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Public Praise on Blogs: An investigation into its impact on brand advertising and customers' purchasing decision-making in Chinese business market

The Aims AND Objectives

The proposed research is expected to produce an insight into the role performed by public praise and its impact on purchasing decisions. Web blogging is a new-marketing approach emerged only ten years (Dyrud, Worley and Quible, 2005). It enables business executives and traders to create and develop their own brand advertising and pose an impact on how purchasing decisions are made. The previous studies on the influence of the public praise are mostly concentrated on personally verbal exchanges (Wright, 2006, p. 46), but the current research will focus on the public praise by blogs and their influence in Chinese customers.

The overall aims of the investigation are to demonstrate how the reliability and underlying impacts of public praise on blogs intervene in the brand advertising and purchasing decision-making of Chinese customers. The research objectives are listed as follows.

  • Assess the influence of public praise through blogs in Chinese business market;

  • Infer how public praise on blogs can be further improved in China;

  • Explore what extent Chinese customers trust these blogs;

  • Discuss the degree to which public praise effects Chinese consumers' purchasing decision-making;

  • Examine the degree of public praise that influences brand advertising in China (focusing on two groups of people: having a preference or not for specific brands).

People's opinions on blogs will be collected to help learn how brand advertising and the purchasing decision-making are influenced by the power of public praise, so that I can acquire sufficient data for review. The outcomes of this proposed research will also aim to provide facts on Chinese public praise on blogs.

The Context Of The Proposed Research

Since people have written down their thoughts and share them through spoken communication, the public praises have emerged. They are depicted as a ‘view-spread from people's mouths' or ‘word-of-mouth' (Christiansen and Tax, 2000, p. 185). Public praise is a strong traditional item in Chinese culture and plays a very important part in Chinese consuming notions. Nowadays, it is recognized as a powerful marketing instrument to support the sales of both tangible and intangible commodities to customers.

When marching into the knowledge era, public praise is drawing more attention by people than traditional methods of distributing information. Many printed formats have been transformed to electronic forms published on the websites and blogs (Keng and Ting, 2008). The universal application of Internet is growing rapidly. With a pointer and click button, people can convey and receive information. In fact, it offers an opportunity for prospective customers to gain relevant information about their potential purchasing from various sources: through individual communication with different people who used to be strange but had knowledge of the corresponding articles. This proposed research will specifically discuss the functions of blogging as a platform for marketing and purchasing in China.

A Preliminary Literature Review

The Development Of Blogs In Marketing

Before the emergence of Internet, people were seeking information about a particular purchase either in person or in words to their familiar people. It is the traditionally face-to-face marketing. The development of the Internet means that web communications have become attainable and presented a convenient way for information exchange. A potential buyer has only to input the brand or product name to online search engines. Then, diverse forms of online information providers like websites, blog or forum will give him/her the relevant information.

Recently, consumers are becoming progressively aware of the articles displayed on blogs. Bloggers prefer to share their experiences in blogs. Accordingly, these blogs become the information exchange media of consumers. This sort of media gradually develops a tendency for consumers to seek information about new products or brands through blogs. According to the recent results of Neilson's research (2007), about 80% of global consumers allege that they are ready to accept and trust the suggestions of other people for commodities and services. In addition, around 90% of individual future buyers in China depend on recommendations from other buyers.

Although blogs have developed into an advanced tool for merchandising, it is still not a corporate domain investigated by many investigators (Bokaie, 2008, p. 17). This research aims to fill this gap. The information exchange online is composed of various actions, such as uploading, downloading, balloting and participating. For businessmen, whether it is beneficial to invest in online advertising via blogs becomes a serious issue for consideration (p. 17). Nevertheless, there is no existing research on this matter to answer their inquiries. With this in mind, the proposed research attempts to reveal the factors that can have impacts on brand advertising and purchasing decision-making.

Purchasing Decision-Making

The decision-making in purchase links to consumers' determination of buying. It is also related to their response after receiving the advice of marketing (Chang and Wildt, 1994). Customers' decision-making in purchasing is highly correlated to their perceptions of charge and benefit in commodities (Häubl and Trifts, 2000, p. 6). Hence, it should be more accurately regarded as an aspiration rather than a taste. It has also searched for recognising why knowledge of different products and brands substantially impacts a buyer's decision-making.

The existing literature makes evident that public praise has a visible impact on consumer-purchasing behaviour (Christiansen and Tax, 2000). Customer satisfaction is widely recognized to be a crucial effect for a consumer's future decision-making. Satisfied consumers will share their positive experiences with others and provide praise for advertising. By contrast, discontented customers incline to change their decisions and engage in negative feedbacks on advertising. From the above phenomena, it can be seen that public praise is an effective manner allowing consumers to reduce the time and perceived risks for decision because it can provide the detailed information about products or services. Thus clearly, public praise is a means of avoiding risks when purchasing and also a method of obtaining favourable or adverse knowledge on commodities, so that customers can make a valuable buying decision.

Hypotheses

Based on the aims and preliminary literature review, I deem the following hypotheses are my research focus.

H1: Trust of public praise in blogs can pose a positive impact on brand advertising and purchasing decision-making.

H2: The influence of public praise in blogs will have a positive impact on brand advertising and purchasing decision-making.

H3: For brand supporters, trust of public praise on blogs can create a favourable impact on brand advertising and purchasing decision-making.

H4: For brand supporters, the impacts of public praise on blogs will be beneficial in brand advertising and purchasing decision-making.

Methodology And Sources Of Data

Methodology Considerations

Two research approaches will be used in this study. The first is a deductive approach, which is a well-established method for analysing the existing theories to describe certain phenomena (Gallaire, Minker and Nicolas, 1984, p. 153). It can also predict whether theories are expected to develop and allow the possibility of their altering in the future. The second is an inductive approach, which aims to establish a theoretical framework based on the empirical study (Thomas, 2003). This method can be used in conjunction with the deductive approach.

The leading concern of this proposed study is the impact of public praise blogs on brand advertising and purchasing decision-making in the Chinese market. Consequently, it should concentrate mainly on understanding customers' dispositions and gaining insight into customer behaviors linked to public praise. A deductive approach will be adopted for analysing the consequences of the statistical reviews. The data and any possible future tendencies for public praise blogs will be tested simultaneously based on the relevant theories. I attempt to design a concise questionnaire for Chinese blog writers and also their readers to complete, so that I am able to evaluate how public praise is spread by blogs and how it influences the consumers' perceptions of brands and their purchasing decisions when they are considering what to buy.

Additionally, this research intends to clarify the relationship between public praise, brand advertising and the customers' purchasing decision-making. This research studies will take trust and influence as independent variables. Two dependent variables are brand advertising and purchasing decision-making. Brand supporters and non-brand supporters are the main focus groups in this research. The conceptual framework related to these variables will be presented in a model form.

Apart from this, interpretive research will allow me to investigate and illustrate the relationships between variables, especially the cause-and-effect one. What is more, employing the survey strategy for the collection of data is appropriate here for hypothesis testing, and it is more useful in a quantitative context – the nature of the proposed study. There are three formats of question outline which can be applied in this survey. The first is nominal in nature. The replies to these questions are only ‘yes/ no' or ‘true/false', which are predictable and very friendly in statistical analysis. The second requires respondents to use a five-point scale with the extreme ones matching 'strongly agree' or 'strongly disagree'. The third form is multiple options. All respondents are expected to sort out no more than three choices.

Sampling Considerations

Sampling design commences by defining the target population (Emory, 1980). This is a collection of elements or objects that hold the data searched by the investigators and with respect to which conclusions are to be drawn (Korn and Graubard, 1991). A non-probability sampling method will be adopted for this research because I have many suspicions about the practicality of the approach of employing a mixed interview group. Particularly, convenience sampling will be considered in this study and the surveys will be retrieved online by around 200 Chinese consumers (both blog writers and readers) who were selected randomly. The sample selection is ended when the sample size for pilot study has been obtained. Although this technique of sampling is widely used, it is likely to introduce bias and its influences can be beyond control. However, for a wide-ranging questionnaire survey, it is the simplest sampling strategy to collect reliable data.

Data Collection

In order to guarantee the reliability, validity and integrity of this study and avoid possible difficulties, the survey will be piloted on a group of ten Chinese blog users (5 males and 5 females), aged from 20 to 35. They will evaluate the validity and clarity of the entire framework and the inquiries of the survey. The question outline will be set in the three types I mentioned in the section of 'Methodology considerations', which can allow the respondents to reply following the instructions and regulations as principals without the probability of being an unstable or unpredictable response.

This research concentrates on blog users in China and the review procedures are according to the application of a questionnaire offering a sample of the target population. The survey is employed to infer the relationship between public praise, brand advertising and the customers' purchasing decision-making. It is possible to collect the associated facts by either empirical or library-based studies. With regard to this proposed research, the survey asks respondents several sets of questions to explore their opinions about Chinese bloggers and their subscribers. The survey will be retrieved using an online survey website and people from all walks of life will be encouraged to fill it out and forward the survey information to their acquaintances. The convenience of arranging an Internet group to complete the questionnaire is the greatest benefit of carrying out a question-based investigation online. Furthermore, the speed of response is relatively fast and the research expenditure is relatively low because I do not need to encounter printing, paper or stamp costs.

The questionnaire will be separated into four sections. Section one refers to individual data linked to the websites and blogs. The aim of the queries in this part is to conclude the respondents' using habits related to the websites and blogs and to comprehend the principal incentive of web users both as blog subscribers and bloggers. Section two is to determine how public praise in blogs affects brand advertising and purchasing decision-making by concentrating on responsibility, strength, disposition and effect correlated to public praise in blogs. Section three deals, particularly, with how the consumers' shared knowledge with other people by means of blogs influences their purchasing decision-making. Section four further collects the individual information.

Secondary data are also applicable to giving contextual knowledge and academic support relevant to the empirical inquiry, the questions adopted and hypothesis formulation. In addition, it is normally the situation that documentary data has been summarised intentionally other than their applications in prompt research. There has also been a study of any existing documents linking to public praise, blogs, brand advertising and purchasing decision-making. Therefore, this research has comprised the use of periodicals, archives and online articles. All these resources will be explored and analysed. Even so, the enquiry of documents can certainly not be sufficient to support the proposed study. For this reason, it has been indispensable to collect primary data for this research.

Data Analysis

The data sets collected from questionnaires will be processed by statistical analysis. Statistics is a group of approaches and theories that can be employed to quantitative data when making judgements in the aspect of doubtfulness. Quantitative analysis methods help to compose plain charts or figures that indicate the frequency of event via setting up statistical associations between variables and complicated statistical models (Bernard, 1996, p. 24). Quantitative analysis enables the figures collected from the survey to be transcribed into diagrams and graphs, which gives the figures comprehensibility and makes it easier to grasp. The proposed study will use quantitative analysis and display results from the survey through statistical analysis with investigating the connection between the variables. Employing this means, it is likely to examine the association between public praise, brand advertising and customers' purchasing decision-making, and display the results in unsophisticated diagrams.

When I finish gathering all the required information through online questionnaires, the unprocessed data will be coded into variable divisions using statistical analysis. The validity and accuracy of the data need to be confirmed before the hypothesis testing. In this situation, it may be essential to think about the correctness or faulty of hypotheses because they can be refused based on the testing results. The research will use the software SPSS to verify the research hypotheses. SPSS is usually applied by those scholars or investigators who involved in the social sciences, such as the fields of policy and educational research. The proposed project will be used to analyze the outcomes and identify factors that have been influenced by variables, so that the validity of the hypothesis can be proved. This research will first use descriptive statistics to analyze personal information, including all sorts of reliable variables. Subsequently, regression and one-way ANOVA analysis may be adopted to verify the four hypotheses.

Research Limitations

The research sample is initially randomly selected from my acquaintances in China, which may comprise the first inadequacy. Moreover, that the samples are all from the 20-35 identical age group also introduces some bias. It is rational to deduce that such a confined age group may have related experiences and attitudes linked to the matters scrutinized in this research. In this case, it is likely to affect the research outcomes and overall quality. The number of participants involved in the proposed research is also likely to be too small to show the sample representativeness.

Furthermore, because the entire empirical stage will be processed online, it may be unattainable for me to have any in human liaison with the participants. As a result, it may be unlikely to examine whether the personal information is in detail or not. The participants will give their replies on the web survey. When they read it online, they may change some of their answers intentionally.

Ethical Considerations

The proposed research will follow the ethical guidelines of business studies based on the ‘code of ethics for author' in Journal of International Business Studies (JIBS) (2007). I will contact with my friends and acquaintances to obtain their permissions to complete my web survey. Also, the researcher stance should be considered. I need to be an outsider of their questionnaire completion. What is more, the guidelines suggest some items in relation to protection of individual privacy, such as informed consent, the right to withdraw, protecting the anonymity, participant reviews of data and so forth. Although the targeted blog users will be encouraged to engage in the study, it should be clear that they are not forced to fill in the online questionnaire and they may thus choose withdraw their answers. When I post my questionnaire survey online, I will write a general introduction about my background and interests to the respondents. Then, inform them in written form about my purpose of the survey and my general intentions regarding the research. I will also welcome their questions left on my research blog, and answer them honestly. In order to protect the respondents' anonymity, aliases will be used for all involved blog writers and readers as soon as the data are transcribed.

Anticipated Outcomes

The anticipated outcomes are expected to effectively test all the listed hypotheses and achieve the aims of the proposed research. As I mentioned before, although public praise as distributed by the Cyberspace has come to be a prevailing marketing instrument, it has not been considerably scrutinized yet. The main results of this proposed research will try to clarify the relationship between public praise, brand advertising and purchasing decision-making. The outcomes will be capable of implying fresh thoughts to firms when they intend to engage in public praise spreading in order to improve the positive effect of their brands and encourage purchasing in consumers.

Bibliography

Bernard, H. (1996), 'Qualitative Data, Quantitative Analysis'. Cultural Anthropology Methods Journal, 8 (1), 23-26.

Bokaie, J. (2008), 'Corporations get Personal: A growing number of company chiefs are bypassing copywriters to speak direct to consumers'. Marketing, pp. 17.

Chang, T.-Z. and Wildt, A. (1994), 'Price, Product Information, and Purchase Intention: An empirical study'. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 22 (1), 16-27.

Christiansen, T. and Tax, S. (2000), 'The Questions of Who and When to Measure the Word of Mouth'. marketing communications, 6, 185-199.

Dyrud, M., Worley, R. and Quible, Z. (2005), 'Blogs: A Natural in Business Communication Courses'. Business Communication Quarterly, 68, 73-76.

Emory, W. (1980), Business Research Methods. Irwin: Homewood.

Gallaire, H., Minker, J. and Nicolas, J.-M. (1984), 'Logic and Databases: A Deductive Approach'. ACM Computing Surveys (CSUR) 16 (2), 153-185.

Häubl, G. and Trifts, V. (2000), 'Consumer Decision Making in Online Shopping Environments: The Effects of Interactive Decision Aids'. Marketing Science, 19 (1), 4-21.

JIBS. (2007), Code of Ethics. [Online]. Available at: http://www.palgrave-journals.com/jibs/jibs_ethics_code.html. Last accessed 07/09/2009.

Keng, C.-J. and Ting, H.-Y. (2008), The Acceptance of Blogs:Using a Customer Experiential Value Perspective (pp. 1-13). Taipei.

Korn, E. and Graubard, B. (1991), 'Epidemiologic studies utilizing surveys: accounting for the sampling design'. American Journal of Public Health, 81 (9), 1166-1173.

Neilson, B. (2007), Consumer-Generated Media in the Age of the Web-Fortified Consumer. [Online]. Available at: http://www.nielsenbuzzmetrics.com/whitepapers. Last accessed 06/09/2009.

Thomas, D. (2003), A General Inductive Approach for Qualitative Data Analysis: University of Auckland.

Wright, J. (2006), Blog Marketing: The revolutionary new way to increase sales, build your brand, and get exceptional results. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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