Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, 2005 Pages 39-45
CONGRUENCE BETWEEN BRAND PERSONALITY AND SELF-IMAGE, AND THE MEDIATING ROLES OF SATISFACTION AND CONSUMER-BRAND RELATIONSHIP ON BRAND LOYALTY
Seong-Yeon Park, Ewha Womans University, Korea
Eun Mi Lee, Ewha Womans University, Korea
This study examines how the congruence between brand personality and self-image influences brand loyalty through such mediating variables as consumer-brand relationship and consumer satisfaction. In addition, this study compares the proposed model under high/low involvement situations to examine the moderating influence of involvement.
According to the results, the congruence between brand personality and self-image increases not only consumer satisfaction but also the consumer-brand relationship. For high involvement products the consumer-brand relationship quality mediates the effect of satisfaction on consumers brand loyalties, but for low involvement products satisfaction directly influences brand loyalty.
Brand loyalty has been one of the most important issues in marketing since consumers tend to make purchase decisions by brand images that have already been formed in their minds rather than from original attributes or characteristics of the product itself (Dick, Chakravarti, and Biehal 1990). Creating unique brand identity is a key issue for brand equity management (Aaker 1996). Because rand identity is represented by brand personality, it is a growing perception that brand personality can differentiate a focal brand from its competitors by creating unique brand associations. Brand personality thus influences consumers preference, usage, emotional attachment, trust, and loyalty (Biel 1993; Fournier 1998; Sirgy 1982).
According to previous studies (Birdwell 1968; Bellenger, Steinberg, and Stanton 1976; Dolich 1969; Hughes and Guerrero 1971; Munson 1973; Sirgy 1980; Stern, Bush, and Hair 1977), the congruence between self-image and brand-image eventually plays an important role in improving brand loyalty. However, previous studies did not show how the congruence between brand-image and self-image influences brand loyalty.
Therefore, this study examines the processes by which congruence between brand personality and self-image influences brand loyalty through such mediating variables as consumer-brand relationship and consumer satisfaction. In addition, this study compares the proposed model under high/low involvement situations to examine the moderating influence of involvement.
II. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND & RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
2.1 The Congruence between Brand Personality and Self-Image
The studies on the congruence between consumers self-concept and brand image try to explain consumer choice such as brand preference, purchase intention or usage and loyalty (Birdwell 1968; Bellenger, Steinberg, and Stanton 1976; Dolich 1969; Health and Scott 1998; Hughes and Guerrero 1971; Munson 1973; Sirgy 1980; Stern, Bush, and Hair 1977).
Sirgy (1982) suggests congruity theory and he argues that product cues involving images usually activate a self-schema involving the same images. Also, Sirgy (1982, 1986) outlines the importance of self-concept theory in consumer behavior research by explaining that consumers who perceive the product image to be consistent with their actual self-concept are likely to feel motivated to purchase and consume that product. Therefore, congruence between self-image and product image may have a greater influence on consumers preference, purchase intention, ownership, usage and loyalty to products and brands.
Graeff (1996) analyzes the influence of the congruence between brand-image and self-image on brand evaluation relating to promotion message. It suggests that under the promotion message that reminds consumers of their own self-image, consumers give more positive evaluations of brands congruent with their own self-image. In one of his other studies that employed beer product brands, he suggests that positive brand attitude and purchase intention increase as the congruence between self-image and brand-image increases (Graeff 1997).
Recently, several studies have been conducted about the congruence between self-image and brand personality. Brand personality refers to human characteristics associated with a brand. Keller (1993) regards brand personality as the category of brand-image made by brand user and usage imagery attributes. Plummer (1985) asserts that one component of brand-image is the personality or character of the brand itself. He summarizes his research demonstrating that brands can be characterized by personality descriptions such as "youthful," "colorful," and "gentle." Aaker (1991, 1996) connects brand-image to brand personality as a component of brand equity, and defines brand personality as the set of human characteristics associated with a brand. According to Aaker (1997), brand personality consists of five dimensions: competence, sincerity, excitement, sophistication, and ruggedness.
Consumers use products/brands as a symbol and they prefer brands with images or personalities that are congruent with their self-image or brand personality. Aaker (1999) suggests when self-schema is congruent with brand personality, the brand attitude of a low self-monitor is more favorable, and when the situation is congruent with self-schema, the brand attitude of a high self-monitor is more favorable. According to Chang, Park, and Choi (2001), consumers exhibit favorable feeling toward a brand when the brand personality is congruent with their own self-image. Especially, the congruence between brand personality and self-image increases positive attitude of consumers who have high hedonic attitude and emphasize symbolic values. Yi and La (2002) suggest that brand personality influences brand identification, and then brand identification has a direct impact on brand loyalty, as well as an indirect impact via brand relationship satisfaction.
Therefore, it can be inferred that the congruence between brand personality and self-image has a positive effect on consumer satisfaction, consumer-brand relationship, and brand loyalty.
H1: The congruence between brand personality and self-image increases consumer satisfaction.
H2: The congruence between brand personality and self-image increases consumer-brand relationship quality.
H3: The congruence between brand personality and self-image increases brand loyalty.
2.2 Consumer Satisfaction
In general, the brand offers opportunities to build relationships with consumers (Wester 2000). That is, consumers want to build a relationship with a certain brand when they regard the brand as beneficial or valuable to them. Thus, if consumers feel that they are getting a good value and are satisfied after initially using the brand, they want to build a relationship with it.
DIMENSIONS OF BRAND PERSONALITY
SIX-DIMENSIONS OF BRAND RELATIONSHIP QUALITY (BRQ)
The attainment of consumer satisfaction is an antecedent to building strong brand equity. Kotler (2000) suggests that perceived consumer satisfaction has a positive effect on brand loyalty. Oliver and Bearden (1983) suggest that consumer satisfaction affects attitude after purchase and this attitude continuously influences the repurchase intention. Therefore, the following hypotheses are proposed:
H4: Consumer satisfaction increases consumer-brand relationship quality.
H5: Consumer satisfaction increases brand loyalty.
2.3 Consumer-Brand Relationship
Blackston (1991) suggests that consumer-brand relationship is a combination of cognitive, emotional, behavioral processes that occur between consumers and brands. Fournier (1998) suggests that consumers build an individual relationship with product/brand they purchase in much the same way that people initiate and nurture relationships with other people. Hence, consumer-brand relationship indicates that consumers and brands contribute to each other in a win-win partnership.
Consumers have a relationship with many brands in everyday life, and what makes for a strong consumer-brand relationship is brand relationship quality (BRQ). This relationship construct is multi-dimensional and encompasses cognitive, affective, and behavioral aspects. Fournier (1998) introduces six dimensions of brand relationship quality: love/passion, self-connection, interdependence, commitment, intimacy and brand partner quality. Table 2 shows the six dimensions of brand relationship quality suggested by Fournier (1998).
Aaker (1997) suggests that the ultimate objective of the brand identity system is the development of a strong brand relationship between consumers and bands, and consumer-brand relationship builds up brand loyalty.
However, the consumer-brand relationship has been tested with limited products, and it is not clear whether the consumer-brand relationship still influences brand loyalty in low involvement contextual circumstances. That is, contrary to high involvement situations such as purchasing cars, computers, etc., brand switching and impulsive buying are more frequent, and products are purchased habitually without much thought and cognitive processing in low involvement situations. Therefore, it is reasonable to infer that the consumer-brand relationship plays a more critical role in brand loyalty building under high involvement situation.
H6: Consumer-brand relationship quality increases brand loyalty more in high involvement situations than low involvement situations.
3.1 Research Model
This study examines how the congruence between brand personality and self-image influences brand loyalty through the mediating variables of consumer-brand relationship and consumer satisfaction. Figure 1 shows the research model of this study.
THE RESEARCH MODEL OF THIS STUDY
3.2 Scale Developments and Measurement
Even though Aaker (1997) provides brand personality scales and Fournier (1994) provides the scales of consumer-brand relationship quality, some of the scales cannot be assimilated into the Korean culture and language. Therefore, a rigorous scale adjustment process is necessary.
The goal of Pretest 1 is to develop the scales of brand personality. Fifty undergraduate students participated in Pretest 1. The pretest used a principal component factor analysis, with varimax rotational procedures. Twenty-four items were discarded and only eighteen items were drawn from the forty-two items.
To assess the congruence of brand personality and self-image, the absolute-difference model suggested by Sirgy (1982) was used. The absolute-difference model calculates the absolute distance between consumer self-image and brand personality. According to previous research, the same scales as brand-image can measure self-image (Malhotra 1981). Therefore, the eighteen-items of brand personality were used to measure self-image. The absolute-difference model is shown as follows:
BPij = brand personality (i) of individual (j)
SIij = actual self image (i) of individual (j)
The goal of Pretest 2 is to develop the scales of consumer-brand relationship quality. The forty-seven items, which were modified scales according to Korean situation, were tested. Fifty undergraduate students participated in Pretest 2 and a principal component factor analysis was used with varimax rotational procedures. Eighteen items of love & passion, self-connection, interdependence, commitment, intimacy, brand partner quality were finally selected.
To assess consumer satisfaction, overall satisfaction about buying the brand (Oliver 1980) and the degree of delight and excitement by using the brand were used. In addition, to assess brand loyalty, repurchase intention (Chaudhuri and Holbrook 2001) and recommendation intention (Zeithmal, Berry, and Parasuraman 1996) were used.
This extensive set of pretests yielded scales for use in the overall study. The questionnaires employed 7-point Likert scales for all of the measures.
To test the moderating effect of involvement, a simple experimental design was used. The sample was evenly divided into two groups. A brand of a computer notebook was given to the people in high involvement situation, and a detergent brand was given to those in low involvement situation. The brands and product domains were also selected through pretesting.
IV. DATA ANALYSIS AND RESEARCH RESULTS
4.1 Data Collection and Analysis
This study had a convenience sample of 600 people aged from 20s to 30s in Seoul, Korea. A total of 565 usable responses were obtained, and the sample size of high vs. low involvement situation is 286: 279. SPSSWIN v. 11.0 was used for reliability and validity tests and a latent-variable structural equation modeling was employed to examine the research model. Amos 4.0 was used for this analysis.
4.1.1 Respondents demographic profiles
The demographic profiles of the respondents are illustrated as follows:
The sample consisted of 62.1% female and 32.9% male. In age distribution, 20s (61.3 %) and early 30s (21.4 %) represent the majority of the sample. 45.5% of the respondents were undergraduate students and 50.3% had at least Bachelors degrees. The demographic profiles of high and low involvement group did not differ significantly.
4.1.2 Reliability and validity tests
a) Brand personality
In terms of Reliability testing, all of the four factors (sincerity, excitement, competence/sophistication, and ruggedness) have coefficient alphas larger than .7, which suggests a sufficient degree of internal consistency of the scales (Nunnally 1978).
To test construct validity, a principal component factor analysis was used with varimax rotational procedures, and four items were additionally discarded.
RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY ANALYSIS OF BRAND PERSONALITY SCALES
Although Aaker (1997) suggests five factors, four factors were found in this study: sincerity, excitement, competence/sophistication, and ruggedness. That is, Korean consumers perceive competence and sophistication as identical factors. To interpret the reason, in-depth interviews were conducted. As a result of the interviews, it was discovered that the informants perceived competence and sophistication as identical factors ("I feel that those who are competent and successful are generally high-class, sophisticated and elegant." "If someone is a competent person, he probably attains wealth as a consequence, therefore, it follows that he becomes high-class, glamorous, and elegant naturally." "People usually possess both sophistication and high-class characteristics together through developing their ability and achieving success. They consequently seem charming to others."). Finally, since Korean consumers perceive competence and sophistication as identical factors, therefore, competent people are often considered to be sophisticated, intelligent and elegant.
b) Consumer-brand relationship quality
In consumer-brand relationship, all the factors show Cronbachs alphas larger than .80, and a principal component factor analysis was run with varimax rotational procedures. Two items were additionally discarded.
In this research, consumer-brand relationship quality consists of three factors instead of the six suggested by Fournier (1998): 'affective and socioemotive attachments such as love/passion and self-connection, 'behavioral ties such as interdependency and commitment, 'supportive/cognitive beliefs such as intimacy and brand partner quality. That is, Korean consumers perceive consumer-brand relationship in terms of affective, behavioral, and cognitive dimensions. Korean consumers integrate love/passion and self-connection as affective and socioemotive attachments, which implies that when consumers feel love/passion about a brand, they feel the brand and they are connected emotionally.
Interdependence and commitment can explain the behavioral ties also (Fournier 1998). Committed consumers have a tendency to purchase one brand continuously even though they have an alternative, and they feel interdependent with the brand after all.
Intimacy and brand partner quality represent supportive/cognitive beliefs (Fournier 1998). If consumers feel intimate and familiar with a brand, they highly evaluate the relationship quality with the brand.
The reliability of consumer satisfaction and brand loyalty was assessed, and the Cronbachs entire alpha exceeded .80.
4.2 Research Results
4.2.1 Model fit testing
The results show low model fit according to c2 values. But c2 tests are not widely used any more because it has too strict assumptions and easily rejects the model. In addition, it is largely affected by the sample size. Alternative indexes of model fit are widely used these days (Hong 2000). The overall fit of the model is excellent.
RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY ANALYSIS OF CONSUMER-BRAND RELATIONSHIP QUALITY SCALE
4.2.2 Hypotheses testing
All the hypotheses except Hypothesis 3 were supported. This finding indicates that the congruence between brand personality and self-image does not influence brand loyalty directly, but via consumer-brand relationship or satisfaction. This result is consistent over the cases of both high and low involvement.
As Hypothesis 6 suggests, consumer-brand relationship quality significantly influences brand loyalty more in high involvement situations. The coefficient of the path in high involvement is much stronger than that of pooled data, where the influence of consumer-brand relationship quality is diluted because of low involvement samples.
Therefore, in the case of low involvement, the congruence between brand personality and self-image influences brand loyalty only through satisfaction. Because low involvement brands do not build consumer-brand relationship, satisfaction strongly influences loyalty (.897) in low involvement situation.
However, for high involvement brands, both consumer-brand relationship quality and satisfaction influence brand loyalty. The results show the influence of consumer-brand relationship (.591) is much stronger than that of satisfaction (.293) on loyalty. Therefore, it is clear that consumer-brand relationship building is very important for high involvement products.
According to the results, the congruence between brand personality and self-image increases not only consumer satisfaction but also consumer-brand relationship. That is, when consumers perceive brand personality is congruent with their self-image, their satisfaction increases and consumer-brand relationship quality develops.
For high involvement products, brand loyalty increases via consumer-brand relationship quality. Therefore, marketing efforts to build and strengthen the relationship with customers are required. Since consumer-brand relationship is also affected by satisfaction, satisfying consumers is important for marketers as well.
However, for low involvement products, marketers do not have to make much effort to build a strong relationship with customers. Rather, satisfying consumers with a variety of benefits such as product attributes, functional quality, price, etc. will be a more powerful strategy for low involvement products.
RESEARCH MODEL FIT INDEXES
TESTS OF HYPOTHESES
Even though this study proposed an integrated model of brand loyalty and suggests practical marketing implications, it has some limitations as well. According to multi-self-structure-theory, it consists of actual self-image, ideal self-image, and social self-image (Park and Mittal 1985). In this research, only actual self-image was considered. But various dimensions of self-image can be compared in the future research. Also, the hypotheses need to be tested with a variety of products and a larger sample.
Due to the differences in language and culture, it was necessary to modify Aakers (1997) and Fourniers (1994) scales for use in Korea. Though the extensive pre-testing and validation efforts undertaken have resulted in reliable and valid measures for the constructs studied herein, future extensions of this work will require similar efforts for Korean scale development.
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