The purpose of this study is to expand the literature and determine factors that impact alumni giving and loyalty at institutions of higher education. Specifically, this research aims to identify a relationship between university traditions and rituals, the relationships of an alumni brand community, and loyalty toward an institution of higher education. This research proposes that a university, as a branded institution, constitutes a brand community, and that traditions and rituals, an important component of brand communities, can serve as a means by which students engage on campus and participate in a university’s brand community and, in turn, become active and giving alumni of a university. We propose that the greater the perception of alumni that a university has valued, well-established traditions and rituals, the greater their brand community relationships and intended behaviors associated with loyalty. The research was conducted in the context of the “University,” a regional, comprehensive state university in the Midwest. A survey was conducted with alumni of the University to test a series of six hypotheses. Statistical analyses of MANOVA, ANOVA, and independent t-tests found support for all hypotheses; the mean scores for all four brand community relationships, overall brand community integration, and for four loyalty measures were all significantly different. Alumni who perceive that the University has valued, well established traditions and rituals perceive stronger alumni-product, alumni-brand, alumni institution, and alumni-alumni relationships, perceive a stronger overall integration within the alumni brand community, and exhibit stronger behaviors associated with loyalty than alumni who do not perceive that the University has valued, well-established traditions and rituals. The results from this analysis provide theoretical and practical implications. Theoretically, the contribution of the research reported here is considering the importance of traditions and rituals in alumni brand communities and loyalty, a concept not addressed in previous research. Research has demonstrated that brand community integration is an influential contributor to desired marketing outcomes of institutions of higher education, both large and small. So, university initiatives that enhance and strengthen alumni brand community relationships are vital. Further, given the economic climate in higher education today, it is also vital that universities foster active and dedicated alumni as to garner financial support. Future research may incorporate the role and impact of additional constructs, such as nostalgia, on university traditions and rituals and alumni brand community relationships, expand the study beyond the University studied here, and expand the conceptualization and measurement of the four alumni brand community relationships. Practically, suggestions for universities’ marketing strategies and tactics are provided. Alumni associations, in particular, should be viewed as strategic, vital assets of
universities and serve as keepers of traditions and rituals by supporting active student alumni groups and promoting the importance of traditions and rituals. Further, alumni associations should create new, cultivate existing, and revitalize old traditions and rituals. Finally, universities should develop and nurture brand communities with online students as well, create and foster traditions and rituals in which they may participate, and instill a sense that the university has valued, well-established traditions and rituals.
Martin, M.C., Moriuchi, E., Smith, R.M., Moeder, J.D., Nichols, C. (2015). The Importance of University Traditions And Rituals in Building Alumni Brand Communities and Loyalty. Academy of Marketing Studies Journal, 19(3), 107-118.