Development of a brand image scale and the impact of lovemarks on brand equity

Cho, Eunjoo
Major Professor
Ann Marie Fiore
Committee Member
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Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management

The purposes of the present study were: (1) to develop a reliable and valid scale for three brand image dimensions (mystery, sensuality, and intimacy), (2) to empirically test Roberts' (2004) lovemarks theory by examining the effect of the three brand image dimensions on the lovemark experience (brand love and respect), and (3) to examine the relationships among elements of brand equity (brand awareness, image, and loyalty), the lovemark experience, overall brand equity, fashion innovativeness, fashion information search, and gender.

Data were collected using an online survey and two samples, one consisting of college students and the other representing a national sample. A number of steps were involved in validating the scale. First, consistent with mystery, sensuality, and intimacy sub-themes proposed by Roberts (2004, 2006), three brand image dimensions were fleshed out based on a literature review, descriptive comments from the lovemarks Website, and findings from interviews. Twenty-one sub-themes of the brand image were identified, leading to the development of 137 representative items (i.e., 77 mystery, 25 sensuality, and 35 intimacy items).

Second, based on the factor loadings from exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, 22 items (i.e., six mystery, seven sensuality, and nine intimacy items) were retained. Based on data collected from undergraduate college students, reliability and convergent and nomological validity of the brand image scale were confirmed through Structural Equation Modeling (SEM). Results indicated that the six mystery items reflected positive present experiences and positive memories from past experiences with a brand. Seven sensuality items reflected pleasing visual sensations, and nine intimacy items captured consumer's commitment and enjoyment.

Third, the final version of the brand image scale, containing 21 items (i.e., six mystery, six sensuality, and nine intimacy items), was verified based on the factor structure assessment using data collected from U.S. consumers and confirmatory factor analysis. Final validation (i.e., convergent, discriminant, and nomological validity) of the brand image scale was confirmed using SEM and the U.S. consumer data.

Regarding the second objective, Roberts' (2004) lovemarks theory was tested using SEM. Results of the structural model showed that mystery and intimacy positively influenced both brand love and respect, but sensuality only influenced brand respect. To achieve the last objective, SEM was used to test a conceptual model, which examined the relationships among variables (brand awareness, image, love, respect, loyalty, overall brand equity, fashion innovativeness, fashion information search, and gender). As predicted, brand awareness was positively associated with brand image. However, contrary to predictions, brand awareness did not have a positive influence on brand loyalty, love, or respect. In support of the model, brand image positively influenced brand love, respect, and loyalty. Whereas findings supported the hypothesized significant path between brand love and brand loyalty, but it was in the opposite direction (negative), which might be explained by collinearity. The posited positive relationships between brand respect and brand loyalty and between brand loyalty and overall brand equity were supported.

Female consumers rated higher on fashion innovativeness than did male consumers, and female consumers searched more for information about fashion brands than did male consumers, which supported the conceptual model. The relationship between brand awareness and fashion innovativeness did not receive support, but the level of fashion information search did have a significant influence on brand awareness. Finally, the present study added an additional path between fashion information search and brand image. Results revealed that fashion information search positively influenced brand image.

Findings empirically support that mystery, sensuality, and intimacy should be built into a brand experience to ensure a favorable brand image, leading to brand loyalty. The present study extended Keller's (1993) consumer-based brand equity model by providing empirical support for the addition of the lovemark experience to the model.