The influence56
of brands in t     n     he fashiopu rchasing pro cess                                              The importance of stor...
We need to be in a position to understandthe impact of branding in the fashionpurchase decision                           ...
As expected, price was the key rationalfactor influencing brand choice                                                    ...
THE   I N F L U E N C E O F B R A N D S I N T H E FA S H I O N P U R C H A S I N G P R O C E S Sthe age and income of part...
Consumers can become so closelyaffiliated to particular brands that theymay refuse to wear anything else                  ...
THE   I N F L U E N C E O F B R A N D S I N T H E FA S H I O N P U R C H A S I N G P R O C E S Sformative years, brands se...
If in a positive mood, people could temporarilyovercome inhibitions and perhaps try abrand that may not fit with their usu...
THE   I N F L U E N C E O F B R A N D S I N T H E FA S H I O N P U R C H A S I N G P R O C E S S      TABLE 1             ...
Some participants (particularly females) stressedthe importance of having someone presentto “keep them in check”          ...
THE   I N F L U E N C E O F B R A N D S I N T H E FA S H I O N P U R C H A S I N G P R O C E S Sthat subtle and entertaini...
DIAGRAM 3             The impact of purchase situation and purchase type on factor influences                             ...
THE   I N F L U E N C E O F B R A N D S I N T H E FA S H I O N P U R C H A S I N G P R O C E S S     Depending on whether ...
Purchases will also be affected by productand store experiences as well as byresponses from peers and colleagues          ...
THE     I N F L U E N C E O F B R A N D S I N T H E FA S H I O N P U R C H A S I N G P R O C E S Sin their own operations....
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V3i1 influence-of-brands

  1. 1. The influence56
  2. 2. of brands in t n he fashiopu rchasing pro cess The importance of store and product brands can depend on consumer characteristics, such as price consciousness and fashion sensibility, eyBy Guy W. Mullark that will vary from segment to segment. In this article, we identify through a series of focus groups six key factors of fashion brand choice: rational, product, cognitive, environmental, nderstanding why consumers U peer and cultural. buy different products is a key challenge for marketers across Understanding the interplay of the six factors in all categories of products, conjunction with the purchase occasion allows from fast-selling consumer fashion retailers increased understanding of how goods to High Street fashion. consumers select fashion brands and how store brands can influence the location and likelihood Brands play a pivotal role in shaping of purchase. people’s perceptions of products as well as being a focal point for the meaning and value Other retailers can also benefit from the that products have for different individuals. findings of this research, particularly those who For instance, why is it that one consumer may have a strongly defined product or store brand choose to wear Levis™ jeans, while another as well as those who rely on major may choose to buy basic brand jeans from The manufacturers’ brands for a large proportion of w Warehouse™? their bottom-line profits. UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND Business Review 57 Vo l u m e 3 N u m b e r 1 2 0 0 1
  3. 3. We need to be in a position to understandthe impact of branding in the fashionpurchase decision Here we examine brands as they relate to fashion purchasing. After reviewing the THE IMPORTANCE OF FASHION literature and the results of our qualitative AND IDENTITY study, we develop a conceptual model of brand rands represent strong symbols of meaning influences and discuss this in relationship to B for consumers. The brands we use reflect purchase factors and different purchase contexts. The paper is set out as follows: our nature and form a part of the image we present to the outside world (Ogilvy, 1983). • A brief review of branding literature as it Obviously, some products are less relates to product choice. conspicuous and may be used privately, so • A brief discussion of the study conducted to symbolic meaning will be derived from the examine the topic. individual person and the experience he or she • An examination of the results obtained from has had with the products over time (“I’ll buy the focus groups. the same brand of baking powder that my • Development of a conceptual model of brand mother did” – Childers and Rao, 1992). influences and the effect of purchase Other products are more public, however, occasion. and can be easily seen (and evaluated) by • Conclusions and implications of the research. others. These products demand more careful scrutiny in choice, especially for those trying to BRANDS AND PRODUCT CHOICE: present a particular image to the outside world. WHAT THE LITERATURE SAYS This is especially true in the case of fashion. No other product is a better example of WHAT IS A BRAND? consumer image conveyance. rands are a well-recognised point of The clothes we wear in our daily lives often B distinction in product and services signify our status, occupation, mood and even marketing practice. In a fashion context, brands cultural affiliations (Levy, 1959). Clothing signal to consumers the quality of a product, allows people to identify with others and the image that it is meant to convey, as well as identify themselves. representing particular current garment styles Clothing is also a product category where and trends (McCracken, 1986; Keller, 1993). many factors influence the purchasing process The brand can also act as a pivot between and ultimate brand choice. Understanding a number of competing considerations. For brand selection in the fashion purchasing instance, a garment brand may be process not only allows valuable insight for particularly expensive, but rich in symbolic fashion retailers, but for any business selling a meaning. A “basics” clothing retailer on the product that is rich in meaning. The latter could other hand, may stock good-quality, include a long-time “family” brand of reasonably priced, durable clothing brands, dishwashing liquid or a specialised electronic but have little to offer a consumer in terms of goods brand (McCracken, 1986). brand image experience. We need to be in a position to understand the Brands can create value for customers and impact of branding in the fashion purchase retailers in many diverse ways, depending on decision. Brands are important for fashion and, their nature (i.e. a category or store brand) and indeed, all retailers, but how do they actually the way they are sold (i.e. alone or together generate equity and operate in practice? with competing products).58
  4. 4. THE I N F L U E N C E O F B R A N D S I N T H E FA S H I O N P U R C H A S I N G P R O C E S SWHY ARE BRANDS IMPORTANT? firm’s resale value sometimes by a factor of 3.5 rands are important for both consumers or more (Keller, 1993; Srivastava, Shervani andB and companies. Fahey, 1998). For consumers, brands can serve a number of All retailers need to understand how theirpurposes as demonstrated in the literature. category and store brands can create value depending on customer type and purchase First and foremost, brands can serve as occasion.indicators of quality and authenticity (Aaker,1994). As consumers become familiar with The results of this study have potentialparticular brands and what they can expect from applicability outside of fashion, especiallybranded products, trusting relationships can where brands are rich in symbolic meaning, bedevelop between consumers and manufacturers. it beverage brands or motor vehicle makers. If a chef purchases and appreciates cooking THE STUDY IN BRIEFwith a particular brand of spaghetti sauce, for ecause of the lack of information in this area,example, value can develop for the brand in thechef’s mind, both in the sense of financial value B we used a series of focus groups for input into the initial development of our conceptual(e.g. “I got more than I paid for”) and model. Each group contained between four andintangible value (e.g. “This sauce makes my seven participants. We deliberately restricted thedishes taste more exotic and authentic”). number of participants so as to make respondents If a brand can provide value through form and feel more comfortable about discussing personalfunction, then consumers can feel comfortable issues relating to brand choice.repurchasing the brand and possibly other Subjects were aged between 18 and 24 andproducts made by the same firm (Keller, 1993). the gender split was approximately equal. The Over time, consumers can and do develop sample consisted of university undergraduaterelationships with particular brands they purchase students, who represent an important market(Fournier, 1998). Consider the man who will not segment for fashion retailers and other retailersdrink a beer when at a bar unless it is his preferred of branded merchandise. The use of a studentbrand (product loyalty) or the female shopper sample is a weakness of the research, but thewho steadfastly refuses to shop anywhere but at findings are still useful as a starting point forher preferred fashion retailer (store loyalty). understanding fashion brand choice. Understanding brands and consumer brand Moderators used a semi-structured set ofrelationships is vital for any business seeking to “primer” questions to guide participants. Thisimprove its competitive advantage in the question protocol was used to guide andmarketplace, be it a fashion retailer or a service control the research and to ensure a logicalprovider operating under a clearly defined research process (Wolcraft, 1994). Results frombrand identity (Berry, 2000). the focus groups were then content-analysed w Over time, if a brand is maintained and using a computer program called QSRsupported by a firm, it can become a significantmarket-based asset, capable of increasing a Understanding brands and consumer brand relationships is vital for any business seeking to improve its competitive advantage UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND Business Review 59 Vo l u m e 3 N u m b e r 1 2 0 0 1
  5. 5. As expected, price was the key rationalfactor influencing brand choice INTERNAL FACTORS NUD*IST version IV for analysing text. Results 1. Rational factors were triangulated and cross-checked between Rational factors can be thought of as the researchers to ensure overall consistency and economic and price-related aspects of purchasing. effectiveness (Miles and Huberman, 1994). All subjects appeared to have a set of rational RESULTS FROM THE STUDY beliefs that influenced what clothing and, more specifically, what brands they would purchase. o understand the importance of brands in the T fashion purchase process, we focused our As expected, price was the key rational factor influencing brand choice. In fact, for some investigation on the key factors contributing to brand choice under different purchase occasions. participants, price was even a precursor to basic product features. For most, however, there was Although some results will be common sense a direct trade-off between price and quality: to many retailers, the interaction of the factors participants would pay a higher price if the in different situations represents the most useful brand was of sufficient quality. This was also insight to emerge from our findings. reflected in the importance of durability: clothes needed to be long-lasting and made of RESEARCH ISSUE ONE: FACTORS good-quality fabrics to justify purchase. IN FASHION PURCHASING The brands recalled by participants formed a e noted six key factors that contribute to W the fashion purchase decision and we definite continuum based largely on perceived quality (Aaker, 1994). discuss each in turn, paying particular attention to their impact on brand selection. We used the Specific fashion retailers’ positions on the focus group results to develop a broad continuum seemed to be determined on the conceptual model of brand influence in the basis of price, perceived quality and the popular fashion purchase process detailed in Diagram 1. symbolic meanings ascribed to the brand by consumers (McCracken, 1986). Although the model assumes some thought is involved, it does not portray consumers as purely Two other interesting findings emerged when we rational beings. Instead, it demonstrates the varied examined rational influences. Firstly, participants roles that different factors (such as style and store rarely (if ever) mentioned more exclusive environment) can play during a fashion purchase international brands (such as Gucci™, Chanel™ and how different types of purchase situation and Prada™). While this can be expected due to affect the process and ultimate brand choice (Howard and Sheth, 1973). DIAGRAM 1 We were interested to see how A conceptual model of brand influence internal factors (such as price in fashion purchasing sensitivity) would be affected by more external influences (such as Internal factors External factors Brand peer and cultural influences) in the influence(s) Rational Environmental selection of product brands and what Product Peer stores consumers shopped at (i.e. Cognitive Purchase Cultural store brand choice). We discuss each decision factor in turn and the contribution it makes to brand choice.60
  6. 6. THE I N F L U E N C E O F B R A N D S I N T H E FA S H I O N P U R C H A S I N G P R O C E S Sthe age and income of participants, it is important We examine fashion sensibility and thebecause if or when these brands do become notion of a consumer’s self-concept in thefinancially accessible to participants, prior beliefs cognitive factors section.may prohibit participants from considering thebrand in future purchases due to the memory 2. Product factorsassociations of consumers. Consumers also base their evaluation on the The second interesting finding that emerged physical make-up of branded apparel. Thesewas the effect of familial influence on the rational physical considerations can be labelled asside of the purchasing process. Familial influence product factors.was most visible in participants’ rational beliefs. Consumers possess a set of criteria forParents were perceived as not understanding the evaluating the physical components of brandedimportance of brands, but parental influence did fashion apparel. These criteria are also rationalextend to price-consciousness. in nature, but they are specifically concerned As one participant remarked: “I think I with the physical aspects of the brand ratherlearned about price from my family. I used to than price or resource limits.go out shopping with Mum and she’d be like Fit was the most commonly mentioned product‘don’t buy that, it’s too expensive’.” influence among males and females. Regardless Family influences typically appear to have a of brand or price features, a garment still needs toresidual effect on necessity-clothes purchasing, “look right” if a person is going to buy it. Aespecially brands that are not obviously visible balance needs to be struck by retailers between(e.g. socks), but little or no effect on visible clothes that will generally fit well and clothes thatclothing or for more stylised or luxury brands will fit specific people extremely well.(Childers and Rao, 1992). Style is another critical product influence. While this effect may have been pronounced This concerns the look of a garment as opposeddue to the sample, familial influence doubtlessly to the fit and includes references to garment cutplays a role in shaping our early product and shape.preferences and purchase criteria. This will Importantly, branded apparel tended to havelikely make some impact on brand choice at a its own distinct style and even store brandslater age for some consumers. carried distinct style associations. Rational factors were tempered by other Participants would often buy a specific brandconsiderations, however. Most important were purely on the basis of its style. In the absence ofparticipants’ perceptions of the importance of rational considerations, this was a keyfashion in their lives and the concept of their differentiator between branded and non-brandedown style. Those who considered themselves apparel (Birtwistle and Freathy, 1998).more “fashion-conscious” were likely to reduce One participant neatly expressed this whenthe importance of rational factors when she said: “It’s not so much the brand nameselecting fashion brands. Similarly, those who w you’re looking at. It’s more like when youplaced more importance on their imagerecognised the need to pay more. Regardless of brand or price features, a garment still needs to “look right” if a person is going to buy it UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND Business Review 61 Vo l u m e 3 N u m b e r 1 2 0 0 1
  7. 7. Consumers can become so closelyaffiliated to particular brands that theymay refuse to wear anything else of top-of-mind if it is sufficiently distinct in the consumer’s mind (Birtwistle and Freathy, 1998). know the style of clothing that goes with the brand, like it’s the style you’re looking at …” Taking this to the extreme, consumers can become so closely affiliated to particular brands Developing a distinct style association is that they may refuse to wear anything else. essential for all brands from private store This, of course, should be a key focus for all brands to exclusive labels, as this association types of retailer (Fournier, 1998). increases the likelihood of inclusion in a consumer’s choice set. A retailer with private-label clothing needs to tie these associations to the store brand, Sibling influence can also play a role in product whereas a manufacturer will need to compete preferences. Males, particularly, noticed the for a distinct spot in a consumer’s mind-space influence of older brothers on style choices, but with any other brands present on the shop floor that other siblings could equally be influenced by where the product is sold. their (i.e. the participants’) own style preferences. This finding holds interesting research 3. Cognitive factors opportunities for the advertising of certain Cognitive factors refer to the mental processes brands of men’s clothing. The father/son a consumer undergoes during the decision- advertising link is often exploited, but older-to- making process. These form the central core of younger-brother advertising links have been less consumers’ purchasing patterns. deeply explored. Purchase heuristics appeared to be quite Fit has a dual role: physical comfort and common with particular brands. Based on mental comfort (i.e. the way you feel when rational and product factors, if a brand wearing a garment). Many participants alluded purchased in the past yields a positive to the fact that certain brands tended to fit a lot experience then the brand may be purchased better than others, especially in the case of again in a similar situation. A familiar brand women’s brands of clothing. This relates to a would dominate other brands in the evoked set, consumer’s self-concept, which is examined in an evoked set being the small number of brands more depth in the cognitive factors section. that are recalled by a consumer during the In the results, a significant interaction was decision-making process. noted between product influences and cognitive Although this research sought to uncover the influences. drivers of brand choice in the fashion When a consumer tries on your brand of purchasing process, it also seemed feasible that clothing, s/he needs to connect with its style and brands alone could actually drive purchases and to feel physically and mentally comfortable in that brands could be goals and serve more front of the mirror. A distinctively styled brand, representative and heuristic purposes rather worn over time, can greatly enhance purchase than just being a part of the final product choice likelihood through the associations it embodies. in a purchase (Keller, 1993; Aaker, 1994). Following on logically, the second way in which Brands seemed to be the sole choice criteria product factors can influence brand choice is for many participants in the research (Howard through encouraging heuristic (rule-of-thumb) and Sheth, 1973). Several participants alluded associations with your brand. This means that to this, mentioning that actual brands were when one thinks “I need a new shirt that looks more important, particularly when you are stylish”, a brand name is highly likely to be thought younger and still at school. But after one’s62
  8. 8. THE I N F L U E N C E O F B R A N D S I N T H E FA S H I O N P U R C H A S I N G P R O C E S Sformative years, brands serve more as quality The fashion brands that a person buys areindicators and purchase heuristics (e.g. “I need highly representative of their self-concept anda new shirt – I’ll go to retailer X”). the type of person they consider themselves to Some participants’ heuristics were not brand- be. To think of it another way, clothing not onlybased, but focused more on rational and makes the (wo)man, it is the (wo)man!product influences. Others, however, made Participants stressed that because brands hadreference to specific brands and explained how inherent style and meaning, the style was morethey would repeat purchase because of their important to them than the underlying brand.positive experiences relating to quality, Brands were purchased for their fit and styledurability and style. rather than just for the brand name per se. These heuristics were especially prevalent Consistent with Aaker’s (1999) conceptual-for distinct store brands that represented a isation, participants varied in their degree ofunique and stylised label clothing brand. self-monitoring. Self-monitoring explains howParticipants mentioned both high-class and our outward behaviour is guided by variousmore budget brands in heuristic terms. So social cues that dictate appropriate behaviourbeing a brand “rule of thumb” is not a in particular situations (Snyder, 1974).privilege reserved exclusively for upmarket Low self-monitors are motivated more byretailer brands. their own personality traits, whereas high self- The meaning of brands and how this meaning monitors, while also personality-driven, cancan serve as an antecedent to choice is alter their brand choices to adapt to certainexamined in the cultural factors section. situations where it is “socially appropriate” in Some participants even described their brand their minds (Aaker, 1999).choices in semi-ritualistic terms, emphasising Several participants stressed the importance ofthat “going clothes shopping” often meant brand uniqueness and that the best brands weregoing to very similar locations and choosing stylised brands that no other person wasfamiliar brands (Rook, 1985). wearing at the time, indicating a low degree of One participant commented: “You might self-monitoring.think of a particular style and you might think Other participants identified brands as beingof (retailer name), (retailer name) and (retailer part of clothing subcultures. Symbolic meaningname) all together and just go after that from brands came from the desire to identifyparticular style rather than the brand itself.” with a group and this influence is reflected in Consumer self-concept proved to be one of people’s self-concepts, indicating a greaterthe study’s focal points. A consumer’s self- degree of self-monitoring (Schouten andconcept refers to the way we think about McAlexander, 1995).ourselves (Aaker, 1999). Participants appeared Retailers need to be aware that these differentto have an internal point of self-reference (an types of consumers are buying their brands for wideal image of themselves) that they used to different reasons. Low self-monitors useevaluate brands and the fit that brands hadwith their ideal image (Aaker, 1999). Being a brand “rule of thumb” is not a privilege reserved exclusively for upmarket retailer brands UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND Business Review 63 Vo l u m e 3 N u m b e r 1 2 0 0 1
  9. 9. If in a positive mood, people could temporarilyovercome inhibitions and perhaps try abrand that may not fit with their usual image product and cognitive influences. As the results have demonstrated, all three have a significant the brand for self-expression while high self- influence over store and product brand monitors use the brand to identify with others preferences and loyalty. in a social group. Marketing communications can play on this distinction. The cognitive aspects of brand preference do appear to manifest into some degree of “fashion Self-concept (and brand uniqueness) interacted sense”, the influence of which will depend on significantly with other variables in the purchasing the specific consumer and purchase occasion. process. Self-concept relates to fit, style and durability: the way you feel about wearing clothes Current research highlighted four broad types is continually referenced to one’s ideal self and of fashion consumer (significantly across males positive experiences with clothes will influence your and females). The four classifications are self-concept and evaluations of particular brands. presented in Diagram 2 and, while not developed in detail here, they should play a Self-concept was also strongly influenced by significant role in future research. mood during purchase. For example, if in a positive mood, people could temporarily EXTERNAL FACTORS overcome inhibitions and perhaps try a brand that may not fit with their usual image. Likewise, 4. Environmental factors a negative mood may heighten the negative Once participants had a brand (or brands) of aspects in a person’s self-concept and perhaps clothing in mind, they would go to a given eliminate potential brands from the evoked set. location to evaluate the brand. Three key In addition, the way you prefer to shop environmental variables became apparent depends in part on your self-concept and will during the study: background music, rack partially dictate your feelings toward aid from density and store attendant behaviour. store assistants and the types of store atmosphere that you prefer to shop in. We • Background music discuss these applications of self-concept in the Music needed to reflect the ideals of the store environmental factors section. and the brand. If one walked into a store and In summary, brand preferences are driven (in the music did not match with expectations, this part) by a number of internal characteristics could lead to the purchase being immediately present in consumers, including rational, abandoned. For example, one participant DIAGRAM 2 Fashion sense continuum Low fashion High fashion sense sense Conservative Moderate Fashion conscious Ultra fashion No particular Some concern Concerned with conscious preference for for fashion and fashion, fashion Extremely concerned fashion or popular brands trends and popular with fashion, fashion fashion brands brands trends and designer brands64
  10. 10. THE I N F L U E N C E O F B R A N D S I N T H E FA S H I O N P U R C H A S I N G P R O C E S S TABLE 1 Retailer survey table Retailer Type Music Policy Assistant Training Rack Policy Mass Retailer A (male) Pre-mixed Top 40 hits Set selling process Set rack density ratio Mass Retailer B (female) Pre-mixed Top 40 hits Set selling process Set rack density ratio and energy techno Low/mid-priced Retailer Pre-mixed Top 40 hits Set selling process Set rack density ratio (unisex) Mid-priced Retailer (male) At manager’s discretion – No specific policy – One or two of each preferably eclectic music. trained by manager and garment size No set policy tailored to individual customer requirements High-priced Retailer At manager’s discretion. No specific policy – One or two of each (unisex) No set policy tailored to individual garment customer requirementsstated: “The shops that try to cater to our age browsing difficult and also cheapen brands ingroups with loud music and drum and bass … the eyes of the consumer. Having “bargainI’ve never ever felt the compulsion to go in tables” is fine, but for normal clothing, onlythere and buy. I just don’t feel cool enough to minimal numbers of clothes should be on thebe perfectly honest.” racks at any given time. Music played needs to be congruent with A small increase in labour to constantlyshoppers’ preferences: if your customers like the restock lines is a small price to pay formusic you play, they will spend more time (and enhanced brand value and perceived in your store than if they dislike your As can be seen in Table 1, low- to mid-levelmusic selection (Herrington and Capella, 1996). retailers can learn a lot from their higher-priced The results of an anonymous informal survey counterparts. By limiting stock on shelves, evenof five Auckland fashion retailers (refer Table 1) mass retailers can enhance their brand image indemonstrate that while mid- to high-level consumers’ eyes. Mass retailers should proceedretailers are playing unique music, they will need with caution though: their customers mayto think closely about just how alternative and expect an abundance of shelf stock. Limiting it“in vogue” their selections are. Likewise, low- to may, in fact, create negative perceptions if amid-priced retailers will have to think carefully large garment range represents a strong existingbefore they can justify playing premixed music to brand association.their customer base as this may equally have a Stores should always be designed to reflectnegative impact on the brand. brand symbolism, even for mass retailers. A Thinking back to the issue of brand value, a store represents a brand’s meaning, so thewell-thought-out music selection will only environment should reflect the image the brandenhance a retailer’s brand value over time. The is trying to present to played needs to reflect and associate itselfwith the image that the brand presents through • Store attendant behaviouradvertising and marketing communications. If a brand is chosen from a rack or even just looked at, a salesperson’s actions can “make or• Rack density break” the purchase and brand evaluation. Participants stressed the importance of free Participants had mixed views about sales wbrowsing in stores. Overloaded racks make assistants. Many female participants felt sales UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND Business Review 65 Vo l u m e 3 N u m b e r 1 2 0 0 1
  11. 11. Some participants (particularly females) stressedthe importance of having someone presentto “keep them in check” same methods in adulthood, however, but with a friend or partner instead of a family member. assistants should play a minimal role and help Having a peer present meant that shop assistants only when approached by a consumer. Others become largely irrelevant and that evaluation of (mainly male participants) saw assistants as a brand centred largely on initial peer reaction to needing to exercise tact when deciding whether fit, style and price-based decisions. to aid in selection, and that help should be constructive and objective. Some participants (particularly females) stressed the importance of having someone The strong negative reaction from females in present to “keep them in check” and to validate this area highlights the particular importance of their purchases. shop assistant training where female brand choice is concerned. Shop assistants need to understand how best to approach groups of consumers evaluating Retailers surveyed in Table 1 had mixed policies brands. Assistants need to use their own regarding store assistants. The research holds professional judgment to determine whether a advice for both specialised and mass retailers. group of consumers will benefit from assistance A set training policy is essential for or whether the mere fact of there being a group consistency, but assistants need to be should simply mean “leaving customers to it”. encouraged to tailor their policy to various clienteles intelligently. Thus more mass retailers 6. Cultural factors need to encourage staff to show initiative in Another consideration of interest besides aiding brand selection, while more specialised more rational factors is the more symbolic retailers may need to consider implementing at issues surrounding fashion brands. We least a basic standard training policy. attempted to uncover some of the sources of An example of the importance of these symbolic brand meaning that consumers use. procedures is that participants often prefer to McCracken (1986) proposed that symbolic shop and evaluate brands with the aid of a brand meaning could be transferred from world friend rather than with the help of a paid (and to product through advertising and via the possibly biased) shop assistant. So sales influence of the overall fashion system. workers need to exercise tact when assisting We questioned participants on their uses of different types of shopper. advertising and celebrity endorsements in their evaluations of brands. Participants used • Peer influence magazines to understand the symbolism of Consumers often do not feel confident current brand trends and also to establish enough to evaluate brands alone, so consulting reference prices. Others pointed to television and a friend or partner by inviting them along to a said that actually seeing someone wearing a brand potential purchase can enhance the process. was the best way to see “how good a brand was”. We found the influence of peers present at Certainly, advertising is still perceived as an purchase to be critical in what specific brands effective way for retailers to transfer brand were chosen, particularly with regard to meaning (McCracken, 1986). product and rational influences (Asch, 1973; Several participants also perceived celebrity Venkatesen, 1973). endorsers as reference points for verifying In childhood, a parent usually fulfilled this particular brand meaning(s). It appeared that role. Participants found themselves using the blatant celebrity endorsing was not well liked, but66
  12. 12. THE I N F L U E N C E O F B R A N D S I N T H E FA S H I O N P U R C H A S I N G P R O C E S Sthat subtle and entertaining endorsements could or unplanned?) and the type of product that isbe effective in transferring meaning to consumers purchased (i.e. is the product a necessity or a(McCracken, 1989; Friestad and Wright, 1994). luxury purchase?). Retailers can thus be assured that print and In the next section we outline an influencetelevision advertising is still critical where matrix that can help managers understand thefashion is concerned, but that endorsements drivers of different types of purchase inneed to be very carefully constructed. different situations. An interesting finding to emerge at this stage RESEARCH ISSUE TWO: IMPACTwas that many participants recognised OF PURCHASE SITUATION ANDstrangers as having very strong influences on PURCHASE TYPEbrand choice. Seeing a stranger wearing a brandcould often be its best advertisement. A. Purchase situation This was related to the fact that fashion show This can be planned or unplanned on theclothing was often perceived as unrealistic and consumer’s part. Consider a consumer whothat the top fashion models wore brands that realises that s/he needs to purchase a pair ofwere far too expensive “for any ordinary socks because all existing pairs have wornperson”. If a normal person is seen wearing a through (planned purchase). Equally, a need tobrand, the clothing can be evaluated on a more purchase may be activated by a situationalneutral basis (cf. McCracken, 1989). impulse such as seeing a garment in a shop Retailers need to think about targeting “opinion window or arriving at one’s favourite retailer toleader” customers and offering them sample find a sale in progress (unplanned purchase).brands to wear and promote within their own Depending on whether a purchase is plannedcircles, as this may be the best endorsement a or unplanned, the internal factors isolated inbrand can receive (cf. Friestad and Wright, 1994). this research will have varying degrees ofThese customers should be given preferential impact on the purchase decision.treatment and be kept informed of emerging When purchases are planned, rational factorsdesigns and trends so that response can be gauged play a relatively greater role in brand choice thanas and when brands alter their meaning over time. other product and brand factors. Note though Our findings concerning external factors are that this does not amount to a purely rationalexploratory and, of course, limited by the sample choice for consumers. On the contrary, awe used. It is important to stress though, that consumer may refer to a brand “rule of thumb”brand choice is a balance of internal and external and go straight to a budget retailer for her socks,considerations. Consumers do not evaluate but may be lured to a High Street store when shebrands as solitary rational individuals. On the is looking for a new dress for a night out.contrary, peer, culture and environmental Planned purchases will often lead consumersinfluences do play a major role in brand choice. to familiar stores. Store brands are particularly The balance of internal and external factors critical in the first instance, therefore, so that wwill be moderated in part by the specific type ofpurchase that is taking place (i.e. is it planned Retailers need to think about targeting “opinion leader” customers and offering them sample brands to wear and promote UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND Business Review 67 Vo l u m e 3 N u m b e r 1 2 0 0 1
  13. 13. DIAGRAM 3 The impact of purchase situation and purchase type on factor influences Purchase situation Purchase Unplanned Planned type environmental impact Rational factors Product and brand factors Necessity dominate influence • Product and brand factors • Rational factors • Strong heuristics • Limited heuristics Rational factors Product and brand factors Luxury influence dominate • Product and brand factors • Rational factors • Limited heuristics • Price ceilings may take effect • Limited heuristics Product, brand and rational factors combine dependent on: Occasion • Specific occasion • Time availability • Garment reusability Peer influence Cultural influence Fashion sense when a consumer realises a need, s/he should with studies in the extant literature (e.g. Rook ideally recall a store brand due to associations and Fisher, 1995). developed with the brand over time (Rook, Environmental variables will also impact most 1985; Keller, 1993). heavily when a purchase is unplanned and Product brands are still important, but for surroundings may not be familiar to the consumer. planned purchases, “getting customers through the door” will have a significant impact on B. Purchase type purchase likelihood. The purchase type as shown in the influence In contrast, unplanned purchases are more matrix will also moderate the relative impact of random and impulsive, so store brands and our factors. Peer and cultural considerations category-level brands can both potentially exert will also influence the type of purchase heavily, influence in the purchase process. Unplanned although these influences will be a lot stronger purchases are often less rational and so product for luxury and special-occasion purposes than features and existing consumer brand ideas and for everyday wear (Childers and Rao, 1992). associations will be more important than Necessity purchase rational influences. • Many purchases of fashion will be for basic That said, however, our research did reveal garments such as socks and plain T-shirts. that even for unplanned purchases, rational Sometimes a specific brand may be chosen to impulses can still influence the ultimate satisfy most if not all necessity purchases and brand choice and this finding is consistent this may become a purchase/brand heuristic.68
  14. 14. THE I N F L U E N C E O F B R A N D S I N T H E FA S H I O N P U R C H A S I N G P R O C E S S Depending on whether a purchase is planned Depending on the mindset of the consumer or unplanned, rational product and brand and the three factors above, price may increase factors will combine to determine brand choice. or decrease in relevance when a garment (brand) Store and product brand heuristics are likely to for a specific occasion is bought. Price may be prevalent particularly for planned purchases. increase in relevance if the garment is going toLuxury purchase be worn only once. A consumer may question the need to spend more money on a brand • When consumers purchase luxuries, the (however appealing) that may be worn only impact of rational impulses will depend in part once or twice in a person’s lifetime. on whether the purchase is planned or unplanned. When a purchase is planned, Price may decrease in relevance, however, if rational factors will still have an influence over the consumer wants to look good for the product and brand-specific factors. When a occasion. If this means spending more to look purchase is unplanned, however, the more better, then this may have to be the case. symbolic aspects of brands can take hold and Consumers’ fashion sense and the degree to style as well as peer and cultural influences which they monitor their own self-image (Aaker, can often dominate rational considerations 1999) will largely determine this relevance, such as price and garment durability. regardless of whether a purchase is planned or not. Some consumers, particularly those faced The influence matrix we have suggested with limited finances or those with a more demonstrates the interplay between competing rational nature, may still allow rational factors factors in the purchase process and the varying to influence purchase by imposing price roles brands can play in this process. It is ceilings and other limits on their brand important to realise that consumers can at one selection(s) (Rook and Fisher, 1995). moment be purely rational and price-drivenSpecific-occasion purchase beings, yet in another instance be subject to the • Clothes are often purchased with a specific whim of a new fashion or style fad, irrespective occasion in mind. This could be anything from of price or other rational considerations. a black-tie function through to a school ball. In future research we plan to empirically test the This purchase will often require a specialty influence matrix and deepen our understanding of brand stockist who can cater for specific the interplay between factors in the process of events where a particular type of clothing is brand choice, both in fashion and eventually other called for (e.g. a wedding or ball gown). retailing sectors (Mullarkey and Stevenson, 2000).Some important decision-making criteria include: CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS • Specific occasion – how important is the OF THE RESEARCH occasion to the consumer? onsumers have a set of rational beliefs and • Reusability – can the garment be used again in another situation? C product preferences in terms of fit, style and w durability, some of which develop through • Time availability – how much time does the consumer have to choose the garment? When a purchase is unplanned, however, the more symbolic aspects of brands can take hold UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND Business Review 69 Vo l u m e 3 N u m b e r 1 2 0 0 1
  15. 15. Purchases will also be affected by productand store experiences as well as byresponses from peers and colleagues Retailers can benefit from understanding the purchase processes that exist concerning their familial and peer influence, while some occur own store and product brands. We have through consumers’ unique cultural make-up. examined the influence of brands as they relate They also have a number of cognitive to the fashion-purchasing process and isolated processes that affect the brands they prefer: six key internal and external factors that most importantly, their self-concept and degree influence and help to determine brand choice. of fashion sense. Depending on the type of We have also explained how these factors purchase situation, an evoked set of potential may differ in their influence across purchase brands is produced that inherently reflects these situations and purchase types. internal considerations. These brands will then be sought out and evaluated “in store” and may While the findings are specifically related to be influenced by the particular store the fashion industry, we believe the underlying environment. Purchases will also be affected by themes concerning brand symbolism, brand product and store experiences as well as by heuristics and the interactions between different responses from peers and colleagues. factors have implications for all brand-based consumer businesses. Brands themselves can also act as antecedents to fashion purchasing. In particular, they serve Our work is, of course, limited by the sample as quality and style indicators, they can be we used. We feel that future research should aim heuristic in nature, often they emphasise a to incorporate other consumer segments in order particular style and fit (even sometimes at the to better conceptualise the role that brands play. expense of excluding particular consumers) and But the purpose of this research was to develop a they can often guide initial purchase direction general conceptual model that could then be at the product category (store brand) level. subject to further investigation in other research. Thus a good brand will need to associate itself with a particular style and market itself MANAGERIAL IMPLICATIONS carefully to target the right group of consumers y understanding customers and the roles (McCracken, 1986; Keller, 1993). B that brands can play in purchasing, we believe retailers can better appreciate the sustainable drivers of brand value and brand equity in their businesses as well as isolating their competitive advantages over other retailers and manufacturers. Brands are an essential part of consumer choices when purchasing products, but to understand why this is the case, we suggest retailers need to isolate and understand the factors that underlie a brand’s importance and Guy W. Mullarkey what factors lead their own brands to possess a POST GRADUATE STUDENT competitive advantage in the marketplace. Department of Marketing University of Auckland Business School To examine their own markets, retailers can Email: use the six factors we discussed relating to Home page: fashion-brand choice as well as the influence matrix to understand the importance of brands70
  16. 16. THE I N F L U E N C E O F B R A N D S I N T H E FA S H I O N P U R C H A S I N G P R O C E S Sin their own operations. Specific retailers can Howard, John A., & Jagdish N. Sheth (1973). A Theory of Buyer Behaviour. Perspectives in Consumer Behaviour, eds Kassarjian Haroldexamine their customer base to see how they H. and Thomas S. Robertson, IL: Scott Foresman and Co. 519-540.may use or react to these six factors when Keller, K. (1993). Conceptualising, Measuring and Managing Customer- Based Brand Equity. Journal of Marketing, 57, 1 January 1-22.selecting brands at their own place of business. Levy, S. (1959). Symbols for Sale. Harvard Business Review, (Nov-Dec) 117-124. Retailers could also examine how their own Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. (1994). Making Good Sense: Drawingbrands can affect departures from (or and Verifying Conclusions. Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Source Book. Thousand Oaks, C.A. Sage Publications: 262-287 2ndadherence to) rational choice in specific edition.purchasing contexts (Simonson, 1993). By McCracken, Grant (1986). Culture and Consumption: A Theoretical Account of the Structure and Movement of the Cultural Meaning ofunderstanding the role of brands as market- Consumer Goods. Journal of Consumer Research, 13 (June) 71-84.based assets and the relationships that can McCracken, Grant (1989). Who is the Celebrity Endorser? Cultural Foundations of the Endorsement Process. Journal of Consumerdevelop between consumers and particular Research, 16 (Dec) and category brands, managers can not Mullarkey, G.W., & Stevenson, R.S. (2000). Product Choice in Fashion: An Empirical Investigation of Factors Contributing to Brand Preferences.only enhance revenue generation, but also be in Working paper, Department of Marketing, University of Auckland.a better position to predict business outcomes, Ogilvy, D. (1983). Confessions of an Advertising Man. New York: and in the future. Rook, D. (1985). The Ritual Dimension of Consumer Behaviour. Journal Of Consumer Research, 12 (December) 251-264. Rook, D., and Fisher, R. (1995). Normative Influences on Impulsive Buying Behaviour. Journal of Consumer Research, 22 3 305-314. Schouten, J., and McAlexander, J. (1995). Subcultures of Consumption: FURTHER READING An Ethnography of the New Bikers. Journal of Consumer Research, 22 For a general understanding of branding and brand (June), 43-61. equity, Aaker’s (1994) book is a seminal work in the Simonson, I. (1993). Getting Closer to Your Customers by Understanding How They Make Choices. California Management Review, 35 (4) 68-84. area. Srivastava et al (1998) offer managers insight Snyder, M. (1974). The Self-Monitoring of Expressive Behaviour. Journal into the conceptualisation of brands as market- of Personality and Social Psychology, 30 (4) 52S37. based assets. McCracken (1986) outlines the Srivastava, R., Shervani, T., and Fahey, L. (1998). Market-based Assets and Shareholder Value: A Framework for Analysis. Journal of Marketing, importance of symbolic meaning transfer and how 62, January 2-18. meaning is transferred to products and brands Venkatesen, M. (1973). Consumer Behaviour: Conformity and from the world at large through advertising and the Independence. Perspectives in Consumer Behaviour, Eds Kassarjian Harold H. and Thomas S. Robertson, IL: Scott Foresman and Co. fashion system. Keller (1993) is a good starting 325-331. point for understanding the drivers of customer- Wolcraft, H.F.(1994). Description, Analysis and Interpretation in Qualitative Inquiry. Transforming Qualitative Data. Thousand Oaks, CA: based brand equity. Sage Publications, 245-262 2nd edition. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Thanks to Catherine Bentham, Camryn Brown and Robyn Stevenson,REFERENCES who conducted the original research study along with theAaker, D. (1994). Building Strong Brands. New York: Free Press. author. 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