THE EFFECTS OF CHILDHOOD
NOSTALGIA ON BRAND LOYALTY
Sofia Mondragon Ruiz
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of
UNIVERSITY OF KENT
The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between childhood
nostalgia and brand loyalty, as well as establishing whether early brand exposure has
an impact on brand loyalty during adulthood. In order to clearly define these
constructs, an extensive literature review was carried out. Subsequently, an
exploratory research was conducted by implementing online questionnaires among
202 participants. Respondents were required to identify their favourite childhood
snack brand and to respond to a series of questions enquiring about the age of first
exposure to the brand and the nature of these memories. Furthermore, participants
were required to rate the childhood brand nostalgia, brand trust and brand loyalty of
their selected brand in a 7-point Likert scale. The findings of this study indicate that
there is a significant correlation between childhood nostalgia and brand loyalty and
that early age brand exposure has a notable influence in brand loyalty in adulthood.
Finally, these results suggest that individuals can develop affectionate relationships
with brands early in childhood and these bonds are preserved during lifetime.
Understanding such relationships is crucial as companies are increasingly relying on
retro-branding and nostalgia-centric campaigns to expand and maintain their market
Table of Contents
1. INTRODUCTION .............................................................................................................. 1
1.1 RATIONALE, OBJECTIVES AND STRUCTURE ...................................................................... 2
2. LITERATURE REVIEW ................................................................................................... 4
2.1 CHILD-BRAND RELATIONSHIPS ........................................................................................ 4
2.2 DEFINING BRAND LOYALTY ............................................................................................. 5
2.3 DEFINING CHILDHOOD NOSTALGIA .................................................................................. 6
2.4 CHILDHOOD NOSTALGIA AND BRAND LOYALTY ................................................................. 7
2.5 CHILDHOOD NOSTALGIA AND RETRO-BRANDING .............................................................. 8
2.6 EARLY BRAND EXPOSURE AND EARLIEST MEMORIES ....................................................... 9
2.7 FOOD, CHILDHOOD NOSTALGIA AND BRAND LOYALTY .................................................... 11
3. METHODOLOGY ........................................................................................................... 12
3.1 SAMPLE ....................................................................................................................... 12
3.2 MATERIALS AND MEASURES .......................................................................................... 12
3.3 DESIGN AND PROCEDURE ............................................................................................. 14
3.4 ETHICS ........................................................................................................................ 15
3.5 ANALYSIS .................................................................................................................... 15
4. FINDINGS AND ANALYSIS .......................................................................................... 16
4.1 CHILDHOOD SNACK BRANDS ......................................................................................... 17
4.2 EARLIEST BRAND MEMORIES ........................................................................................ 18
4.3 NATURE OF BRAND MEMORY ........................................................................................ 19
4.4 DESCRIPTIVE STATISTICS: NOSTALGIA, TRUST AND LOYALTY .......................................... 20
4.5 CORRELATIONAL ANALYSIS ........................................................................................... 21
5 DISCUSSION ..................................................................................................................... 25
5.1 NATURE OF EARLIEST BRAND MEMORIES ...................................................................... 26
5.2 THE EFFECTS OF CHILDHOOD NOSTALGIA ON BRAND LOYALTY ....................................... 27
5.3 THE EFFECTS OF EARLY AGE EXPOSURE ON BRAND LOYALTY ........................................ 27
5.4 LIMITATIONS ................................................................................................................ 28
5.5 FURTHER RESEARCH ................................................................................................... 29
5.6 RECOMMENDATIONS ..................................................................................................... 30
6 CONCLUSION ................................................................................................................... 31
7 REFERENCES ................................................................................................................... 32
8 APPENDIX ......................................................................................................................... 37
The concept of children as consumers has changed over time, according to
historian William Leach, before 1890, ‘the majority of American children wore, ate and
played with what their parents made or prepared for them’ (Leach, 1993). At the
beginning of the 20th century, an increasing number of children focused business such
as toys, clothing and magazines manufacturers began to bloom in the U.S. (Kline,
1993; Leach, 1993; Cook, 2004; Jacobson, 2004). Nowadays, children are
increasingly recognised as consumers, with multibillion dollar organisations focusing
their marketing efforts on creating commercial spaces, products, iconography and
media specifically designated for children (Cook, 2009). Indisputably, children’s
spending power has certainly boomed in the last few decades. In 2010, it was
estimated that children’s purchase influence amounted to £1.29 trillion worldwide.
Therefore, businesses that invest their marketing efforts to influence children at an
early age are likely to achieve customer retention in the long term (Buckingham, 2009;
Cooper, 2010). Preserving brand loyalty makes good financial sense, as it is cheaper
to maintain existing customers than to attain new ones. The logic behind this is that
losing a customer means losing more than a single sale, but it rather means losing the
customer lifetime value. Successful brands engage consumers on a profound
emotional level, some brands for instance focus on the customers’ ‘inner child, by
exploiting the affection and fond feelings adults felt for brands during their childhood
(Kotler, 2016). Ultimately, existing literature suggests that consumers who exhibit high
levels of childhood brand nostalgia are expected to report similarly high levels of brand
loyalty (Shields and Johnson, 2016).
Brand loyalty can be defined as a deeply held commitment to repurchase a
product or service in a repetitive, ongoing and consistent manner as a result of positive
affection towards the brand, regardless of influences such as convenience or price
(Mellens, DeKimpe and Steenkamp, 1996; Oliver, 1999). Furthermore, it is believed
that brand loyalty stems from ego involvement as a result of brand associations from
the consumer’s past (Beatty, Homer and Kahle, 1988). In contrast, nostalgia can be
described as an attachment, preference, positively valanced complex feeling, longing
for or favourable affect towards objects, experiences, ideas or persons from the past,
particularly during early adulthood, childhood and adolescence (Holbrook and
Schindler, 1991, 2003; Holak and Havlena, 1998). Moreover, it’s also been suggested
that a nostalgic emotional bond with a brand must be based on fond memories of the
brand in the individual’s non-recent lived past (Shields and Johnson, 2016). Finally,
and more closely related to psychological literature it has been suggested that early
brand exposure might have a significant impact on the development of brand loyalty
later in life. Brand relationships and affiliations formed by meaningful others during
early childhood are shown to be particularly strong in comparison to those formed later
in life (Fournier, 1998; Ji, 2002). Hence, the importance of early brand exposure and
its influence in brand relationships during adulthood should be recognised and further
investigated (Braun, Ellis and Loftus, 2002). A more profound understanding of
childhood brand nostalgia and early brand exposure will offer practitioners the chance
to target nostalgic consumers with tailored marketing messages to create marketing
strategies that promote and nurture nostalgic relationships with customers.
1.1 Rationale, Objectives and Structure
Maintaining brand loyalty is a key factor in terms of customer retention, however
due to the limited availability of measuring protocols to ensure customer loyalty,
companies face a continuous challenge specially in the current complex economic
environment in which consumers are more frugal with their spending and tend to buy
cheaper non-branded alternatives (Pepper, Jackson and Uzzell, 2009; Van Steenburg
and Spears, 2011). In the current consumer market companies are increasingly relying
on nostalgia-centric marketing to boost sales and revenue by attempting to profit on
the nostalgic feeling some customers may have towards the brand (Shields and
Johnson, 2016). Furthermore, studying and understanding child-brand relationships is
has critical theoretical and managerial implications. Children are perceived as a future
market in every industry, because they gradually accumulate perceptions of brands’
user and usage image in their minds by observing, experiencing and word-of-mouth
(McNeal, 1999). When individuals became aware of brands during early childhood,
they may consume them when they grow up for example airlines, banks, automobiles
and telephone services (Ji, 2002).
Taking these facts into consideration, this study seeks to further investigate a
potential relationship between childhood nostalgia and brand loyalty. Consequently,
the first research aim is to broaden and further study existing literature on childhood
nostalgia and early exposure with relation to snack brand loyalty. This will be achieved
by reviewing current data on the topic (Fournier, 1998; Braun, Ellis and Loftus, 2002;
Ji, 2002; Hayne, 2004; Braun-LaTour and LaTour, 2007; Braun-LaTour, LaTour and
Zinkhan, 2007; LaTour, LaTour and Zinkhan, 2010; Shields and Johnson, 2016).
In order to test a potential relationship between brand loyalty and childhood
nostalgia, the second aim of this study is to provide an in-depth insight on the effects
of childhood nostalgia on brand loyalty during adulthood. One of the objectives of the
current study is to provide empirical evidence to demonstrate that children develop
relationships with brands early in life and that this sentiment potentially leads to brand
loyalty. This will be achieved by data primary data collection to measure the variables
of interest. Since the study will focus on the recollection of early childhood
autobiographical memories the effects of age and nature of such memories will be
further investigated. Ultimately, it’s worth mentioning that as the nature of this study
is exploratory no formal hypothesis can be anticipated. Nevertheless, the exploratory
hypothesis attempts to determine a potential relationship between childhood nostalgia
and brand loyalty during adulthood.
2. LITERATURE REVIEW
In order to properly define childhood brand nostalgia and brand loyalty, a review
of existing literature and definitions will be carried out, with particular consideration
given to those descriptions developed in marketing and psychology. Moreover,
current data on the effects of early brand exposure and its potential effect on brand
loyalty will be outlined. Finally, this section of the study will also be devoted to
elucidating the concepts and definitions related to snack consumption and childhood
2.1 Child-Brand Relationships
Literature on developmental psychology suggests that individuals develop
relationships with people, pets and inanimate object during early childhood.
Attachment is a form of relationship, in which an emotional connection between the
child and another person, pet and object is developed (Bowlby, 1969; Kidd and Kidd,
1985; Ji, 2002). A 20-year longitudinal study published in 1964 by Lester Guest
suggests that, brand preferences initially developed during the ages of 7 to 18 years
of age are positively correlated with brand usage reported later in life. The author
concluded that early brand experiences during childhood significantly influence brand
purchasing behaviours 20 years later (Guest, 1964; Ji, 2002).
Understanding child-brand relationships has practical implications. Firstly,
children consume an extensive variety of products since the moment they are born.
For example, parents use Johnson & Johnson hygiene products on their babies, feed
them branded baby food and cover them with Pampers diapers. Children at the age
of two begin to eat solid foods, most commonly cereals (Cole and Cole, 1996) and
often develop bonds with certain brands such as Cheerios, Froot Loops and so on,
such relationships may prevail for life. Consequently, as children grow older, they
become aware of brands such as, Lego, Barbie, Disney, McDonald’s and so forth and
they accordingly start purchasing with their own money. Furthermore, children are
perceived as a future market in every industry, because they gradually accumulate
perceptions of brands’ user and usage image in their minds by observing, experiencing
and word-of-mouth (McNeal, 1999). When individuals became aware of brands during
early childhood, they may consume them when they grow up for example airlines,
banks, automobiles and telephone services (Ji, 2002). For instance, automobile
manufacturer Ford, launched an advertising campaign to communicate a safety
message to children, and hence to develop and nurture a positive brand image among
them (Flint, 2000). Accordingly, this familiarity with the Ford brand (brand awareness)
in combination with the safety message (brand image) compose brand knowledge,
which plays a central role to customer-based brand equity (Keller, 1993) and may
positively influence the success of the brand’s long-term forthcoming marketing
activities (Ji, 2002).
2.2 Defining Brand Loyalty
Brand loyalty can be defined as a solid consistent reassurance to repurchase a
product or service in the future, resulting in repetitive same-brand purchase behaviour
patterns. Analogous to brand commitment, this notion is constructed around positive
affective associations with the brand, resulting in the development of true affection for
the brand (Oliver, 1999) and results from ego involvement caused by positive brand
memories from one’s past (Beatty, Homer and Kahle, 1988). Brand loyalty it’s a
multidimensional construct and numerous underwriting factors can motivate a
consumer to repurchase a product, while these factors have been evaluated,
nevertheless current literature has yielded inconclusive results. Moreover, these
studies disregard psychological elements by mainly focusing on brand loyalty as an
outcome, instead of considering the psychological factors that prompt that outcome
2.3 Defining Childhood Nostalgia
The concept of nostalgia has been documented as part of the human nature
throughout history. This construct has been attributed to sources such as Greek
mythology and biblical passages (McCann, 1941). The term ‘nostalgia’ originates from
the Greek language and it initially described the reminiscence caused by geographical
distance (Vignolles and Pichon, 2014). The first investigative work on nostalgia was
conducted in the medicine field and consisted of a clinical description of both the
physiological and psychological indicators of nostalgia (Hofer, 1688). Nevertheless,
this concept has gradually changed over time. This construct has been relevant in the
marketing field for several decades (Holbrook and Schindler, 1991; Holak and
Havlena, 1992). Hence, nostalgia in the context of marketing was originally defined as
‘a longing for or positive affect towards things from the past’ (Holbrook and Schindler,
1991). More recently, scholars Holbrook and Schindler found evidence which indicate
that individuals may cultivate lifelong inclinations towards specific brands, object,
products and possessions. Consequently, they updated their definition of nostalgia to
‘a preference or positive attitude towards past experiences related to people, places
and objects that were trendy or fashionable during childhood, adolescence and early
adulthood (Holbrook and Schindler, 2003). Similarly, nostalgia has also been
described as a ‘positively valanced complex feeling, mood or emotion by reflection on
persons, object, experiences and ideas connected with the past’ (Holak and Havlena,
1998). Hence, in this instance nostalgia could be categorized as a form of attachment,
which was described in Bowlby’s (1982) seminal work on the attachment theory as an
emotion-driven target-specific connection between person and an object (Bowlby,
Furthermore, Fournier (1998), researched the case studies of three women’s
relationships to brands, the empirical evidence from the study indicates that consumer-
brand relationships during adulthood take different forms. Interestingly, ‘Childhood
Friendship’ was discovered to be one of the types of consumer-brand relationships
categorized in the study. This concept was described as ‘a relationship that affectively
laden and reminiscent of earlier times, yielding feelings of security and comfort of one’s
past self’ (Ji, 2002). For instance, Jean, a participant of the study currently uses the
beauty brand Estee Lauder, this brand was used by her mother when Jean was a
young child. This suggests, that consumer-brand relationships could potentially be
developed when individuals are young. Nevertheless, it’s unclear whether the
participant developed this relationship with the brand during childhood or later in life
(Fournier, 1998; Ji, 2002). An example of particular interest is the nostalgia-based
marketing campaign used by Quaker Oats in 1998 to promote sales for its Cap’n
Crunch cereal among adults. The campaign was aimed at baby boomers’ nostalgia
for the sugary taste of cereal, which was been formerly targeted mainly for children.
Adverts promoted messages such as, “Taste buds never forget”, “Mom used to say,
‘When you grow up, you can eat all the Cap’n Crunch you want.’ So, what are you
waiting for?” and “How ‘bout a taste of something you used to love?” (Thompson,
2.4 Childhood Nostalgia and Brand Loyalty
Existing literature, indicates that brand loyalty can be predicted by the level of
consumers’ emotional attachment to brands (Thomson, MacInnis and Whan, 2005).
Hence, consumers who display high levels of brand emotional attachment and
childhood nostalgia are expected to show similarly high levels of brand loyalty (Shields
and Johnson, 2016). Consequently, in order to secure customer loyalty and increase
sales revenues, companies are increasingly using nostalgia as part of their marketing
strategy. For instance, the rebranding products or reintroducion of declining brands is
often executed by capitalizing on the nostalgic emotions customers have towards a
brand. As years pass by, individuals tend to develop nostalgia for childhood, the food
they ate, the games they played, places they went and music they listened to
(Friedman, 2016). In marketing the concept of nostalgia has been commonly
considered a psychographic variable (Holbrook and Schindler, 1991, 2003); in this
perspective, nostalgic bonds may be the outcome of an affective interaction between
the consumer and a brand at a formative period the individual’s life (Holbrook and
Schindler, 2003). Furthermore, nostalgia is one of the seven dimensions of the
Fournier’s (1998) framework of brand relationship quality as well as a component of
the Smit et al.’s (2007) brand relationship scale (Fournier, 1998; Smit, Bronner and
Tolboom, 2007). Finally, it has also been suggested that brand relationships cultivated
by nostalgia are akin to childhood friendships and that such relationships linger
notwithstanding of infrequent brand contact through an individual’s lifetime (Fournier,
2.5 Childhood Nostalgia and Retro-Branding
Combining emotions and fond memories with marketing strategies, has already
proved to be effective especially for prompting engagement among millennials.
Nowadays, business from all industries (e.g. Coca-Cola, Lego, Microsoft, Herbal
Essences and KFC) are implementing nostalgia marketing approaches, to drive
campaigns by tapping into positive cultural memories from previous decades
(Friedman, 2016). An illustration of nostalgia marketing done well was the introduction
of the interactive mobile game ‘Pokémon GO’, which was exceptionally successful.
The game broke records such as, ‘fastest to earn $100 million’ and ‘most downloaded’
(Chamary, 2018). Nostalgia-centric campaigns are very successful among millennials,
perhaps because nowadays, individuals feel overwhelmed with hectic work schedules
and responsibilities, thus recreating fond memories and cherished icons may simply
provide consumers with a sense of comfort. Furthermore, linking positive references
from the 70s, 80s and 90s with a brand’s messaging, could potentially humanize
brands and as a result, meaningful connections between the past and the present
could be forged (Friedman, 2016). Nevertheless, companies that relay on nostalgia
to engage consumers must balance their strategy among three groups: ‘loyalists,
customers that have lapsed and those who are yet to be’ (Clegg, 2012). Therefore,
even well-established brands must tailor their message according to their audience
and societal changes. For example, Heinz, is a well-recognised brand that keeps
adapting and innovating their product and message as well as maintaining brand
familiarity and company values. According to Matt Hill president of the company in the
United Kingdom and Ireland, baked beans, tomato ketchup and tomato soup are the
three cupboard staples consumers always return to in challenging times. He also
stated that “consumers talk about the products as ‘the taste I grew up with’ and that
their consumption is exceptionally strong” (Clegg, 2012). Another example of
successful nostalgia-centred marketing is the 2011 Cheerios campaign, in which the
US baby boomer the segment was targeted. The online campaign featured 1950s and
1960s cartoon characters ‘Cheerios Kid and Sue’; the characters urged consumers to
eat the breakfast cereal while promoting its cholesterol-lowering benefits (Clegg,
2.6 Early Brand Exposure and Earliest Memories
The imminent significance of investigating early childhood memories as a tool to
understand how present brand affiliations are developed, has been previously noted
by scholars (Braun-LaTour and LaTour, 2007). Existing literature suggests that early
brand exposure may be a crucial factor in forming brand loyalty and that it also
provides a foundation for emotional brand attachments (Fournier, 1998; Braun-
LaTour, LaTour and Zinkhan, 2007). Additionally, it has been proposed that child-
brand relationships nurtured in early years are more deeply formed that those formed
later in life (Ji, 2002). More importantly, it has also been noted that childhood earliest
memories have a major influence on an individual’s internal opinions (Josselson,
2000) and that experiences that take place in early life have a greater impact than
those that occur later in life (Hayne, 2004). Therefore, the importance of early brand
exposure should be acknowledged due to its emotional implications, because child-
brand relationships are the basis for brand affective attachments in later years (Braun,
Ellis and Loftus, 2002).
As the current study aims to investigate the age of exposure to brands,
respondents will be required recall their first experiences with a brand. Thus, it is
expected that respondents will predominantly recall autobiographical memories from
their childhood. Autobiographical memory has been described as a type of episodic
memory associated to the self, which assists individuals to shape and define
themselves (Conway and Rubin, 1993). Furthermore, as respondents will be required
to recollect their earliest childhood memories, it’s imperative to point out the existence
of childhood amnesia. The concept of childhood amnesia, was first proposed in 1893
by Miles and was consequently described as infantile amnesia by Sigmund Freud in
1899 (Miles, 1893; Freud, 1899). Childhood or infantile amnesia is defined as a
substantial decrease in the number of autobiographical memories an individual can
recall, commonly before age seven but most prominently before age four (Peterson,
Grant and Boland, 2005). Existing literature indicates that, on average an individual’s
earliest memories are between three and four years of age (Jack and Hayne, 2010).
However, age differences across individuals certainly exist (Jack and Hayne, 2007).
Additionally, previous studies investigating infantile amnesia, suggest that there is no
significant difference in the ability to recall memories between adolescents and older
adults (Peterson, Grant and Boland, 2005; Kingo, Berntsen and Krøjgaard, 2013).
Hence, validating the rationale for the current study to focus on a broad participant
age range. Other scholars also indicated, that when recalling memories under the age
of two, recollection ability significantly decreases in adults (Josselyn and Frankland,
2012). This age is particularly correspondent to the pre-verbal period of development,
when children are unable to communicate through language. Therefore, it was
proposed that without the construction of conceptual information relating to a particular
word, individuals are incapable of accessing episodic memories, consequently leading
to infantile amnesia (Morrison and Conway, 2010).
2.7 Food, Childhood Nostalgia and Brand Loyalty
Food is one of the essential components of children’s upbringing in Western
civilisations (LaTour, LaTour and Zinkhan, 2010); where exposure to food products
occurs on a daily basis (Ji, 2002). In that perspective, it would seem possible that food
product memories will be prominent in consumers’ recollections of childhood. Taking
this into consideration, scholars evaluated the significance of childhood food memories
in adulthood. Consequently, it was revealed that the recollection of food memories
were particularly associated with family relationships and mealtime interactions.
Hence, it likely such prominent food memories are associated to strong emotions,
important places and influential others (Lupton, 1994). As these conspicuous
memories are likely to involve salient emotions, is can be expected that early brand
exposure might benefit brands in the long term, as it can be used as a tool to cultivate
brad loyalty. Finally, it has also been suggested that food products are likely to
stimulate nostalgic memories, especially from one’s childhood (Kessous and Roux,
202 participants were recruited via opportunistic sampling method to a Qualtrics
online questionnaire, links to the survey were made available to friends, colleagues
and family through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
The age range of the participants ranged from 18 to 74 years of age with; 124 females
and 78 males completed the questionnaire. Responses from participants who had not
answered all questions were removed from the data set.
3.2 Materials and Measures
The online surveys were constructed using Qualtrics Online Software, which
allowed for data collection and storage of responses, once the questionnaire was
closed, the data was then exported for further statistical analysis using IMB SPSS®
Statistics Software Version 24.
The pilot study involved collecting data from 35 respondents (16 males and 19
females), from 18 to 64 years of age. The preliminary pilot test was carried out in order
to study and evaluate feasibility, reliability and duration, as well as identifying
questions that may be misinterpreted and improving upon study design prior to
implementing a full-scale research project. For instance, in the pilot questionnaire,
participants were allowed to enter the name of their favourite childhood snack brand
and the most commonly identified brands were selected for the main survey. Following
the pilot study, the subsequent brands were selected: Oreo, Kinder, Haribo, Cadbury,
KitKat, Walker crisps and Doritos, also respondents were provided the option to enter
the name of their favourite brand.
The 16-item online questionnaire aimed to measure brand trust and brand loyalty
as well as age of exposure to the brand and nature of brand memories (parents/family,
friends or school related). Participants were asked to indicate the age when they were
exposed to the brand using a 6-point Likert scale testing age of acquisition; 0-3, 3-5,
5-7, 7-9, 9-12 or 12+ years old.
Brand childhood nostalgia was measured by using the following statements ‘This
is my favourite brand from childhood’ (Q7), ‘I have fond memories of this brand from
my childhood’ (Q10) and I feel positive towards this brand today because of my
childhood’ (Q11), to which participants were required to rate whether they ‘Strongly
agreed’ or ‘Strongly disagreed’ using a 7-point Likert scale. Inter-item correlation
matrix analysis was carried out to analyse internal consistency reliability of the
questions, and to ensure that the three different items measure the same general
construct (Table 1). The optimal range of average inter-item correlation is 0.15 to 0.50;
values lower than this, indicate that item as not well correlated and don’t measure the
same construct appropriately, values higher than 0.50 indicate that the item are so
close that are almost repetitive (Statistics How To, 2020). As it can be observed in
table 1, the inter-item correlation values fall within the ideal range and therefore the
items are expected measure the Childhood nostalgia construct well. These three items
(Q7, Q10, Q110) have a Cronbach’s alpha coefficient value of .615, hence the value
falls below the expected .70, (Note that a reliability coefficient of .70 or higher is
considered “acceptable” in the majority of social science research standards)
(Nunnally, 1978; UCLA, 2020b). Nonetheless, Nunally (1978), also indicated that a
satisfactory level of reliability depends on how a measure is being used. Additionally,
.70 was not proclaimed as a universal standard of reliability (Lance, Butts and Michels,
Table 1: Inter-Item Correlation Matrix analysis for the Childhood brand nostalgia construct.
Q7 ‘This is my favourite brand from childhood’
Q10 ‘I have fond memories of this brand from my childhood’
Q11 ‘I feel positive towards this brand today because of my
Brand trust was measured by using the following question ‘Do you trust the
brand?’(Q12). Finally, brand loyalty was measured using 2 questions ‘Would you
repurchase the selected brand?’ (Q13) and ‘How would you characterise your loyalty
to the selected brand?’ (Q15), with an alpha coefficient for the two items of .779,
suggesting that the items have relatively high internal consistency, meeting the
required .70 coefficient. With regards to the inter-item correlation matrix, the two item
fall above the optimal value 0.50 (Table 2), this indicates that the items are almost
repetitive (Statistics How To, 2020), however as Q13 asked repurchase intention and
Q15 asked about the intensity of brand loyalty, both items were considered relevant
for the study.
Table 2: Inter-item correlation matrix for the brand loyalty construct.
3.3 Design and Procedure
A correlational research design was implemented, the predictor variables were,
age of exposure and brand trust; the outcome variable was brand loyalty. Upon
opening the link, participants were directed the online questionnaire on the Qualtrics
website, where they were provided with an information page about the project,
duration and requirements as well as an option to give their full consent by ticking the
‘I give consent for my responses to this questionnaire to be used as described in the
privacy statement’ box. Participants were required answer all 16 questions and to
complete the survey in their own time. Firstly, they had to indicate their gender, age
group, country of residence and whether they grew up in UK or not. Then, they were
required to choose from an array of snack brands to state which is their favourite,
Q13 ‘Would you repurchase the selected brand?
Q15 ‘How would you characterise your loyalty to the
alternatively, they were allowed to enter the name of their preferred childhood brand.
Subsequently, they were asked to indicate their age at the time of first exposure to the
brand on a 6-point Likert scale mentioned in the previous section and also, they were
required to indicate the nature of the memory (related to parents/family in general,
friends or school). They were then asked to ‘strongly agree’ or ‘strongly disagree’ in a
7-point Likert scale to the following statements/questions ‘I have fond memories of this
brand from my childhood’, ‘I feel positive towards this brand today because of my
childhood’, ‘Do you trust the selected brand?’, ‘Would you repurchase the selected
brand?, ‘How would you characterise your loyalty to the selected brand?’ and
additionally to state how often they purchase the brand with the options being: ‘more
than once a week’, ‘once a week’, ‘once a month’ and ‘once every few months as a
Ethical approval was granted by the University of Kent Ethics committee before
the data collection was carried out. No personal/sensitive information was collected
from the participants and they were provided with a consent form prior to completing
any question. They were also provided with a privacy and data protection statement,
where they were informed that their participation was completely anonymous and
voluntary and that they were free to withdrawn at any point.
Following the closure of the questionnaire in Qualtrics, the data was exported for
further analysis to the IMB SPSS® Statistics Software Version 24. A correlational
analysis and regression analysis will be conducted. The variables will be initially
transformed/recoded into different variables to normalise the data so external validity
if the study is maintained, in this instance 1 will become 7 and vice-versa in the Likert
scale. Consequently, the data will be analysed using descriptive statistics (frequency
and mean) and Pearson correlation test.
4. FINDINGS AND ANALYSIS
The aim of the present study was to establish if early brand exposure and
childhood nostalgia have an influence in brand loyalty during adulthood. Hence, in
order to achieve this, 202 participants (124 females and 78 males aged 18 to 74 years
old) (Table 3 and Figure 1) were required to identify their favourite snack brand from
childhood and consequently answer to an array of questions/statements to evaluate
the age and nature of the memory. Subsequently, respondents were required to rate
in a Likert scale, their brand nostalgia, brand trust and brand loyalty. Data was
exported to IMB SPSS® Statistics Software Version 24 for further statistical analysis.
Table 3: Descriptive statistics (N=202), demographic data indicating participants’ age group
Figure 1: Frequency analysis, participants’ age groups (N=202)
18 - 24
25 - 34
35 - 44
45 - 54
55 - 64
65 - 74
4.1 Childhood Snack Brands
As aforementioned in section 3.2, the range of products in the main questionnaire
was selected based on responses from the pilot study (N=35). Consequently, the
majority of participants identified Kinder (33.7%) as their favourite brand, followed by
Cadbury (25.7%) (Table 4 and Figure 2). It’s important to point out that these results
were expected as they are both well stablished brands in the UK and worldwide. For
instance, Ferrero introduced Kinder Surprise in 1974 to the UK market (Ferrero, 2020).
Meanwhile, Cadbury is internationally headquartered and operates in more than 60
countries worldwide (McSmith, 2009).
Table 4: Descriptive statistics (N=202), participants were required to select/name their favourite snack
brand from childhood. The brands were selected based on the responses obtained in the pilot study,
additionally participants were allowed to enter the name of their favourite childhood brand.
Figure 2: Frequency analysis, displaying favourite childhood snack brands (N=202)
4.2 Earliest Brand Memories
After identifying their favourite childhood snack brand, participants were required
to state their first exposure to the selected brand. The vast majority (45%) of
participants indicated 3 to 5 years of age, followed by 5 to 7 years old (23.3%) and 0
to 3 years old (19.3%) (Table 5 and Figure 3).
Table 5: Descriptive statistics (N=202), participants were required to state the age of first exposure to
their favourite snack brand from childhood
Figure 3: Bar chart illustrating age of favourite snack brand exposure (N=202)
Age in years
< 3 years old
3 to 5
5 to 7
7 to 9
9 to 12
>12 years old
4.3 Nature of Brand Memory
As one of the aims of this study was to evaluate the nature of the brand memory
during childhood, participants were required to indicate whether the brand memory
was associated with family interactions, childhood friends or school. Hence, the vast
majority of participants (80.2%) stated that their memory from their favourite childhood
snack brand was associated with parents/family, followed by friends (10.9%) and
school (8.9%) (Table 6 and Figure 4).
Table 6: Descriptive analysis (N=202), participants were asked to identify what was their memory of
their favourite snack brand from childhood associated with.
Figure 4: Bar chart illustrating the nature of snack brand memories from childhood, percentage
values are shown in Y axis, while memory categories are displayed in the X axis.
Type of memory
Parents/family in general
4.4 Descriptive Statistics: Nostalgia, Trust and Loyalty
Descriptive statistics such as mean and standard deviation can be applied to
questionnaire surveys for construct validation (Othman et al., 2011). Standard
deviation (SD) is a common measure of statistical dispersion. Besides expressing the
variability of a population, standard deviation is normally used to measure confidence
in statistical conclusions. Taking this into consideration mean scores were calculated
for variables measuring the same construct (Table 7). For instance, the childhood
nostalgia construct was measured by the following three statements: ‘This is my
favourite brand from childhood’ (Q7), ‘I have fond memories of this brand from my
childhood’ (Q10) and I feel positive towards this brand today because of my childhood’
(Q11). Therefore, a mean nostalgia score (6.1584) and standard the deviation of value
(.8906) were calculated. Similarly, the same process was applied to create a mean
brand loyalty score (5.8218) and SD (1.19926). As previously mentioned in section 3.2
loyalty was measured using two questions ‘Would you repurchase the selected
brand?’ (Q13) and ‘How would you characterise your loyalty to the selected brand?’
(Q15). Finally, mean (5.9257) and SD (1.18424) values were also calculated for the
brand trust construct which was measured only by one question ‘Do you trust the
Table 7: Descriptive statistics, mean scores were generated for constructs measured by 2 or more
variables (Mean Loyalty Nostalgia Scores). Brand Trust was measured only by question 12, mean
and standard deviation values were calculated for all constructs.
Mean Loyalty Score
Mean Nostalgia Score
4.5 Correlational Analysis
4.5.1 Childhood Brand Nostalgia and Brand Loyalty
Following descriptive analysis of respondent’s childhood brand nostalgia and
brand loyalty scores, a bivariate correlation analysis (Pearson Correlation) was carried
out to investigate if there was a relationship between the two variables (Table 8). The
Pearson Correlation coefficient (r), is a measure of the strength of a linear relationship
between two variables. Hence, the stronger the positive association of the two
variables, the closer the value will be to +1. Additionally, the level of statistical
significance is commonly expressed as a p-value, therefore a p-value less than 0.05
is statistically significant (McLeod, 2019). The results obtained from the analysis
indicate that there is a significant positive correlation between childhood brand
nostalgia and brand loyalty (r = .610, p <.001) (Table 8).
Table 8: Bivariate correlation analysis (N=202), Pearson correlation coefficients for mean loyalty score
and mean nostalgia score were computed using IMB SPSS® Statistics Software Version 24.
Furthermore, because scholars have suggested, that brand trust has a positive
effect on brand loyalty (Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001; Sahin, Zehirb and Kitapçıb,
2011; Kabadayi and Kokav Alan, 2012), it is important to also evaluate the correlation
between childhood brand nostalgia and brand trust as it is considered as a contributing
factor to building brand loyalty. The bivariate correlation analysis indicates that there
is a significant positive correlation between childhood brand nostalgia and brand trust
(r = .589, p <.001) (Table 9).
**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
Table 9: Bivariate correlation analysis (N=202), Pearson correlation coefficients for brand trust and
mean nostalgia score were computed using IMB SPSS® Statistics Software Version 24.
Finally, Pearson correlational analysis of the brand trust and brand loyalty were
also carried out, the results indicate that the strength of the relationship between the
variables is highly significant (r = .705, p <.001) (Table 10). Overall, these results
indicate that childhood brand nostalgia is significantly correlated to both brand loyalty
and brand trust and that as suggested by existing literature brand trust is a determining
factor in building brand loyalty.
Table 10: Bivariate correlation analysis (N=202), Pearson correlation coefficients for brand trust and
mean loyalty score were computed using IMB SPSS® Statistics Software Version 24.
**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
4.5.2 Early Exposure and Brand Loyalty
Following descriptive statistics analysis of respondent’s age of exposure (Section
4.2) and brand loyalty mean score (Section 4.4), a bivariate correlation evaluation was
carried out to study a potential relationship between the two variables. The Pearson
correlation coefficient indicates that there is a significant negative relationship between
age of exposure and brand loyalty (r = -.025, p > .05). Hence, brand loyalty increases
as age of exposure decreases and vice versa (Table 11). Furthermore, it is important
to point out that as aforementioned in section 4.2, the majority of participants (87.3%)
stated that their earliest brand memory was a 7 years or younger ( 45% 3 to 5 years
old, 23% 5 to 7 years old and 19.3% 0 to 3 years old), this suggest that memories of
favourite snack brands during childhood are nurtured at a very young age.
Upon finding a negative correlation between age of exposure and brand loyalty,
a linear regression analysis was implemented to determine if age of brand exposure
could predict brand loyalty during adulthood. It was discovered that age of brand
exposure notably predicted brand loyalty scores (B= -.027, t= -3.27, p> .05). B
represents the value for the regression equation for predicting the dependent variable
from the independent variable. These values express an estimate of the relationship
between the independent variable (age of exposure) and dependent variable (brand
loyalty)(UCLA, 2020a). Hence, these values indicate the amount of increase in brand
loyalty that would be predicted by a 1 unit increase in the predictor (age of exposure).
Consequently, for every unit increase in age of exposure, there is a -.027 unit decrease
in the predicted brand loyalty score. The variable age of exposure is technically not
statistically significantly different from 0 because the p-value is greater than .05.
However it is important to mention that ‘statistical tools such as p-values are
meaningful only to strictly confirmatory analysis’ (Rubin, 2017) and since the nature of
this study is exploratory and no formal hypothesis can be anticipated, it would be
inappropriate to interpret p values in exploratory analysis (Nosek and Lakens, 2014;
Forstmeier, Wagenmakers and Parker, 2016; Nosek et al., 2018).
Table 11: Bivariate correlation analysis (N=202), Pearson correlation coefficients for brand age
exposure and mean loyalty score were computed using IMB SPSS® Statistics Software Version 24.
Age of Exposure
Mean Loyalty Score
The present study expands on the current understanding of childhood brand
nostalgia and brand loyalty in numerous important ways. First, this study identifies a
construct readily recognisable in the current marketplace but infrequently reviewed in
the academic literature, namely the affectionate relationship between a brand and
consumer that is nurtured early in childhood. Additionally, this study aimed to explore
the age at which respondents had their earliest snack brad memories and investigate
the nature of participants memories. After conducting a literature review childhood
nostalgia was described as a ‘positively valanced complex feeling, mood or emotion
by reflection on persons, object, experiences and ideas connected with the past’
(Holak and Havlena, 1998). In contrast, brand loyalty can be described as ‘a deeply
held commitment to rebuy or re-patronize a preferred product/ service consistently in
the future, thereby causing repetitive same-brand or same brand-set purchasing’
Further, the implementation of questionnaires aimed to obtain concise evidence
to establish a correlation between childhood nostalgia and brand loyalty, as well as
providing a platform to understand the nature of these nostalgic memories and how
early brand exposure influence brand loyalty. As mentioned at the beginning of this
study, the concept of nostalgia as a marketing concept has only been superficially
studied. Hence the importance of testing a consumers’ childhood brand nostalgia for
a specific brand, lies within its strategic implications both in research and in managerial
arenas. Accordingly, in the current study 202 participants were asked to identify their
favourite snack brand from childhood, age and nature of exposure and consequently
to rate their attitudes towards the brand (nostalgia, trust and loyalty).
5.1 Nature of Earliest Brand Memories
One of the first parameters evaluated in this study was the nature of childhood
nostalgic memories. This was achieved by identifying memory attributes such as, age
of first exposure to the brand and who was this memory associated with. Investigating
the age of brand exposure is of major importance, as existing literature indicates that
early brand exposure may be a determining element in the development of brand
loyalty and other emotional brand attachments (Fournier, 1998; Braun-LaTour, LaTour
and Zinkhan, 2007). Furthermore, it has been suggested that child-brand relationships
cultivated in early years are more profoundly formed that those developed later in life
(Ji, 2002). Ultimately, it has also been suggested that early brand experiences during
childhood have a significant effect om brand purchasing comportments 20 years later
(Guest, 1964). Hence it can be expected that the younger individuals are when
exposed to a brand to higher the likelihood of developing brand loyalty during
adulthood, however this will be discussed in further detail in section 5.3.
Consequently, in the present study, the vast majority of respondents (87.6%)
indicated that they were younger than 7 years of old when exposed to their favourite
brand. Furthermore, 45% of all participants identified that their first exposure to the
brand occurred from 3 to 5 years of age. Interestingly, a previous study discovered
that the youngest mean age of exposure to tomato ketchup was between 4 to 5 years
old (Branson, 2013). With regards to the nature of the brand memory, 80% of
participants indicated that the memory of their favourite childhood snack brand was
associated to parents or family in general. These results were anticipated, as it has
been previously noted by scholars that the recollection of food memories is
predominantly associated with family relationships and mealtime interactions and
therefore potentially associated to prominent emotions, important places and
influential others (Lupton, 1994).
5.2 The Effects of Childhood Nostalgia on Brand Loyalty
Existing literature, suggests that brand loyalty can be predicted by the level of
consumers’ emotional attachment to brands (Thomson, MacInnis and Whan, 2005).
In this manner, individuals who exhibit high level of brand emotional attachment and
childhood nostalgia are anticipated to display equally high levels of brand loyalty
(Shields and Johnson, 2016). Furthermore, over the years, consumers tend to develop
nostalgia for childhood food, activities, music and places (Holbrook and Schindler,
1991; Friedman, 2016). Additionally, it has been showed that nostalgia feelings have
an effect on individuals’ attitudes towards both extinct and prevailing brands (Toledo
and Lopes, 2016). This highlights the significance of understanding childhood
nostalgia in order to improve brand loyalty and subsequent customer retention.
Accordingly, the results obtained in this study indicate that there is a significant
positive correlation between childhood brand nostalgia and brand loyalty (r = .610, p
<.001). Additionally, it’s critical to note that childhood brand nostalgia was also highly
correlated to brand trust (r = .589, p <.001). Such correlation is particularly important
because several authors have proposed that brand trust is a predictor of brand loyalty
(Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2001; Delgado-Ballester and Munuera-Alemán, 2001; Wu
et al., 2008; Iglesias et al., 2011; Sahin et al., 2011; Kabadayi and Kokav Alan, 2012).
5.3 The Effects of Early Age Exposure on Brand Loyalty
The consumer behavioural field is constantly attempting to comprehend how
consumer-brand relationships are formed. Consequently, it is essential to determine
whether or not early brand exposure should be considered a determining factor when
brands attempt to develop brand loyalty. The results obtained in the present study
indicate indicates that there is a significant negative relationship between age of
exposure and brand loyalty (r = -.025, p> .05), hence, brand loyalty increases as age
of exposure decreases and vice versa. This suggest that memories of favourite snack
brands during childhood are nurtured at a very young age. Upon finding a negative
correlation between age of exposure and brand loyalty, a linear regression analysis
was implemented to determine if age of brand exposure could predict brand loyalty
during adulthood. It was discovered that age of brand exposure notably predicted
brand loyalty scores (B= -.027, t= -3.27, p> .05). Consequently, for every unit increase
in age of exposure, there is a -.027 unit decrease in the predicted brand loyalty score.
These results suggest that the younger children are exposed to a brand the higher the
likelihood of them developing brand loyalty during adulthood. These findings were
expected, as marketing experts suggest that children can express brand awareness
and knowledge as early as age two and that early brand affinity can become a lifelong
relationship with the brand. Furthermore, there is substantial evidence supporting the
idea that the connection stablished with brands during childhood perdure during
adulthood (Comiteau, 2019).
Whilst the current study found a significant correlation between childhood
nostalgia and brand loyalty, there are several limitations that need to be addressed in
order to improve the experimental design. For instance, the sample size is relatively
small. The experimental approach and results can be strengthened by increasing the
number of participants and also by expanding to other geographical areas. Increasing
the sample size would allow a more comprehensive and reliable empirical analysis
among the variables. Another limitation of this research is that it was emphasized only
in one product category (snacks). For instance, even though participants selected a
brand as their favourite and also indicated that they have fond memories towards the
brand, when asked about repurchase intention a few of them indicated they do not
intend to buy the brand again, this could be due to lifestyle choices and increasing
health consciousness among younger populations. Consequently, these finding
should be replicated with different product categories such as food brands. Another
experimental curb was that the survey was conducted online and therefore completed
in an uncontrolled environment, it has been proposed that autobiographical memories
are possibly more accessible when participants are relaxed state of mind (LeDoux,
1996). Unfortunately, when collecting the data, the current study had no control or
awareness of the participants’ state of mind and amount of attention given to the
questionnaire. Additionally, this study relied on both autobiographical memories and
self-reported measures of brand attitudes, which may not be the most accurate
method due to infantile amnesia and false brand memories prompted by advertising
exposure (Branson, 2013).
5.5 Further Research
Future studies should work on the improvement of brand loyalty measurements
to more precisely evaluate its relationship with childhood nostalgia and early age
exposure. Similarly, it would be advantageous to investigate this relationship using a
wider range of products and brands. For instance, existing literature suggests that
brand trust (predictor of brand loyalty) is more prominently associated with utilitarian
products such as food (Chaudhuri and Holbrook, 2002). Consequently, further
research should aim to determine the levels of utilitarian and hedonic value of each
product before considering the results. Additionally, while this study explored the
formation of brand nostalgia during childhood, future research should examine more
in detail the manner through nostalgic attachments are formed between an individual
and a brand. In this instance researchers should aim to evaluate whether nostalgic
bonds can be developed in adulthood as it is likely that some adult consumers form
similar nostalgic attachments with brands used later in life, when the individual has
moved beyond the sensitive phases of nostalgic attachment identified in previous
studies. Also, future studies should also investigate whether there is a minimum length
of time required between the initial brand experience and the present, in order to
categorise the type brand attachment as nostalgia. It can also be recommended to
implement face-to-face interviews in order to obtain more descriptive responses with
regards to early exposure and childhood nostalgia. This could be beneficial because
it can be carried out in a controlled environment and it would allow for a more
longitudinal study that allows the constructs to be explored more in depth. Ultimately,
as the present study did not take respondents’ nationalities into consideration, it would
be of interest to investigate the relationship between early brand exposure, childhood
nostalgia and brand loyalty cross-culturally as it has been previously proposed that a
consumer’s cultural values can influence brand memories and other elements
affecting brand loyalty (Lam and Lee, 2005; Seock and Lin, 2011).
This study expanded on the exiting understanding of childhood nostalgia and
brand loyalty. This construct is particularly important in the current competitive
business environment as it can help brands to better understand consumer behaviour
and consequently maintain an expand their market share. Looking ahead, nostalgia
marketing could be used as a tool to captivate consumers’ attention and promote
authentic emotional hooks to capture the heart. Nostalgia marketing and retro
branding has proven to be highly successful when done well, therefore it is essential
to further study this construct and develop effective ways to measure its effects on
brand loyalty. While nostalgia-centric campaigns are highly beneficial to brands, it is
important to mention that they are not without a risk. For instance, brands who attempt
to implement retro strategies in a rushed manner without taking the modern world into
consideration may be perceived as unrelatable, out of touch or even irrelevant.
Therefore, it is fundamental to build an emotional hook using childhood nostalgia as
well as offering something new. A relevant example displaying the ideal balance
between past and present, is ‘Pokémon GO’ which managed to successfully link a
beloved childhood story with the earliest real-life model of augmented reality
(Friedman, 2016; Chamary, 2018). Ultimately, effective campaigns require a lot of
work and authenticity but more importantly thoughtfulness as they target deep
emotions in consumers.
In summary, as this study was exploratory in nature, no formal hypothesis was
postulated, however as predicted at the beginning of the study, the results suggest
that there is a significant correlation between childhood nostalgia and brand loyalty.
Similarly, it was discovered that childhood nostalgia has a significant impact on brand
trust (predictor of brand loyalty). Additionally, early age exposure was found to have a
notable effect on brand loyalty, hence as age of exposure increases, brand loyalty
score decrease. Therefore, it can be postulated, that the earlier a consumer is exposed
to a brand, the higher the likelihood of developing brand loyalty in adulthood.
Furthermore, this study also discovered that the nature of autobiographical nostalgic
brand memories are most commonly associated to significant others (parents and
family in general) and that they occur at seven years of age or younger. Although this
study found empirical evidence on the correlation between childhood nostalgia and
brand loyalty, this construct should be further analysed in future research in order to
better understand consumers and to create a stronger brand-consumer relationship.
Consequently, it is advisable for marketers to consider a long-term view of marketing
resolutions in order to develop effective strategies that nurture life-long brand
relationships with consumers by prompting brand awareness and affect from early
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Appendix 1: Qualtrics questionnaire.