How we relate to brands: Psychological and neurophysiological insights into consumer-brand relationships

Martin Reimann, Raquel Castaño, Judith Zaichkowsky, Antoine Bechara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

174 Scopus citations


In three experiments, this research provides new insights into branding by studying the psychological and neurophysiological mechanisms of how consumers relate to their beloved brands. The authors propose that emotional arousal decreases over the brand relationship span, while inclusion of the brand into the self increases over time. Results of experiment 1 indicate greater self-reported emotional arousal for recently formed brand relationships, as well as decreased emotional arousal and increased inclusion of close brands over time. Additionally, the moderating role of usage frequency of the brand brings out an interesting nuance of the way these effects operate. Experiment 2 measures skin conductance responses and reveals increased emotional arousal for recently formed close relationships but not for established close brand relationships, corroborating the results based on self-reported data. In experiment 3, a functional magnetic resonance imaging study reveals an association between established close relationships and activation of the insula, a brain area previously found to be a crucial mechanism in diverse but related psychological phenomena such as urging, addiction, loss aversion, and interpersonal love.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-142
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Consumer Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Close brand relationships
  • Consumer neuroscience
  • FMRI
  • Insula
  • Self-expansion theory
  • Skin conductance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Marketing


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