Exploring the motivations to participate in an online brand community: a study of 7–11-year-old children

Robert Thomas, Gareth R.T. White, Anthony Samuel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this research is to understand what motivates 7–11-year-old children to participate in online brand communities (OBCs). Prior research has concentrated on prescriptive product categories (games and gaming), predominantly adolescent groups and the social aspects of community engagement and actual behaviour within communities, rather than the motivations to participate with the OBC. This has ultimately limited what has been gleaned, both theoretically and managerially, from this important segment.

An interpretive, longitudinal position is adopted, using a sample of 261 children (113 male and 148 female) from across the UK, using event-based diaries over a 12-month period, generating 2,224 entries.

Data indicate that children are motivated to participate in a brand community for four reasons: to support and ameliorate pre-purchase anxieties, resolve interpersonal conflicts, exact social dominance in terms of product ownership and perceptions of product knowledge and to actively engage in digitalised pester power. The study also reveals that certain motivational aspects such as conflict resolution and exacting dominance, are gender-specific.

Research limitations/implications
Knowledge of children’s motivation to engage with OBCs is important for marketers and brand managers alike as the data reveal markedly different stimuli when compared to known adult behaviours in the field. Given the nature of the study, scope exists for significant future research.

Practical implications
The study reveals behaviours that will assist brand managers in further understanding the complex and untraditional relationships that children have with brands and OBCs.

This study makes a novel examination of a hitherto little-explored segment of consumers. In doing so, it uncovers the theoretical and practical characteristics of child consumers that contemporary, adult-focussed literature does not recognise. The paper makes an additional contribution to theory by positing four new behavioural categories relating to community engagement – dependers, defusers, demanders and dominators – and four new motivational factors which are fundamentally different from adult taxonomies – social hegemony, parental persuasion, dilemma solving and conflict resolution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2308-2343
Number of pages36
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number8
Early online date16 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 Emerald Publishing. This AAM is deposited under the CC BY-NC 4.0 licence. Any reuse is allowed in accordance with the terms outlined by the licence. To reuse the AAM for commercial purposes, permission should be sought by contacting permissions@emeraldinsight.com.


  • Children
  • Consumer behaviour
  • Consumer motivation
  • Event diaries
  • Online community
  • brand community


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