Brands as personal narratives: learning from user–YouTube–brand interactions
This paper reports a three-stage study of user–brand interactions on YouTube. An initial exploration identified unique, previously unknown, constructs active in this context. Grounded hypotheses and scales were tested via two surveys separated by approximately 15 month; first survey taken pre-Covid was followed by a second survey in May 2021 (Covid-vaccine present environment). We report that YouTube usage is significantly shaped by feelings of social dread; users find comfort and fall into a YouTube rabbit hole, which leads them to a self-construal. Rooted in cognitive and emotional processes of self-construal, brands emerge as personal narratives. These narratives help users understand their history and personality; they provide a compelling basis for relating with others. The study produces new implications for future branding theories and practice reflective of the emerging reality of user–brand interactions on YouTube.