Contemporary Consumers and Their Brands: An Exploratory Study on Consumer-brand Relationships in Liquid Consumption of Fashion Luxury

Helmie Säll Fuglerud & Ida Norseng Tandberg

Student thesis: Master thesis


Contemporary society is demonstrating a shift from solid to liquid consumption, where consumers are showing a growing preference towards ephemerality, access, and dematerialisation. This shift is challenging the notion of luxury, which is characterised by durability, exclusiveness, and materialistic values. Nonetheless, knowledge is scarce in terms of how contemporary consumer behaviour influences the fashion luxury industry. Consequently, this thesis aims at addressing this limitation by adding knowledge to the field of liquid consumption of fashion luxury. Specifically, this research investigates how liquid consumption affects Consumer-Brand Relationships with luxury brands, by examining differences in solid and liquid consumption and the relationship typologies that exist. This will be explored through an abductive and qualitative research method. With a phenomenological approach, eight semi-structured interviews have been conducted which, through a thematic analysis, have provided valuable insights within the field of study. Liquid consumption has been proved to affect Consumer-Brand Relationships in the fashion luxury industry. While it reduces the exclusivity of certain luxury products, it also allows for the creation of relationships that would not exist through solid consumption. Engagement with luxury brands in a liquid context is motivated by the demand for flexibility, greater possibilities of self-expression, and a sustainable lifestyle. Liquid luxury is highly context-based, which influences the relationships that exist. Most of the relationships proved to be superficial and low on loyalty, yet, characterised by a high relevance to the self. However, contemporary consumers have a greater variety of choices, where luxury brands are both accessed and owned simultaneously where the relationships created influences one another. Therefore, relationships in liquid luxury proved to be both transactional, loose, and disposable, while others are time resistant, committed, and with emotional attachments. To identify Consumer-Brand Relationships, interview data were analysed with consideration to Fournier’s (1998) fifteen types of relationships. From the analysis, liquid consumption is conceptualised to exist alongside a spectrum together with solid consumption. Conclusively, findings showed that there exists Consumer-Brand Relationships on the whole spectrum, ranging from pure solid to exclusively liquid relationship, with middle points.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2021
Number of pages205
SupervisorsMarina Leban