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The Impact of Symbolic Brand on Loyalty


2012 International Conference on Information Management, Innovation Management and Industrial Engineering

The Impact of Symbolic Brand on Loyalty
ZHOU Xue-chun
School of Economics and Management of Wuhan University, Wuhan, 430072, China wdxiaochun@yahoo.com.cn
Abstract--Existing research frequently consider symbolic image of brand as one-dimensional construct, they have neglected the abundance as well as the characteristics of symbolic meanings which are conveyed by the brand, and therefore there is theoretical contribution in discussing and examining the effect of different symbolic image of brand on consumer’s response. Based on “self” theory derived from sociology and psychology, Our research divides symbolic image of brand into four dimensions: “personal”, “social”, “relational” and “collective”, through survey, we investigate the affect of the four dimensions of symbolic image on consumer’s brand loyalty. Our research shows that through the mediation of brand involvement, brand trust and self-brand connection, symbolic image of brand positively influence brand loyalty. Speaking concretely, all the four dimensions of symbolic image positively influence consumer’s self-brand connections, at the same time, both the personal and collective image positively influence brand involvement, and all the personal, social and relational image positively influence brand trust. And brand involvement, self-brand connections and brand trust can accelerate consumer’s loyalty to brand directly. Keywords--symbolic brand image, brand trust, self-brand connection, brand involvement, brand loyalty

WANG Chang-zheng
School of Economics and Management of Wuhan University, Wuhan, 430072, China pattra2003@hotmail.com aim at testifying the impact of different dimensional brand symbolic image on brand loyalty through the mediation of brand involvement, self-brand connection and brand trust. Our research indicates that generally the impact of different dimension of brand symbolic image on individual reaction is positive and significant, but the magnitude and path of influence of different dimension is not the same. II. LITERATURE REVIEW A. Symbolic brand image In the field of brand image, previous researches link the symbolic image of brand with the self. For example, according to the different consumer need considered by firms when positioning brand, Park, Jaworski & MacInnis divide the brand into functional, experiential and symbolic image. And they define the symbolic brand image as a brand which can satisfy the consumer need of self-enhancement, role-positioning, self identity and group identity (Park, Jaworski & Maclnnis, 1986). In Keller’s model of brand equity, the brand benefit consists of functional, experiential and symbolic benefit; and the symbolic benefit has some bearing with customer need of social recognition or personal expression and esteem (Keller, 1993). Other than few researches, previous literature considers the symbolic brand image as one-dimensional construct (Hsieh, Pan & Setiono, 2004; Roth, 1995). This treatment actually ignores the diversity and complexity of self and cannot demonstrate the pursuit of different brand meaning which is utilized to construct the self (Reed & Bolton, 2005). Therefore, to display the difference, in this paper, we define the symbolic brand image as the symbolic meaning that a brand represents or expresses for an specific individual, that is, self-meaning (Stryker & Burke, 2000), which refers to the traits, norm and standard utilized to define the self. B. The dimensions of symbolic image When construct and express the self, the brand meaning pursued by individual is different. That is, the specific self determines the pursuit and possession of specific meaning. The symbolic meaning links with the self, as a result, the self-categorizing framework of Brewer and Gardner (Brewer & Gardner, 1996) should be the theoretical base for the constructing of symbolic brand image. In their framework, they divide the self into “personal self”, “relational self” and “collective self”. Personal self refers to individual self-concept different from others, it contains individual attitude, value, and personal traits. Relational self refers to the self-concept

I. INTRODUCTION With the advent of consumer society, there is a trend for goods to be symbolizing (Firat & Venkatesh, 1995). On the one hand, in the daily life, in order to express and construct the self, consumers purchase and consume the product or brand filled with symbolic meaning (McCracken, 1986; Belk, 1988). On the other hand, in the marketing practice, firms begin to shrift their marketing effort from the functional or material attribute of product to the creation of symbolic value, besides, the choice of symbolic positioning of brand demonstrates the trend and characteristic of diversifying (Mcenally & Chernatony, 1999). From both consumer and firm perspective, we raise theoretical questions as follows: firms can make different choice in the course of symbolic positioning; does this mean that the symbolic brand image can be multiple-dimensional rather than one-dimensional? Will brand symbolic image produce positive effect on individual cognition, affect and behavioral intention? And if brand symbolic image has positive impact, what is the mechanism of this function? In this article, basing on the self-theory of psychology and social psychology, we deem the brand symbolic image as a four-dimension construct comprised of “personal image”, “social image”, “relational image” and “collective image”. We 978-1-4673-1931-7/12/$31.00 ?2012 IEEE

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stemming from the role relationship with significant others. Collective self refers to self-concept associated with group membership identity. Moreover, the self-categorizing framework above neglects the traditional “social self”, which is prevalent when we make purchasing and consumption in our routine life (O’Cass & Frost, 2002). Social self refers to the self-concept associated with social reputation, status and recognition in the eyes of others. From the discussion above, we divide the self into “personal”, “social”, “relational” and “collective” self. According to the framework of self-categorizing, the symbolic brand meaning contains four dimensions such as “personal self-meaning”, “social self-meaning”, “relational self-meaning” and “collective self-meaning”. That is, the symbolic brand image consists of “personal image” (PI), “social image” (SI), “relational image” (RI) and “collective image” (CI).
Brand Symbolic Image Personal Image Social Image Relational Image Collective Image

H1: symbolic brand image such as personal, social, relational and collective image will have positive impact on brand involvement. On the other hand, involvement will influence consumer attention, memory, information processing, information searching, satisfaction etc (Knox & Walker, 2003; Varki & Wong, 2003). Past research indicates the direct impact of involvement on brand commitment (Knox & Walker, 2003) and relationship willing (Varki & Wong, 2003), and brand commitment and relationship willing are associated with brand loyalty. Thus, brand involvement will facilitate brand loyalty. H2: consumer brand involvement will have positive impact on brand loyalty. B. Symbolic image, self-brand connection and brand loyalty Brand is utilized to satisfy personal self –relevant need, when consumer possesses a brand, the meaning will transfer from the brand to individual for the construct and expression of self (Escalas & Bettman, 2003; 2005). In the course of self-construct and self-repression, when individual adopts and possesses the specific brand meaning, the self-brand connection is formed (Escalas & Bettman, 2003; 2005). The self-brand connection refers to the extent to which individual incorporate the brand to self-concept (Escalas & Bettman, 2003; 2005). Symbolic brand image contains specific self-meaning; it will satisfy individual need and develop the self-brand connection. H3: symbolic brand image such as personal, social, relational and collective image will have positive impact on self-brand connection. The formation of self-brand connection indicates the brand is considered as consumer “extended self” (Belk & Tian, 2005). Individual has the tendency to sustain a complete self; hence, self-brand connection will have positive impact on brand attitude and repurchasing intention. Moreover, Escalas indicates that there is a positive relationship between self-brand connection and behavioral intention (Escalas & Bettman, 2003; 2005). H4: self-brand connection will have positive influence on brand loyalty. C. Symbolic image, brand trust and brand loyalty In the marketing practice, firms will incorporate positive and charming characteristic into brand, and avoid the association with negative valence, therefore, symbolic brand image will facilitate brand trust. Furthermore, as Fournier indicates, symbolic brand image such as brand personality will enhance individual brand trust (Fournier, 1998). H5: symbolic brand image such as personal, social, relational and collective image will have positive influence on brand trust. Previous literature demonstrates the positive relationship between brand trust and brand loyalty (Mayer & Davis, 1995). The reason behind is that trust can foster commitment (Bowden, 2009), it will forge significant relationship which renders commitment. Thus, we will anticipate brand trust will ignite positive brand loyalty. H6: brand trust will have positive impact on brand loyalty.

H1

H2

+ H3 +

Involvement

+
Brand Loyalty

Self-Brand connection

H4 + H6

H5

+

+
Brand Trust

Figure 1 research framework

III. RESEARCH FRAMEWORK AND HYPOTHESES On the one hand, previous research just makes a distinction of “functional”, “experiential” and “symbolic” image on the abstract level (Yu, Wang, Zhao & Ling, 2005); we go a further step to make a investigation of different dimension of brand symbolic image on brand loyalty. On the other hand, previous literature demonstrates the correlation between brand symbolic image and brad loyalty, but there is a lack of deep understanding of the mechanism. Moreover, these researches do not consider the potential influence of self when examining the causal relationship between brand symbolic image and brand loyalty. From the discussion above, we incorporate the constructs of “brand involvement”, “self-brand connection” and “brand trust” as the inner mechanism through which the symbolic image will influence the brand loyalty (Figure 3-1). And the brand involvement and self-brand connection is associated with self-concept. A. Symbolic image, brand involvement and brand loyalty Zaichkowsky defines the involvement as correlation between the decision and personal fundamental value, aims and self-concept (Zaichkowsky, 1986). When brand contains symbolic image, consumer will have perceived relevance between the brand and self, which will facilitate individual involvement. Hence, brand symbolic image will enhance individual brand involvement.

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IV. RESEARCH METHOD A. Sample We collect data through survey. The participants are MBAs and undergraduates in university. Firstly, the participant is asked to submit a familiar brand and then answers the questions relevant. We have issued 410 questionnaires, and receive 359 reliable questionnaires. The male participants account for 50.5%, and the female sample account for 49.5%. The participant submits 112 different brands which assure that the brand and symbolic brand image is diversity. B. Measurements We adopt the scale of symbolic brand image developed by the second author of this paper and another colleague (Cui and Wang, 2010). This scale contains four parts which comprise of personal image, social image, relational image and collective image. The exact items are displayed in the table. The personal image scale contains 3 items, Cronbach ? is 0.890. The social image scale contains 3 items, Cronbach ? is 0.890. The relational image scale contains 4 items, Cronbach ? is 0.892. The collective image scale contains 3 items, Cronbach ? is 0.891.
TABLE 1 THE SYMBOLIC BRAND IMAGE DEVELOPED Construct Measurement items

indicates that the constructs have ample convergent validity. The relevant indicators are displayed as follows: ?2=675.246, df=377, ?2/df=1.791, GFI=0.892, NFI=0.915, NNFI=0.954, CFI =0.96, PGFI=0.723, PNFI=0.793, PCFI=0.832, RMSEA=0.047, which indicate the overall fit of the model. The CR of construct is ranging from 0.886 to 0.927, larger than 0.7 recommended (Nunnally, 1994); their AVE is higher than 0.619, which is above 0.5 recommended (Johnson, Anderson & Fornell, 1995). These indicators demonstrate the reliability and validity of constructs. Moreover, we examine the discrimination validity with the AVE. As table 4-1 displays, the research indicates that AVE of construct is larger than the square of the correlation with other construct, which is a display of well discrimination validity (Fornell & Larcker, 1981). V. DATA ANALYSYS AND DISCUSSION In order to test the hypotheses, we formulate the following regression model: Model 1?BI = ?0 + ?1PI + ?2SI + ?3RI + ?4CI+ ?1; Model 2?SB = ?0 + ?1PI + ?2SI + ?3RI + ?4CI +?2; Model 3?BT= ?0 + ?1PI + ?2SI + ?3RI + ?4CI +?3; Model 4?BL = ?0 + ?1PI + ?2SI + ?3RI + ?4CI +?4; Model 5?BL =?0 + ?1PI + ?2SI + ?3RI + ?4CI +?5BI+?6 BT+?7 SB+ ?5 ?0 is constant??1…?7 are the corresponding coefficients? ?1…?5 are errors. Model 1 is utilized to examine the impact of symbolic brand image on brand involvement (H1). Model 2 is used to testify the relationship between symbolic brand image with self-brand connection (H3). Model 3 aims at examining the influence of symbolic brand image on brand trust (H5). Model 4 and model 5 test the relationship between brand involvement, self-brand connection, brand trust with brand loyalty (H2, H4, H6) and the mediation between symbolic brand image and brand loyalty through these three variables.
TABLE 2 THE CORRELATION MATRIX OF LATENT VARIABLES PI PI SI RI CI BT BI SB BL 0.864 0.522 0.236 0.491 0.281 0.368 0.545 0.356 0.854 0.270 0.360 0.312 0.254 0.543 0.325 0.821 0.453 0.194 0.159 0.379 0.249 0.857 0.166 0.335 0.586 0.246 0.899 0.517 0.334 0.503 0.806 0.360 0.501 0.787 0.441 0.850 SI RI CI BT BI SB BL

PI1 the brand can be used to display user’s personality Personal image PI2 the brand has its personality ?PI? PI3 usually, the brand indicates the consumer’s personality SI1 the brand is symbol of people who win success SI2 this brand demonstrates the user’s respectful social status Social image ?SI? SI3 many graceful men often use this brand RI1 this brand is used to enhance the intimate relationship between users with others Relational image RI2 this brand has the function of expressing love ?RI? RI3 this brand can display parent-child relationship RI4 this brand can demonstrate friendship CI1 this brand is utilized to display the group membership by its user. Collective image CI2 the brand is used to express the identification to some ?CI? group by its user. CI3 the brand can be seen as a symbol of group

As to the scale of brand involvement, we use the Zaichkowsky’s version which contains 11 items, Cronbach ? is 0.916. the self-brand connection scale is developed by Escalas and Bettman (2003), which contains 7items, Cronbach ? is 0.888. We adopt Li?Zhou?Kashyap and Yang’s scale about brand trust (Li, Zhou, Kashyap & Yang, 2008), which contains 3 items and Cronbach ? is 0.924. Brand loyalty is developed by Yoo and Donthu (Yoo & Donthu, 2001), it contains 3 items and Cronbach ? is 0.882. C Reliability and validity We adopt the CFA to measure the reliability and validity of constructs in the model. The result of maximum likelihood method with AMOS7.0 indicates that every measurement indicator in the latent variable has a factor loading bigger than 0.7; the t-value is ranging from 14.401 to 25.312, which

Model 1 indicates that, personal and collective image positively impact brand involvement, but, the relationship between social and relational image and brand involvement is not significant. Hence H1 is partially supported. Our sample is students who may pay little attention to status and achievement which seem significant for other social members. They may ignore the impact of social image; as a result, the influence of social image on brand involvement is not significant. In the scale of relational image which treats the relational image as a

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whole, it doesn’t pay notice to the various kinds of relationship in china, which will trigger different level of involvement. This may be the reason behind the insignificance between relational image and brand involvement. In model 2, there are positive impact between personal, social, relational and collective image and self-brand connection. Thus, H3 is supported. Model 3 indicates that personal, social and relational image positively influence brand trust, but the relationship between collective image and brand trust is not significant. Thus, H5 is partially supported. Group can be divided into in-group and out-group with which people holds different attitude. The ignorance of group division and taking the group as a whole may be the reason leading to the insignificance between group image and brand trust.
TABLE 3 THE PARAMETER ESTIMATION OF MODEL 1, 2, 3, 4 AND 5 Model 1 DV? brand involvement IV? Std. coefficient T-value PI 0.245 4.340*** SI 0.029 0.546 RI 0.000 0.009 CI 0.140 2.570* R2 0.120*** Model 3 DV? Brand trust IV? Std. coefficient T-value PI 0.184 3.232** SI 0.158 2.916** RI 0.128 2.499* CI -0.070 -1.270 R2 0.104*** Model 5 DV? Brand loyalty IV? Std. coefficient T-value PI 0.063 1.205 SI 0.057 1.132 RI 0.022 0.493 CI -0.046 -0.874 BI 0.234 4.722*** BT 0.238 4.845*** SB 0.211 3.711*** R2 0.320*** *p?0.05?**p?0.01?***p?0.001 Model 2 Self-brand connection Std. coefficient T-value 0.196 4.397*** 0.267 6.283*** 0.093 2.326* 0.353 8.215*** 0.453*** Model 4 Brand loyalty Std. coefficient T-value 0.224 3.834*** 0.134 2.412* 0.129 2.420* 0.014 0.246 0.141***

PI

0.245*** 0.196*** 0.184** 0.267*** 0.158** 0.093*
BI

0.234*** 0.211***

SI

SB

BL

RI

0.128* 0.140* 0.353***
BT

0.238***

CI

Figure 2 the Research Result Model

VI. CONCLUSIONS A. Research result This paper examines the impact of symbolic brand image (personal, social, relational and collective image) on brand loyalty through the mediation of brand trust, self-brand connection and brand involvement. The result displays that H2, H3, H4 and H6 is supported; H1 and H3 are partially supported. Specifically, the four dimensions of symbolic brand image enhance self-brand connection; personal image can facilitate brand trust and brand involvement; social image and relational image can foster brand trust; collective image can enhance brand involvement; brand trust, brand involvement and self-brand connection can facilitate brand loyalty. B. Theoretical and practical implications This paper not only testify the multiple dimensions of symbolic brand image, and examine the mediation through the symbolic image (personal, social, relational and collective image) influence the brand loyalty. The data analysis demonstrates that the size and influence path is not same for different dimensions, which may fill the theoretical gap in the past research. The managerial implications are as follows. Firstly, the proposed four dimensional symbolic image will be a useful reference for firm’s symbolic positioning. Secondly, the different symbolic positioning will facilitate brand loyalty and enhance brand equity. Thirdly, when target market is the youth, the establishing of personal image such as brand personality may be the best choice. C. Limitation and future direction Firstly, the student sample is from university in Wuhan, and there is no denying the fact that individual in different region may indicate different behavioral model and tendency. Hence, in order to enhance external validity, we should expand the scope of sampling. Secondly, there may be moderating variables which will influence the relationship between symbolic image and customer response. There are much room for future investigation. Thirdly, the scale about relational image is general, which doesn’t consider the difference of relationship types. The comprehensive development of relational image and the

Model 5 indicates that brand trust, brand involvement, self-brand connection positively influence brand loyalty; H2, H4 and H6 are supported. Besides, the coefficient of personal, social, relational and collective image is not significant; and in model 4, the coefficients of these variables mostly are significant. Hence, brand trust, brand involvement and self-brand connection fully mediate the impact of symbolic brand image on brand loyalty. The model adjusted is as follows.

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examination of it on consumer response will be a valuable future direction. ACKNOWLEDGMENT This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71172212; 70972091); the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (201110501020011). WANG Chang-Zheng is the correspondent. REFERENCE
[1] Firat, A. F. and Venkatesh, A. Liberatory Postmodernism and the Reenchantment of Consumption, Journal of Consumer Research, 1995, 22: 239-267. [2] McCracken, G. Culture and Consumption: A Theoretical Account of the Structure and the Movement of the Cultural Meaning of Consumer Goods, Journal of Consumer Research, 1986, 13(1): 71-84. [3] Belk, R. W. Possessions and the Extended Self, Journal of Consumer Research, 1988, 15(2): 139-168. [4] Mcenally, M. and De Chernatony, L. The evolving nature of brand: consumer and managerial considerations, Academy of Marketing Science Review, 1999, 2: 1-22. [5] Keller, K. L. Conceptualizing, Measuring, and Managing Customer-Based Brand Equity, Journal of Marketing, 1993, 57(January): 1-22. [6] Park, C. W., Jaworski, B.J. and Maclnnis, D. J. Strategic Brand Concept-Image Management, Journal of Marketing, 1986, 50(October): 135-145. [7] Hsieh M-H., Pan S-L.,and R.Setiono Product-, Corporate-,and Country-Image Dimensions and Purchase Behavior: A Multi-country Analysis, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 2004, 32(3): 251-270. [8] Roth, M. The Effects of Culture and Socioeconomics on the Performance of Global Brand Image Strategies, Journal of Marketing Research, 1995, May: 163-175. [9] Reed, A. and Bolton, L. E. The Complexity of Identity, MIT Sloan Management Review, 2005, 46(3): 18-22. [10] Stryker, S. and Burke, P. J. The Past, Present, and Future of an Identity Theory, Social Psychology Quarterly, 2000, 63(4): 284-297. [11] Brewer, M. B., Gardner, W. Who is This ‘We’? Levels of Collective Identity and Self Representations, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1996, 71(1): 83-93. [12] O’Cass, A. and Frost, H. Status Brands: Examining the Effects of Non-Product-Related Brand Associations on Status and Conspicuous Consumption, Journal of Product and Brand Management, 2002, 11(2/3): 67-88. [13] Zaichkowsky, J. L. Conceptualizing involvement, Journal of Advertising, 1986, 15(2): 66-72.

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