Academic journal article International Review of Management and Business Research

A Study on the Conceptualization of Apparel Brand

Academic journal article International Review of Management and Business Research

A Study on the Conceptualization of Apparel Brand

Article excerpt

Introduction

Branding is becoming more critical as businesses face an increasingly global and competitive marketplace. One of the toughest challenges for the clothing industry is to stand out amid competitors. The ubiquitous media has complicated marketing efforts, making it imperative for businesses to seek more effective methods to increase their influence in the marketplace, where branding may be an essential tool (Bouhlel, Mzoughi, Hadiji, & Slimane, 2009). On a global economic level, industries that have traditionally relied on export and original equipment manufacturing (OEM) as their primary business model, such as clothing industries, are increasingly affected by global low-cost competitors. These industries have been forced to change by developing their own brand to protect themselves from low profit margins, an unpredictable market, and legal issues, in an effort to add value to their business, such as extracting a premium price, attracting capital, and facilitating relations (Arvidsson, 2006).

However, brand resides within the hearts and minds of consumers and prospects. To out-brand competitors successfully, the brand propositions must be more compelling, attractive, and unique than those of competitors. Brand differentiates products and represents a promise of value, incites beliefs, evokes emotions, and prompts behaviors (Kotler & Gertner, 2002). Brand encompasses the sum total of their experiences and perceptions.

People form brand cognitive structures in memory when they acquire new brand information, and information structure affects what information is retrieved, used, perceived, and stored (Cowley & Mitchell, 2003; Christensen & Olson, 2002). John et al. indicated that customer perception is structured in a network of associations and is related to a person's experience. These cognitive structures represent the interpreted meanings of brands and have crucial implications for numerous consumer behavior issues such as brand extension evaluation and brand personality (Keller, 2003). Businesses should be able to measure the network of associations where brand equity can be leveraged.

This complexity of prospect and customer associations has rendered the brand concept map (BCM) of John, Barbara, Kim, & Monga (2006) a suitable method, where these associations that include attributes, personality traits, and emotions are presented in a network structure. The BCM method probes directly by building graphs and makes the links explicit between concept pairs (Ruiz-Primo & Shavelson, 1996). This method is thus able to describe the interconnectedness of the involved associations or concepts to provide an alternative to considering these associations separately. The method also provides graphical representation, flexibility in using data from previous studies, and an easy aggregation procedure, which is attractive for managerial usage.

We therefore explore and clarify the brand's conceptual structure and the associations of consumers and prospects on apparel to identify the structural and strategic elements of brand for leveraging. Previous studies have treated these influencing associations as discrete factors and have seldom considered them from a network approach, but have taken the manufacturer perspective instead of the customers' in understanding branding. We use the apparel brand as our study object because of the growing global competition in the industry. The WTO statistics show that the global export of apparel from 2000 to 2008 averaged 9.2% growth yearly. Thus, investigating these critical elements is crucial to propose a more effective brand strategy.

Literature Review

Brand and Brand Equity

Because product features can be easily copied, brands are a marketer's primary tool for creating product differentiation. Kotler and Gertner (2002) indicated that differentiation is not based on product characteristics alone, but with combined brand name and brand significance, which has become a core competitive asset in an ever-growing number of contexts. …

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