th century’s studies on communities were based on territorial communities, today’s modern society usually deals with relational communities (professional, interests, spiritual…).

Since the beginning of PSOC research with Sarason, many studies have been conducted on the subject by scientists and psychologists. They studied PSOC within neighborhood communities. The main studies are listed in the table below:

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Table 1: Studies conducted until 1986 on Psychological Sense of Community

In 1986, McMillan and Chavis came up with a new theory for PSOC, that until today, stayed the most used and the most influential of all.

1.2.2. A definition and theory by McMillan and Chavis

The term “Sense of Community” (shortening it from “Psychological Sense of Community”) came out in 1986, when McMillan and Chavis introduced their new theory on the subject. They defined Sense of Community (SOC) as "a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members' needs will be met through their commitment to be together" (McMillan & Chavis, 1986, p.9).

Their theory of SOC is based on four elements:

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Figure 2: Measures of Sense of Community (McMillan & Chavis, 1986)

1.2.2.1. Membership

Membership is the result of having invested part of oneself to earn the right to belong to a group and become one of its members. McMillan and Chavis divide membership into five elements (1986):

1. Boundaries: the symbols and characteristics of the community that indicate if a person does or does not belong to the community. They can include language, dress codes, rituals, and other features. These boundaries are a sort of protection against external threats. They can be subtle (such as a gang sign) so that only members of a community can recognize them, which makes them more unique and secret.
2. Emotional safety: the level of security one feels within the community, resulting from the implementation of boundaries and the trust in others.
3. A sense of belonging and identification: the feeling of acceptance by the community, which is enhanced with the readiness to sacrifice for the community.
4. Personal investment: such as sacrifices, time and energy investments. The more investment one gives to the group (such as time, money, energy, health, belongings…) the more personal one will take the future of the community.
5. A common symbol system: symbols such as a name, a logo, a style, etc. It is the essence of what differentiates a community with other communities. For example a Nation will characterize itself with a common language, a unique flag, and maybe a unique architecture. According to Nisbet and Perrin: "The symbol is to the social world what the cell is to the biotic world and the atom to the physical world The symbol is the beginning of the social world as we know it" (1977, p.47).

The boundaries installed for the community improve the feeling of safety. That feeling of safety, or emotional safety, gives place to a better sense of belonging within a community whose members feel safe enough to prosper in and identify themselves with. This sense of belonging and identification leads to more investment within the community, investment that is in part spent creating common symbols together, which will ultimately define the boundaries of the community.

1.2.2.2. Influence

McMillan and Chavis (1986) assure that a community needs to have a two-way influence between the group itself and its members. This means that each member must feel like they have a certain influence over the group, that their voice is heard, and that they are special enough within the group to change certain things around. This keeps the members motivated to stay in the group. Meanwhile, the group itself must also have influence over its members, in order to keep cohesiveness among its followers. And for a community to have influence over its members, it needs good values to which members agree and support.

The two authors state that people with the most listening skills and who acknowledge the needs of its co-members, are usually the most influential people within the group, and vice-versa. Therefore, people who put others’ needs before theirs have the most power within the group.

1.2.2.3. Integration and Fulfillment of needs

In order for a member to want to stay in the community, he has to feel “rewarded” in some way (McMillan & Chavis, 1986). He needs to, to some extent, feel better than before he entered the community. The integration of a member is successful if the community can give this member what he was expecting to get from it. It means that the member gets his problems solved and his needs met thanks to the community that he chose.

This can either be a solution such as a question answered, but it can also be intangible such as a group of friends, an emotional support, a sense of belonging… The needs that this member wants to fulfill are determined according to his values. The personal values that a person lives with will characterize his needs, his goals, and the order in which they come. Therefor, the community has to share the same values in order to better respond to its members’ shared needs, and members must meet their own needs while helping others meet theirs as well. The member needs to feel that his contribution within the community is worth his time and energy, and that it helped him feel better overall.

In other words, the goal of a community is to fulfill a certain need, and each person choses a community according to what need they want to be met. The most successful communities are the ones that are mutually rewarding for all its members.

Another term used for this kind of fulfillment of needs is “reinforcement”, in the sense that it stands as a motivator of behavior. These reinforcers include the status of being a member, the success of the community, and the competences and skills of the other members that can benefit others.

1.2.2.4. Shared emotional connection

What McMillan and Chavis define as the “definitive element for true community” (1986, p.14) refers to the element of shared history within the community. Having experienced events together in the past, good or bad, and knowing there will be more to share in the future, strengthens the emotional bond within a community. However, the member doesn't need to have shared the past events with the community, as long as he associates himself with it (for example, wars that his ancestors fought in).

According the McMillan and Chavis, these seven elements constitute relevant features in shared emotional connection (1986):

1. Contact hypothesis: The more interaction there exists between members of the community, the stronger the relationship between them will become.
2. Quality of interaction: Positive communication between members ensure a stronger bond and a better success of the community.
3. Closure to events: Interaction must be clear and not ambiguous, and the tasks within the community must be resolved in order to maintain group cohesiveness.
4. Shared valent event hypothesis: The more important the event members share together (such as a crises), the deeper the emotional connection members will feel towards the group.
5. Investment: The more time and energy a member will devote to the community, the more attachment he or she will feel for that community.
6. Effect of honor and humiliation on community members: A member will feel more attracted to his community if he has previously been seen rewarded for some kind of involvement within the community. However, that member will feel less attracted to the community if he was involved in some kind of humiliation within that community.
7. Spiritual bond: The spiritual bond within a community is more difficult to describe according to the two authors, but is said to be "present to some degree in all communities" (McMillan & Chavis, 1986, p.14). It is obviously more predominant within religious communities.

1.2.3. Revisiting the Sense of Community Index (SCI-2)

Along with the definition of Sense of Community by McMillan and Chavis in 1986 and based on their theory, a Sense of Community Index (SCI) was created. The SCI was a 12-item questionnaire, including the four subscales of Membership, Influence, Integration and Fulfillment needs, and Shared Emotional Connection. The response scale was a True-False option. It was used in many studies over the years, and among different cultures (different parts of the world) and different contexts such as workplaces, schools, Internet communities, cities…). However the four subscales’ reliabilities were found inconsistent, and there was a general concern about the suitability of the Index in a cross-cultural extent.

Because of these deficiencies, a new SCI was adopted in 2008, called SCI-2, and created by Chavis, Lee, & Acosta in The Sense of Community (SCI) Revised: The Reliability and Validity of the SCI-2.

This new SCI-2 included a 24 items, still composed of the 4 main elements of the Sense of Community theory from McMillan and Chavis (1986), each of which comprising 6 items, and used a Likert scale in order to better assess the responses levels. The SCI-2 analysis proved that it was a much more reliable measure (coefficient alpha = 0.94), and is therefor widely used in today’s studies on Sense of Community.

1.2.4. Types of Communities

Today we distinguish three main kinds of communities:

1. Community of place (neighborhoods, cities, coffeehouses, meeting spaces…)
2. Community of practice (work, craft…)
3. Community of interest (sports clubs, church groups, political groups, fan-fiction clubs…)

Although almost all the 1900s studies on Sense of Community referred to communities of place, it is now more common to study and to be part of a community of interest. Because today people are moving more than ever around the globe and change practices relatively often in one’s life, communities of place are rarer. They do not have the same significance as they used to because people spend a smaller amount of time in a same location and therefor they don’t invest as much energy and personal time into getting to know their community of place.

Communities of interest are more fashionable and more common also because of the rise of the Internet, that allows anybody from anywhere in the world to be part of a community. Groups like fan clubs or fan-fiction groups interact, communicate, and share via the Internet.

There is also a change in trends in the last decades, where people dedicate more of their time to a hobby and activities of interest. The ranking of their priorities has changed and work competes more than ever with “pleasure” activities. Communities of interest have multiplied and people spend a greater amount of time and money into these communities than ever.

Sense of community is a characteristic that people have been studying for many decades. In this chapter we reviewed the most popular theory published by McMillan and Chavis in 1986, introducing the four dimensions that are still used today to measure sense of community: Membership, Influence, Integration and fulfillment of needs, and Shared emotional connection. Today, communities have mainly become communities of interest, which is the kind of community I will study in this thesis. The following chapter will describe the attitudinal loyalty of customers towards a brand.

1.3. Attitudinal Loyalty

1.3.1. Brand Loyalty

Brand loyalty consists of a person repeatedly buying from the same brand rather than its competitors. It is crucial for a company to attain brand loyalty from its customers in order to prosper. Basil Coughlan, former vice president of Ford, stated that “every percentage point of loyalty is worth $100 million in profits” (Serafin & Horton, 1994, p.13).

All major brands are spending large amounts of money into loyalty programs for its costumers. It is also a known fact that it costs more money, more time and more energy to attract a new customer than to retain an old one (about six times the cost, according to Rosenberg & Czepiel, 1983). Having loyal customers is clearly a competitive advantage over other brands, since a loyal customer will not hesitate to pay high prices to stay loyal to his or her chosen brand, even though the competition is cheaper (Reichheld & Sasser, 1990), and will be more likely to purchase additional products (Payne, Christopher, Clark & Peck, 1995). Acquiring loyal customers will also decrease marketing costs by providing free positive feedback and word-of-mouth to other potential customers.

The elements defining and measuring brand loyalty have been widely argued over the years, some researchers saying that loyalty was measured only by behavior (Neal, 2000), others that it is a combination between attitudes and behaviors (Jacoby & Chestnut, 1978). As of today, researchers have still not agreed on a universal measurement for brand loyalty.

The most popular concept of brand loyalty however is the later: a combination of both attitudes and behaviors. The behavior approach of brand loyalty is mainly measured by the repeated purchases of the same brand, whereas the attitudinal approach of brand loyalty focuses on the explanatory factors leading to brand loyalty (Bennett & Bove, 2002). In other words, behavioral loyalty is the outcome that we can observe from attitudinal loyalty towards a brand, but attitudinal loyalty does not measure the final decision-making of a customer.

BRAND LOYALTY ATTITUDINAL LOYALTY

BEHAVIORAL LOYALTY

In this thesis, I will concentrate on attitudinal loyalty rather than behavioral loyalty, and include the third variable of my study, “Purchase”, to represent the consumers’ behaviors (which includes the repeated act of purchase described in behavioral loyalty).

1.3.2. Attitudinal Loyalty

Jacoby and Chestnut defined attitudinal loyalty as “The consumer’s predisposition towards a brand as a function of psychological processes. This includes attitudinal preference and commitment towards the brand” (1978). The notion of consistency is important when studying attitudinal loyalty (Mellens, Dekimpe & Steenkamp, 1996). We presume that our attitude is and will stay relatively stable throughout time.

Attitudinal loyalty has been measured in different ways over the years. Solomon (1994) stated that attitudinal loyalty was to be measured with measures of attitude towards the brand or attitude towards the act of purchasing the brand. Other researches suggested that attitudinal loyalty was to be measured regarding the propensity of someone to be loyal. Mellens, Dekimpe & Steenkamp (1996) suggested that attitudinal loyalty should be measured with both the propensity of being loyal and the attitude towards the act of purchasing a specific brand. In 2002, Bennett and Rundle-Thiele published a paper trying to demonstrate which of these two measures would be better suited to measure purchasing behavior, but found that there was no important relationship between the two measures and that they were to be used separately.

Researchers have not yet reached a decision on which measures are best to analyze attitudinal loyalty. Other researches have concentrated on the components of Attitudes related to social psychology in order to assess attitudinal loyalty. This is what I will use to make my case in this thesis.

An attitude in social psychology is the tendency of favor or disfavor regarding a thing, a person, a place, or an event. Rosenberg and Hovland (1960) first theorized how to analyze attitudes presenting a model including the three main components that will, still until today, be the most popular measures of attitudes.

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Details

Pages
114
Year
2015
ISBN (eBook)
9783668032644
ISBN (Book)
9783668032651
File size
4.4 MB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v305295
Grade
17/20
Tags
Harry Potter Consumer behavior Purchase Behavior Community Sense of Community Attitudes Attitudinal Loyalty Loyalty Purchase Film Business Marketing Film marketing Harry Potter brand Brand Brand marketing Groups Fandom Science-Fiction Fantasy Shared Emotional Connection

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Title: The "Harry Potter" Brand. Sense of Community, Attitudinal Loyalty, and Purchase Behavior