Brand is a powerful tool to attract more consumers to buy particular products. In a developed country like UK, clothing industry is one of the major industries that substantially contribute to the economy. As consumer’s decision making plays a big role in any market, it is vital to study how consumers make their choices when purchasing clothes to evaluate the impact of any particular brand in the market, especially due to the availability of various existing varieties and tough competition among different brands. Not all consumers are loyal to a single brand and many; often switch between different brands possibly due to different marketing techniques and promotional offers used by competing brands. This poses economic risk to certain brands and even to the nations that represent these brands. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the producers of these clothes to study the consumer behaviour and their preferences towards various promotional offers and discounts; an effective market research in this regard may include questions that enquire the consumers about the promotional schemes that attracted them, the advertising media through which they can most likely be reached, their interests in knowing more about the brand. As far as the UK clothing industry is concerned, there is a fashion for own brand development, determined markets, tough competitive activities, a polarized marketplace, short-life-cycle products, as well as fluctuating consumer requirements (Marciniak and Bruce, 2004; Siddiqui et al., 2003). As per Moore (1995), textile retailers tend to be inclined to create product differentiation in which they can distinguish themselves from their potential competitors in terms of product character like design and price. Even though the UK is overwhelmed with fashion brands, the market is characterized by products with small differentiation (Birtwhistle and Freathy, 1998; moore, 1995).
To analyse and discuss the effect of brand image on the consumer’s on their purchasing decisions in the UK clothing industry.
The aim of the research will be achieved by studying and discussing the below given objectives which are important aspects of this research effort.
To identify the impact of branding as an element in consumers purchasing decision.
To study the relationship between brand image and consumer purchasing behaviour.
To study brand equity as resultant of branding.
Through qualitative research, test the above factors of Brand as an important element in consumer purchasing decision.
1.3 Structure of the research:
This research is divided into 6 main chapters
Chapter 1(Introduction): This chapter consists of background of the clothing industry, aims and objectives and structure of the research.
Chapter 2(Literature Review): This chapter will explain consumer behaviour towards brands and perspective of clothing industry in UK.
Chapter 3(Research Methodology): This chapter includes the research approach, aims and objectives of the research.
Chapter 4(Data Collection): This chapter includes data collection which will be used for analysis and to reach objective of this research by conducting the interviews.
Chapter 5(Data Analysis): This chapter consists of analysis and results of the findings from the interviews and other sources.
Chapter 6(Conclusions and Recommendations): This chapter draws the conclusions and key findings from various chapters and provides important recommendations.
2. Literature review
Consumer behaviour refers to the activities in which people acquire, consume and dispose products and services (Blackwell et al., 2001). In this chapter, the literatures regarding the roles of brand and brand equity are to be reviewed so as to provide a theoretical framework for the analysis.
2.1 The important roles of brand
Brand is a name in every consumer’s mind (Mooij, 1998). Branding helps in knowing the features or characteristics of Branding and its effects. Keller, K (1998), according to American Marketing Association Brand refers to ‘A name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or combination of them, intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors. According to Murphy (1998) In addition to a specific brand name, a brand is also composed of products, packaging, promotion, advertising, as well as its overall presentation. Branding thus is a means to distinguish one product from another and these differences may be functional, rational, or tangible – related to product performance of the brand’ (Keller and Kotler, 2006).
2.2 Brand equity
According to Aaker (1991), Kapferer (2004) and Keller (2003), “Building strong brands is one of the most important goals of product and brand management. Strong brands result in higher revenue streams, both short term and long term”. “Therefore, the stated goal of strategic brand management is to build brands that last for decades and can be leveraged in different product categories and markets” Aaker (1996). To understand how branding effects the purchasing decision of consumers, many theories emerged in which according to Aaker (1991) has framed a model called Brand equity model and Keller (1993) has identified a model called the customer based brand equity model. Both the frameworks have profoundly focused on how consumers recognize and appraise brands by studying certain information structures (Keller, 1993; Aaker, 1991, 1997).
Brand equity as a set of assets and liabilities associated with a brand, including its name and symbol, which could impose beneficial or detrimental effects on the values arising from the products or services (Aaker, 1991; Yasin et al., 2007). According to Keller and Kotler (2006), Brand equity is a significant subtle asset that has psychosomatic and economic value to a firm. Brand equity is therefore reoffered to as consumer-based brand equity and defined as “the value consumers associate with a brand, as reflected in the dimensions of brand awareness, brand associations, perceived quality and brand loyalty” (Aaker, 1991).
2.2.1 Brand awareness
As per Aaker (1991), brand awareness is defined as “the ability of a potential buyer to recognize or recall that a brand is a member of a certain product category”. Since a very long time establishing brand image and awareness are the key factors for brand management (Aaker, 1991). Brand awareness refers to the strength of the brand, how easy and quick it is for the consumers to remember the brand. The potential consumers should be aware of a product so that it can become one of the buying choices (Keller,1993). According to Blackwell et al., (2001), this is due to the fact that the product wants to enter the awareness set before it comes to the consideration set. Boost in the brand awareness is conductive to a higher possibility of entering the later set (Nedungadi, 1990). It could probably explain why consumers tend to purchase a familiar brand rather than an unfamiliar one (Hoyer, 1990; Macdonald and Sharp, 2000). As per Yasin et al., (2007), in this fashion, brands with high level of awareness would be more possible to be purchased.
2.2.2 Perceived quality
Another important attribute to brand equity is perceived quality. According to Aaker (1991), Keller (1998) and Yasin (2007) this is defined as the consumer’s observation of the overall quality or superiority of a product or service. Perceived quality is defined as the “consumer’s perception of the overall quality or superiority of a product or service with respect to its intended purpose relative to alternatives” (Aaker,1991). According to Aaker(1991), perceived quality is not just another brand association but an association that is elevated to the status of a separate dimension of brand equity. As per Delong et al. (2004) it is found that perceived quality is of utmost importance in determining brand loyalty as well as repeat purchase. Sherman (1992) cited that “It is becoming more difficult to gain satisfactory level of perceived quality owing to the information that fast and continuous product development has already build up consumers’ expectations on product quality”. Since it is a kind of intangible, overall sense towards a brand, it is subjective in nature and thus the information of actual exhaustive product qualifications could have little connection with the perceived quality (Sherman, 1992). Price is one of the important clues to evaluate perceived quality (Aaker, 1991).
2.2.3 Brand loyalty
Brand loyalty is one of the core components of brand equity and also positively and directly affected by brand equity (Atilgan et al., 2005). Whereas Aaker (1991) treated brand loyalty as a behavioural dimension, Yoo and Donthu (2001) said that it is conceptualized as an attitudinal dimension and define it as “the tendency to be loyal to a focal brand, which is demonstrated by the intention to buy the brand as a primary choice”. According to Keller (1998), practice that repeats buying is one of the indicators for brand loyalty.
Guest (1964) defined brand loyalty as a behaviour and a measured degree of preference consistency and purchasing behaviour. Brand loyalty has also been defined based on actual purchasing behaviour (Cunninham 1956; Farley 1964; Tucker, 1964;Carman, 1970). Actual purchasing behaviour is measured by a portion of each purchase or total number of purchases. Finally, Jacoby and Chestnut (1978) developed the measurement of brand loyal behaviour, concluding that brand loyalty is combination of behaviours, including both behavioural and attitudinal properties.
2.2.4 Brand association
The last dimension for brand equity is brand association. According Aaker (1991), it is defined as the specific linkage between the memory and the brand. The importance of brand associations is highlighted in several studies as associations can positively influence consumer choice, preferences, purchase intention, and also brand extensions’ acceptance (Park and Srinivasan, 1994; Yoo et al., 2000). According to Keller (1998) and Yasin et al. (2007), brand equity is mainly supported by consumers’ associations towards the brand, which contribute to a particular brand image. As per Yoo et al. (2000), brand association is a difficult concept that connects to one another, consisting of multiple ideas, episodes, examples, and facts that generates a brand knowledge network.
These associations should be directly linked to consumers’ needs that can be categorized either as functional or symbolic (Park et al., 1986; Roth, 1992; De Chernatony et al., 2000). According to Keller (1993), consumers derive beliefs not only from direct associations to the brand but also from secondary associations (such as the country of origin of the brand, the company reputation, spokespersons personality or events), to the extent that these associations can leverage the brand. De Chernatony et al.,( 2000) say that symbolic value is more sustainable in terms of differentiation than the functional values. However the tangible products, the tangible qualities, for instances innovativeness and distinctiveness are also taken into account as brand association.
2.3 Consumer buying behaviour
The study of consumer buying behaviour is of highest importance in a number of aspects. According to Blackwell et al. (2006), consumer behaviour can influence the economic health of a nation. As per Schiffman and Kanuk (2000), consumer behaviour is about how people make their decisions on personal or household products with the use of their available resources such as time, money and effort. In addition to understanding the reasons for consumers to buy the products and their buying habits, firms can make use of such information to devise corresponding marketing strategies in response to the consumer needs (Blackwell et al., 2006). According to Gabbott and Hogg (1998) for instance, tailor-made products can be made to enhance customer value and hence facilitate repeat purchase. Only by understanding the consumer behaviour can the products or brands be developed in a right way (Gabbott and Hogg, 1998). In this research, whether the brand image would affect the consumers to purchase clothes is to be investigated.
The research methodology used in this research is Qualitative method using semi- structured interviews. Qualitative method is chosen for this due to the fact that the research aims at finding out consumer purchasing behaviour on clothing in which the belief, opinions and attitudes towards brand image are investigated. Hence Qualitative research method is more suitable in terms of asking for consumer’s in-depth responses and opinions. According to Babbie (2004), Qualitative interviews refer to the interaction between an interviewer and interviewee on a topic which need not follow particular order and words in questioning and answering. During the course of the interviews, interviewers may need to probe each answer and make use of the replies for further questioning (Proctor, 2000).
Advantages and disadvantages of qualitative research, qualitative research is more likely to look into people’s in-depth feelings, for example, attitude (Kirk and Miller, 1986). Qualitative research tends to focus on describing the process of how we define and measure variables in everyday life (Silverman, 2000). Qualitative analysis, though, suffers from the problem of ‘anecdotalism’ in which it just narrates some examples of phenomenon without taking less clear data into account (Silverman, 1989). Moreover, the reliability of tape-recorded and transcribed data is argued by some to be weakened owing to the possibility of missing some small but vital pauses and overlaps (Silverman, 2000).
Among the different structures of interviews, semi-structured interview method is chosen for this research. Smith and Osborn (2003) say that with the use of semi-structured interviews, researchers tend to regard people as experts on a specific topic under investigation. Such format can enhance the sensitive and empathic facets of the findings underlying the importance of human-to-human relationship of interviews (Fontana and Fry, 2000). Smith and Eatough (2006) point out that researcher can follow up on some unexpected and interesting responses that emerged from the interviews. This can enrich the data collected from the interviewing process. The interviews will also be complemented with other types of data such as observation and diary techniques so that the data obtained will be more valid.
Therefore to achieve the aim of this research, face-to-face interviews will be carried out. A sample of 10 UCLAN students will be chosen for the interviews.
A combination of convenience sampling and quota sampling methods will be used under non-probability sampling classifications. According to Bryman and Bell (2003), a convenient sample is the one that is simply available to the researcher by virtue of its accessibility. Bryman and Bell (2003) say that quota sampling produces a sample that reflects a population in terms of relative proportions of people in different categories such as gender, ethnicity, age-groups, socio-economic groups and region of residence and in combinations of these categories.
Among the 10 sample population, British citizens will be chosen. All of them are students aged between 22-30 years. Among the sample, 6 are females whereas the remaining 4 are males. All of them are students who are studying respective courses from the university.
3.2 Format of the interview
The interview is composed of two stages. It consists of a number of closed and open-ended questions. Open-ended questions will be included so as to give the interviewees room to express their individual opinions in as little or as much words as they choose to (Breakwell, 2006).
3.2.1 Stage 1 of the interview
At this stage, the main theme of the interview will be introduced to the interviewees with the provision of general ideas about what they are expected to answer. They will be told about the approximate length of the interview time. This stage of the interview process will consist of some general questions regarding consumer spending habits on clothing. Smith and Eatough (2006) suggest that a successful interview incorporates both general and specific questions. Therefore the questions at this stage will serve as an ice-breaking session as the interviewees may not be prepared to answer in-depth questions at the very onset of the interview process. The questions at this stage will be designed to understand the general spending styles of the interviewees. The questions will be as general as how often to you buy clothes or how much do you spend on clothes every month?
Stage 2 of the interview
This stage will cover in-depth questions relating to clothing brand image. The questions at this stage will investigate whether brand is an important criterion for consumers to choose and purchase the products as mentioned in the literature review (Doyle, 1999). They will be asked questions like what is it about particular clothes that make them buy it. Also questions relating to brand-equity will be included in this section. The questions in this stage will find out whether brand equity is as important as what has been noted in the literatures. As seen in the literature review, brand equity is regarded as the summation of brand awareness, perceived quality, brand loyalty and brand association (Aaker, 1991; Keller, 1993). Sample questions in this stage will be how do you judge the quality of clothes or how regularly do you buy the same brand of clothes.
3.2.3 Administration of the interviews
The interviews will be conducted in University library study rooms. Provisions will be made by the interviewer to book the rooms in advance through the online library booking system. This will ensure easy accessibility and will also ensure a silent atmosphere for a fruitful interview. The interview will be recorded using an MP3 player with prior approval from the interviewees for subsequent data analysis. The interviews will then be transcribed. The production and the use of transcripts are essential research activities as they involve close, repeated listening to the records which often reveal some un-noted recurring features, possibly attributing to important research findings (Atkinson and Heritage, 1984).
3.3 Data Analysis
The concept of grounded theory is used for the data analysis. Within-case and cross-case analysis are the strategies that are used for analysing the data.
Grounded theory is a research method developed by Glaser and Strauss (1967). It is a general methodology for developing theory that is grounded in data systematically gathered and analysed (Strauss and Corbin, 1994). The process of data collection is described as inductive in nature (Morse, 2001), in that the researcher has no pre-conceived ideas to prove or disprove. The researcher analyses the data by constant comparison, initially of data with data, progressing to comparisons between their interpretations translated into codes and categories and more data. This constant comparison of analysis to the field grounds the researcher’s final theorizing in the participants’ experiences (Mills et al. 2006).
Data collected from the interviews has to be processed so as to make the information meaningful. The data has to be reduced and has to be fitted into a suitable display format to organise the massive amounts of information. Therefore Within-Case and Cross-Case analysis strategies are used to achieve these (Miles and Huberman, 1994).
3.3.1 Within-Case analysis
According to Yin (1984), Within-Case analysis is a method to compare the answer of each respondent with the literature. It will show whether the findings comply with theories in the literature review or not. Within-Case analysis can be implemented by summarizing the whole data.
3.3.2 Cross-Case analysis
Cross-case analysis results in generalization and better understanding due to the effect of constant comparison. Cases are compared with each other to enrich the information generated by interviewees. The observations are then represented in a matrix format (Miles and Huberman, 1994).
The interviews will be taped using an MP3 recorder. The interviewees will be informed of this prior to the interview and permission will be obtained to record the conversation for data analysis purposes. In addition to this, participants will also be assured of complete confidentiality. The aim and objectives of the research will be explained to each participant to lay the ground work for the interview session prior to the start of the interview.
In terms of time, since in-depth interviews are chosen as the method of data collection, the number of sample interviews is limited. This is with due consideration to the research period of 3 months.
As I have 12 weeks of time allotted for the dissertation, 12 weeks will be divided as shown below.