Exploring Branded Flash Mobs : A study of the impact of branded flash mobs on consumer behavior and consumer experience

Abstract: The desire of every marketer is to develop and maintain strong customer relationships. One way this can be accomplished is through effective advertising. Marketers have recently begun to brand flash mobs as a way to effectuate strong brand relationships. Even so, it is unclear whether or not the branding of flash mobs supports or frustrates this pursuit. Therefore, the goal of this thesis is to help marketers understand the potential impact that branded flash mobs may have on consumer behaviour and brand relationships. Since these interactions are complex we need to observe the convoluted whole from untangled vantage points. Marketing scholars and researchers must then attempt to understand the latent opportunities and unsuspecting dangers when branding a flash mob. Toward answering this end, four distinct research studies were used to examine the phenomenon from four different perspectives.The aim of the first paper is twofold. First, it deductively seeks to understand how to categorize branded flash mobs within the marketing literature through an historical and cultural analysis of the phenomenon. Exploratory in nature, this study then employs a mixed methods approach to understand how marketers are currently using flash mobs, and more importantly, if branded flash mobs are an effective tool of communication and persuasion.In the second paper, a field experiment was conducted to assess the impact of a branded flash mob on consumers’ emotions, consumer experience and connectedness in a public market. Qualitative interviews were used to capture the data. Shifting perspectives, the third paper seeks to understand why some branded flash mobs fail to ‘go viral’. Using of a number of focus groups, participants were asked to watch several branded flash mob videos and discuss their willingness to share them online (e.g., email, Facebook, or Twitter).Toward a better understanding of the impact of branded flash mobs on brand equity, the final paper evaluates viewers’ attitude toward the ad. Using netnographic techniques (Kozinets, 2002) 2,882 YouTube comments from three virally successful branded flash mobs ads were examined to understand how branded flash mobs affect brand equity. Responses grouped into one of four archetypical attitudes, each of which has a distinct impact on brand equity.Motivated by the potential for widespread exposure at a relatively low cost, marketers continue to produce branded flash mobs. Sometimes they are fresh and creative, while at others they are out of tune with the spirit of the phenomenon. This thesis uncovers the impact of these efforts on consumer behaviour and brand equity, and concludes with a guide for managers to consider when planning their next branded flash mob. An acknowledgement of the limitations and an outline for directions of future research are also presented.