Brand Equity And Self: The Moderating Effect Of Self Relatedness On The Favourability Of Brand Associations And Brand Equity Relationship
Shuhaida Md Noor
Research has found that favourable brand associations increase customer-based brand equity, and unfavourable brand associations lower customer-based brand equity (Baldinger and Rubinson 1996; Broniarczyk and Gershoff 2003; Krishnan 1996; Romaniuk 2003; Winchester 2008). The research presented here provides evidence that the relatedness of brand associations to the self is an important moderator to the effects of the favourability of brand associations on brand equity. The key finding in this research is that the relatedness of the brand associations to the self moderates the relationship between the favourability of brand associations and brand equity. Specifically, not all favourable brand associations result in higher brand equity than unfavourable brand associations because the self is important to consumers and is not fully correlated with the favourability of brand associations. In this research, brand knowledge, the key determinant of brand equity, is investigated in relation to self-knowledge. As the central object of a person's social cognition, the self provides a frame of reference in developing meaning for social concepts (Kilhstrom and Klein 1994), including brands.
In study 1, the relatedness of brand associations to the self was operationalised as 'Me', 'Not me' and 'Neutral'. Three hypotheses were tested with a 3 x 2 within-subject experimental design. The manipulated factors were the relatedness of brand associations to the self ('Me', 'Not me', 'Neutral') and the favourability of the brand associations (favourable, unfavourable). The results revealed a significant interaction between the relatedness of brand associations to the self and the favourability of brand associations in the determination of brand equity. Unfavourable brand associations, viewed as 'Me', have similar brand equity as favourable brand associations viewed as 'Not me'. Study 2 tested an explanation offered for an unexpected finding in Study 1. The results of Study 1 reveal that favourable brand associations viewed as 'Neutral' have similar brand equity to those viewed as 'Me', indicating that 'Neutral' brand associations could have perhaps captured other aspects of self that did not definitely fall into the 'Me' or 'Not me' category, such as 'Ideal' self. A post-study series of interviews revealed that 'Neutral' captured how the self was viewed in relation to its location in time (i.e. temporal space). Consequently, the manipulated factors were further refined into the degree brand associations related to the temporally dimensioned self ('Past me','Me now', 'Not me now', 'Future me') and favourability (favourable, unfavourable). Study 2 investigated the effects of the relatedness of brand associations to the temporal self and favourability of brand associations on brand equity with a 4 x 2 between-subject experimental design. The results revealed an interaction of the relatedness of brand associations to the temporal self and favourability on brand equity. 'Future me' increases the brand equity of unfavourable brand associations and 'Not me now' decreases the brand equity of favourable brand associations. Consequently, favourable brand associations perceived as 'Not me now' have similar brand equity as unfavourable brand associations viewed as 'Future me'. Importantly, in contrast to the current conceptualisation of brand equity, this research provides empirical support to the argument that favourable brand associations will not always lead to higher brand equity than unfavourable brand associations. The results indicate that considering how favourable and unfavourable brand associations relate to the self will provide more precise predictions of customer-based brand equity.