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Affecting factors of consumers' intent to buy in the food industry by emphasizing brand experience (Case Study: Mashhad Tabarok Company).

Abstract

The recognition and understanding of brand experience by consumers is critical to develop goods and services marketing strategies, since they can be used to predict consumer behaviour. The aim of the present study is to investigate the antecedents and consequences of brand experience in the food industry. Information on 400 customers of the Mashhad Tabarok Company was collected by a questionnaire. The collected data were analysed by SPSS and LISREL software packages. In the meantime, LISREL was used to do CFA and research model testing while SPSS was utilized to study the reliability and EFA. The findings indicate that all four marketing mix components have positive and significant impacts on brand experience, which has a positive and significant impact on brand attitude, brand credibility, and customer-based brand equity. Brand credibility has a positive and significant impact on brand attitude and customer-based brand equity, and customer-based brand equity and brand attitude have positive impacts on purchase intentions.

Keywords

Marketing mix, Brand experience, Customer-based brand equity, Brand attitude, Brand credibility.

Introduction

The food industry plays a vital role in domestic economic development and the health of society. Food industry products are, inter alia, the most fundamental requirements of daily life, and are related to human health. In recent years competition in the food industry has increasingly grown, and various brands have entered the markets, which has created a competitive and dynamic market. Likewise, increasing technological progress has led to the consistency of product quality by different companies and hyper-competition in the industry, which is seen as the challenge of today's marketing (Shain, Zehir & Kitapci, 2011). Such an increase in competition has urged companies to focus on distinguishing their brands from those of rivals in the minds of consumers. Concerning economic depression and a reduction in public purchasing power, companies of the industry have focused on distinguishing their brands from their rivals. Marketing authors have emphasized the importance of the relationship between brand and consumers and have expressed it in such terms as brand experience, brand credibility, brand attitude, brand equity and so on (Albert & Merunka, 2013; Sahin et al., 2011; Carrol & Ahuvia, 2006).

Brand experience is one of the most applied concepts in the brand field, since customers not only buy a product or service due to its performance but also based on their acquired experience of purchasing a brand. Marketing authors are aware of the importance of an enjoyable experience. The experience of consuming a product/service is more important than the product or service per se (Ueacharornkit & Cohen, 2011). When consumers have a pleasant or unpleasant experience of a product, they express proper behavioural and emotional reactions easily, and their future behavioural tendencies to such a product are describable. As a result, the adaption between attitude and behaviour grows, and any disharmony is prevented (Shamim & Butt, 2013). The most important part of brand experience is shaped when consumers are exposed by a marketing mix strategy for that brand (Shamim & Butt, 2013).

Brand experience plays a vital role in shaping brand value, brand attitude and brand credibility (Schmitt, 2009). Consumers' brand experience is also important in building their attitude towards that brand, since their attitude impacts on their behaviour (Hulton, 2009). They tend to prefer one brand to another one based on their experienced advantages, which shows the relationship between brand experience and the capability to create customer-based brand equity (Hulton, 2009). Likewise, negative or positive assessment of brand experience can impact highly on consumers' conception of its credibility. Brand credibility is, inter alia, the most important input to creating consumer-based brand equity (Kim, Morris & Swait, 2008). Customer-based brand equity is an affecting factor on consumers' intent to buy (Holehonnur et al., 2009). As a result, brand aspects play a vital role in consumers' intents to buy.

Consumers' perception of the performance of manufacturers or service providers would shape their intent to buy, playing a critical role in continuing or terminating the relationship between consumer and producer. Likewise, a producer can predict consumer behaviour if it can identify and understand consumers' intent to buy (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980). As a result, a critical resource to guarantee the profitability of active companies in the food industry is the identification of effective factors relating to customers' intent to buy with regard to brand aspects. Concerning the important role of brands in grooming consumers' intent to buy in the food industry, the present research aims at studying the affecting factors on consumers' intent to buy in the food industry by emphasizing brand experience (case study: Mashhad TABAROK company). The present paper aids managers in the food industry to become aware and emphasize brand experience in order to impact upon customers' intent to buy and, as a result, improve their profitability and help domestic economic development through job creation. In contrast, although the food industry plays a vital role in domestic economic development through job creation and public health, a lack of such research can pose irrevocable damages against the industry and, consequently, domestic economic development.

Literature review

Marketing mix

Marketing mix determines the performance route of an organization by using a set of controllable variables in an environment with a lot of uncontrollable factors (Bennett, 1997). Marketing mix consists of price, product, place and promotion. Price is a set of values that a consumer loses in the extent of acquiring the advantages of possessing a product or service (Ivy, 2008). If the price of a product or service is too high, it will have weak equity from the consumer perspective, and they will not buy it. If the price is too low, it may show its low quality or weak performance (Kamaladevi, 2010). A product defines the main activities of any corporation (Ivy, 2008). Good quality plays a positive role in brand experience. Place means the activities by which companies can provide consumers with their products. Proper and punctual distribution of products can play a vital role in mitigating the financial and time costs of accessibility in a brand experience (Kamaladevi, 2010). Promotion means the creation of relations with customers to be aware and impact upon their attitudes and behaviours (Goldsmith, 1999). Promotions are considered to be the first-hand experience of a consumer before buying a product or service (Wright & Lynch, 1995).

Brand experience

Generally, brand experience has been investigated since the early 1980s. However, it was coined by Schmitt in 1997. He notes that brand experience is a set of interactions between a customer and a brand, a company or a part of an organization (Schmitt, 2009). Brand experience comprises emotional, behavioural and cognitive reactions stimulated by brand components like design, identity, packaging, communications and environment where the brand is supplied (Brakus, Schmitt & Zarantonella, 2009). The situation of brand experience as one of the radical aspects of setting a marketing mix strategy is accepted by many connoisseurs (Choi, Ok & Hyun, 2011). Many marketing experts believe that recognizing and understanding consumer brand experience is vital for developing product and service marketing strategies because such brand experience can be used to predict consumer behaviour (Brakus et al., 2009). This can happen both directly and indirectly. Consumers' direct experience is through physical contact with a product, and indirect experience is through marketing communications and propaganda. Brand experience can be both short or long terms. Besides, it may be positive or negative (Ha & Perks, 2005).

Barkus et al. (2009) believe that brand experience is a four-dimension construct whose dimensions include:

* Sensing dimension: its emphasis is on consumers' vision, olfactory, tasting and touching senses. It shows that to what extent a brand is attractive for consumers' senses and what impacts it has on their senses.

* Emotional dimension: this shows consumers' inner feelings and emotions towards a brand.

* Cognitive dimension: this includes consumers' creative thinking. In fact, the cognitive dimension indicates to what extent a brand can stimulate consumer curiosity, thinking and problem solving.

* Behavioural dimension: this targets consumers' physical life experiences and shows the ability of the brand to engage in physical activities.

Recent research on brand experience is more focused on its inputs and outputs rather than its definition and measurement techniques (Iglesias et al., 2011). Therefore, it is not surprising that one of the most important challenges in the brand experience field is that such brand experience is not only a secondary phenomenon but can also be used to predict some of the most important cognitive and analytical concepts derived from brands, like brand equity, brand attitude and brand credibility (Schmitt, 2009).

Customer-based brand equity

Today, brand equity is considered as a criterion for measuring the competitive power of brands shaped and evolved in past decades. Powerful and successful brands increase trust in products and services and enable customers to imagine and identify them better. A higher level of brand equity increases the intention to rebuy (Kim et al, 2008). Brand equity shows the value difference of a strong brand compared to a medium one. Brand equity is mainly studied along with two financial (based on brand performance in the market) and marketing (based on customer) views (Shamim & Butt, 2013).

In financial terms, brand equity studies the financial value of a brand free from other traits attributed to that brand. For the first time, Keller (1993) defined customer-based brand equity, which included a distinguishing impact of knowledge towards a brand on consumers' reaction to marketing that brand. In fact, he believes that brand equity depends on brand knowledge and its comparison to an anonymous product. Therefore, Keller emphasizes two main elements of consumers' knowledge and reaction. Consumer knowledge is defined based on brand awareness and brand image, while consumer reaction shows behaviour concerning a given brand. Based on the theory of reasoned action, consumers' mental evaluation (here on a brand) can impact on their purchase behaviour (Shamim & Butt, 2013). Besides, research indicates that customer-based brand equity impacts significantly on consumers' intentions to buy (Holehonnur et al., 2009).

Brand attitude

Attitude can be defined as longstanding public evaluation of people, things, advertisements or anything else. In fact, attitude is a gradual evaluation of a given thing, which is more or less objectively and permanently conducted by the consumer (Ghorban, 2012). According to such definitions, it is understood that attitude toward an organizational brand is called brand attitude. Therefore, brand attitude is a consumer's overall evaluation of a brand (Martensen et al., 2007). Basically, a consumer's attitude toward a brand is highly important. since brand attitude has a positive relationship with brand preference and purchase intentions (Kim & Pysarchik, 2000). The importance of brand attitude is due to the fact that it helps the consumer to select a brand rapidly in the shortest time and with lowest risk (Erdem, Zhao & Valenzuela, 2004).

The theory of reasoned action reminds us that attitude has a close relationship with behaviour. According to this theory, subjective attitudes and norms are the strongest determinants of human behaviour (Shamim & Butt, 2013). Based on self-expansion theory, people have internal motivations for self-expression. They tend to merge them with other things (brand) as 'self'. Therefore, it is understood that people express their certain attitudes toward a brand through a conceptual combination of 'self' to distinguish themselves from others as a different group (Ghorban, 2012). Therefore, measuring consumer attitude toward a brand, its antecedents and consequences are too vital for marketers. One should note that in a relationship between brand experience and brand attitude, brand experience is a separated construct which is shaped by unique experiences of a person on a given brand due to stimulants related to that brand. Therefore, it is rational to assume that achieved experiences from a brand reflect an individual's attitude toward that brand (Shamim & Butt, 2013). Consumer attitude toward a brand impacts on their purchase intentions (Leisching, Schwertfeger & Geigenmuller, 2011).

Brand credibility

The nature of brand credibility is inspired by studies of Erdem and Swait (1998), who studied customer-based brand equity in signalling theory (Back & King, 2011). According to this concept, brand credibility shows that companies use their brands as signals to disseminate information about their products (Spry, Pappu & Cornwell, 2011). Brand credibility is a multidimensional term that shows the authenticity of a brand in a consumer's mind. Its most important attributes, which indicate reliability, can be seen in such terms as trust and honesty.

A reputed brand provides customers identically with advertised products (Alam, Arshad & Shabbir, 2012). Credibility is widely defined as the believability of aims and tendencies of an independent entity in a given time. It consists of two components: reliability and specialty (Erdem & Swait, 2004). Reliability includes a belief in a company's tendency to act out its promises, and specialty includes a belief in a company's capability to act its promises (Sweeney & Swait, 2008). According to signalling theory, brand credibility is important in mitigating perceived risk and information costs to create brand equity (Erdem & Swait, 1998). Brand credibility is one of the most important millstones upon which a brand can build its customer-based equity (Shamim & Butt, 2013).

Purchase intentions

Purchase intentions are a person's informed plan to buy a brand. Purchase intentions are the possibility of consumers' plans to buy a certain brand or product in a given time (Spears & Singh, 2004). Psychological theories like the theory of reasoned action and planned behaviour theory emphasize that an intent to do something is the most effective measure to predict his/her real behaviour. In other words, attitudes impact upon real behaviour through behavioural intentions. According to planned behaviour theory, subjective attitudes and norms are the most important determinants in conducting behaviour (Chang & Chen, 2008; Ajzen, 1991).

Research background

Shamim and Butt (2013) provided a critical model on brand experience results. Their aim was to study the impact of brand experience on customer-based brand equity, brand credibility and brand attitude. Their findings indicated brand experience to have a positive and significant impact on customer-based brand credibility, brand attitude and brand equity. Likewise, customer-based brand equity and brand attitude have a positive and significant impact on purchase intentions.

Johansson, Mitsell and Lindberg (2012) studied the impact of brand attitude and brand contribution on consumers' purchase intentions. Their findings indicate that there is a positive and significant relationship between brand contribution, brand attitude and purchase intentions.

Chang and Chen (2008) studied the relationship between brand equity, brand preference and purchase intentions in Taiwan. Their findings indicate that there is a positive relationship between brand equity, brand preference and consumers' purchase intentions. Based on what has been mentioned in the literature review and research background, a conceptual research model can be drawn as Figure 1.

Methods

In terms of aim, this is applied research and a descriptive survey in terms of data collection. Based on relations among variables in a research conceptual model, one can provide research hypotheses as below:

H1: price has a positive and significant impact on brand experience.

H2: product has a positive and significant impact on brand experience.

H3: place has a positive and significant impact on brand experience.

H4: promotion has a positive and significant impact on brand experience.

H5: brand experience has a positive and significant impact on customer-based brand equity.

H6: brand experience has a positive and significant impact on brand a ttitude.

H7: brand experience has a positive and significant impact on brand credibility.

H8: brand attitude has a positive and significant impact on customer-based brand equity.

H9: brand credibility has a positive and significant impact on brand a ttitude.

H10: brand credibility has a positive and significant impact on customer-based brand equity.

H11: customer-based brand equity has a positive and significant impact on purchase intentions.

H12: brand attitude has a positive and significant impact on purchase intentions.

Data collection

The present study aims at investigating affecting factors on consumers' intent to buy through emphasis on brand experience in the food industry. Therefore, its main focus is on consumer perception of consuming the products of the industry.

Research sample and population

The research population consists of all food industry consumers in Mashhad. Among the active companies in this industry the TABAROK Company was selected. The research sample consists of all TABAROK consumers in Mashhad. Since the population volume is unlimited, a preliminary questionnaire was distributed to determine sample size. Then, the dispersion rate for purchase intentions variable was computed (70%). According to this ratio, and assuming a 5% error, sample size was determined by Equation (1).

[MATHEMATICAL EXPRESSION NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1)

By using simple sampling method 400 questionnaires were distributed, of which 330 ones were usable. The return rate was therefore 83%.

Research tool

Questions were closed in the Likert range. Table 1 indicates research variables, the number of questions for each variable, reliability ratio and sources of designing. To study the validity of the construct, exploratory factor analysis, main constituent analysis and Varimax by using SPSS 20 are utilized. KMO value and Bartlett significance test level for each variable are also shown in Table 1. KMO should be greater than 0.6 and Bartlett value should be lesser than 0.05.

Confirmatory factor analysis

Before entering the step of testing the hypothesis and conceptual model, it is necessary to confirm the model for measuring exogenous (marketing mix) and endogenous variables (brand experience, customer-based brand equity, brand attitude, brand credibility and purchase intentions). This task was performed by first order factor analysis. Confirmatory factor analysis is an old statistical technique used to study relations among hidden variables (achieved factors) and observed variables (questions), which show a measuring model (Byrne, 1994). The results of CFA are shown below.

Measuring model for conceptual model endogenous variables

The results of first order CFA for a marketing mix indicate that its measurement model is proper and all parameters are significant. Related findings are shown in Figure 2.

Measuring model for conceptual model endogenous variables

The results of first order CFA for brand experience, brand attitude, brand credibility and customer-based brand equity indicate that its measurement model is proper and all parameters are significant. Related findings are shown in Figure 3.

Research model test

After conducting exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, the suggested model was tested by LISREL8.8 to show the relations between research independent and dependent variables. Such multivariable analysis is, inter alia, the strongest analysis method in social and behavioural science since the nature of such research is multivariable and cannot be resolved by bi-variable techniques. Multivariable analysis refers to several analytical techniques whose main attributes are simultaneously independent K and dependent N variables. The results of the final model test are shown in Figures 4 and 5.

When the final model is tested by software, different measures should be used to measure its fit. In the present study, several indices are used to determine model fit; the relevant results are shown in Table 2.

Composite reliability and average variance extracted are computed. The amount of composite reliability should be greater than 0.70, and the amount of average variance extracted should be above 0.50. The results are presented in Table 3. These results indicate that the measurement items have good reliability and validity.

As seen in Table 2, all indices confirm the model. Overall, if the values of RFI, CFI, NFI and GFI are greater than 0.9 the model enjoys a good fit. Likewise, if Chi2 ratio to degree of freedom--as the most important statistical index in determining model fit--is less than 3, the model enjoys a good fit. If the RMSEA index is less than 0.1, the fit of the final model is plausible.

Now that the final model is confirmed, the results of testing research hypotheses are shown in Table 4.

Significance value is the most important criterion with which to study relations among variables in a model which should be greater than 1.96 or smaller than -1.96. Therefore, all hypotheses are supported.

Conclusions and discussion

In the present study, 12 main hypotheses were studied on the relationship between research model variables. The results from the first four hypotheses indicate that price, product, place and promotion have a positive and significant impact on brand experience. The main part of a brand experience is shaped when someone is exposed to that brand's marketing mix (Shamim & Butt, 2013). Among marketing mix elements, the factor load of price is more than the other elements, which shows the high importance of price in brand experience. Its importance can be expressed through Reference Price Theory (Winer, 1986). When rivals represent advertisements on cheap prices and discounts for their products, consumers tend to move along with discounted and cheaper prices. However, if a brand is regularly purchased by consumers, they will find better recognition of that brand, and will consequently observe a fixed reference price that will not be impacted by rivals' suggested discounts. Therefore, Reference Price Theory predicts that more experience in using a brand would yield lower impacts by rivals' promotional acts. Furthermore, and based on Price/Quality Signalling Theory (Ortmeyer & Huber, 1990), when consumers are not able to evaluate the quality of a product directly they evaluate the quality based on its price. Very low prices may indicate the low quality of a product. However, if consumers can evaluate the quality of a product based directly on their experience, they may react less against a higher process. Put differently, one can claim that if prices are appropriate, products are of high quality, their distribution decreases the time and financial costs of accessing them, or proper propaganda or promotional initiatives are conducted, then they can lead to an enjoyable experience in consumers' minds (Kamaladevi, 2010).

The results of hypotheses 5, 6 and 7 show that brand experience has a positive and significant impact on customer-based brand equity, brand attitude and brand credibility. Brand experience plays a vital role in predicting brand equity, brand attitude and brand credibility (Schmitt, 2009). It seems that brand experience is highly influential upon people's general evaluation of that brand, trust in its ability to perform as per its promises, and awareness of brand and its future behaviour. Such results are confirmed by Shamim and Butt (2013).

Results from hypothesis 8 indicate that brand attitude impacts on customer-based brand equity both positively and significantly. The evaluation by an individual of a brand is influential over his/her awareness of brand image as well as his/her future behaviour towards that brand. Such a result is confirmed by Shamim and Butt (2013).

The results of hypotheses 9 & 10 indicate that brand credibility impacts upon brand attitude and customer-based brand equity positively and significantly. Brand credibility impacts upon consumers' perception of brand quality through perceived mitigated risks and costs of seeking for information. Therefore, promoting brand efficiency would lead to brand equity (Spry et al., 2011). Such results are confirmed by Shamim and Butt (2013).

The result of hypothesis 11 shows that customer-based brand equity impacts upon consumers' purchase intentions positively and significantly. Customer-based brand equity is an affecting factor on consumers' purchase intentions (Holehonnur et al., 2009). Based on Reasoned Action Theory, consumers' mental evaluation (here on brand) can impact upon his/her purchase. Such results are confirmed by Shamim and Butt (2013) and Chang and Chen (2008).

The result from hypothesis 12 indicates that brand attitude impacts upon consumers' purchase intentions positively and significantly. Such a result is compatible with Reasoned Action Theory and Planned Behaviour Theory. According to the main idea of such theories, people's subjective norms and attitudes are the most important factors in determining their behaviours. Such results are supported by Shamim and But (2013), Johnson et al. (2012) and Leischnig et al. (2011).

Recommendations

Concerning the research findings, following recommendation are provided for managers and policymakers in food industry:

1. Concerning the importance of brand experience in the present research model and its impact on brand equity, attitude and credibility, which play critical roles in consumers' intent to buy, it is necessary that food industry managers and policymakers think about certain initiatives. Since the best part of brand experience is shaped when an individual is exposed by a marketing mix strategy (Shammim & Butt, 2013), managers in food industry are recommended to:

* Study and analyse marketing mix strategies and marketing activities, including brand equity components in their research preferences.

* Provide their customers with proper prices, good quality and attractive packages to create an enjoyable experience for their customers to buy their products.

* Develop distribution channels to provide their customers with easy access and with the lowest time and costs so that they can create an enjoyable experience for their customers to meet their needs and demands.

* Pay attention to attractive and persuasive propaganda to purchase their products. They should regard the content of such propaganda that should be in line with their company's aims and strategies. They are also recommended to use reputable athletic figures or artists in their brand's propaganda.

* Create an enjoyable experience for their customers when consuming their products by organizing periodical and regular awards.

* Identify the good mental impact signs of a product and to use them in similar products concerning the permanence of brand experience in consumers' minds.

* Consider brand experience as the outcome of a product, and evaluate for better comprehension and conception regularly and periodically.

* Take necessary measures to share both desired and undesired experiences of consuming a product through certain websites for their consumers.

2. Concerning the effective role of brand equity in consumers' brand experience, management and policymakers of the industry are recommended to improve the quality, diversity and both domestic and international standards for their products so that they can build an equity for their brands in consumers' minds.

3. Since brand experience impacts on brand equity, food industry management should try to provide consumers with a positive and attractive experience. As a result, food industry managers are recommended to familiarize consumers with their products through catalogues, posters and advertisements that introduce their products and their efficiency.

4. Active companies in the food industry should explain their fundamental values and build a powerful brand so that an image of quality and value come to customers' minds by inserting the name of the company onto products.

Research limitations

1. Lack of cooperation by some managers in shops.

2. The present study is conducted in Mashhad. The respondents are randomly selected; therefore, the results cannot be extended to other cities.

3. Since a questionnaire is used to collect data, the research involves the natural limitations of using a questionnaire.

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Fatemeh Motahari Nejad (*), Saeid Samadi, Yasan Allah Pour Ashraf, Zeinab Tolabi

Faculty of Management, University of Ilam, Iran

(Received: 1 October, 2014; Revised: 7 January, 2015; Accepted: 11 January, 2015)

(*) Corresponding Author, Email: Motahari_Fatemeh@yahoo.com

Table 1. The source of research questionnaire items, reliability and
results of exploratory factor analysis

Variables        bartlett  KMO    [alpha]  items  Author
                 test

Price            0.000     0.759  0.849    4      Ben Azizan (2010)
product          0.000     0.749  0.778    4
place            0.000     0.789  0.842    4
promotion        0.000     0.845  0.866    5
brand            0.000     0.862  0.837    7      Zarantonello & Schmitt
experience                                        (2010)
customer--based  0.000     0.794  0.807    6      Tang & Hawley (2009)
brand
equity
brand attitude   0.000     0.859  0.836    7      Johansson, Mitsell &
                                                  Lindberg (2012)
brand            0.000     0.850  0.813    6      Erdem & Swait(1998),
credibility                                       Spryetal(2011)
purchase         0.000     0.825  0.884    4      Johansson, Mitsell &
intentions                                        Lindberg (2012)

Table 2. Model fit measures

Indicator     Plausible level  Acquired score

[X.sup.2]/df  3<               2.25
(GFI)         0.90 >           0.94
(NFI)         0.90 >           0.94
(CFI)         0.90 >           0.99
(RFI)         0.90 >           0.93
(RMSEA)       0.1 <            0.061

Table 3. Reliability and validity of measures

Construct                     Composite Reliability   Average Variance
                                                      Extracted

Price                         0.86                    0.61
product                       0.93                    0.53
place                         0.84                    0.57
promotion                     0.83                    0.51
brand experience              0.86                    0.52
customer--based brand equity  0.84                    0.53
brand attitude                0.87                    0.53
brand credibility             0.89                    0.62
purchase intentions           0.86                    0.61

Table 4. Results of studying research hypotheses

Description                   Hypothesis  t-value  Result

Price- brand experience        1           5.90    support
product- brand experience      2           3.06    support
place- brand experience        3           3.86    support
promotion- brandexperience     4           4.12    support
brand experience-              5           6.32    support
customer--basedbrand equity
brand experience- brand        6           3.30    support
attitude
brand experience- brand        7           7.95    support
credibility
brand attitude-                8           6.83    support
customer--based brand equity
brand credibility- brand       9           5.95    support
attitude
brand credibility-            10           5.74    support
customer--based brand equity
customer--based brand         11          10.73    support
equity- purchase intentions
brand attitude- purchase      12           9.35    support
intentions
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Article Details
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Author:Nejad, Fatemeh Motahari; Samadi, Saeid; Ashraf, Yasan Allah Pour; Tolabi, Zeinab
Publication:Iranian Journal of Management Studies
Article Type:Case study
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Apr 1, 2015
Words:5731
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