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How brand image, country of origin, and self-congruity influence internet users' purchase intention.

E-commerce has become more pervasive because of advanced Internet technologies. Consumers can now get product information via the Internet rapidly, and can purchase goods online using shopping channels (Lan & Lie, 2010). An online survey conducted by Eastern Online (2012) revealed that 64% of network users in Taiwan engage in online shopping at least once a month. Luxury goods are products that are simultaneously equipped with quality, brand name, and taste that provide consumers with multiple psychological and physical values (Vigneron & Johnson, 1999). These product lines are seen to possess exactly what modern network users pursue in terms of individuality and materialism (Chen, 2006). In a survey conducted by Cheng, Li, Yu, and Gou (2011), these researchers found that, in the Taiwan consumer market in recent years a strong interest has developed in brand purchasing. Not only have middle-class consumers begun purchasing branded goods, young people have also emerged as a major consumer group

Han and Terpstra (1988) suggested that consumer perceptions of hybrid products--that is, products carrying the brand name of one country, but manufactured in another--change according to the country of origin (COO) and Nebenzahl, Jaffe, and Lampert (1997) suggested that it was not only for hybrid products that this change in perception occurred. Motivations of young consumer groups for purchasing branded goods no longer depend solely on their external qualities, but also on their internal motivations. Possessing goods with certain brand names has allowed young people to express their perception of an ideal, successful self-image (Chen, 2006). Thus, consistency between brand personality --that is the set of human characteristics associated with a brand (Aaker, 1997) --and self-congruity offers information regarding consumer purchase intention. However, in studies by Ahmed and d'Astous (1996), Lin and Chen (2006), Phau and Cheong (2009), and Lin, Yu, Chen, and Koh (2012) on the effect of the COO and brand relationship, those researchers did not consider Internet development as a factor. We posed the question of whether the COO has a strong or a weak influence on the purchase intention of Internet users in pursuit of self-congruity.

Literature Review

Marked differences in purchasing frequency and quantity have been observed among Internet consumers with various characteristics and lifestyles (Lin, 2002). American sociologist, Tapscott (1998) defined people born between 1977 and 1997 as the network generation because this generation habitually collects information and compares prices online.

Internet users as a group are consumers who exercise their consumer rights more frequently as they mature and earn income. The online audience is a booming market worldwide (Brengman, Geuens, Weijters, Smith, & Swinyard, 2005). Internet users are prone to terminate a transaction and prefer high-end products; yet, they have a strong sense of the world as a global village and a greater adaptive capacity than do nonnetwork users, which allows them to create an outspoken individuality. When business owners fully understand the needs and wants of Internet users and attempt to satisfy their requirements, those businesses can use the purchasing power of this consumer group to create more profitable opportunities (Napoli & Ewing, 2001).

In a study conducted by Lin and colleagues (2012), the researchers found that in September 2008 when it was found that milk contaminated with melamine was being distributed in China, this induced consumers to reevaluate the importance of the country of brand (COB) and the country of manufacture (COM). Piron, (2000) found that consumer purchase intention of luxury brands and conspicuous goods was affected by the COO. Garbarino and Edell (1997) found that the perception of the product quality was positively affected by the consistency between the COB and the COM and where this consistency was present it further increased product appeal. On the basis of the above description, we proposed our first hypothesis as follows:

Hypothesis 1: Internet user purchase intention of luxury brands will be positively influenced by consistency in the COO.

Sirgy (1982, 1985) suggested that the key to consistency lies between the preferred brand of the consumers and their own personality traits. Sirgy suggested that consumers are inclined to purchase or use brands for which the image is consistent with their self-concept or self-image. Brands and products communicate distinct symbolic meanings. People have an inclination to express themselves; thus, they purchase those products bearing a symbolic meaning that coincides with their self-image. In self-congruence theory it is stated that consumer behavior partly depends on the contrast between individual image and brand name image, reflecting a stereotypical image of the brand on the part of the users (Helgeson & Supphellen, 2004).

Sirgy (1982) suggested that both self-congruity and the purchase inclination of consumers are influenced by self-esteem and self-consistency. People tend to exhibit positive self-esteem to maintain or promote a positive image (Swann, De La Ronde, & Hixon, 1994). Therefore, consumers purchase products that they appraise positively to maintain positive self-image or in an attempt to improve a self-image that is negative. Individuals express self-motivation through the interaction of self-esteem and self-congruity, and this interaction further influences the consumer's purchase intention (Sirgy, 1982). Thus we proposed our second hypothesis as follows:

Hypothesis 2: Internet user purchase intention of luxury brands will be positively influenced by self-congruity.

Brand image can be defined as the image that the brand leaves with the consumers (Kirmani & Zeithaml, 1993). To satisfy consumer needs for various products, businesses ascribe unique meaning to brands. Researchers have developed concepts of three different types of brand image: functional, symbolic, and experiential. Park, Jaworski, and MacInnis (1986) suggested that a brand of the functional type is defined as one designed to solve externally generated consumption needs. A symbolic brand is one designed to associate the individual with a desired group, role, or self-image. An experiential brand is designed to fulfill these internally generated needs for stimulation and/or variety.

Consumer perceptions of brand image have a positive impact on purchase decisions (Koh & Fang, 2012). The stronger the brand image, the higher the product quality recognized by consumers (Grewal, Krishnan, Baker, & Borin, 1998), and the stronger the consumer purchase intention (Lin, Wang, Chiou, & Chung, 2007). Thus we proposed our third hypothesis as follows: Hypothesis 3: Internet user purchase intention of luxury brands will be positively influenced by the brand image.

CCO affects consumer purchase intention of luxury and conspicuous goods (Piron, 2000). Likewise, researchers have suggested that the perception of the product quality is positively affected by consistency in the COB and the COM, which both increase product appeal (Garbarino & Edell, 1997). Huang (2006) described how consumer purchase behavior of luxury goods was influenced by consistency in the COO, and that this influence was further affected by the level of product involvement, that is the consumer perception of personal relevance aroused by product personality (Zaichkowsky, 1986). Huang (2006) also found that consumer behavior was affected by the COO in regard to luxury goods in that, even if the brand name of the original COB was retained, if the COM was perceived to be low in quality, perception of brand quality was damaged and this further affected the brand image. A change in the COM from the COB to another country has been found to have less effect on a brand with a strong image compared with a brand with a weak image (Cordell, 1992). We thus proposed our fourth hypothesis as follows:

Hypothesis 4: COO will have a significant moderating effect on the influence of brand image on Internet user purchase intention of luxury brands.

Hypothesis 4a: When the COB is consistent with the COM, the Internet user purchase intention of luxury brands will be influenced more when the brand image is weak than when the brand image is strong.

Hypothesis 4b: When the COB is not consistent with the COM but both countries' images are consistent, the Internet user purchase intention of luxury brands will be influenced more when the brand image is weak than when the brand image is strong.

Hypothesis 4c: When the COO is not consistent with the COM and the brand images of both countries are not consistent, the Internet user purchase intention of luxury brands will be influenced less when the brand image is weak than when the brand image is strong.

Hypothesis 4d: When the COM changes, the Internet user purchase intention of luxury brands will be influenced less when the brand image is weak than when the brand image is strong.

A connection between the consumers and the brand is built by the value of brand personality to create a stronger recognition and thus generate greater profit for the business selling the brand. Under the condition of consistent self-congruity, consumers also choose the brands consistent with self-congruity. Sirgy (1982) suggested that the key to self-congruity lies in the consistency between the brand preference of consumers and their own personality trait. Ross (1971) asserted that a consumer will patronize a product or brand when it can promote or match the self-concept of that consumer. Likewise, consumers often choose products and brands that exhibit a higher degree of consistency compared to other brands or products (Helgeson & Supphellen, 2004). Thus, we proposed our fifth hypothesis as follows:

Hypothesis 5: Internet user purchase intention of luxury brands will be influenced more by self-congruity than by consistency in COO.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Method

Measures

The conceptual structure for the study is presented in Figure 1.

In this study we used the Brand Personality Scale developed by Aaker, BenetMartinez, and Garolera (2001) to evaluate consistency between brand personality and self-concept (self-congruity). We used a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 = absolutely disagree to 5 = absolutely agree and absolute-difference model (Sirgy, 1982) to evaluate consistency between brand personality and self-concept. First we ranked the differentiation of the COO image and then we used this ranking in the second stage to evaluate the effect of the COO on the brand image. We used the questionnaire for evaluating the COO image developed by Roth and Romeo (1992). We evaluated the brand image by ordering the differentiation of brand image, and used the items for evaluating brand image developed by Keller (1993). In this study we referred to Klein, Ettenson, and Morris (1998) and Hsu (1999), and evaluated purchase intention. We also evaluated these items using a 5-point Likert scale (1 = absolutely disagree, 5 = absolutely agree).

Procedure

In this study we used a branded luxury bag as the luxury item. The four luxury groups we selected were LVMH, Richemont, PPR, and Luxottica. We based

the selection on Paradigm Life Style, which mainly invests individual shares in enterprises related to global fashion boutique image, including properties defined by Morgan Stanley Capital International ACWI Consumer Discretionary Index and Morgan Stanley Capital International World Daily Consumer Discretionary Index (Paradigm Life Style, 2008). Among these groups, 15 items were selected by experts according to the brand and brand market preference of the subjects. The 15 brands and means of brand image were: Chanel (3.50), Tiffany & Co. (3.50), Louis Vuitton (3.49), Prada (3.49), Armani (3.48), Dior (3.45), Gucci (3.41), Burberry (3.37), Agnes. B (3.26), Anna Sui (3.26), Dolce & Gabbana (3.25), Coach (3.25), Montblanc (3.23), DKNY (3.23), and Tod's (3.17). There were 13 countries of origin for these 15 brands and means of COO image were: Japan (3.56), Switzerland (3.53), Germany (3.36), Italy (3.27), Puerto Rico (3.09), Thailand (3.09), Vietnam (3.03), Czech Republic (3.02), France (2.99), China (2.97), United States of America (2.90), England (2.87), and Korea (2.60). Participants

In line with the study by Tapscott (1998), we selected Internet users born in the late 1970s. We sent the questionnaires by email and through the popular bulletin board system (BBS; bbs://ptt.cc). Of the 400 questionnaires we distributed, 383 were returned, resulting in a valid return rate of 95.5%. According to the results of our analysis, there were more male respondents (53%) than female respondents (47%). The majority of the respondents' were aged between 21 and 25 years (59.8%), and there were 1.5% aged between 11 and 15 years, 14.1% aged between 16 and 20 years, and 24.8% were aged between 26 and 30 years. The majority of the respondents were students (55.9%) and the next biggest group was employed in the service industry (12.0%); 6.8% were employed in the finance sector, 6.5% in the armed forces, 6.3% in the manufacturing sector, 4.4% in the information industry, 0.8% in retail businesses, and 7.3% were in some other type of employment. The biggest group had a personal average monthly income of between NT$20,000 to NT$49,999 (US$667-US$1,667; 39.6%), and the next biggest group had an average monthly income of between NT$15,001 and NT$19,999 (US$501-US$666). There were 6.6% of the respondents who had an income of less that NT$5,000 (US$166), 6% who had an income between NT$5,001 and NT$10,000 (US$167-US$333), and 6.8% with an income between NT$50,000 and NT$100,000 (US$1,668-US$3,333).

Results

Reliability and Validity Analysis

According to Chow (2004) when Cronbach's a exceeds 0.7 this indicates high reliability. According to our reliability analysis, the Cronbach's a of self-concept, brand personality, brand image, and purchase intention were 0.9336, 0.9436, 0.8776, and 0.9280, respectively. Therefore, the questionnaire we used in this study had internal consistency. In this study we used confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) to assess construct validity. According to Chiu (2003) when all factor loadings of the measurement items in a study exceed 0.5, this indicates satisfactory construct validity. The factor loadings for the brand personality character of Free and Contemporary were 0.470 and 0.493, respectively. As these figures were very close to 0.5 this indicated that this study had construct validity.

Hypothesis Testing

In this study we used SPSS 17.0 and performed one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) to examine Hypothesis 1. As shown in the results presented in Table 1, consistency in the COO influenced purchase intention and the greater the consistency, the stronger the influence. The results also indicated that self-congruity influenced purchase intention and the higher the degree of consistency between brand personality and self-concept, the stronger the purchase intention.

We next used Scheffe's (1959/1999) method to conduct multiple comparisons of the degree of consistency in the COO. The results are presented in Table 2. The difference in purchase intention was not significant when we compared the consistency between the same COO and the consistency in the country image. Likewise, we did not find any significant difference in purchase intention when the COO was not consistent or when there was a change in the COM. A significant difference in the purchase intention between the groups was indicated. The influence of the different COOs on purchase intention is presented in the order of intensity as follows: (same country, consistent country image) > (inconsistent country image, change in the COM).

We performed regression analysis to examine Hypothesis 3. The results are presented in Table 3. The regression model showed a statistical significance. We then conducted marginal tests to analyze the relationship between brand image and purchase intention (Table 3). Results showed that the relationship was significant and that brand image positively predicted purchase intention. Thus, Hypotheses 1 to 3 were supported.

In this study we used two-way ANOVA, a priori comparisons, and descriptive statistics to examine Hypothesis 4. The results are presented in Tables 4 and 5. In Table 4, two-way ANOVA revealed that both the overall model and the interaction between the brand image and consistency in the COO were significant.

In Table 5, the results show that when the COO was consistent the influence of brand image on purchase intention was not significant. When the COO was not consistent the influence of brand image on purchase intention was significant but the brand image of the countries was consistent. The interference direction matched the description of the hypothesis. There was a significant influence of brand image on purchase intention when both the COO and the country image were inconsistent. In Table 5 the results also showed that the interference direction matched our hypothesis. When a change in the COM occurred, the influence of brand image on purchase intention was not significant. Therefore, Hypotheses 4b and 4c were supported, but Hypotheses 4a and 4d were not supported.

We used regression analysis to examine Hypothesis 5. The results are presented in Table 6. Our analysis revealed that the regression model was significant. In Table 6 the results of further examination through marginal test analysis are presented. The purchase intention was influenced by consistency in COO and by self-congruity. All estimates of the regression coefficients were negative. The lower the estimates of both variances, the higher the consistency; thus, the purchase intention could be positively predicted. Comparison of the coefficients showed that self-congruity had a weaker influence on purchase intention compared with consistency of the COO. Therefore, Hypothesis 5 was not supported.

Discussion

With the exception of Hypotheses 4a, 4d, and 5, all our hypotheses were supported. We found that consistency in the COO, self-congruity, and brand image all had a positive impact on purchase intention. We also found that inconsistency between the country of brand, country of manufacture, and consistency in the country image increased the influence of brand image on purchase intention when the brand image was weak, but inconsistency in the country image decreased the influence of brand image on purchase intention when the brand image was weak. Finally, the consistency in COO influenced purchase intention more strongly than did self-congruity.

Managerial Implications

Luxury brand businesses must endeavor to convince consumers that, regardless of whether or not there is consistency in country of origin/manufacture, the quality of luxury goods remains effectively controlled through strict production processes and standards, and that consumers can still find consistent quality in their products. As we found that self-congruity influenced purchase intention, and that the purchase intention of our respondents increased according to the level of consistency between brand personality and self-concept, we recommend that businesses dealing with branded luxury goods must constantly search for celebrities with distinct personalities to endorse their products, thus attracting network users who prefer, or identify with, the personality of the endorser. In addition, if consistency in the COB and the COM is high, luxury brand business

owners can fortify COO information, emphasize the special features of the product, and match the product with a brand personality for an appropriate marketing strategy.

When businesses are marketing new brands and attempting to penetrate international markets, these brands are unfamiliar to the network users who, therefore, tend to base their initial judgment of those brands on the COB and COM information. If businesses can gradually mold their brand image through brand information and enable the network users to determine that the new brand is of high quality and has unique features in design or manufacturing technology, the businesses can begin building value for the new brand and establish a customer base. Network users seek individuality. If business owners can shape a brand image with which network users can identify then those businesses can not only secure the network users as customers, but can also effectively clear doubts regarding inconsistency in the COB and the COM.

Limitations and Directions for Future Research

Several adjusted coefficients of determination were low in this study where F statistics were used as the major consideration in primary testing. As long as the main testing was significant, all goodness-of-fit models were considered as satisfied. Other than goodness-of-fit models, in regression analysis the weight is placed on the explanatory power of exploring individual variables (Chow, 2004). In future studies, researchers should consider product classification because it may also influence the cognition of brand image by network users. Therefore, in future studies, an investigation could be conducted to consider the consistency between the image of a celebrity endorser and the brand image as perceived by network users.

10.2224/sbp.2013.41.4.599

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CHIH-CHING YU, PEI-JOU LIN, AND CHUN-SHUO CHEN

National Taipei University

Chih-Ching Yu, Pei-Jou Lin, and Chun-Shuo Chen, Department of Business Administration, National Taipei University.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: Chun-Shuo Chen, Department of Business Administration, National Taipei University, 151 University Road, San Shia District, New Taipei City, 23741, Taiwan, ROC. Email: tony2415@yahoo.com.tw
Table 1. Influence of Consistency in COO and Self-Congruity on
Purchase Intention

Independent variable                         M      SD     df

Self-congruity        High                 15.38   3.70    1
                      Low                  14.04   4.71
Consistency in COO
                      Same country         17.23   4.21    3
                      Consistent image     15.63   3.81
                      Inconsistent image   15.03   5.12
                      COM change           13.44   4.85

Independent variable                         SS        F

Self-congruity        High                 340.163   19.228
                      Low
Consistency in COO
                      Same country         236.564   11.498
                      Consistent image
                      Inconsistent image
                      COM change

Independent variable                          p

Self-congruity        High                 .000 ***
                      Low
Consistency in COO
                      Same country         .000 ***
                      Consistent image
                      Inconsistent image
                      COM change

Note. * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001.

Table 2. Purchase Intention

Consistency in      Consistency in the COO (J)      Average
the COO (I)                                      variance (I-J)

Same country        Consistent country image         1.5883
                    Inconsistent country image      2.1872 *
                    Change in the COM               3.7800 *
Consistent          Same country                    -1.5883
  country image     Inconsistent country image       .5989
                    Change in the COM               2.1917 *
Inconsistent        Same country                   -2.1872 *
  country image     Consistent country image         -.5989
                    Change in the COM                1.5928
Change in the COM   Same country                   -3.7800 *
                    Consistent country image       -2.1917 *
                    Inconsistent country image      -1.5928

Consistency in      Consistency in the COO (J)    SD       sig
the COO (I)

Same country        Consistent country image     .6618     .126
                    Inconsistent country image   .6564    .012 *
                    Change in the COM            .6514   .000 ***
Consistent          Same country                 .6618    .126 *
  country image     Inconsistent country image   .6635     .846
                    Change in the COM            .6585    .012 *
Inconsistent        Same country                 .6564    .012 *
  country image     Consistent country image     .6635     .846
                    Change in the COM            .6531     .116
Change in the COM   Same country                 .6514   .000 ***
                    Consistent country image     .6585    .012 *
                    Inconsistent country image   .6531     .116

Note. * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001.

Table 3. Influence of Brand Image on Purchase Intention

Mode               SS        df      MS         F           p

Regression      5301.13      1     5301.13   474.137    0.000 ***
e               8519.62     762     11.18
Sum             13820.75    763

Variance       Parametric    SD       t         p

Intercept        1.075      .790    1.360      .174
Brand image       .508      .029   17.651    .000 ***

Note. * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001.

Table 4. Influence of Brand Image and Consistency in COO on Purchase
Intention

Sources of variation   df       SS         MS         F          p

Mode                    8    4512.68     564.09     43.98    .000 ***
Brand image             1      7.16       7.16      .559       .455
Consistency in COO      3     325.15     108.38     8.450    .000 ***
Brand image * COO       3     806.87     268.96    20.970    .000 ***
Error                  374   4796.90     12.83
Total                  383   86748.00

Note. * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001.

Table 5. Influence of Brand Image on Purchase Intention According to
Consistency of COO

Consistency in the COO   Brand      M        SD       SS      df
                         image

Same country             high    16.5000   5.1952    29.45    1
                          low    15.3913   4.5091
Consistent country       high    11.5000   4.7219   416.16    1
  image                   low    15.5800   4.0157
Inconsistent country     high    15.8889   4.5036   265.68    1
  image                   low    12.4894   4.2060
Change in the COM        high    13.3696   5.3056    1.698    1
                          low    13.1020   4.7225

Consistency in the COO     MS        F         p

Same country              29.45    1.237      .269

Consistent country       416.16    21.663   .000 ***
  image
Inconsistent country     265.68    14.014   .000 ***
  image
Change in the COM         1.698     .068      .975

Note. * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001.

Table 6. Influence of Consistency in COO and Self-Congruity on
Purchase Intention

Mode                     SS       df      MS        F         p

  Regression          799.288      2    399.644   23.356   .000 ***
  e                  13021.460    761   17.111
  Total               1382.749    763

Variance             Parametric           SD        t         p

Intercept              16.983            .360     47.144   .000 ***
Consistency in COO     -.103             .043     -2.377   .018 **
Self-congruity        -.05664            .009     -6.416   .000 ***

Note. * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001
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Author:Yu, Chih-Ching; Lin, Pei-Jou; Chen, Chun-Shuo
Publication:Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9TAIW
Date:May 1, 2013
Words:5045
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