This research aimed to investigate the factors in the brand personality of within Malaysia public university, and the relationship between the satisfaction of the existing international students in the universities and the factors in the brand personality of the universities. Employing the Explanatory factor analysis five factors had been found to exist in the brand personality of the universities. The five factors are agreeableness, enterprise, competence, chic and ruthless. Out of the five factors, agreeableness and ruthless had been found to be positively related to the satisfaction of the students while chic had been found to be negatively related to the satisfaction of the students.
Keywords: Brand personality, satisfaction and university
Is within Malaysia Public Universities Brand Personality an Antecedent to the Satisfaction of their Existing International Students?
The announcement that 100,000 international students should be attracted to Malaysia by 2010 as Malaysian's goal to fulfill part of its plan to become an education hub had been made by the former Malaysian Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi(The Malaysian Insider, 2009). However, in the quest to achieve the goal, the importance of retaining good reputations with the existing international students must not be forgotten. The reason is they have the marketing power known as 'words of mouth' that could affect the decision of future potential international students whether to study in Malaysia or not. Words of mouth is a term originally coined to describe the activity of orally passing information from one person to one person. However, the term is now broaden by including not only face to face communication but also any type of human communication such as telephone, email and text messaging. (Wikipedia, 2009). According to Grewal, Cline & Davies (2003), individuals are more inclined to believe word of mouths than more formal forms of promotion methods since the receiver of word-of-mouth referrals tends to believe that the communicator is speaking honestly and is unlikely to have an ulterior motive. The effects of the 'words of mouth' is paramount to education line of business since previous researches reveal that it essentially has a bigger impact on the buying decisions of people aged between 18 to 34, and 35 to 54 (Effect on word- of- mouth marketing on your branding strategy, 2009) that capture the ages when people normally spend their life studying in higher learning institute. The words of mouth is a double -edged sword; positive words of mouth works to the advantage of universities, while negative words of mouth works to the disadvantage of universities. Positive words of mouth occurs when international students communicate the good experiences they have had with any particular university in Malaysia to future potential international students. In contrast, negative words of mouth occurs when international students communicate the bad experiences they have had with any particular university in Malaysia to future potential international students. The effect of the two types of words of mouth on any product or service providers has been found to be asymmetrical (Yu, 2007). Negative words of mouth is more influential compared to positive words of mouth.
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The last two sentences in the last paragraph suggest the importance for universities in Malaysia to encourage the existing international students to engage in the activity of positive words of mouth, while simultaneously discourage them to engage in the activity of negative words of mouth. This could be done by creating and delivering values to the existing international students. Value to the existing international students is a function of satisfying their requirements in relation to the cost of studying in any particular university in Malaysia. Kijek (2007) highlighted that instruments of value creation could be defined along two dimensions, that is, price that is connected with cost leadership and non price that is connected with differentiation. Since the number of university within Malaysia has been increasing that increase the intensity of competitions between the universities within Malaysia, it is believed that the public universities should compete not on the price dimension but on the differentiation dimension. Since Twitchell (2005) argued that universities live or die based on brand recognition, this research wishes to focus on differentiation dimension based on branding as instruments of value creation or satisfaction creation to the existing international students. The statement made by Maehle (2008) that implies developing brand personality is a pertinent factor for the success of a brand belonging to any particular university as it helps to differentiate the brand from the brands of the other universities, develop the emotional aspects of a brand and augment the personal meaning of the university brand to students provided the basis for this research to narrow down brand personality as the dimension of branding that this research suspects to have relationship with the satisfaction of the existing international students. Therefore, the objective of this research is to investigate the relationship between Malaysia public university brand personality and the satisfaction of the university existing international students.
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
This paper consists of four sections. The details of the construct 'brand personality' and construct 'satisfaction' which are used in this research are elaborated in section 2, the methodology employed in this research is described in section 3, the results of the research are exhibited in section 4, while the discussion and conclusion are covered in section 5.
2.0 Literature Reviews
The definition of brand personality has been developed by Aaker (1997) as "the set of human characteristics associated with a brand". Sincerity, excitement, competence, sophisitication, and ruggedness are the five different dimensions or five orthogonal factors developed by Aaker(1997) to scale brand personality. 42 items loaded on the five orthogonal factors: 11 items loaded on sincerity, nine items on competency, six items on sophistications, 11 items on excitement and five items on ruggedness. There have been several attempts to test (e.g. Davies et.al, 2001) and to develop the scale (e.g. Davies et.al, 2004, Davies et.al 2006).
Davies et al., (2001) discovered from their findings that the Aaker Scale is more reliable for employees than for customers, thus, they sermon that an effort to develop brand personality scale that the same brand personality scale could be used to assess brand personality from the view of employees and from the view of customers is worth pursuing.
As a result, another brand personality scale was developed by Davies et.al (2004) that overcomes the weakness just mentioned. Nevertheless, the brand personality scale developed by Davies et.al (2004) was not a perfect scale in the sense that it is only valid and reliable for certain organisation only. Consequently, another brand personality scale that is free from the abovementioned flaw, and with facets and items as depicted in Table 2.1 was constructed by Davies et. al (2006).
Brand personality scale as developed by Davies et. al 2006
Friendly, pleasant, open, straightforward
Concerned, reassuring, supportive, agreeable
Honest, sincere, trustworthy, socially responsible
Cool, trendy, young
Imaginative, up-to-date, exciting, innovative
Table 2.1 Continued
Brand personality scale as developed by Davies et. al 2006
Reliable, secure, hardworking
Ambitious, achievement oriented, leading
Charming, stylish, elegant
Prestigious, exclusive, refined
Arrogant, aggressive, selfish
Inward-looking, authoritarian, controlling
Satisfaction has been defined in various ways. The most definitive source sees it as similar to the way service quality is defined; the difference between what we expect and what we receive (Oliver, 1997). This research, however, is not concerned with satisfaction of the existing international students due to a single incident or aspect but the way such students emotionally feel about the university in general. The importance of such concern is undeniable since positive emotions had been said by Liljander & Strandvik (1997) to lead one to share the positive experience with others, while negative emotions may result in complaining behavior. Consequently, the definition of satisfaction as being the overall emotional image of the university as perceived by the international students is adopted in this research. Liljander and Strandvik (1997) had actually developed a comprehensive emotional scale that includes seven emotional attributes: (1) happy, (2) hopeful, (3) positively surprised, (4) angry, (5) depressed, (6) guilty, and (7) humiliated. Of which, happy, hopeful, and positively surprised are positive emotions, while angry, depressed, guilty, and humiliated are negative emotions. White and Yu (2005) in their study had included two additional items representing two additional negative emotions which are regret, and disappointment.
Reputation (emotional image) and customer satisfaction have been seen as interlinked (Anderson & Sullivan, 1993; Anderson and Fornell, 1994 p. 253; Andreassen & Lindestad 1998, p. 82). Indeed, it has been formally postulated that image (emotional feeling of customers toward an organisation) drives customer satisfaction ( Davies et.al, 2003 p.179 ) which provides the this research with its theoretical framework that university brand personality is the antecedent to satisfaction of its existing international students.
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The data was collected via questionnaires that due to cost constraint were distributed to the Malaysia Institute of Technology University and the National University of Malaysia. The former university was selected to represent non research based public university in Malaysia while the latter university was chosen to represent research based public university in Malaysia. The questionnaire was divided into three parts: Part 1-University brand personality, part 2-Customer satisfaction, while part 3 - respondent profile. Six points Likert scale ranging from strongly agree (1) to strongly disagree (6) was employed as the measurement scale on the 49 personality items that were used to measure university brand personality, and on the nine items that were utilised to measure satisfaction of the existing international students. Convenient sampling approach that had been deployed in this study provided a sample of size 228 in which 43.86 percent of them were gathered from the Malaysia Institute of Technology University whereas 56.14 percent of them were gathered from the National University of Malaysia. Explanatory Factor Analysis will be done on the 49 items purported to measure the brand personality construct. The extracted factors from the Explanatory Factor Analysis done on the items will be further used as the exogenous variables in a multiple regression model that utilised satisfaction as the endogenous variable. The factor loading cut-off point of measurement variables was 0.4. The reliability of data was measured using Cronbach's alpha.
4.1 Descriptive analysis
70 percent of the respondents were male while the remaining 30 percent of them were female. 42.7 percent of the respondents aged around 21 to 25 years, 33.6 percent aged around 26 to 30 years, 20 percent aged around 31 to 35 years, 1.8 percent aged around 36 to 40 years, and another 1.8 percent aged above 40 years. 24.5 percent of the respondents had enrolled in post grade programme while 75.5 percent had enrolled in undergraduate programme. 43.6 percent of the respondents are from art streams whilst 56.3 percent of the respondents are from science stream. Table 4.1 shows that majority of the respondents are Iranian followed by Libyan, Yemenis, Indonesian and Iraqi an.
Nationality of the respondents
Table 4.1 Continued
Nationality of the respondents
4.2 Explanatory factor analysis
As depicted in table 4.2, the explanatory factor analysis extracted five dimensions or factors of brand personality where 58.86 percent of the variance in the set of variables used to measure brand personality is explained by the five dimensions or factors. The KMO value is 0.5 just meeting the recommended minimum value of 0.5 (Malhotra, 2004, p. 561) and the Bartlett's Test of Sphericity (Bartlett, 1954) reached statistical significant supporting the factorability of the correlation matrix.
Factor 1 - Agreeableness
Table 4.2 Continued
Factor 1 - Agreeableness
Factor 2 - Competence
Table 4.2 Continued
Factor 3 - Chic
Factor 4 - Enterprise
Factor 5 - Ruthlessness
As could be observed from table 4.2, the Cronbach's Alpha for all the five factors are well above 0.3 that is the minimum acceptable level of reliability ( Nunally, 1958).
4.3 Multiple regression analysis
Multiple regression was ran to examine whether there were any significant linear relationship between endogenous variable satisfaction of the existing international students and a set of exogenous variable which consisted of the five dimensions or factors identified from the prior explanatory factor analysis. The results are demonstrated in the following table 4.3. For the enter method multiple regression, based on the level of significant of F statistic which is smaller than 0.05, it could be concluded that the overall multiple regression model was significance which meant there was at least a significant linear relationship between the satisfaction of the existing international students and the five exogenous variables.
Multiple Regression (Enter Method)
*Significance at 0.05 using t-test
**Significance at 0.01 using t-test
Model F test: 11.596 (Ï = 0.000)
Adjusted R squared = 0.232
Referring to the adjusted R squared, 23.4 percent of the variation in the satisfaction of the existing international students was explained by the variation in the enter method of multiple regression model. It was also found that only three out of the five exogenous variables had coefficients that were each statistically different from zero. The positive coefficient of agreeableness and the positive coefficient of ruthlessness suggested that higher degree of agreeableness and higher degree of ruthlessness each led to higher satisfaction of the existing international students. On the other hand, the negative coefficient of chic implied that higher degree of chic led to lower satisfaction of the existing international students. It is interesting to note that, since competence and enterprise was each individually statistically insignificant at the 5 percent level, it seemed that each of them has no statistically discernible effect on satisfaction in the existing international students.
5.0 Discussions, implications and conclusions
Although five factors in brand personality which is similar to the number of factors that had been found by Davies et. al (2006) were extracted in this research, there appeared to be a slight different between this research and Davies et.al in term of items that belong to each of the five factors in brand personality. Nevertheless, by observing the majority of items that belong to each of the five factors in brand personality, the fact mentioned in the last sentence did not deter this research from naming the five factors similar to the name that were given to the five factors in brand personality that had been extracted by Davies et. al (2006).
The results also suggest that agreeableness and ruthlessness are positively related to the satisfaction of the existing international students, while chic is negatively related to their satisfaction. The discovered positive relationship between agreeableness and satisfaction of the existing international students implies that the students want to believe that the university is on their side, they will be not ripped off, and what it said in the brochure or website of the university will be fully delivered to them. Public universities within Malaysia must also follow-up with the students to determine their satisfaction level, and must respond promptly whenever negative feedback is sought. The universities handling skills need also be excellent. The universities must take initiative, approaching students not in a way that implies that the universities have been through, and suffered from a highly packaged training programme but because the universities like dealing with international students. In short, the universities have to project themselves as international students minded university.
The results that ruthlessness is positively related to the satisfaction of the existing international students suggests that the students favour university that know where it stands because the management of the university is clear, positive, and certain in what they want. The result also propels the idea that the students favour university that has good implementation of its system. In other words, a university with such personality is seen as more systematic than its competitors, which is furthered seen as the strength of the university.
The negative relationship between chic and the satisfaction of the existing international students that had been found in this research mean that the students dislike university that manage its external image as being up-market. This could be due to the belief of the students that developing such image will incur cost, and the cost will eventually be absorbed into the fees that they would have to pay. It also seems that the students would only appreciate high quality items in items that are pertinent to their grade such as knowledgeable and experienced lecturers, uninterrupted high speed internet service, excellent library services and indusive lecture hall, but not glazy mosaic floor.
This research would means if the within Malaysia public universities would like to attract international students, the universities must ingrain agreeableness and ruthless in their personality but to avoid the presence of chic in their personality.