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In this essay I look forward to enlist my conceptual framework, various research strategies and the research methodology that I plan to follow during my dissertation in how branding affects consumer buying behavior and how various brands maintain a loyal consumer base and goodwill over a long period of time.
As we all know that branding of products have become a very common in the 21st century.
We associate a particular commodity with a particular brand, consciously or unconsciously and sometimes to the extent that the commodity or brand become inseparable and mean one and the same thing to us.
To illustrate with an example we can take the case of a cola drink. When we recollect a cola drink we instantly and subconsciously associate it with a brand such as Coca Cola and sometimes the brand and the commodity which in this case is Coca Cola and cola drink become inseparable to us as a customer and mean one and the same thing to us.
Hence we can say that branding is omniscient and has become a very important part of our world in this 21st century.
DEVELOPING A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK
According to Ranjit Kumar (2005) our conceptual framework can actually be derived from the theoretical framework because it is in fact a part or portion of the theoretical framework.
The theoretical framework contains the theories, aspects or issues related to your topic of interest.
However the conceptual framework which we derive from the theoretical framework is in fact a small portion of the theoretical framework that we choose to focus on since it is our area of interest or expertise.
For example if we state all the factors which theoretically establish the relationship between fertility and mortality then it's the theoretical framework but if we plan to test only one particular aspect of this theory which is the fear of non survival then that would be our conceptual framework.
Taking my dissertation topic in mind the theoretical framework would be how brands manage to affect customer sales and buying patterns which in itself is a pretty large area to be explored. It may include the various strategies that the brand uses to sell its products such as special offers, discounts, and gifts during a festive season and so on.
Hence how the brands maintain a loyal customer base over a long period of time such as 5-10 years would form our conceptual framework.
RESEARCH- MEANING AND OBJECTIVE
According to Burns (1994: 2) "research is a systematic investigation to solve a problem". If we cite Grinnell (1993:4) "research is a structured inquiry that utilizes acceptable scientific methodology to solve problems and creates new knowledge that is generally acceptable.
Dr C.R.Kothari (Research Methodology-Research and Methods) also mentions the various objectives and motivating factors for research in his book. According to him some of the objectives for research may be as follows
Descriptive Research Study - To accurately depict the characteristics of an individual, group or situation.
Exploratory Research Study- To become familiar with new phenomena or to gain new insights into it.
Diagnostic Research- To determine how a thing is related to another or to determine the frequency of its occurrence.
Hypothesis-Testing Research Studies-In this case the hypothesis of two variables being related is tested.
Of the various factors that motivated me to undertake research in this topic some of them can be stated as curiosity, to gain knowledge and to get some intellectual satisfaction.
TYPES OF RESEARCH STRATEGIES
As we have seen research by definition is a systematic process. Hence before undertaking work on my dissertation I would like to list the various research strategies as cited by Taylor (Research Methodology: A guide for researchers in Management and Social Sciences 2006) and the research strategy that I plan to undertake for the purpose of my dissertation.
All types of research strategies can be classified into the following types
Case Studies - A case study is not particularly easy to define in a few lines because it incorporates a lot of things and also some other research strategies such as surveys and questionnaires sometimes form a crucial part of case studies.
According to Yin (1993) "a case study is appropriate when a phenomenon under investigation is not readily separated from the context".
A case study usually involves a lot of details and usually may take a long period of time before it gets completed. The time frame may be several months or years itself.
A case study would usually involve performing extensive research or in depth analysis of an organization or on a smaller scale it may involve carrying out research on two or three different departments of the same organization.
The case study may also include one or all of the other research strategies that we are going to have a look at now.
Surveys - A survey is a technique or strategy of research where the researcher separates out a small portion of the entire population so that he can carry out a complete survey on the sample. The researcher carefully selects the sample keeping in mind that it is the sample that he has chosen that represents the characteristics of the whole population and that the sample would behave similar to the population under any circumstance. The purpose of survey may not be only to collect data about the population in general but also to identify the various influencing factors. Questionnaires and interviewing techniques are also employed while undertaking a survey. Hence to find out why consumers prefer a certain brand over another and why they maintain loyalty towards a particular brand is something which could be clarified via personal interviews and questionnaires.
Action Research - According to Elliot "in action research theories are validated through practice rather than being validated independently and then being applied to practice". An action research is well suited to a single environment of work where the focus is mostly on addressing certain issues and improving work practices. The most distinguishing feature of action research is that in this case the research is in collaboration with the people who are the subjects of the research.
Experimental Research Strategy- This strategy of research is used mostly in a scientific experiment where the test subject is made to undergo various changes in environment or may be exposed to other elements to observe the changes in it. Such kind of research strategy is also carried out in a social science experiment where the researcher takes the subject and places it in an environment where a few factors at least are in his control so that he can study the effect of a new environment or other such factors on the subject.
Research methodology can be broadly classified into two types which are as follows
Quantitative Research Methodology - According to Ranjit Kumar (2005) it is a research technique which is rigid, structured and predefined and is applicable to phenomena which can be measured in quantity. For example spelling word tests, numerical tests and so on are quantitative tests.
Qualitative Research Methodology - It is a technique used to measure phenomena which cannot be measured quantity wise. It is a flexible, unstructured and open research technique. For example motives of a consumer to buy a particular brand cannot be measured in terms of quantity and is called motivation research which itself is a sub branch of qualitative research.
Mixed Methodology - The mixed method methodology as the name suggests is a mixture of the qualitative and quantitative methodologies. It is very commonly used in cases where using only one of the methodologies is not quite possible and where the research strategies used are a mixture of qualitative as well as quantitative approach.
As my dissertation topic deals with the reasons due to which a consumer stays loyal to a particular brand over a long period of time hence a mixed methodology approach to research would be more suited since it deals with human motives which cannot be measured as well as collection of data from consumers in the form of questionnaires, personal interviews, observing consumers which are a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies.
Hence I would be using a mixed methodology research for my dissertation.
Hence now I would like to briefly describe the data collection methods that I plan to use for the purpose of research to be carried out for my dissertation.
Questionnaires - According to Saunders (2007) "questionnaires can be used for descriptive or exploratory research but not where the research requires a large number of open ended questions".
Types of questionnaires could be broadly classified into two types which are
Self administered questionnaire - It includes Internet mediated questionnaire, postal questionnaire and hand delivered questionnaire.
Interviewer administered questionnaire - It includes telephonic questionnaires and questionnaires via structured interviews.
A lot of factors related to my research questions would have to be taken into consideration before deciding which type of questionnaire to use, such as
Characteristics of respondents used to collect data.
Respondent's personal bias and prejudice.
Types of questions which need to be asked to collect data.
Sample size and age group of respondents.
Number of questions need to be asked.
Importance of a particular respondent with respect to the research.
We should also remember that the resources at my disposal would also affect my choice of questionnaires such as
Available time to finish the data collection.
Financial condition at the time of research.
Availability of interviewers and field workers.
Observation - According to Saunders (2007) "observation is a somewhat neglected aspect of investigation".
The two types of observation that we can consider are
Structured Observation - It is a quantitative kind of observation and depends on the frequency of the actions performed by the subjects under observation. The advantage of using a structured observation is that it is good at explaining social situations, it heightens the researcher's awareness and virtually all of the collected data is useful. However on the flip side it is very time consuming, sometimes access to data may be difficult, it may be affected by the researcher's bias and it may also lead to various conflicts amongst colleagues.
Participant Observation - It is more of a qualitative approach and its main purpose is to unveil the intention of users behind their actions. Participant observation is not used as frequently in business or management research since basically its roots lie in social anthropology.
Interviews - According to Kahn and Cannell (1957) "an interview is a purposeful discussion between two or more people". Interviews vary in nature and may be very formal and structured or informal and unstructured, depending on which we can classify them as
Structured interviews- They use predetermined identical set of questions. They are also called quantitative research interviews because they are used to collect quantifiable data.
Semi structured interviews - In such interviews the researcher has a brief idea of the theme of the interview and the questions to be asked but depending upon the respondents the interviewer may add or delete a few questions. The order of questions may also be varied depending upon the flow of the conversation.
Unstructured interviews - Such interviews follow no particular structure or format of questioning and are basically free style interviews depending upon the nature of the interviewer and the flow of the conversation.
Hence I would like to conclude this research proposal by saying that I am eagerly looking forward to doing my dissertation in how brands manage to maintain a loyal customer base and goodwill over a long period of time and how branding affects consumer behavior.
I have also listed the various research strategies and the methodology (mixed methodology) that I plan to use during the course of my dissertation.