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THE RELATIONSHIPS AMONG BRAND PERSONALITY,

BRAND PREFERENCES, AND CUSTOMER PERCEIVED


VALUE: AN EMPIRICAL STUDY IN TAIWAN FOR THE
LUXURY GOODS INDUSTRY

Kevin Kuan-Shun Chiu,


Graduate School of Business & Management, Lunghwa University of Science and
Technology,
300 Wan-Shou Rd. Sec. 1 Kueishan, 333Taoyuan, Taiwan
kpb@hotmail.com

Ru-Jen Lin,
Graduate School of Business & Management, Lunghwa University of Science and
Technology,
300 Wan-Shou Rd. Sec. 1 Kueishan, 333Taoyuan, Taiwan
rjlin@mail.luh.edu.tw

Charles Kuan-Yao Chiu,


Department of Business Administration, Shih-Hsin University,
No. 1, Lane 17, sec. 1, Mu-Cha Rd. Taipei, Taiwan
C5168@yahoo.com

Tingo Ya-Ting Chang,


Graduate School of Business & Management, Lunghwa University of Science and
Technology,
300 Wan-Shou Rd. Sec. 1 Kueishan, 333Taoyuan, Taiwan
tingo30@yahoo.com.tw

ABSTRACT
Companies in luxury goods industry are truly global in scope because they
manufacture products in different countries and sell these goods to various continents.
They also exist in a highly competitive environment where manufacturers are strictly
dependent on marketing and promotion in order to sell merchandise to an identified
cluster of individuals. Moreover, they usually spot the same market segment and
cannibalize market share with one another. Therefore, market segmentation plays a
significant role for firms to reach customers, as well as potential buyers, more
efficiently.
Consumers in luxury goods industry purchase not only high-quality products but also
prestige and social status. Additionally, they rely more on established brand names
and the images these brand names express when procuring products. A brand is one of
the most important assets that a corporation owns. It is also a short cut which transmit
promise, acceptance, trust, and hope to customers. However, research on the symbolic
use of brands in the luxury goods industry in Taiwan has remained limited due to a
lack of empirical study. Therefore, the purposes of this study are as follows: (1) to
investigate the relationship between brand personality and brand preference in the
luxury goods industry, (2) to explore customers’ perceived value of luxury goods with
respect to different brands, and (3) to understand the market segments of the luxury
goods industry in Taiwan.

Keyword: Brand Personality, Brand Preference, Customers’ Perceived Value, Market


Segments.

INTRODUCTION
The luxury goods industry was defined as “a collective term for companies
selling- besides high-quality products- principally status, emotional benefits, prestige,
and exclusivity as well as the dream of separation from the ordinary may be
customary since the mid 1980’s (Konigs and Schiereck, 2006, p. 3). Since then, this
theoretical phrase might have outlined the conception and perception of this industry
by customers.
The luxury goods industry has dramatically extended business activities into
various perspectives. All luxury brands have significantly expanded commercial
operations into “premier branded fragrances, cosmetics, jewelry, watches, leather
goods, and fashion wear with estimated sales of over US$130 billion per year”
(http://www.adrm.com/7_luxurygoods.htm). Moreover, the overall revenue was
expected to achieve a record of almost US$ 200 billion by the end of 2006
(Passariello, 2006). On the other hand, the leather goods sector had greater profit
margin than that in the ready-to-wear division: profitability of leather goods brands
(close to 30%) is effectively nearly 3 times the amount of that in the apparel segment
(10%) (Berg, 2004). Therefore, the leather goods sector turned to be the concentration
of this study.
Companies in luxury goods industry are truly global in scope because they
manufacture products in different countries and sell these goods to various continents.
They also exist in a highly competitive environment where manufacturers are strictly
dependent on marketing and promotion in order to sell merchandise to an identified
cluster of individuals. Moreover, they usually spot the same market segment and
cannibalize market share with one another. Therefore, market segmentation plays a
significant role for firms to reach customers, as well as potential buyers, more
efficiently.
Consumers in luxury goods industry purchase not only high-quality products but
also prestige and social status. Additionally, they rely more on established brand
names and the images these brand names express when procuring products. A brand is
one of the most important assets that a corporation owns. It is also a short cut which
transmit promise, acceptance, trust, and hope to customers. However, research on the
symbolic use of brands in the luxury goods industry in Taiwan has remained limited
due to a lack of empirical study.
Researchers proposed that brand personality boosts consumer preference and
usage (Sirgy, 1982), induces emotions in consumers (Biel, 1993), and has a positive
relationship with levels of trust and loyalty (Fournier, 1994). These propositions can
be empirical tested by using the Brand Personality Scale (Aaker, 1997). Supposedly,
this knowledge would contribute to an investigation of the symbolic use of brands.
Moreover, antecedents and consequences of brand personality have been given much
awareness but slight practical examination. However, an understanding of how brand
personality influences consumers’ preferences has remained intangible. Practically,
this study would offer examination on the variables that influence brand personality
and those that were manipulated by brand personality.
Consequently, the postulated model of this study is provided as Figure 1.

Brand Brand Customer


Personality Preference Perceived Value

Demographics

Figure 1: The Postulated Model of this Study

Accordingly, the purposes of this study are as follows: (1) to investigate the
relationship between brand personality and brand preference in the luxury goods
industry, (2) to explore customers’ perceived value of luxury goods with respect to
different brands, and (3) to understand the market segments of the luxury goods
industry in Taiwan.
LITERATURE REVIEW
Brand Preference
“Customers buying products are buying utility, function, and performance as
much as image and status” (Terpstra and Sarathy, 1997, p. 375). Actually, Customer
merchandise has implications more than their utilitarian, functional, and commercial
significance (Czikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-Halton, 1981; Ericksen, 1996; Leigh
and Gabel, 1992; Levy, 1959; Mick, 1986). Consumers do not “consume products for
their material utilities but consume the symbolic meaning of those products as
portrayed in their images” (Elliot, 1997, p. 286). Therefore, the acquired goods are
not only “bundles of attributes that yield particular benefits” (Holt, 1995, p. 1) but
also indications of symbolic meanings to the public. Consumers are more likely to use
brands to express how they are either similar to or different from people of their in-
group (Markus and Kitayama, 1991).
Bhat and Reddy (1998) also reported that brands have practical and emblematic
importance for consumers. The emblematic importance, which is attached to brands,
is often broadcasted via the use and consumption of brands (Gottdeiner, 1985;
McCracken, 1986). Consequently, there seems to be a noteworthy relationship
between brand images, consistent with the emblematic importance of brands, and
consumers’ self images (Zinkham and Hong, 1991). Individuals are more likely to buy
brands whose personalities intimately match their own self images (Schiffman and
Kanuk, 2000). Similarly, consumers express themselves by selecting brands whose
personalities are recognized to be consistent with their own personalities (Aaker,
1999; Kassarjian, 1971; Sirgy, 1982).
In many circumstances, consumers’ self image influences his/her purchase
decisions (Zinkham and Hong, 1991) In other words, consumers use products to
illustrate, maintain, and reinforce their self concepts to themselves (Sirgy, 1982;
Wallendorf and Arnould, 1988; Zinkham and Hong, 1991). Therefore, “purchase and
consumption are good vehicles for self-expression” (Jamal and Goode, 2001, p. 483).
Previous research indicated that self image/self expression affect consumers’
product preferences and their purchase intentions (Ericksen, 1996; Mehta, 1999). For
example, Ericksen (1996) found a significant relationship between self image and
intention to buy an American automobile (Ford Escort). Based on this finding, it
might be inferred that “individuals prefer brands that have images compatible with
their perceptions of self” (Jamal and Goode, 2001, p. 483; Belk, et. al., 1982;
Ericksen, 1996; Solomon, 1983; Zinkham and Hong, 1991). Moreover, this self image
consistency strengthen positive attitude toward products and brands (Ericksen, 1996;
Sirgy, 1982, 1985, 1991; Sirgy, et. al., 1997). Specifically, “the more similar a
consumer’s self-image is to the brand’s image, the more favorable their evaluations of
that brand should be” (Graeff, 1996, p. 5).
Brand Personality
Contrary to product-related attributes, which refer to be performance-oriented for
customers, brand personality seems to be representative/self-expressive oriented
(Keller, 1993). Brand personality refers to “the set of human characteristics associated
with a brand” (Aaker, 1997, p. 347). Moreover, researchers found that brand
personality facilitates a consumer to articulate his/her self (Belk, 1988), an ideal self
(Malhotra, 1988), or exact aspects of the self (Kleine, Kleine, and Kerman, 1993) via
the use of a brand. Additionally, this concept was the essential determinant of
consumer preference and usage (Biel, 1993).
Brand personality can be shaped and influenced by any direct/indirect contact
that the consumer has with the brand (Plummer, 1985). The direct influences included
the brand’s user imagery, which is defined as “the set of human characteristics
associated with the typical user of a brand” (Aaker, 1997, p. 348); the firm’s workers
and/or boss; and the brand’s endorsers. On the other hand, the indirect influences
contained product-related features, product category relationships, brand name, mark
or emblem, and other marketing mix elements (Batra, Lehmann, and Singh, 1993).
Moreover, according to Levy (1959, p. 12), brand personality consisted of
demographic characteristics such as gender (“Usually it is hard to evade thinking of
inanimate things as male or female”), age (“Just as most, people usually recognize
whether something is addressed to them as a man or a woman, so are they sensitive to
symbols of age”), and class (“The possession of mink is hardly a matter of winter
warmth alone”). Some examples are provided as follows. First, in the tobacco
industry, “Virginia Slims tends to be thought of feminine, whereas Marlboro tends to
perceived as masculine” (Aaker, 1997, p. 348). Second, in the pc business, “Apple is
considered to be young, and IBM is considered to be older” (Aaker, 1997, p. 348).
Third, based on the various pricing policies in relation to different department stores,
“Saks Fifth Avenue is perceived as upper class, whereas K-mart is perceived as blue
collar” (Aaker, 1997, p. 348).
Customer Perceived Value
Value has been recognized as “the fundamental basis for all marketing activity”
(Halbrook, 1994, p. 22). Value has also been stated as “a cognitive-based construct
which captures any benefit-sacrifice discrepancy in much the same way
disconfirmation does for variations between expectations and perceived performance”
(Patterson and Spreng, 1997, p. 421). Therefore, it is the outcome of a cognitive
assessment procedure. Moreover, it is an affective evaluative reaction (Oliver, 1996).
Customer perceived value in commerce marketplace was defined as “the trade-
off between the multiple benefits and sacrifices of a supplier’s offering, as perceived
by key decision-makers in the customer’s organization, and taking into consideration
the available alternative suppliers’ offerings in a specific use situation” (Eggert and
Ulaga, 2002, p. 110). That is, there existed three elements in this definition: “(1) the
multiple components of value, (2) the subjectivity of value perceptions and (3) the
importance of competition” (Eggert and Ulaga, 2002, p. 109).
First of all, the multiple benefits refer to a mixture of product/service attributes
and/or technological support available related to a specific use condition (Monroe,
1990). The multiple sacrifices were occasionally illustrated in monetary forms
(Anderson, et al., 1993). Secondly, customers’ perceived value is subjective, not
objective (Kortge and Okonkwo, 1993). In other words, different customers might
have a variety of perceived values for consuming the same product/service. Thirdly,
customers’ perceived value is associated with competition on the market. Competitors
generate sustainable competitive advantage by means of bringing a better trade-off
between utilities and sacrifice in a merchandise/service.
Alternatively, customer perceived value was consisted of a “take” factor- the
benefits a purchaser obtained from the vendor’s contribution- and a “give” factor- the
buyer’s costs (financial and/or non-monetary) of receiving the offering (Dodds, 1991;
Zeithmal, 1988). Even much of the precedent studies have emphasized product quality
as the primary “take” factor and price as the “give” factor (Grewal et al., 1998;
Lichtenstein, Netemeyer, and Burton, 1990; Zeithmal, 1988). But, “service is also a
logical driver of perceived value” (Parasuraman and Grewal, 2000, p. 169). For the
reason that outstanding before/after sale services provided by the seller really increase
the benefits obtained (the take factor) and also “decrease the buyer’s non-monetary
costs, such as time, effort, and mental stress” (the give factor) (Parasuraman and
Grewal, 2000, p. 169). Consequently, customer perceived value was composed of
“service quality, product quality, and price” (Parasuraman and Grewal, 2000, p. 169).
1. Service quality
Perceived service quality was defined as the discrepancy between “expected
quality and experienced quality” (Gronroos, 2000, p. 67). Expected quality refers to
the expectations of the customer; experienced quality is “the outcome of a series of
internal decisions and activities” (Gronroos, 2000, p. 101). In other words, customers’
subjectivity has a significant influence on perceived service.
Based on a concrete background of empirical and conceptual research, Gronroos
(2000, p. 81) provided a list of The Seven Criteria of Good Perceived Service Quality:
“professionalism and skills” (i.e., service providers have required knowledge to offer
skills in order to solve customers’ problems in a professional way), “attitudes and
behavior” (i.e., service providers are considerate of/friendly to customers),
“accessibility and flexibility” (i.e., service providers are easy and adaptive for
customers to reach), “reliability and trustworthiness” (i.e., service providers are
dependable and honorable), “service recovery” (i.e., service providers are willing to
correct mistakes as soon as they can), “serviscape” (i.e., customers feel comfortable in
the environment related to the service process), “reputation and credibility” (i.e.,
service providers can be trusted by customers).
2. Product quality
Generally speaking, people buy products to satisfy needs and wants. That is,
consumers would like to obtain a mixture of utilities when they procure items for
consumption, and different customers seem to acquire a variety of benefits from the
same kind of goods. In order to supply the benefits for consumers, marketers need to
successfully incorporate the components that constitute a product. These components
include “product features (quality, design, branding, and packaging) and customer
service (purchase services and usage services)” (Bearden, Ingram, and LaForge, 2001,
p. 185). Product quality refers to “how well a product does what it is supposed to do
as defined by the customer” (Bearden, Ingram, and LaForge, 2001, p. 186).
3. Price
The price of a product/service can be analyzed associated with customers’ quality
expectations and/or their past experiences. If the price is judged too expensive,
consumers might not purchase. A low price policy causes poor positioning and
neglected opportunities. However, price appears to be a standard for quality in some
circumstances. “A higher price level equals a better quality in the minds of customers,
especially when the service is highly intangible” (Gronroos, 2000, p. 80).
Hypotheses
Based on the literature discussed above, the hypotheses of this study are as
follows:
1. There existed a significant relationship between brand preferences and
respondents’ demographic characteristics.
2. There existed a significant relationship between brand personality and
respondents’ brand preferences.
3. Brand preferences were significantly associated with variation in customers’
perceived value.

METHODOLOGY
In order to collect primary data for this study, “mall intercept” (Churchill,
1995, p. 378) was utilized during Mar. 2007 in some prestigious department
stores in Taipei, Taiwan. With “self-administered questionnaires and returned
envelopes” offered (Churchill, 1995, p. 377), five hundred individuals were
randomly selected and they voluntarily participated in this study.
Measurement and Scale
1. Brand Personality
A Brand Personality Scale is generalizable across product categories (Aaker,
1997). This scale “enables researchers to understand the symbolic use of brands in
general vs. the symbolic use of brands within a particular category” (Aaker, 1997, p.
348). Moreover, it also provides “theoretical insights into when and why consumers
buy brands for self-expressive purposes” (Aaker, 1997, p. 348). Using a 7-point Likert
scale, respondents were asked “to think of each brand as if it were a person” (Aaker,
1997, p. 350) but evaluate the degree to which the set of human characteristics
describes the specific brand.
2. Brand Preferences
Respondents were asked to mark their brand preferences in this following
manner: “agnes b., ANNA SUI, ANYA HINDMARCH, AIGNER, ARMANI, BALLY,
BCBGMAXAZRIA, Balenciage, Blumarine, BOSS, BOTTEGA VENETA,
BURBERRY, BVLGARI, Calvin Klein, Cartier, CELINE, CHANEL, Chloe,
COACH, Dior, DKNY, DOLCE&GABBANA, Dunhill, D&G, ESCADA, ETRO,
FENDI, FURLA, GIVENCHY, GIANFRANCO FERRE, GUCCI, HERMES,
HUNTING WORLD, ISSEY MIYAKE, Jean Paul GAULTIER, Kenneth Cole,
KENZO, LOEWE, LOUIS VUITTON, MARC JACOBS, Max Mara, miu miu,
MONTBLANC, MOSCHINO, NINA RICCI, Paul Smith, Paul & Joe, PLEATS
PLEASE, PRADA, Pringle, Salvatore Ferragamo, SONIA RYKIEL, TOD’S,
TRUSSARDI, vanessabruno, VALENTINO, VERSACE, VERSUS, Vivienne
Westwood, Yohji Yarnamoto (Y-3), YSL, and others” (Internet references 2).
3. Customer Perceived Value
As illustrated by Parasuraman and Grewal (2000, p. 169), customer perceived
value was composed of “service quality, product quality, and price.” Therefore, this
construct was measured by Perceived Quality Indicators (Dodds, Monroe, and
Grewal, 1991), Perceived Value Indicators (Dodds, Monroe, and Grewal, 1991), and A
Multi-Dimensional Scale for Measuring the Perceived Value of a Service (Petrick,
2002). Respondents were asked to use 7-point Likert scales (1= strongly disagree to
7= strongly agree) to rate every variable in those measurements.
Statistical analysis (i.e., descriptive statistics, Chi-square, ANOVA) methods
would be implemented respectively.
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INTERNET REFERENCES

1 http://www.adrm.com/7_luxurygoods.htm
2. http://www.brand.net.tw/Brand/Event/trend95/index.asp
3.http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/09/26/1032734275908.html
4 http://webuser.bus.umich.edu/Organizations/LuxuryGoodsClub/index.htm
5 http://www.industrie.gouv.fr/FranceTech/anglais/secteurs/10/v_10_2d.htm#2
6 http://www.gold.org/jewellery/news/article/5467/
7.http://www.europastar.com/europastar/search/search_display.jsp?
vnu_content_id=2037975