The term image is currently used in a variety of contexts, i.e. corporate image, brand image, public image, self-image, restaurant image, store image, and so on. As a whole, an image can be defined as, "the sum of belief, ideas and impressions that a person has of an object" (Kotler & Clark, 1987). Consumers in particular, develop knowledge systems to interpret their perceptions of companies. As such, corporate image is believed to have the same characteristics as a self-schema influencing the buyers' purchasing decision.
Corporate image has become an issue of attitudes and beliefs with regards to awareness and recognition (Aaker, 1991). Similarly, good corporate image may stimulate the customers' mood and purchasing behavior toward a company by simplifying their decisions. Fornell (1992) in his study found that corporate image has some influence on customer satisfaction and consumer behaviour. In addition, Gronroos (1990) stressed that customers' perceptions of service are also affected by the corporate image. For a service company, the perception of image could be derived from the technical and functional components of service, fueled by any marketing promotion that takes place (Gronroos, 1990). If the perception of the company's image is favorable, minor mistakes would be tolerated, but if the mistakes occur often, then the image of the company will be tarnished.
Beyond impressions of the immediate service encounter and evaluations of service evidence, customer perceptions to some extent can be influenced by the reputation of the organization or the company's image (Ziethmal & Bitner, 1996). Numerous definitions of image can be found in the psychological and marketing literature. Image has been described as subjective knowledge (Boulding, 1956) and as an attitude (Hirschman, Greenberg, & Robertson, 1978). Erickson, Johannson, and Chao, (1984) had identified image as a combination of product characteristics that are different from a physical product but nevertheless identifies with the product.
The most acceptable definition of image for service industries is by Keller (1993) who defined image as perceptions of an organization reflected in the associations held in consumers' memories. Gronroos (1994) argues that image is of utmost importance to service firms and is to a great extent determined by customers' assessment of the service they received. Indeed, since services are intangible and based on performances, a better understanding on the components of image promises to help management improve the competitive performance of their firm. Therefore, prerequisite to image management is therefore, the understanding of the process by which image is formed through the customers' beliefs and attitudes with regard to a firm's products or services.
The association between corporate image and the product can be very concrete. For example, in the transportation services the consumer will associate a company's image with the number of trips per day; easy and fast access to server for internet service providers and for financial related services the customer will compare the hours of operations between the service providers. It can also be less concrete and even more emotional, such as excitement, trustworthiness, tradition, and fun. Kennedy (1977) categorized the principles of image into two parts, i.e. functional and emotional. According to him, the functional component is related to tangible cues that can be measured more easily, while the emotional component is associated to psychological states that are manifested by feelings and attitudes.
In this context corporate image becomes an issue of attitudes and beliefs with regard to awareness and recognition (Aaker, 1991), customer satisfaction and consumer behavior (Fornell, 1992). Corporate image can be an extrinsic information cue for both existing and potential buyers and may or may not influence customer loyalty (e. …