How does branding affect consumers purchasing decision?
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Keywords: consumer, branding, market, trade
Consumer behavior is dependent on few factors that need to be considered in any industry. In the garment industry, there are several intertwining factors known that influence consumer behavior. The Internet as one knows well has its importance in nearly every form of trade, but brand recognition is driven by a set of factors that have their own principles.
Trade is directly dependent on communication, and these days the Internet it is considered to be one of the most important and reliable means of communications for trade. It is for this reason that brand promotion is significantly related to the use of the Internet. However, it needs to be asserted that the Internet is a tool for promoting a brand as is other means of brand promotion.
In view of the Internet being an important medium through which customers may be communicated with, consumer behaviors, and more importantly, consumer-purchase decisions, become an important subject. Observing consumer-purchase decisions in the recent past, it can be asserted that there is immense scope for expanding industries that receive positive responses from consumers. An example of this is observed with some organizations in the garment industry. A company such as Levis is a good example to view the effectiveness of branding on consumer-purchase decisions. In addition purchases made at outlets, online purchases have been significant as purchases of are easily made and are believed to be considerably reliable. This reflects the manner in which consumers rely on brands like Levis. For purchasing garments and placing orders, advertising through the Internet is the first step towards pulling in customers. Indeed, this step is believed to be effective as there are a number of individuals who first see ads online, and then decide to physically check a promotion out. However, this is not the only way that people want to explore promotions of garments or any other industry.
Shoppers are keen to check out things for themselves. There are many consumers that also do not rely on the Internet for purchasing what they want. They would rather shop, and there are indeed many consumers who spend several hours per week in shopping centers searching for what they want. Among these shoppers there are different kinds of consumers, and each of these has different characteristics. Some look for stuff that is cheaper and reliable while others want quality. Those who search for quality know what brands they want generally.
Deciding what to purchase from a consumer's perspective depends on what satisfies him or her. From a manufacturer's perspective, it is important to understand what interests a consumer most, and based on these interests, manufacturers work to develop their brands. Manufacturers have to develop a brand identity in order to seek brand loyalty of consumers. Once manufacturers learn how to read their consumers, they can influence their purchasing decisions, and this is precisely aimed at by promoting a brand and working towards its selling power.
In order to sell products, organizations resort to various strategies. Each company has its strategy structured in accordance with market factors as well as product strengths. This may mean that an organization has to consider various angles in order to make sure its products enter a market and sell successfully. In considering several factors that play their parts in the success of a product in the market, â€˜branding' is one major component for organizations to work on. Branding is considered to be a major component in the success of a product in the market because it can control consumer decisions. This of course depends on the reputation of the brand, which refers to how it has appealed to consumers in the past and how it has served them.
1.2 Importance of the Study:
Understanding what branding is enables one to understand the way that consumers behave when newer products are introduced. This is interesting to understand because it helps to understand why different company products of the same nature have different responses from consumers.
1.3 Research Question:
The main Research Question that will be dealt with in this study is as follows:
How does branding affect consumers purchasing decision?
Other research questions that will be part of this study include the following:
* What is branding?
* How is branding used?
* How do consumers respond to branding?
* Is branding really significant in order to sell products?
1.4 Limitations of study:
This study makes use of relevant literature to the research question as well as a survey of 50 participants. Though the literature review encompasses a wide variety of views regarding the research question, the survey only encompasses participants within the researcher's physical location. This means that the views from the participants are fewer than what is needed for a comprehensive view of primary data.
1.5 Organisation of study:
The basic organization of this study consists of dealing with the main research question mentioned above, for which there will be a literature review. In accordance with a methodology, this literature will be analyzed, and a conclusion will be arrived at. In addition to data analyzed from the literature review, answers from a survey conducted will also be analyzed and paired with the results of the analyzed literature review.
2. Literature Review
2.1. Chapter introduction:
This chapter includes the views of other studies and reviews related to the main research question. In this chapter, there will be pertinent data on what branding is, how it impacts consumers, and how consumer-purchasing decisions are impacted through branding.
2.2. Framework for review:
In this section, there will be a flow as the review gradually progresses. This means that each relevant portion of the subject will be exposed gradually as the review progresses. However, at various points there will be inclusions of points exposed earlier, where needed.
A brand allows organizations to differentiate their business from their competitors. But more importantly, brands help to motivate customer loyalty. By having a brand, companies gain manifold levels by creating effective business strategies that help to promote the company. Building a brand is also about creating an identity that differentiates one from the rest - this may be in the form of a logo, a name or business model. This is what helps to receive a positive consumer response; consumers look for characteristics in a brand that cater to their needs and wants. If a brand does this with one product, in future, consumers would choose other products wit the same brand.
More recently, branding concepts have become more about how people perceive business. For this reason, there has been a lot of attention on how brands can alleviate the position of business, sales and consumer base. The perceived knowledge about the brand comes from three major criteria according to Business Central by Microsoft (2004): These are:
1. "Confidence in a business, product or service doing exactly what the customer already believes it will do. For example, a 24-hour convenience store brand can be based on customers' confidence that it will be open, whatever the time of day or night.
2. The emotional response of the customer to purchasing a product or service. For example, a clothing retailer can create a brand based around making its customers feel good about what they wear, how they look, how good they feel about buying clothes from that shop and what it says about them to their peers. A brand builds a unique personality for a business, and therefore attracts a defined type of customer.
3. Most importantly, branding is based on consistently rewarding the confidence and delivering the expected emotional response.
For example, a domestic cleaning company can build its brand successfully if customers' homes are always thoroughly cleaned. The owners believe that they are using the best cleaning company and feel good about returning to their newly cleaned homes."
Given the highly developed set criteria, one can understand that brands are not created overnight; in fact brand identity is created by assessing the business, how it operates and the kind of message that the business wants to send out to the customers, and able to deliver the promise to the customer time and again. This kind of assessment has to be realistic and be based on the following key areas:
1. Work out your business, product or service's core competencies. These are what you achieve for your customer, not necessarily what you do. For example, a good wine shop's core competence is selling wine that its customers enjoy â€“ not just selling wine.
2. Assess whom your existing and potential customers are and find out what they like and what they don't. For example, if competitive pricing drives them, there is little point in you presenting yourself as a premium-price supplier of the same products offered by your competitors.
3. Find out how your customers and your employees feel about your business. Reliable? Caring? Cheap? Expensive? Luxurious? No-frills? Later in the process, these emotional responses (brand values) will form the basis of your brand message.
4. Define how favorably customers and potential customers view your business â€“ this is your perceived quality. Do they trust your business, product or service? Do they know exactly what it does for them? What do they think of when your brand is mentioned to them? Low perceived quality would restrict or damage your business. High-perceived quality gives you a platform to grow.
5. Consider how far you can develop your business with its current customer perception without moving away from your core competencies. The amount you can change your offer is your brand stretch. For example, a shop known for selling fresh sandwiches could also consider selling homemade cakes and biscuits without going outside its core competencies. But selling frozen ready meals too may stretch its brand too far" (Microsoft BCentral 2004).
So much has the concept of brand identity become a part of the business process that companies are claiming their rights to certain qualities, product category, design, innovations and creations. One of the reasons for this is that companies are realizing amidst a homogenous market, credit cannot be given to any one in particular unless the company excels in certain areas. For example Tesco, Wal-Mart and K-Mart may all provide the same kinds of services and products, but there has to be something that makes the customer's experience unique in each of the above cases. Companies are realizing that the quest for uniqueness should be taken a step further by enhancing on certain or particular business area and developing it a step ahead of competitors. It is only through the differentiation technique that they would be able to effectively and successfully compete against rival. For example Wal-Mart may claim to have the cheapest price while Tesco would also do the same for certain products only.
To resolve this problem, techniques like the kind of message, bundle services as well as customer satisfaction guarantees are used to attract customers. But how do customers differentiate and recognize one service from the others? For most companies the first step is to identify the potential customer and perceive his/her consumer behaviour. Next is to align brand values that reflect customer's needs.
From the identity aspect, the company furthers this by redesigning logo, stationary and other visual contact to send out harmonious and unified theme to the consumer. For example, if the brand suggest value added services then all aspects of the business process has to incorporate value added services so that the customers becomes aware of this unique quality of that particular business; advertisements pertaining to the same should be launched and campaigns for external/internal customers to make sure everyone is aligned with the business objectives. In view of this, illustration 1 in the list of figures shows that aside from branding, there are other aspects that a company needs to focus on.
Given these aspects of brand and brand identity it can be defined as:
"A brand, in its broadest sense, is the expression of an organisation or product. A brand is communicated in a number of different ways and not only represents the visual aspects that a customer may come across (logo or imagery), but can also be reflected in the behaviour of people within that organisation, the quality of products that the organisation offers, and the manner in which customers are treated." (Investor in People 2004)
Retailers in the UK realized the importance of this concept during the Post World War Era. During the war years the UK chain stores expanded nationally to serve the local consumers with standardized products. The restraint on trade with the US did not allow the local producers to cultivate their services abroad. Similarly, the restraint also applied to US products and retail stores that had not been allowed to operate in the UK as the producers anticipated US influence on local UK consumers. However, as the Wars passed, new chain stores expanded and so did the international chain in Britain. As new factories reflect growth in industries, traditional method of promoting products and goods also changed to cater to the new classification of products. American products were cheaper and easy to access at the convenience stores as compared to British products and chain stores. Further, due to the high unemployment level, resulting in less purchasing power, British stores did not feel motivate to expand or succeed. The only measure they were interested in includes the commodity's exchange value and how it serves as the source for covering operating income (Lowe et al 2000).
However, with the emergence of US producers and retailers, local stores had cause for concern. Since the departmental stores from the US provide the same commodities and yet provide the aesthetic experience as well, the consumers learned to appreciate the uniqueness of the experience they had with the foreign stores. For this reason, British retail stores under went a wave of change where the stores had to make the decision of effectively competing with their American counterparts. According to Lowe et al (2000) "By 1939 in Britain the chain stores had carved out a market alongside, and in competition with, the department and co-operative stores, and were particularly noted for their own-brand goods. Their standardised fascias jostled for prime place in the redeveloped high streets and their mass-marketing strategies increasingly squeezed out the small, but still significant, independent trader. Their particular development was the consequence not only of Britain's compact geography and early industrialisation, but also of the political and cultural support for trade restraints, which were furthered by the retention of family influence in companies and by an ethos of business leadership as public service."
The British stores had gained significant development due to two reasons. Firstly the family based society and class dynamics within Britain had supported the centralization and spread of these stores across the country. Secondly, the trade restrained allowed these stores significant time frame for achieving the desired standards and quality for competing with rivals across the Atlantic. The intensity of the competition of stores in the US and UK resulted in inflating dynamic chain store culture and competition. As a result the retailing market changed its form with the support of the manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers in the distribution process.
The outcome of this contest between the two nations not only established platforms for large retailers but it also added to their knowledge of the development and progressive tracks that they need to follow in order to effectively compete nationally and internationally.
The basis for the fast growing retailing industry was inherent in the working class' ability to predict opportunity advantage and capitalize on it. For example in 1848 W.H. Smith gained railway contracts and bookstalls spread across England. Similarly, Thomas Lipton's' shops in Glasgow in 1872 were built on the back of new steamships importing cheap Empire butter, cheese, ham etc. The common factor prevailing in this spreading trend had been the producers and the owners being able to foresee consumer's special needs and satisfying them. Although these were family businesses that later on turned into empires nevertheless the concept of meeting demands as they come by providing customized services had been inherent during the 20th century even (Lowe et al 2000). J.B. Priestly surveyed the English landscape during this era and found that with the emergence of mobility, transportation and mass production, there has also been a mass set of chain cinemas, stores, teashops, etc., which has changed the way people eat, drink and entertain during the 1930s. The new infrastructure of migration and investment went hand in hand with the migration of people from the north to the south, from inner city to suburbs and the like etc. For this reason most of the significant development in establishing names of quality products and services emerged during this era (Lowe et al 2000).
However, recently the trend has changed. Established names and quality brands have been facing difficulties in competition. As the UK become global in its trade practices, the risks of losing to foreign counterparts for local brands have increased. One example is Marks and Spencer. M&S has been an established brand that UK consumers had immense trust in and have been using as a platform for measuring offering value for money quality products. The promotional theme at M&S is based on quality but not a cheap product category that suits the average and affluent consumer. However, this strategy is not suitable for the needs of current globalization scenario. With the spread of retail stores and chain around the world such as Wal-Mart and ASDA, M&S has gradually lost its position to these competitors. Wal-Mart is in stark contrast of the values established by M&S. The Wal-Mart business philosophy is based on low price and cheap products that meets the average to low consumer group. Even more critical in this transition of retail store brands is that people are coming to accept them as alternatives to the established quality stores prevalent in the UK (Lowe et al 2000).
The alternatives no doubt easily had taken over the local brand and chain stores but it had not been able to capture the essence of the concept of brand. For the average price conscious consumers have not realized the implication of switching over to a foreign brand. Not only have they been compromising quality for price but they have also greatly contributed to declining the established standards for the industry. Businesses that are known globally for their quality, reputation, product specifications, and standardizations have been replaced by the Americanization of products and services. No gap analysis has been identified for the switch and as a result brands that exist in the UK are innovating and revisiting their standards to win over the customers. The process is tedious but corporations and retailers are realizing the importance of exercising this process.
Today when one refer to brands and brand identity, it means the creation of a brand identity system which involve focusing on brand communication, developing needs analysis, contemplating target audience, relegation of market profile and establishing a brand identity with these inputs. Successful brands may shape the business sphere as well as navigate the breadth and depth of the corporate identity. The message, the identity, the visual design language such as symbols, colours, flagship etc. all reflect and remind the consumers who they are; what is the nature of the business; how are they producing; social participation and responsibility; and to communicate with them to be part of the brand identity system.
For example in 1994 Coca-Cola business in the UK had been the largest bottlers and providers of cola drinks. However, at the same time other cola companies had come up with the same idea using the same corporate identity and brand message as Coca-Cola. Yet, despite this fact the local colas did not win the consumers due to the fact that consumers, in whose mind Coca-Cola association had already been lodged, mistook the new cola brands for the original one. For this reason the new cola brands lost to Coca-Cola in the competition. From this example and many that followed after, the British producers realized that brand identity is a systematic process that must ensure that the development of the design is protected; ownership or long term partnership of retail channels is essential and ownership of other product advantage cannot be replicated. Apart from those other organizational issues in the process of brand identity system development is that the interface between the strategic decision-making on the branding process must discuss how the brands would facilitate the company and how the brands can be linked to the company's goodwill. Thus by tying monetary value to brands, companies have established the value to brand identity and its influence on corporate performance.
Once corporations realized the importance of brand identity, the struggle for materializing and capitalizing on brand identity increased. Marketers for one exhaustively increased their efforts to market their brands and logos more than they did the products; they laboured at serving the lifestyles that consumers lead rather than the products they need; and companies also included brand awareness strategies to ensure that the consumers understand the organizational products and services. More formal companies have established procedures for making this system work. Brands identity is now based on:
1. Recall rate at the top of the consumer's mind
2. Specific recall for occasions, events or holidays
3. Visualization of the brand identity
4. Personalization of the brand to an image
5. Brand extension
6. Not becoming stereotype for cosmopolitan appeal
7. Think global, buy local concept
8. Linking brands to sub-brands
9. Symbolic ownership of brand essence
10. Souvenir brand essence
11. Connecting the values of flagship brands to other brands
12. Word of mouth
13. Brand transition through the identity system
14. Express the corporate tone of voice and cultural style
These identifiers help companies to establish the concept of product design and its positioning in line with brand identity. In essence the whole exercise is to identify and take advantage of new and global practices and alleviate existing products and services without having to compromise old values and phenomena. With the amount of focus on brand, brand identity and brand loyalty, it can be observed that these are immense tools for influencing consumer purchase decisions (Knowledge Board 2004).
2.4. Key findings from literature review
According to the above reviewed literature that encompasses key points on what a brand is and how it can impact consumer-purchase decisions, it can be asserted that branding is an important tool for a company to survive in any industry. It is through a brand identity that consumers recognize a particular company's products and services within a large industry. If a company associates standard and acceptable services and products that are according to a consumer's expectations, the brand will be remembered and receive responses each time it advertises newer products and services.
3. Research Methodology:
3.1. Chapter introduction:
This section includes the method of handling the data and arriving at a conclusion. Given that there are two types of data being used for this study, it is important to draw up how exactly the researcher will go about it.
In order to conduct a study and answer the above research questions on how branding affect consumers purchasing decision, there is need to review relevant literature. The literature reviewed will be authentic and relevant to the research questions. This study will be both, qualitative and quantitative. A qualitative and quantitative study is necessary to answer the above research questions because both, facts and figures are an important part of the research area. There are also managerial aspects that need to be considered. These managerial aspects are represented in the form of facts and figures. Also, there will be statistical and numerical presentations considered that are necessary for answering the research questions.
Aside from the study being a quantitative and qualitative, it will adopt a random approach. This refers to considering a wide variety of sources. However, the study will be limited to particular areas from where the researcher can obtain relevant data for this study. Sources for the literature review are ones that are authentic and relevant to the area being researched. The sources are from books and journals, as well as official websites, newspapers and magazines. In addition to the use of the sources mentioned above, important factors belonging to the field being studied here are obtained from other studies and presentations. Opinions and facts from presentations are considered to help in answering the research questions. Facts and figures about McDonalds and KFC brands from different points of view will be considered. The manner in which the brands have operated globally and the focus they have had in various places will also be considered for a greater understanding of their brand communication with their consumers. This will help to bring together a wider range of opinions and facts to be analyzed. The literature review will be analyzed thoroughly so as to expose the answers to the research questions.
Secondary data analysis is the process of re-evaluating collected researched data. The data can be collected from previously researched publications including official researched documents. Data collection usually involves research material that is relevant to the research problem issue but does not necessarily answer the research objectives or questions.
For this research, the purpose of having secondary data analysis is to aid the researcher in collecting the data required to delineate the research objectives and provide a basis for analyzing primary data. Based on the conclusions of the secondary data analysis, the researcher will analyze and validate primary data collected through a survey questionnaire (Hair, Bush and Ortinau 2000). The questions in the questionnaire are mostly close ended. These close-ended questions will help to will to reduce result errors and biasness, as well as simplify accumulation of answers.
3.2. Research approach
The rationale behind the literature has been to investigate the impact of branding on the consumers purchase decision. In terms of how what evaluate attributes influence their purchase decision. The underlying discussion has tried to come to an understanding of the consumers' perception and attitudes towards how their actual purchase choices or decisions are generated, keeping in mind the brand name associations that influence the consumer, leading to his consistent behavior and loyalty.
There are two main issues within the study: whether there is a difference in the effect that branding has on the different categories of consumer buying behavior groups, and the relationship between branding variables and consumer buying behavior.
Branding is about certain consumers, not all consumers as they have different attitudes and behaviors toward brands. Further, Crimp and Wright (1995) define consumer attitudes as a composite of a consumer's beliefs about, feelings for, and behavioral intentions towards some object-within the context of brand. In the research, the independent variable is the consumer buying behavior that is primary interest for marketer. The main objective of the research is to understand and describe the purchasing behavior in terms of brand and to explain its variability within the purchasing process and attempt to predict it. The dependent variable is the branding element that is considered by the consumer. Different consumers may hold different attitudes for these branding elements, or in other words, these branding components are viewed together since they are highly interdependent and together represent forces that influence how the consumer react to the object.
3.3. Data Collection Method
As Ghauri and Gronhaug (2002) suggest the research design is the overall plan for relating the conceptual research problem to relevant empirical research. In the same regards, Kress (1988) indicated that designing a research method calls for decisions on data sources, research approaches, research instruments and sampling plans.
Firstly, the study will attempt to discuss various sources of data and the ways in which data has been gathered for the purpose of analysis, testing hypothesis, and answering the research questions. Data can be obtained from primary and secondary sourses. However, in some cases the research would be restrained due to some information not being publicly available.
Of the several techniques used for data collection a survey was deployed, as the most appropriate technique to gather data. The survey enabled a large amount of data to be collected from a sizeable population in a quick and economic way. A questionnaire can be described as the technique whereby each person is asked to respond to the same set of questions that are in a predetermined order (Webb, 1999). Miller (1991) also supports this idea, claiming that closed-ended questionnaire is an easy was to interpret answers where the respondent is asked to select answers from a brief list. This facilitates the standardization and easy comparison of data. It must be noted that both, data in the literature review as well as data obtained from the survey questionnaire will be analysed to arrive at a conclusion that satisfies the research questions.
The sequence of questions in the questionnaire should be such that the respondent is led from questions of a general nature to those that are more specific, and form questions that are relatively easy to answer to those that are progressively more difficult (Malhotra, 1996).
The study's survey has aimed to incorporate the following features to meet the specific requirements of the projects:
â€¢ Specific objectives, these may be in terms of points that the survey should achieve and should be kept relatively simple;
â€¢ Questionnaire that entails straightforward questions that extract consistency and accurate information;
â€¢ A research design that includes survey sampling, sampling methods, sample size and the sound choice of population and sample meaning a relatively large unbiased group;
â€¢ The appropriate quantitative as well as qualitative analysis and reporting of survey results.
Answers achieved in this study are considered to be valid as they are achieved through previously accepted data relevant to this field. In addition to this, the answers from the participants in the survey questionnaire are original and represent the opinions on the subject that stand at the moment. Content validity ensures that the measure includes an adequate and representative set of items to tap the concept. The more the scale items represent the domain or universe of the concept being measured, the greater content validity. To put it differently, the content validity is a function of how well the dimensions and elements of a concept have been delineated (Sekaran, 2003).
The questionnaire constructed for this paper reflects the core components of Illustration 3 in the List of Tables and Figures. It also reflects the core aspects of branding that influence consumer purchase decisions, as described in the literature review. 50 survey participants will be randomly selected for this survey, as this is number is deemed sufficient to present a general yet valuable idea of how branding affects consumer purchase decisions.
The main aspects that have been taken into consideration include in this survey questionnaire include: brand awareness, message association, brand favourability, and purchase intent. Each of these components is considered, and is made use of in different ways in the questionnaire. Each component has more than one question related to it in order to cover the component from more than angle. This also enables one to obtain more information about a component's importance in influencing consumer purchasing behaviour. A break up of the questionnaire is helpful in understanding what aspects it addresses while considering the above components. Through such a breakup of the questionnaire, the aim of seeking the effects of branding components on consumer behaviour is exposed. The brief break up of this questionnaire is as follows, and one will be able to see how each question in way or another pivots around branding components such as brand awareness, message association, brand favourability, and purchase intent:
For question number 1, the specific point addressed questions the ability of a consumer to â€˜differentiate a brand of a particular product â€¦ from others available' in the market. This question, in other words, asks whether a consumer can recognize a particular brand easily.
The second question tends to test how brands have impacted consumer loyalty; it asks whether consumers â€˜need' or â€˜want' a particular brand.
Question 3 is considered to be a key question because it addresses a key area in branding, which is about consumers feeling â€˜rewarded' for the â€˜confidence' in a brand. This question is even more significant because it refers to consumers returning to purchase the same product for which they have felt rewarded.
â€˜Pricing' is an important part of consumer purchasing decisions today, and question 4 aims at asking how much â€˜a lower priced brand product' may attract a consumer. Alternatively, in this question, the consumer is given an option of saying that s/he would â€˜rather purchase a selected brand product because' s/he feels â€˜rewarded' for his or her â€˜confidence regardless of' a brand's â€˜cost'. Here again, it can be asserted that reward for confidence as has been queried about. However, in this question reward for confidence has been asked about in relation to the cost of a brand.
Question 5 is about brand pricing again, but it asks about a consumer's general intent towards his or her possible willingness to pay more for a particular brand.
Question 6 questions consumer loyalty towards a brand that consumers have been purchasing. Answers to this question reveal how loyal consumers really are towards brands.
Question 7 is even more specific because it asks whether consumers feel any communication between themselves and a preferred brand they purchase.
Question 8 quite obviously asks whether having a brand in mind makes purchasing easier.
Question 9 is considered to be a significant question because it tests how much consumers believe in the brands they produce. The more they believe in their preferred brands, the more likely they are to purchase those brands.
The final question clearly asks consumers how easy they find it to make a purchase of their preferred brands even when they are not out of their homes for shopping. It is expected that this answer and many of the above ones will reveal how inclined consumers are towards making a purchase decision based on branding influences.
3.5. Chapter summary:
This section of the paper above briefly explains the manner in which the research will be conducted and how data will be collected. This section also briefly described the type of data that will be accumulated and how reliable the answers achieved from this data would be.
4.1. Chapter introduction:
The analysis section takes into consideration the views presented in the literature and applies it to one industry in order to expose the manner in which branding impacts consumer purchase decisions. The industry selected for this research is the garment industry and a particular company selected for the study is Levis the world renowned denim company. This company provides a general view of the garment industry and how its branding has an impact on consumer-purchase decisions. Since Levis
Has been in the market for several years (35 years) and has a significant reputation, it is worth considering it in this study because it has a brand reputation.
4.2. Understanding brands
History of branding indicates that brands exist as far back as 4000 years in the form of symbols, signs, trademarks and identification. Till the mid 1900s this conception of brands has been within the business domain. Murphy and Hart (1998) in their writings indicate that businesses recognize the importance of identification symbolism that separates them from the others in booming and competitive markets. But that has not been the only reason why brands gained popularity among consumers as late as 1980s. Historical data depict a link that brands go hand in hand with the changing living standards, lifestyle, consumer attitude and literacy. Not only has this, brand definitions have also evolved over the years to accommodate for the changing role of brands in the business environment. The literature reveals that brands initially perceived as tangible trademarks, symbols, names and logos gradually have transformed to more intangible form. Today, as consumers and companies alike know that a brand is no longer "a name, sign, term, design, or a combination of them" as Kotler et al (1996) perceive but rather multidimensional in nature. It is about values attached to the products and services the company provides; recognition and acceptance by the consumer; and an appreciation of the same. Kotler et al's view therefore has been limited with their definition of brands and conflict with the researcher's hypothesis that brands are different from the traditional ideology of trademarks, logos, symbols etc. This view is affirmed with Aaker's definition that includes a dynamic perspective of brands and categorizes it as a complex range of associations, memories and emotions. His definition establishes the fact mere symbolism and identification do not hold as much value to the consumers as the promise (and the ability to fulfil it) that companies make with the consumers under the umbrella of branding.
Having said that the literature suggests that branding is a process that allows consumers to define values and companies to meet them by creating products and services for them. Brands help companies in establishing relationships between the consumers and the companies themselves. Relationships are vital links that enable companies in expressing benefits whether emotional or functional to the consumers. The consumers in turn associate with companies through brands.
Not all agree with this pervasive definition and aspect of branding. For example Wheeler (2003) considers brand as part of sales and marketing activities whereas from the above analysis the researcher interprets it is a process critical for business function as a whole; not departmental activities. Had branding been a series of activities whether strategic or otherwise, consumers would not make the decision to remain loyal with the brand they appreciate. A loyal Sony user would not readily switch to LG products at the turn of a new marketing campaign with discounts, benefits and value added features. This is because, as Van Gelder (2002) writes, the whole concept of emotional branding encourages consumers to live and experience the brand, not merely purchase its features.
4.3. Brand Value
From the literature review the researcher also understands that branding is a process of value creation Value is a relative term. Paco Underhill (1999) considers it as experience and emotional awareness. On the other hand Gobe (2001) argues that it is emotional content. De Chernatony (2001) adds that value is about brand vision and desirable brand image based on value systems. Of all the views, the closest to understanding of branding relationship is the explanation offered by De Chernatony (2001). The brand vision and values pyramid by De Chernatony provides a visual presentation of this brand vision. De Chernatony first of all identifies value as a component of brand vision and image. Enhancing vision through emotional content maximizes value creation and thereby creates a desire for the consumer to purchase the product. Value in the consumer's context refers to emotional satisfaction. To elaborate, De Chernatony introduces the term â€œdesirable brand imageâ€ which interconnects with Underhill's concept of "experience" through the senses of sights, sounds, smells and tastes. The brand image thus identifies the kind of emotional satisfaction that consumer desires. Gobe's explanation furthers this line of thought and establishes that one finds out about the emotional desires by listening and paying close attention to the consumers - What brings them pleasure? What do they need? What kind of image they want to present to the world? (Gobe 2001).
In Hart and Murphy's (1998) views brand vision and values are intrinsically linked with corporate vision and purpose. They argue that values are hopeless unless they are guided by some central value or vision. True, just as a company requires a clear vision to direct all of its business activities its products and services too should be directed towards the same vision. The only difference is that corporate vision is broad while consumer based brand vision is narrow aiming to achieve certain values defined by the consumer and connected with the company. A brand vision does not necessarily include the firm's material and financial resources vision neither does it incorporate firm's strategy. But what it does depict are ambition, integrity, firm's customer values, associations and permanency. These components differ from company to company and from product to product (or services). Rokeach (1973) views on importance of brand values reflect this fact: a value is enduring.
Consumer behavior is considerably dependent on promotion of products; the manner in which products are promoted directly influences customer behavior. Each medium used for promotion has its own impact, and the one that is believed to have a tremendous impact is the Internet. It is believed that to boost promotions and sales greatly. Of course, this is something that refers to the way that Levis operates, but it is not entirely dependent on it. This is because when this garment company was established there was no such thing as the Internet. However, in contemporary times the Internet helps to promote its goods. Quite obviously, just like other organizations do, Levis also makes use of it to influence consumer-purchase decisions. This is of course largely carried out through its brand name. Levis largely focuses on its strengths and promotes its brand through the Internet along with making use of other tools.
Its products are popularized all over the World Wide Web, and customers largely know this brand very well. They do not have a problem understanding what kind of quality they are going to get if they want to purchase Levis products (Aaker, 1991). Advertisements are usually organized and presented according to what an organization wants to promote. The means of advertising chosen is such that it depends on the product being promoted as well as the brand name. This is why a brand name is considered to be something indispensable. A brand name such as Levis is an example; just the name without having a logo is sufficient to sell a product. In contrast to Levis, other organizations need to advertise properly in order to sell their products. It is through the advertisements online and in other media that customers can be attracted. Today, in this post modern period, advertisement online is further emphasized on because of the growing number of people daily relying on Internet services. Cyberspace has therefore become an important medium for promoting goods or even introducing newer companies and their products. It also might be added that for Levis as well though it is well established, the Internet is a vital tool; it helps to keep the company afloat and prevent other brands from getting too far ahead of it.
The era in which one lives today is called globalization, a period tat is a phenomenon and has been known to bring many parts of the world together through faster communication systems. Globalization has in fact resulted due to the fact that communication systems have been boosted in recent times. This â€˜age of communication' is an environment in which Levis could be further promoted through active advertising, but its name is seemingly more than enough to keep on selling its products.
Branding and Cultures:
From the above points, one can see that the major problem that lies in organizations spreading into other cultures is the internal conflict. However, aside from the internal conflicts the trend of marketing American products abroad is one that is patronized by the people of other cultures.
It is the people of different cultures that make this possible, as human beings are almost always ready for a change especially if it isn't going to harm them. Accepting new trends that are already in vogue in other neighboring countries is something that further motivates people into welcoming products.
The process of people welcoming products that are brought nearer to them heralds the current trend in globalization. This is the same process that was seen during the 1950s when consumer behavior was on the rise. This trend is extended to other places in the world today through globalization, which means that there are a whole lot more people aware of what is available around the world. This also means that there is a lot more stuff for people to be engrossed in, which would further help people to be relieved of stress in their everyday lives. But it also must be realized that there are other things to consider besides stress relief and extension of culture (Annesley, 1998).
It must be realized here that there is an intense effort to control people economically through consumerism. During the 1950s this was seen as people bought what was advertised. Similarly, this is seen in many countries around the world that buy American products.
An Example of an Organization that helps explore branding is Levis:
In this section, â€˜Levis' modes of performance will be exposed and assessed. The following questions will be addressed as Levis approaches are exposed and addressed:
* How can the objectives of branding be described?
* How can a branding strategy be described?
* How can those involved in managing the brand be described?
As opposed to having to depend on particular advertising to learn about products, people have often used other customer experiences as their guides. This means that people without experience of a particular product have in fact waited for others to purchase it; the observer sits back and observes the performance and customer satisfaction.
If a product happens to satisfy a customer, others will certainly be willing to use the same service providers. Hence, it can be seen here that reputation does matter to service providers and customers.
In a changing global business environment one of the key features that define a company's success is the recognition of its brand. Coke, Pepsi, LG, General Motors and Toyota are companies that stand out as examples; the representation of their company through a name is more than sufficient for people to purchase their products. People know and recognize their names, and this ensures the company's success (Alreck & Settle, 1999, 130-144). The companies mentioned here have strong brand equity, and it is known that these types of companies largely remain successful. This is chiefly what helps these kinds of companies to influence consumer-purchase decisions. Once a company makes its mark in the market and appeals to consumers, consumers will almost always take to its products and services. However, a company needs to make sure that it lives up the standards it has set, which would be in sync with consumer expectations.
Impact of a Brand:
A Brand is one of the integral tools for a company's success in these modern times where competition is tough. If a company attains and maintains brand equity, it will have tremendous leverage over consumers as compared to other companies. Once a company makes its name popular through satisfying customers, it is easier to stay where they are in the market as opposed to those that try hard to make a name in a market where there are already so many companies with their products. After a product has made its impact in the market its name acts as a symbol that people recognize anywhere. This must be said while considering the fact that people today live in an image-conscious world, it must be said that using images to represent ideas is a must. Therefore, a Brand or even a brand logo becomes important in promoting a company (Rooney, 1995).
A Brand or its Brand Logo is a marketing asset, and for a company such as Levis this proves to be true. The reason why it is an asset is that it helps to connect customers to a company. If a company has services to offer that satisfy customer needs that company needs to have a way through which they are recognized in case customers need their help again (Broniarczyk & Alba, 1994, 214-228).
Undoubtedly, a name alone is good enough to help consumers find their way to services suppliers, but symbols have always been a human need. In an era when time is money, a brand logo is the short hand to the company name. Through a Brand, instant recognition is received. Consider a passenger in a train passing a billboard, he or she may not have the time to read the complete company name but a glance at a colorful or uniquely designed logo will be enough to recognize and recall the name (Aaker, 1996).
Brands are implemented for different purposes. The main purpose of developing a Brand is for the sake of recognition. As emphasized above, recognition is important so that consumers recognize and can approach a service provider. However, this is not the only message that a brand sends out to consumers (Keller, 2002, 2).
A brand may announce a special understanding between itself and consumers, such as reliability of services and affordability. Brands have the ability to create and establish an amazing relationship between a company and consumers, and this is why they have their importance in contemporary business today.
A Brand is also a tool for marketers; it is through the Brand of a company that marketers have an easier time referring to their company. Regardless of the company size, a brand is needed to ensure that marketers can create the greatest impact in the shortest possible time.
So no matter what your company size ensure that your brand is a virtual or visual representation of your company mission and services (Keller, 2002, 2).
In addition to this, it must be noted that experience of customers can be used as a vital tool in promoting services. This overshadows the uncertainty of that advertising may often portray. Though advertising is an essential strategy in promoting a product, it must be realized that there are several people that are not easily convinced simply through product display and the like.
In view of this, customer testimonials are essential in proving authenticity of a product, as this proves how many customers have been satisfied and what customers have to say about. This is what many organizations are doing these days in order to boost their services. Indeed, Levis is one of them; it is a garment producer and supplier, and caters to a significant part of the International market. In doing so, it needs to reassure its customers of its services and dedication them all. However, the brand itself is such that a person who has experienced the garments before knows what to expect. In asserting this, a customer's first time experience is of great importance. This is why Levis and other top graded companies have had success. They have pleased their customers, and their brands have stuck in the minds and hearts of those who have had pleasant experiences with them (Aaker, 1996).
The Power of a Brand:
Levis is believed to be a credible producer and supplier because of its reputation; its reputation is one that has been gained through reliability that customers have experienced through time. In view of this, more and more customers have turned to Levis, as they have been convinced by other customers' experiences through time as well. However, it must be asserted that an organization such as Levis cannot simply rely on word of mouth for gaining more business or at least maintaining its position in the market. This is because of the fact that competition can easily overturn one's reputation. In view of this, it has had to go on promoting itself and has to do so in a positive manner by focusing on its strengths and either ameliorating or doing away with products and services that are not gaining headway. In view of this, it must be asserted that Levis brand is such that it is relatively stable. No matter which company comes into competition, people know Levis and understand that this brand is synonymous to one of the best clothing products in the market today. It must also be asserted that this is something that is not that difficult for it to do. This is because of the fact that most of its product lines are successful. It also does not require aggressive marketing, as promoting Levis means that marketers merely have to present the product name before its customers, and they will purchase the goods. It is known that Levis brand has the power to make people buy its products on the spot at a market just through presenting them with the brand (Aaker, 1991).
The Importance of the Internet and Advertising through it:
The Internet as one knows well has its importance in nearly every form of trade in industries today. Trade is directly dependent on effective communication, and these days the Internet is considered to be the most important and reliable means of communications for all industries. In view of the Internet being an important medium through which customers may be communicated with, customer behavior becomes an important subject along with the impact that branding has.
Observing customer behavior in the recent past, it is observed that there is immense scope for focusing on Customer Relationship Marketing because of the significant visible effects (customer retention); there appears to be a better response from customers through the Internet. Online purchases and the like are easily made and are believed to be considerably reliable, which is why customers are turning to it and not declining from its use. Providing reliable services and products, and making sure customer obstacles are overcome in a timely manner ensures customer retention and promotes branding. People learn to accept brands through the Internet when they have pleasant experiences with a particular company. Today this is made increasingly possible through the implementation of Customer Relationship Marketing (Carroll & Rose, 1993, 5-13).
Advertising through the Internet is also another important means that industries make use of to promote their brands; the more that people in general see these advertisements, the more likely it is for customer retention to be secured. Also, more customers are attracted to particular brands such as Levis (Arnett et al, 2003, 89-106).
The first step towards pulling in customers in any industry is advertising a brand and doing so in the correct way. Indeed, this step is believed to be effective, as there are many individuals, who first see advertisements online, and then decide to check them out in person. With the Internet influencing many lives everywhere, it is expected that there will be much more activity on the part of customers, which means that the garment industry is going to do even better in the future, which is a very good sign for Levis (Roth, 1991, 14-19).
The industrial expansion of the garment industry that has been witnessed today is in part an effect of globalization. This is because of the fact that the speed of communication has improved through the Internet and related means, making it possible to quicken up access for customers wherever they are. As brands go on expanding physically and in terms of service provisions and products, it is understood that they tend to face problems in efficiency. These problems need to be handled carefully in a logical manner so that their smooth running can be restored to the way it may have once been. For this to be handled effectively, communication also needs to be of the highest level. In view of this, Customer Relationship Marketing is important, as it is believed to aid customer retention through good communication among other strategies in the this industry (Aaker, 1991).
The Importance of Leadership in Promoting a Brand:
The manner in which any brand is promoted, it is directly affected. Hence, there is a need for management to be aware of what it has in its plans for promotion. This strongly refers to the environments created as well as the tactics used. To begin with, leadership in this regard is most important, as it can determine the success or failure of promotion to a great extent.
The world has reached a stage at which everything is close-knit. There are several bodies and structures that interact with each other that appear to be systematic.
Globalization for instance is something has many countries, organizations and institutions operating together. Each of the components in the globalization process exists for its self and is self-driven, yet the system functions. In this regard, one might assert that markets of different types and sizes function in a similar manner. The motive industry is an example with its visible effects. Consumers are actively participating in the industry activity, making it an increasingly viable one for people to invest in. The services and products are known to be quite reliable with an immense amount interest in them. In recent years this has been the case and in time to come it is expected that there is going to be even more interest in particular industries (Aaker, 1991).
Systems of control are ones that need to be in place so that processes remain in view and are understand completely. This is a necessary step in any commercial line because it helps management know what exactly is going on in a particular organization. Indeed, the management needs to know what is going on in order to manage their businesses more effectively. In simple terms, the more knowledge that one has of his or her company, the more likely s/he is to take appropriate measures for future betterment. As opposed to this, when the management does not know what exactly is going on with its brand promotion it becomes difficult for them to take decisions. This is because they do not know whether the decisions they take will have adverse effects on their brand and on the organization. In view of this, it is considered most important that the management knows and understands processes thoroughly. In order to make sure that they know what is going on they have to have some kind of system in place that would cater to their needs. When it comes to managing a company more effectively, it must be asserted that there is need to recognize particular activity. Developing such a system would be of immense use, and if implemented successfully, a company would be able to trace out organizational activity in every respect and measure the economic impact that each of these actions have. In view of this, management models may be implemented to determine cost values for particular activity within a company. There are several methods that mat be employed to do this, and each has its own level of credibility (Aaker, 1991).
Systems and Brands:
Newer methods of handling brands are introduced in order to produce intended effects that are better than previous ones. People would not persist with newer systems if they believed that they were not effective and profitable. Older systems that are overshadowed cannot be brought back if newer systems are more effective. In this regard, if a newer system takes time for people to adjust to, plans are developed in order to make sure that they are ameliorated in order to make use of them to their maximum potential. Indeed, there are several newer systems being employed in various fields. These fields need to overview and understand what these systems are in order to appreciate their benefits. In understanding thee benefits, the basic principles on which they function need to be assessed. To begin with, the environment (internal as well as external) is an important point to discuss (Alreck & Settle, 1999, 130-144).
A cordial environment is usually seen as the most appropriate one to ensure an organization maximum gain. In this way, employees learn to perform better without any feeling of being compelled. In this way, they learn to be committed when they see that the leaders of the organization are not pressurizing them. This is in fact a learning process that takes time, and brings one back to the all important and basic theory for a strong company that is capable of promoting its brand without any problem. Illustration 2 in the List of Figures is interesting to note here as it demonstrates the amount of focus a company pays towards brand promotion.
The Working Team and Brand Power:
According to Senge, human beings are born learners, and the environment that each human being is brought up in defines the formation of a personality. The process of socialization is the key to changing the natural generative learning abilities into adaptive learning skills. Applying this to brand promotion means that individuals also learn the value of socializing through brand promotion and understand the processes involved (Smith, 1998, 25-41).
The human being is portrayed as being one that is programmable, and then carries out duties as expected by the management. This is true as far as picking up the basics is concerned. If an individual has to learn the basics at the age of twenty it is indeed a momentous task. However, what Senge is talking about isn't about basics, but refers to the adaptation of an educated individual into an environment that enables him to grasp more. Hence, promoting brands in a more commercial environment means that individuals learn to accept things here as their basics. As they rise to a higher professional level they would be used to all the processes and have less pressure. In view of this, Senge's theory is one that may be consciously or subconsciously employed.
In places where changes are necessary and participants find it difficult to conform, it's often seen that when there is a need for human beings to accept a new surrounding to work in, one way or another they manage to do so. This may be because of hegemonous attitude by the managers. However, Senge essentially refers to the conscious setting by managers who wish to obtain the maximum benefit in accordance with Senge's theory.
Being aware of the way that human beings can learn more and be more productive as a result, managers try to set an environment that is cordial so that it may accommod
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