|Abstract or Summary
- The purpose of this study is to fill a critical gap in brand equity literature by proposing and empirically testing a brand equity process model for unfamiliar Asian brands. Cue utilization theory (Easterbrook, 1959) and impression formation theory (Asch, 1946) were integrated to explain how extrinsic and intrinsic cues shown on a website can be used to build consumer's quality perceptions of an unfamiliar brand. The Theory of Reasoned Action (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980) and existing brand equity models was used to progressively build the key components of brand equity including the consumers' brand association (trust), and brand loyalty (attitude and their patronage intentions). These theoretical frameworks were used to develop a brand equity process model for unfamiliar Asian companies designed to meet two challenges: 1) salvaging some of the negative stereotypes associated with Asian brands today, and 2) utilizing a more sustainable brand equity building method which requires relatively less financial and time investment. In order to salvage the negative reputation regarding quality perception, the study specifically examined how extrinsic and intrinsic brand cues can be used to create consumer's positive quality perception of an unfamiliar brand. In order to cater to a more sustainable method instead of heavily investing in brick and mortar stores, these brand cues were presented in online webpages to effectively introduce unfamiliar Asian brands and build their brand equity. Furthermore, this study observed the influence of generational cohorts towards Asian brands. Because American consumers' attitudes towards Asian product origins have been changing in the last few decades, examining the level of exposure to Asian brands based on generational cohorts can also provide valuable marketing implications for these Asian companies expanding specifically into the U.S. market. The study was divided into three sections. In study 1 (n=283; college students), the influence of extrinsic cues (store name and brand origin) on consumer's quality perception were examined. In study 2 (n=209; college students), a combined effect of the extrinsic (brand origin) and intrinsic cues such as bottle design (Unique: Asian aesthetic influence vs. Generic: non-Asian aesthetic influence) were observed to examine their interaction effect on consumer's quality perception. In study 3 (n=328; Generation X and Y: ages 19-48 and Baby boomer and Swings: 49-83), the moderating effect of age cohorts on extrinsic and intrinsic cues and consumers' quality perception was examined to measure the generational changes in American consumers' attitudes towards Asian brands. This study employed a Web experiment simulating specifically cosmetic homepages. The design of study 1 was a 2 (brand origin: Japan vs. China) by 2 (store name: Nordstrom vs. Amazon) between-subjects factorial design. The design of study 2 was a 2 (brand origin: Japan vs. China) by 2 (bottle design: Unique: Asian aesthetic influence vs. Generic: non-Asian aesthetic influence) between-subjects factorial design. In study 3, the same design from study 2 was used, where additional data from different generational cohorts were collected in order to test for the moderating effect of age cohort for brand cues on quality perception. SEM was used to analyze study 1 and 2, and ANOVA for study 3. The findings provided empirical evidence for the efficacy of the proposed brand equity process model for unfamiliar Asian companies. For study 1 and 2, store name and bottle design had an influence on quality perception, but brand origin did not dictate quality. However, results from study 3 showed contrasting results from study 1 and 2. Although brand origin did not influence quality perception for younger generations, it influenced quality perception for the older generational group. Furthermore, bottle design did not influence quality perception anymore as it did in study 2 when the data was combined with the two age groups. These findings demonstrate that that brand cues specific to Asian brands help improve quality perception, but their effectiveness is dependent on the age of the audience. Further results confirmed that improving quality perception is an effective method in introducing and building other brand equity components such as brand association (trust) and brand loyalty (brand attitude and patronage intentions). Future studies may include testing the effect of other extrinsic cues like price on brand quality, or exploring the moderating effect of durable goods on brand cues and quality perception. In addition, further empirical validation of the proposed brand equity process model for unfamiliar companies is recommended.