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Expressive Brand Relationship, Brand Love, and Brand Loyalty for Tablet PCs: Building a Sustainable Brand

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english
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Frontiers in Psychology
DOI:
10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00231
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March, 2020
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आप पुस्तक समीक्षा लिख सकते हैं और अपना अनुभव साझा कर सकते हैं. पढ़ूी हुई पुस्तकों के बारे में आपकी राय जानने में अन्य पाठकों को दिलचस्पी होगी. भले ही आपको किताब पसंद हो या न हो, अगर आप इसके बारे में ईमानदारी से और विस्तार से बताएँगे, तो लोग अपने लिए नई रुचिकर पुस्तकें खोज पाएँगे.
ORIGINAL RESEARCH
published: 06 March 2020
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00231

Expressive Brand Relationship,
Brand Love, and Brand Loyalty for
Tablet PCs: Building a Sustainable
Brand
Shikun Zhang 1† , Michael Yao-Ping Peng 1† , Yaoping Peng 2* , Yuan Zhang 3* ,
Guoying Ren 4* and Chun-Chun Chen 5*
1

Edited by:
Monica Gomez-Suárez,
Autonomous University of Madrid,
Spain
Reviewed by:
Luis Mañas-Viniegra,
Complutense University of Madrid,
Spain
Seon Lee,
Kent State University, United States
*Correspondence:
Yaoping Peng
a0910996910@gmail.com
Yuan Zhang
cherryline@163.com
Guoying Ren
201631030005@mail.bnu.edu.cn
Chun-Chun Chen
317791001@163.com

College of Economics and Management, Shangqiu Normal University, Shangqiu, China, 2 Business School, Fujian Business
University, Fuzhou, China, 3 Business School, University of Yango, Fuzhou, China, 4 Business School, Beijing Normal
University, Beijing, China, 5 School of Management, Beijing Union University, Beijing, China

This study was conducted from the strategic marketing perspective to test the impact
of brand relationship types on brand loyalty. We also test three path effects of brand
love and brand trust. Data were collected from three metropolitan customers who use
tablet PCs. We obtained 383 valid samples, giving a valid response rate of 89%. Data
analysis was performed with SmartPLS2.0 and SPSS 23.0 to test the proposed model.
The results indicate that an expressive brand relationship significantly predicts brand
trust and brand loyalty. In turn, brand trust has a positive influence on brand love, while
brand awareness and brand love influence attitudinal and behavioral loyalty. Expressive
brand relationship has two indirect mediating affects via brand trust and brand love,
which influence brand loyalty. Finally, we suggest managerial implications and directions
for future research.
Keywords: brand relationship, brand trust, brand loyalty, brand love, structural equating modeling

† These

authors have contributed
equally to this work and share first
authorsh; ip
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Organizational Psychology,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Psychology
Received: 14 November 2019
Accepted: 31 January 2020
Published: 06 March 2020
Citation:
Zhang S, Peng MY-P, Peng Y,
Zhang Y, Ren G and Chen C-C (2020)
Expressive Brand Relationship, Brand
Love, and Brand Loyalty for Tablet
PCs: Building a Sustainable Brand.
Front. Psychol. 11:231.
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00231

INTRODUCTION
Computer-related products bring great changes to people’s lives, and the brand war between
companies such as HP, Dell, Apple, Lenovo, ASUS, and so on is becoming increasingly intense.
The computer-related product industry in Taiwan has often held a dominant market position
based on superior manufacturing and branding. Several firms, including Acer and ASUS, are
committed to building global brands and have recognized the importance of their own brands
in the global market. Taiwan has also been a place where OEMs of international known brands
gather, such as Dell, Apple, and HP (Chang et al., 2008). This implies that the relationship between
customers and brands has also become an important issue for the academia and practice in terms
of building sustainable brands in Taiwan. Thus, this study aims to improve our understanding
of brand relationships by investigating involvement in a highly competitive context of computerrelated products. Chandler and Owen (2002) emphasize that brands send out signals that provide
symbolic meanings that meet customer needs, express customer wants, and interact with customers,
thereby affecting customer behaviors. Aggarwal (2004) also points out that the interaction between
customers and brands, which can be characterized as a relationship, can be explored only by
personifying that relationship (Lombart and Louis, 2016; Charton-Vachet and Lombart, 2018).

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Oliver (2010) divides the development of the brand loyalty
into three stages: cognition, emotion, and action. Furthermore,
past studies indicate that brand loyalty is influenced by customerrelated factors such as satisfaction, trust, and commitment (Pan
et al., 2012). However, there are few studies on whether these
factors follow a specific order or occur among other antecedent
motivational factors. Drawing on the relationship marketing
theory (Aggarwal, 2004; MacInnis et al., 2009), the present study
considers the brand relationship as the driving factor of brand
trust (Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001), brand love (Ahuvia and
Ahuvia, 2006; Heinrich et al., 2012) as occurring at the emotional
level, and brand loyalty (Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001; Oliver,
2010) as arising at the action level. Starting from the emotional
level of the brand relationship, this study discusses why there is
a relationship between brand trust and brand love, and explores
how this relationship can be built (Taylor et al., 2008). This study
will complement extant theories related to brand loyalty.
From an academic point, this study differs from previous
works because it approaches the consumer-expressive brand
relationship from the angle of multi-mediating factors through
dual anchors: the brand and the consumer. From a managerial
point, this study deepens the knowledge of the relationship
between consumer loyalty and expressive brand relationship,
through the link that they may develop within process
of cognition, emotion, and action. We will thus propose
recommendations for managers regarding sustainable brand.

The social exchange theory states that interaction within
the customer–brand relationship goes beyond the intuitive
relationship of functional benefits, and regards the brand
relationship as comprising exchange and communal
relationships. The exchange relationship is based on reciprocity,
while the communal relationship depends on emotion.
Brand relationship can create intangible added values and
allows consumers to trust the brand (Park et al., 2009). For
enterprises, brand relationship makes it clearly distinguished
from other competing brands, forming intangible assets that
are difficult to be imitated (Sreejesh and Roy, 2015; Ozturk
et al., 2016). Previous studies indicate that brand relationship
can increase brand loyalty (Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001)
and brand equity (Faircloth et al., 2001), and can also affect
attitude loyalty (Nyffenegger et al., 2014; Sreejesh and Roy,
2015). However, brand relationship was proven to be positively
correlated with brand loyalty in some studies, while not
correlated with brand loyalty in other studies (Lombart and
Louis, 2016; Charton-Vachet and Lombart, 2018; Coelho et al.,
2018). Is this unclear relationship between brand relationship
and brand loyalty caused by certain mediating factors? This
study constructs the relevant mediating factors between brand
relationship and brand loyalty, trying to clarify this research
gap. In extant studies, the brand relationship has been seen as
a perception of relationship with continuous degree differences,
taking emotion as the context and communal relationship as
an expressive brand relationship. In this study, we explore the
influence of the brand relationship on brand trust, brand love,
and brand loyalty.
Trust can effectively reduce the uncertainties experienced
by customers in the process of purchase decision making, and
develop customers’ belief in the reliability, honesty, profession,
and integrity of a brand, thereby affecting customers’ attitudinal
loyalty and behavioral loyalty (Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001;
Nyffenegger et al., 2014; Lombart and Louis, 2016). Brand
trust is an important predictive variable of customer loyalty
(Pan et al., 2012; Coelho et al., 2018). However, there is some
controversy over whether brand trust directly affects brand
loyalty (Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001; Lombart and Louis,
2016) or whether there are mediating factors at play (Aurier and
Séré de Lanauze, 2012; Yasin and Shamim, 2013; Huang and Jian,
2015). This study seeks to answer this question.
Fournier (1998) indicates that brand love comprises a longterm relationship between customers and brands. Previous
studies point out that the brand love consists of consumers’
affective attachment to a brand, which stimulates them to
show continuous commitment or consistent behavior toward
it, or a willingness to buy the brand at a premium (Batra
et al., 2012; Heinrich et al., 2012; Albert and Merunka, 2013;
Unal and Aydin, 2013). In addition, it is believed that brand
love requires the most attention during economic downturns,
and should be integrated with attitudinal and behavioral
variables such as brand loyalty (Ahuvia and Ahuvia, 2006;
Albert and Merunka, 2013). Moreover, although brand loyalty
is difficult to understand and predict (Agustin and Singh,
2005), its generation is the most important goal of marketing
(Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001).

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LITERATURE REVIEW
The Brand Relationship
Most studies on the brand relationship are qualitative. Social
psychology divides the relationship into two categories: exchange
and communal relationships (Clark and Mills, 2011). Aggarwal
(2004) points out that the exchange relationship is based
on reciprocity, while the communal relationship depends on
emotion; the differences between these two relationships are
reflected in the respective relational norms, which impact
consumers’ attitudes and behaviors. The interpersonal nature
of the brand relationship has been applied to the metaphor
of marketing between customers and brands (Fournier, 1998;
Aggarwal, 2004; Charton-Vachet and Lombart, 2018); however,
brand relationship is not as easy to define and operate as is
brand image. Although interpretive or qualitative methods or
case studies can be applied to the subject, there is a lack of agreedupon concepts that can be incorporated into measurable scales.
The brand relationship model used here is based on Blackston’s
(2000) study, which refers to the interaction between consumers’
attitudes toward brands and brands’ attitudes toward customers
(Coelho et al., 2018).
Past research clearly shows that relationships are an important
core of both psychology and marketing (Morgan and Hunt,
1994; Garbarino and Johnson, 1999; Delgado-Ballester and
Munuera-Aleman, 2001). Chandler and Owen (2002) study
the brand relationship via qualitative research, arguing that
brands comprise meaning systems. This view emphasizes that the
confirmation and differentiation signals sent by the brand can

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(Aggarwal, 2004; Coelho et al., 2018). In the business context,
the communal relationship involves people’s emotions that go
beyond self-interest, while an expressive brand relationship is
based on the contact referred to in the social exchange theory;
the benign interaction within an expressive brand relationship
can determine consumers’ trust in the brand. In this regard, the
following hypothesis is posited:

provide symbolic meanings that meet customer needs, express
customer wants, and interact with customers, thereby affecting
customer behaviors. Aggarwal (2004) also points out that the
interaction between customers and brands can be explored only
by personifying the brand relationship. Based on the law of
reciprocity, Fournier (1998) suggests that brand relationship
quality comprises six aspects, which can be used as a reference
for strengthening the brand relationship. These aspects are love
and passion, self-connection, commitment, interdependence,
intimacy, and brand partner quality. In addition, Fournier (1998)
outlines 15 categories of brand relationships, which can, in turn,
be depicted as expressive or instrumental brand relationships—
though the two types are not mutually exclusive. Exchange
relationships are economic in nature and provide utilitarian
benefits, while communal relationships entail emotions toward
others that transcend self-interest. Trust arises as a result and
forms the cornerstone of close relationships within psychology
and marketing (Garbarino and Johnson, 1999). Esch et al.
(2006) argue that the brand relationship is composed of brand
satisfaction, brand trust, and brand attachment, but such a
simulation is a concept concerning the quality. Scholars also
regard dependence and behavioral loyalty as part of the brand
relationship (Fournier, 1998; Oliver, 1999; Davis et al., 2009).

H1: An expressive brand relationship has a positive impact
on brand trust.

Brand Love
Ahuvia and Ahuvia (2006) believe that when a brand maintains
and develops a sustainable trading relationship with its
customers, knowing whether it can satisfy the emotional needs of
customers will help it to predict or explain customer behavior and
generate high satisfaction. On the basis of the triangular theory
of interpersonal love (Sternberg, 1997), and referencing a study
by Heinrich et al. (2012), we use “brand commitment,” “brand
closeness,” and “brand enthusiasm” as variables to measure brand
love. We suggest that the relationship between the customer and
a brand will change from satisfaction to love when a customer
connects to the brand and considers it a manifestation of their
self-identification (Ahuvia and Ahuvia, 2006; Unal and Aydin,
2013). Since the customer believes the brand to be reliable and
trusts in the promises the brand makes (Sirdeshmukh et al.,
2002), brand trust can reduce uncertainty related to customers’
purchases (Gommans et al., 2001) and strengthen the emotional
antecedents (Heinrich et al., 2012). Chaudhuri and Holbrook
(2001) point out that brand trust and brand affect are important
factors impacting brand loyalty, though the specific relationship
is not clearly indicated. Song et al. (2012) highlight that brand
affect influences brand trust. Brand trust positively influences
brand enthusiasm (Albert and Merunka, 2013), which is one of
the components of brand love, and brand trust positively impacts
brand love (Albert and Merunka, 2013; Huang and Jian, 2015).
Thus, we suggest the following hypothesis:

Brand Trust
Doney and Cannon (1997) emphasize that brand trust is the
degree to which customers believe that a brand can provide the
required value (Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001; Charton-Vachet
and Lombart, 2018; Coelho et al., 2018). Doney and Cannon
(1997) believe that brand trust plays an important role in longterm customer relationships and that brand trust can reduce
the uncertainty customers feel about a product when finding
it difficult to make a purchase decision (Charton-Vachet and
Lombart, 2018). Chaudhuri and Holbrook (2001) define brand
trust as the customer’s belief that a brand has the ability to
perform its claimed functions. Chen and Hu (2010) also point
out that trust is an expectation or belief—i.e., customers’ belief
that services purchased will provide reliable and as-promised
performance. Delgado-Ballester and Munuera-Aleman (2001)
classify brand trust into reliability and intention, arguing that
brand trust comprises an awareness of the brand’s trustworthiness
and an expectation that the brand will fulfill its obligations and
responsibilities. They also point out that the brand is not only a
product but also an important partner in the relationship between
customers and brands. On this basis, this study defines brand
trust as the customer’s awareness of the brand’s kindness and
integrity (Aurier and N’Goala, 2010; Dwivedi and Johnson, 2013;
Coelho et al., 2018).
Blackston (2000) points out that interaction takes place
between consumers’ attitudes toward brands and brands’
attitudes toward consumers, and finds that successful brand
relationships entail trust and satisfaction (Nyffenegger et al.,
2014; Charton-Vachet and Lombart, 2018). The exchange
relationship is based on reciprocity, while the communal
relationship depends on emotion; the differences between these
two relationships are reflected in the respective relational
norms, which impact consumers’ attitudes and behaviors

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H2: Brand trust has a positive influence on brand love.

Brand Loyalty
Customer purchasing behavior is not a random response, but
the result of a long-term influence of customers’ inner factors.
In addition to repeat purchase behaviors, customers will be
committed to a brand at the psychological level. This means
that in a competitive market such as that for tablet PCs, brand
loyalty not only attracts new customers but also maintains
ongoing purchases. In terms of measuring brand loyalty, most
empirical studies state that this construct should be considered in
terms of both attitude and behavior—i.e., attitudinal loyalty and
behavioral loyalty (Baldinger and Rubinson, 1996; Mukherjee
and Nath, 2007; Sondoh et al., 2007; Chen and Hu, 2010; Deng
et al., 2010; Alireza et al., 2011; Chen et al., 2014; ChartonVachet and Lombart, 2018). Attitudinal loyalty is the consumer’s
response at the psychological level, where the customer is willing
to purchase and recommend the brand’s products and services to
relatives, friends, or others even if the price is higher. Behavioral

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loyalty is the customer’s degree of preference for the branded
product or service—that is, their willingness to purchase the
brand’s products or services in the future.
Sarkar and Sreejesh (2014) point out that brand love does
not directly affect purchase intention, but occurs through brand
jealousy. On the contrary, Ahuvia and Ahuvia (2006) suggest
that brand love positively affects brand loyalty and word of
mouth; the more intense the brand love, the higher the customer’s
willingness to purchase products at a price premium (Chaudhuri
and Holbrook, 2001; Thomson et al., 2005; Heinrich et al., 2012).
In addition, brand love affects brand loyalty (Ahuvia, 2005;
Ahuvia and Ahuvia, 2006; Bergkvist and Bech-Larsen, 2010; Batra
et al., 2012; Chen and Quester, 2015). Thus, we posit that:

effect between brand trust and brand love exists, and how such an
effect can be built (Taylor et al., 2008). The conceptual framework
and the research hypothesis of this study are shown in Figure 1.

METHODOLOGY
Sampling
We conducted a survey using purposive sampling. This sampling
method can be implemented based on the respondents’ subjective
judgment to select a sample that is most suitable for the
purpose of the research. The tablet PC brands selected in the
survey were launched by six well-known brands in Taiwan,
such as Apple, Samsung, ASUE, Acer, Lenovo, and Sony.
In addition, to accurately measure consumers’ perceptions
of the variables of the study, two principles for sampling
were set. First, the consumers filling out the questionnaire
must be users of tablet PCs to ensure the reliability of the
subjects in filling out the variable items. Second, we sent
the questionnaires to the brand specialty stores of tablet PCs
and asked the sales clerk to give questionnaires to consumers
who have already purchased tablet PCs, in order to avoid
the questionnaires being filled out by consumers who have
not purchased tablet PCs. The sampling time was 2 months.
A total of 430 questionnaires were distributed, of which 397
were returned. After removing invalid questionnaires, wherein
more than 5% of questions were unanswered and that with
regular answers, a total of 383 valid questionnaires remained,
giving a response rate of 89%. Tests for non-response bias were
based on the comparison of early (first month) and late (second
month) respondents in terms of the mean values of variables
items (Armstrong and Overton, 1977). These tests yielded no
significant differences, suggesting that non-response bias may not
be a major problem in this study.
The respondents were mostly female (52.2%), with the
majority aged between 21 and 29 (39.7%). Most users
had graduated from university (59%), and their average
monthly income was NTD 25,001–35,000 (26.6%). Most
of the respondents’ tablet PCs were made by Apple
(42.8%), and the majority lived in the north of Taiwan,
accounting for 44.1%, which is consistent with the current
distribution. The majority had used tablet PCs for 2 years
(37.3%); they were clear to the service condition of tablet
PCs, and it was not the first time they had used them.
The sample was thus deemed suitable for this research.

H3a: Brand love has a positive influence on attitudinal
loyalty.
H3b: Brand love has a positive influence on behavioral
loyalty.
The expressive brand relationship is based on the contact
that occurs between customer and brand, as indicated in
social exchange theory. Such benign interaction can determine
the affection of customers toward brands and improve those
brands’ identity (Lombart and Louis, 2016). A more intimate,
continuous, and stable relationship can be formed through
a personified expressive brand relationship on the basis of
interaction (Aggarwal, 2004; Coelho et al., 2018). Consumers buy
products due to their love for the brand. Thus, customers who
have an expressive brand relationship more easily form brand
loyalty, which can be classified into attitudinal and behavioral
loyalty (Charton-Vachet and Lombart, 2018). Thus, we propose
the following:
H4a: An expressive brand relationship has a positive
influence on attitudinal loyalty.
H4b: An expressive brand relationship has a positive
influence on behavioral loyalty.
Drawing on relationship marketing theory (Aggarwal, 2004;
MacInnis et al., 2009), we consider the expressive brand
relationship as the driving factor of the brand trust (Chaudhuri
and Holbrook, 2001) and brand love (Ahuvia and Ahuvia, 2006;
Heinrich et al., 2012), at the emotional level, and of brand loyalty
(Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001; Oliver, 2010) at the action level.
Taking users of tablet PCs in Taiwan as our focus, a theoretical
model is established to explore why the three-path mediated

Attitudinal
Loyalty
Brand
Relationship

Brand Trust

Brand Love
Behavioral
Loyalty

FIGURE 1 | Research framework.

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TABLE 2 | Factor loadings of measure items.

TABLE 1 | Descriptive statistics.
Variable

Items

Gender
Age

Brand

N

Variable

Items

N

Male

183

Education

High school

41

Female

200

College

Below 20

14

University

21–29

152

Master

69

30–39

117

Below 25000

80

Above 40

100

25001–35000

102

Apple

164

35001–45000

78

Samsung

66

45001–55000

64

ASUE

70

Above 55001

59

Acer

37

Below 1 year

78

Lenovo

28

2 year

143

Sony

18

3 year

62

Above 4 year

100

Income

Use year

Measure
variables

Items

47

Instrumental

I choose this brand because it is not expensive

0.913

226

relationship

I choose this brand because of its easy
promotion and discounts

0.869

Expressive
relationship

I choose this brand because I like it from the
heart

0.885

I choose this brand because it is amiable

0.851

I choose this brand because it brings me a
sense of safety

0.933

I choose this brand because I identify with its
concept

0.914

I choose this brand because its functions is
satisfied with me

0.883

Brand love

The information about the sample profile is shown in
Table 1.

Brand trust

Measure
The measures used in this study were as follows. Brand
love was measured from the three perspectives of brand
commitment, brand closeness, and brand enthusiasm, based
on the study by Heinrich et al. (2012), through 12 items.
Brand trust was measure using five items according to
research by Chaudhuri and Holbrook (2001) and Dwivedi
and Johnson (2013). Brand loyalty was measured using eight
items through the two perspectives of attitudinal loyalty and
behavioral loyalty on the basis of the study by Chaudhuri
and Holbrook (2001). Referring to a study by Aggarwal
(2004), expressive brand relationship was measured using five
items, as was instrumental brand relationship. In addition,
previous studies show that income affects brand love (Vlachos
and Vrechopoulos, 2012), years of use affect brand loyalty
(Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001), and consumer psychological
factors such as brand awareness have a positive influence
on brand loyalty (Giovannini et al., 2015). Therefore, we
applied monthly income, years of use, and brand awareness as
control variables.

Factor
loadings

Brand commitment

0.907

Brand closeness

0.876

Brand enthusiasm

0.841

I trust this brand

0.895

I rely on this brand

0.855

This is an honest brand

0.908

This brand is safe

0.902

This brand can address my concerns

0.875

Attitudinal

I am committed to this brand

0.892

loyalty

I would be willing to pay a higher price for this
brand over other brand

0.922

I identify with this brand very much

0.920

If this brand is out of stock, I will wait and refuse
any substitutes

0.903

Behavioral

I will buy this brand the next time

0.909

loyalty

I intend to keep purchasing this brand

0.911

I will recommend the brand to others

0.830

Overall, I buy this brand most often

0.915

RESULTS
Assessment of the Measurement Model
To gauge the reliability and validity of the scale, we adopted
confirmatory factor analysis (via AMOS) to verify both the
convergent and discriminant validity. Hair et al. (2010)
designated the standards of convergent validity criteria as follows:

TABLE 3 | Measurement properties.
1

2

3

4

5

6

(1) Attitudinal loyalty

0.902

(2) Behavioral loyalty

0.756

0.890

(3) Brand trust

0.763

0.773

(4) Brand love

0.710

0.782

0.728

0.868

−0.210

−0.121

−0.104

−0.093

0.852

(6) Expressive relationship

0.723

0.763

0.732

0.724

−0.116

0.901

AVE

0.813

0.800

0.767

0.754

0.725

0.811

CR

0.945

0.932

0.950

0.893

0.879

0.944

α

0.924

0.916

0.933

0.854

0.753

0.937

Mean

4.612

3.782

3.889

3.562

2.983

3.698

SD

0.832

0.776

0.683

0.800

0.835

0.672

(5) Instrumental relationship

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0.876

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0.223***
Brand
Relationship

0.731*** Brand Trust

0.622***

0.894***
Brand Love

0.309***

0.614***

Attitudinal
Loyalty

Behavioral
Loyalty

FIGURE 2 | Results of SEM analysis.

standardized factor loading higher than 0.5, average variance
extracted (AVE) higher than 0.5, and composite reliability
(CR) higher than 0.7. The evaluation standard for discriminant
validity is the square root of the AVE for one dimension
being greater than its correlation coefficient with any other
dimension(s). As Tables 2, 3 show, all items in the measures
of exogenous variables were significantly explained, suggesting
that the items were converged to this factor, and, hence,
to their corresponding dimensions. Therefore, the scale had
convergent validity. Finally, as also shown in Table 2, the
correlation coefficients of the dimensions were all less than the
square root of the AVE, suggesting that each dimension in
this study had good discriminant validity. For mode-matching
tests, the ratio of χ2 to its df (2.47) was less than 3, and
PNFI (0.7) was greater than 0.5. Goodness of fit index was
0.97, adjusted goodness of fit index was 0.94, normed fit index
was 0.98, comparative fit index was 0.99, and incremental fit
index was 0.99. All of them were greater than 0.9. In addition,
the root mean square error of approximation was 0.05, which
is less than 0.06.

is exploratory research for theory development, when the
analysis is for a prediction perspective; when the structural
model is complex, when the structural model includes one
or more formative constructs; when distribution is lack of
normality, and when research requires latent variable scores
for consequent analyses (Shiau and Chau, 2016; Hair et al.,
2019; Khan et al., 2019; Shiau et al., 2019). The above reasons
provide supports to consider the PLS as an appropriate SEM
method for a study.
This analysis showed that the proportion of variance
shared exclusively with each additional variable. Figure 2
shows the results of the model’s main effect, which indicated
that brand relationship (H1, H4a, H4b) has a significant
positive influence on brand trust, attitudinal loyalty, and
behavioral loyalty; brand trust (H2) has a significant positive
influence on brand love; and brand love (H3a, H3b) has
a significant positive influence on attitudinal loyalty and
behavioral loyalty. The results indicate that a significant
increase in the brand relationship increases brand trust
(β = 0.731, p < 0.001), which supports H1. Likewise, brand
trust significantly improves brand love (β = 0.894, p < 0.001),
which fully supports H2. Coefficients of the correlation between
brand love and attitudinal loyalty and between brand love
and behavioral loyalty were 0.622 (p < 0.001) and 0.614
(p < 0.001), respectively. These positive relationships support
H3a and H3b. Finally, the brand relationship was found to
influence the development of attitudinal loyalty (β = 0.223,
p < 0.001) and behavioral loyalty (β = 0.309, p < 0.001),
supporting H4a and H4b.

Structural Model Results
The hypotheses were tested using partial least squares structural
equation modeling (PLS-SEM). The primary advantages of
PLS-SEM include the relaxation of normal distributional
assumptions required by PLS-SEM’s ability to easily estimate
much more complex models with smaller sample sizes (Shiau
and Chau, 2016; Hair et al., 2019; Khan et al., 2019; Shiau
et al., 2019). PLS-SEM is more suitable for this study
under the following situations: when the research objective

Examination of Mediating Effects
The normalized effect values of the direct, indirect, and total
effects of the constructs were collated, as shown in Table 4, and
path verification regarding the meditating effect was performed.
The path coefficients of the indirect effect on attitudinal and
behavioral through brand love and brand trust were 0.407 and
0.401, respectively. Based on suggestions by Shrout and Bolger
(2002), the ratio of the indirect effect and the total effect
was used as the evaluation index of indirect effect intensity;
this showed that the intensity of the indirect effects were
much greater than that of the direct effects (0.223 and 0.309).
This indicates that the indirect effect plays an important role,
and also confirms that brand love and brand trust have total
mediating effects on the relationship between brand relationship
and brand loyalty.

TABLE 4 | Path coefficient of direct, indirect, and total effects.
Construct

Effects

Brand
love

Attitudinal
loyalty

Behavioral
loyalty

Brand

Direct effect

0.731

0.223

0.309

relationship

Indirect effect

–

0.407

0.401

Total effect

0.731

0.630

0.710

Direct effect

0.894

–

–

–

0.556

0.549

Brand trust

Indirect effect
Brand love

Total effect

0.894

0.556

0.549

Direct effect

–

0.622

0.614

Indirect effect

–

–

–

Total effect

–

0.622

0.614

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customer’s behavioral outcome, and proves the importance of
marketing strategies, in addition to reflecting actual purchasing
behaviors of customers.

CONCLUSION
Discussion
Customers are willing to purchase products at a premium price
when they are loyal to the brand (Albert and Merunka, 2013),
which indicates a level of brand trust. The expressive brand
relationship is based on a good relationship between customer
and brand, wherein a close, continuous, and stable relationship
is formed on the basis of interaction (Aggarwal, 2004). This
study aimed to verify whether brand relationship will positively
affect brand loyalty, assuming that brand relationship has a direct
effect on brand trust, attitudinal loyalty, and behavioral loyalty.
The results support this assumption. With this in mind, brand
managers should make every effort to build an expressive brand
relationship via benign interactions with customers and create
scenarios that highlight the accessibility of the brand.
In addition, the results reveal positive and direct impacts of
brand love on the development of attitudinal and behavioral
loyalty. Brand loyalty is formed not through the expressive brand
relationship, but rather via the brand love. The main duty of
brand managers is to build a contribution to their company by
means of creating brand value. Thus, brand managers should
make good use of the fact that expressive brand relationships
have a major impact on both brand trust and brand loyalty, and
actively plan and utilize various marketing strategies to ensure a
closer relationship between customers and brands.
This study also discussed the mediating mechanism between
brand relationship and brand loyalty. Results show that
consumers’ higher awareness of brand relationship are easier to
lead to brand trust and brand love with a high intensity, and
this intensified brand trust and brand love will contribute to
attitudinal and behavioral loyalty. Customers are willing to be
loyal to a brand, and buy its products at a premium price (Albert
and Merunka, 2013), if they develop trust in it, which means
they form preferences for the brand and repeatedly purchase its
products. Thus, brand trust and brand love can make valuable
contributions (Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001). This conclusion
is consistent with the findings of Oliver (2010) that brand trust
and brand love play an important role in the cognition–emotion–
action model, and have an influence on the development of brand
loyalty that cannot be ignored.
Based on the above research results and discussions,
this study confirms several contributions. First, this study
applied the research results of relationship orientation in the
Eastern social culture, serves as the theoretical basis that
connects brand relationship and brand loyalty, and theoretically
contributes to the construction of brand value chain. Second,
this study also provides insights into how to foster a longterm behavior and attitude for brand loyalty through the
brand relationship with the service-dominant logic. Third, this
study discusses that the brand relationship will finally affect
the brand loyalty via the mediating effect of brand trust
and brand love, and verifies the importance of mediators
between brand relationship and brand loyalty (Taylor et al.,
2008). Fourth, brand loyalty, as the complex of behavior
and attitude, indicates customer’s long-term commitment
and emotional preference to specific brands, reflects the

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Theoretical Implications
Customers’ positive perceptions of a brand allow them to
establish long-term relationships with that brand. This
relationship enhances brand trust, brand love, and brand
loyalty. Although Payne et al. (2009) present a brand relationship
experience model via a case study, there is no empirical evidence
of service-led logic to date. This study finds that the different
forms of brand relationship have varying effects on brand
loyalty and brand trust, which also indicates the importance
of brand management under the service-led logic. This shows
that in order to allow consumers to establish a lasting emotional
relationship with a brand, brand trust and brand love models
should also be incorporated to enhance brand loyalty, in addition
to allowing consumers to have a psychologically intimate
relationship with the brand. In general, our consideration of the
brand relationship in light of service-led logic helps to guide
firms on how to foster longer-term behaviors and attitudes, as
well as providing empirical support for the theoretical model
posited by Payne et al. (2009).
Previous studies discuss the role of brand satisfaction and
brand love (Correia Loureiro and Kaufmann, 2012), but rarely
verify the mediating role of brand trust and brand love in a
serial way. This study confirms that there are other mediating
variables affecting brand loyalty and highlights brand love as one
such mediator (Aurier and Séré de Lanauze, 2012; Yasin and
Shamim, 2013; Taylor et al., 2014; Huang and Jian, 2015). Brand
trust and brand love are important bridges for the emotional
brand relationship and brand loyalty. These important findings
can be used to extend existing brand theory and echo the
recommendations of Ahuvia and Ahuvia (2006) and Heinrich
et al. (2012). Incorporating brand trust and brand love into the
overall research model can improve predictions of brand loyalty
and overcome inconsistent findings about brand trust.
Most past research applies interpersonal theories derived from
a Western context in terms of a theoretical framework of the
brand relationship. However, interpersonal theories that apply
to China differ from those of Western countries. Brands, as
tools for building relationships, should be adapted to the social
environment. It has been found that Chinese tend to be affected
by established relationships, while Western studies have focused
on interactions between brands. On this basis, our study builds
a brand relationship model based on indigenized thinking, and
highlights the need to focus on the brand relationship and
brand loyalty, which are of great importance. The results of this
study are not only more explanatory but also provide effective
guidance for solving difficulty, a difficult aspect (brand loyalty) of
relationship marketing—i.e., how to build brand loyalty.

Managerial Implications
Customers’ brand love can enhance their adaptability and
positive consciousness toward the brand, thereby improving
their satisfaction. To retain existing customers and improve
the repurchase rate, companies not only need to maintain a

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under the service-led logic. Vargo and Lusch’s (2004) serviceled logic goes against the idea that firms only focus on
the exchange value created by customer value. Due to
continuous changes in the economic environment, economic
activities and business modes are no longer just tangible
and static commodities. As a result, the focus of firms is
shifting from tangible assets to interactional, connected, and
constant relationships, which is also consistent with this study’s
emphasis on transaction process instead of transaction affair
(Vargo and Lusch, 2004).
Several aspects were not measured in this study, such as brand
community (Muniz and O’guinn, 2001; Baldus et al., 2015).
Furthermore, social media or community engagement (Habibi
et al., 2014), and social identity theory (Bhattacharya and Sen,
2003), can be considered in future research. The brand network
relationship of communities relates to the interaction in, and
establishment of, brand relationships, and subsequent research
can analyze the brand relationship from the perspective of such
social networks.

reliable and expressive relationship with customers but also
improve customers’ brand loyalty. The latter is key to enhancing
market share. If brand operators are able to induce customers
to generate passion for the brand, these customers will become
brand followers who actively recommend the brand to others,
creating public praise for the brand. More brand lovers means
more brand loyalists, which will give the brand significant
competitive advantage.
Brands should create appropriate loyalty plans to build
long-term relationships with customers. Based on inherent
and extrinsic incentive motivations, as well as integrated
marketing communications such as via the establishment of
brand communities, brands can be exposed to customers through
frequent postings on social media such as Facebook. Although
HTC once employed Robert Downey Jr. as its spokesperson, it
was unable to deepen the topic and form a close relationship
with customers, let alone promote brand trust and love,
because it failed to integrate traditional channels with its online
network, leading to the brand’s estrangement from customers.
This case indicates that brands will be unable to establish
stable expressive brand relationships with customers and further
generate brand trust and love, let alone improve brand loyalty, if
they ignore the core brand core values, let alone the improvement
of brand loyalty.
Brand managers can choose their positioning and strategies
based on their individual environmental conditions. To establish
an instrumental brand relationship, brand managers can
highlight product differentiation through a low-cost strategy;
however, this only works in the short term, and as this study
shows, the strategy will negatively affect brand trust. Thus,
it must be prudent to apply this strategy. To establish an
emotional brand relationship, brand managers should be good
at utilizing integrated marketing communications, enrich
brand connotations, conduct effective internal marketing,
improve employees’ service attitude, enhance brand loyalty based
on service-led logic, and develop continuous competitive
advantages. Brand managers can adopt different brand
strategies based on their own situations by referencing
this study in order to enhance their brand position and
competitive advantage.

DATA AVAILABILITY STATEMENT
The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be
made available by the authors, without undue reservation, to any
qualified researcher.

ETHICS STATEMENT
The studies involving human participants were reviewed and
approved by Institutional Review Board, University of Taipei. The
patients/participants provided their written informed consent to
participate in this study.

AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
This study is a joint work of SZ, MP, YP, and YZ. SZ and
MP contributed to the ideas of brand relationship, collection of
data, and empirical analysis. MP and YP contributed to the data
analysis, design of research methods, and tables. YZ, GR, and
C-CC participated in developing a research design, writing, and
interpreting the analysis. All authors contributed to the literature
review and conclusions.

Limitations and Future Research
Since we used a structured questionnaire to collect our
data, this study is considered cross-sectional, so no longterm data was collected regarding customers’ loyalty to
tablet brands. In view of this, researchers are encouraged
to explore situations in which consumers respond to the
different brand relationships, and take account of topics
related to brand love, brand trust, and brand loyalty from
qualitative and quantitative viewpoints, to the extent permitted
by data resources.
We discussed the brand relationship based on social exchange
theory. Future studies should be conducted from the perspective
of the importance of the brand community for the brand
relationship, as per Muniz and O’guinn (2001), which will
deepen findings on the application of brand management

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FUNDING
This paper was supported by Program for Innovative Research
Team (in Science and Technology) in University of Henan
Province (Grant No. 19IRTSTHN016), Major Project of Applied
Research on Philosophy and Social Sciences in Colleges and
Universities of Henan Province in 2019 (2019-YYZD-13), and
Fujian Province Social Sciences Plan Project in 2019 (Grant
No. FJ2019B106).

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Conflict of Interest: The authors declare that the research was conducted in the
absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a
potential conflict of interest.
Copyright © 2020 Zhang, Peng, Peng, Zhang, Ren and Chen. This is an open-access
article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License
(CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided
the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original
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March 2020 | Volume 11 | Article 231