Literature Review – The impact of customers’ self-image congruence on their brand preference to hotels in China


Literature Review – The impact of customers’ self-image congruence on their brand preference to hotels in China

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This chapter presents literature that will be used as a basis for the study framework. The theoretical perceptions gathered from the literature materials will be used in this study. The reviews will be chosen based on their relationship with the topic and study aims. The chapter starts with an introduction to concepts of brand including brand image and brand preference. The chapter also discusses self-concept and self-image congruence in relation to the brand. Further, the chapter addresses the impact of self-image congruence on brand preference. Lastly, having focused on the Chinese Hotel industry, the chapter discusses the significance of culture on brand preference. At the end is a chapter summary.

Definition of Brand

Jones and Bonevac (2013) in their study on the evolved definition of the meaning of brand notes that there have been great discrepancies that resulted in a failure  of narrowing down to a specific definition They attribute these to the different perspectives of brand as risk reducers, as evolving, as adding value, as trademarks, as relationships and as value system. Despite these varied aspects, Kapferer (2012) defines brand as a set of added values to a manufactured product. McDonald and Mouncey (2011) on the other hand avers that brand can be associated with a logo or visual elements, trademark associated with property rights and a holistic view of the company. Brand is associated with several elements that form it including brand image, brand equity, brand preference et cetera. Brand image, for example, determines the association that end customers have with the firm behind the brand (Cretu and Brodie, 2007).

Brand image

According to Claiborne and Sirgy (2015), the brand image is the created feature of a brand or a product. Hogg, Cox and Keeling (2000) argues that the image can be aligned to the self-image of the consumers in order to attract the consumers. Ideally, Christodoulides and De Chernatony (2010) note that, the marketing techniques consider brand image as a critical tool in influencing the choices of products that the consumers need. In most instances, the brand image must be aligned to the customers’ image in order to maintain a steady flow of customers. Brand image reminds the customers of their own self-image. As such, a brand image can influence the attitudes towards a particular product (Cretu & Brodie, 2007).

According to Christodoulides and De Chernatony (2010), brand image can also be attributed to the imaginary image of the product created by a particular company. The brand image defines both the perceived quality as well as the actual quality of a particular brand. Wang and Yang (2010) acknowledge that the impression that a brand leaves in the minds and eyes of the consumers is often important in marketing the product. Nevertheless, Hogg, Cox and Keeling (2000) also say that it is important to note that a product brand can be either imaginary or real depending on the consumers’ self-image. A brand image can also be created after the product shortcomings. Ideally, it means that the impact of the product is necessary in determining the brand image (Govers & Schoormans, 2005).

In this dissertation, the brand image will be assumed to be the perceived feature and quality of various products by the customers. Based on Claiborne and Sirgy (2015) definition of brand image, this dissertation will evaluate how brand image is created in respect to the Chinese hotels.

Brand preference

According to Chang and Liu (2009).brand preference denotes the choice of a brand made by the consumer. There are several variables that determine the brand preference. However, marketing studies have revealed that many individuals have brand preferences aligned to their perception of ‘self’. According to Hogg, Cox and Keeling (2000), the perception of self is often a guiding tool that determines the success of a particular business. Conversely, consumers often prefer the product brand that match with their ego (Hosany & Martin, 2012). The congruity in the brand and self-image increases the brand preference. In this manner, Christodoulides and De Chernatony (2010) acknowledge that consumers may reject the brand of products that do not resonate well with their self-image. This is why certain businesses fail. However, it is necessary for the Chinese hotels to study the self-images of their esteemed customers.

Brand preference depends on a number of factors such as the price and quality of the brand. Customer brand preference must be studied before a product is created. This increases the chances of preference by consumers. For this reason, considering various qualities and expectations of the consumers before providing services to the customers help hotels in attracting more customers. On the other hand, brand preference can be aided by the service providers. According to Wang and Yang (2010), some brand preferences among the customers are aided through strong and attractive marketing strategies. Certain hotels use good marketing methods that entice and attract customers. As such, the customer preference for the services provided by such hotels becomes increased.

In a competitive set of brands, Hogg, Cox and Keeling (2000) state that customers must be able to determine the best brand that they need. Nonetheless, Claiborne and Sirgy (2015) also note that the brand chosen must be in line with the self-images of the customers. For instance, customers will often choose the brands that they feel complement their self-images. In this manner, the Hotels in China should best understand the concept of self-image congruence among their target customers. As such, this dissertation will focus on how the product quality and price will be used to leverage the customer attraction.

Self- concepts

According to Hogg, Cox and Keeling (2000), the idea of self-concept started in early 1960s; nevertheless, the concept of ‘self’ was a uni-dimensional construct. Several critics have noted that an individual is capable of having multiple selves (Govers & Schoormans, 2005). As such, contemporary researchers explain that the study of self-concept is a multi-dimensional construct. However, the self-concept construct continues to help business organisations to predict the consumer behaviours towards specific brands and products (Aguirre-Rodriguez et al., 2012).

According to the marketing literature, there are three main dimension of self-concept. The concepts include actual self-concept, ideal self-concept, and social self-concept. These concepts help in predicting the consumer brand loyalty and preference (Hosany and Martin, 2012). The actual self-concept refers to the way an individual sees himself or herself. The ideal self-concept refers to how an individual aspires to see him or herself. On the other hand, the social self-concept refers to how an individual thinks that others see him. Moreover, the ideal social self-concept refers to the way an individual aspires to be seen by the other individuals (Hogg, Cox and Keeling, 2000). As per the above discussions, this dissertation will focus on three perspectives of self-concept as offered by Hosany and Martin (2012) including actual self-concept, ideal self-concept, and social self-concept.

Self-image congruence

Definition of self image congruence

According to Koo, Cho and Kim (2014), the self-image concept denotes the cognitive relationship between the customers’ perception of ‘self’ and the product or brand. However, Christodoulides and De Chernatony (2010) note that the perceived nature of an individual’s self, defines the preferences that an individual can make when it comes to choosing the products. Since different individuals have distinct personalities, the preferences and perception of ‘self’ also differ. There are individuals who have bigger ego than others. As such, such individuals tend to be attracted to products of noble quality. According to Hosany and Martin (2012), depending on one’s personality and attitude towards self, product choice can be easily predicted. Therefore, Wang and Yang (2010) maintain that self-image congruence helps the Chinese hotels to determine the brand preferences of the consumers through studying the consumers’ self-concept (Hogg, Cox & Keeling, 2000).

In post-consumption evaluations, Govers and Schoormans (2005) contend that the self-image congruence can be used to study how consumers behave towards various products. For instance, the perception of the Chinese cultures tremendously affects the product perception of many consumers (Christodoulides and De Chernatony, 2010). Depending on the self-concept of the consumers, hotels in China are capable of modifying their services to match the perceived self of the customers.

According to the congruity theory, consumers who realise that the brand image matches their self-concepts are more likely to be satisfied with the products and brands sold to them. Such products tend to remind the consumers of their own images hence they become motivated to purchase the products. Therefore, this dissertation will rely on the evidence that self-image congruency is used as a critical tool in influencing the attractiveness of the Chinese hotels. As stated above, the dissertation will adopt the belief that self-image congruence is the cognitive match between one’s understanding of self and the product offered. Idyllically, this dissertation will maintain that consumers’ behaviours towards various products are easily assessed using the self-image congruence. In most of the tourism industries, the theory of self-congruence help in evaluating the customer needs.

Dimensions of self-image congruence

As Christodoulides and De Chernatony (2010) write on the consumer behaviours, they discourse how the concept of self- image affects the purchasing patterns in various markets. According to Wang and Yang (2010), individuals normally prefer buying products that they believe have the same image as their perceived images. As such, the products or brands that are bought by consumers only act as completer or symbolic images to their perceived self- image. For instance, Govers and Schoormans (2005) acknowledge that there is the dimension of cognitive, emotional and social dimensions of self-image. According to Hogg, Cox and Keeling (2000), the cognitive self-image denotes the ideas, opinions and images that individuals create for them. This image affects the perception of self among consumers. On the other hand, Hogg, Cox and Keeling (2000) note that the emotional dimension considers the feelings and the impressions that people have upon themselves. Such feelings determine their product preference. Thirdly, Claiborne and Sirgy (2015) explain that the social dimension explains how individuals view themselves as they are seen by others. This also affects the brand preference among such individuals.

Likewise, Christodoulides and De Chernatony (2010), further explains that other dimensions may also include ideal self-image, actual self-image and situational self-image. According to Hogg, Cox and Keeling (2000), the ideal self-image refers to the image that a person aspires to be to others. Moreover, the situational self-image refers to the images that individuals have in different situations.The actual self-image is the image that one has originally while the ideal image is the image that one aspires to have in future (Jamal & Goode, 2001).

In this chapter, the three major dimensions (actual, ideal and social self-images) will be discussed. These dimensions will be used because they are the commonest and the most effective when it comes to brand preference.

Impact of self-image congruence on brand

The Influence of Self-Image Congruence on Customers’ Attitudes to Brand

In a research done by Sirgy et al. (2008) on the impact of self-congruity (self-image congruence) on brand loyalty behaviours, the findings indicate that self-congruity affects buying behaviour. Specifically, as evidenced by the fact that individuals need to express themselves differently, they get hooked to different brands to achieve this need. Similar sentiments are present in the findings of the research by Jamal and Goode (2001), where they note that the behavioural intentions are predicted based on how one perceives himself. A critical aspect Sirgy et al. (2008) note is that the marketing end of a firm needs to commit more towards reaching out to customers through sponsorship of events that create a positive impact. As such, the customers’ attitude towards a brand shall be influenced towards a particular direction. Christodoulides and De Chernatony (2010), acknowledge that individuals, who see themselves as individuals of higher statuses, require high status products. Such products will be symbolic of their characters.

When it comes to the social self-concept, consumers may want to choose the brands that match the perception of self by other individuals. In this case, consumers tend to make choices based on other people’s judgment of who they are. Jani (2013) in his research on the interrelationship between hotel visitation, customer satisfaction, self-other image and loyalty addresses self-image congruence from a different perspective. In the research where questionnaires were administered to hotel residents, the findings indicates that service provision strategies based on self-other image congruence affected visitor perception of other visitors. Majorly guests who were of a business class were more affected compared to those seeking pleasure. Further, the length and frequency of stay were noted to be issues of concern as they affected the height of the impact of self-other image congruence. The extrapolation of the same to the hotel industry may be beneficial; however, the surety of such sentiments can only be clarified through an empirical research into the hotel industry of interest. In this case the inquiry shall be on the Chinese hotel industry.

According to Das (2014), the post-travel behaviours and self-congruity affect the choices that tourists make. The hotel services as well as the tourist services that the consumers get in their tourism destinations is determined by the ideal expectations of a brand. Hogg, Cox and Keeling (2000) note that the hotel management therefore predicts the ideal expectations of the tourists in order to create the consumption situations that will yield satisfaction and need for repeat consumption. On the other side, Hosany and Martin, (2012), posit that the predicted behaviours can also help in making future predictions and expectations of the consumers in the hotels. If the service satisfy the needs of the tourists, it will be easier to predict the consumers’ expectation trends.

Hogg, Cox and Keeling (2000) contend that businesses that adopt the customer self-concept advertisements tend to attract more customers. By understanding the role of actual, Chang and Liu (2009) accept that ideal and social self-congruity helps in determining the experiences and satisfaction of the consumers (Hosany & Martin, 2012). The self-concept makes it easy to determine the behavioural intentions of the customers. Through accurate prediction of the customers’ expectations, Wang and Yang (2010) contend that the business managers are able to give the customers the highest satisfaction levels. These assertions can also be validated by the research done by Park and Lee (2005) on brand personality, self-image and their mediating effect on satisfaction, brand loyalty and brand relationships. The findings indicated that for high involvement products, the brand personality and self-image congruence mediate the effect satisfaction has on brand loyalty. For low involvement products satisfaction directly affects loyalty. As per the position of Kurtz and Boone (2011) on the same, hotel accommodation falls under the high involvement products and thusly this research will be addressing the effect of self-image on brand loyalty as predetermined by brand preference.

Chang and Liu (2009) postulate that individuals tend to travel and visit places where they feel their perceived images will be acknowledged and motivated. Boksberger et al. (2010) however counters these arguments of the general applicability on the self-congruence theory in the hotel and tourism industry by noting the existence of relativity as to what constitutes self-image congruence. According the research by Boksberger et al. (2010) on the application of self-congruence theory in the tourism and hospitality industry, the findings indicate that only if the measure of self-congruence is strict can the choice of hotels and destinations be reflected by it. Similarly, travel and socio-demographic aspects are explained as insufficient in explaining self-congruent behaviours. These sentiments raise the questions as to the general applicability of the theory in the hotel industry in china. As such, this research shall establish the answer to these questions. In the following section the three major dimensions of self image – actual, ideal and social self-images – and their impact on brand preference are discussed.

Influence of Actual Self-image Congruence on Customers’ Brand Preference

Hosany and Martin (2012) explain that the actual self-image congruence is the match between perception of one’s self and the products. The actual self-image determines the perception of the brands in respect to the images of the customer. In order to provide brands that capture the actual images of the consumers, hotels must study the actual self-congruity (Jamal & Goode, 2001). The actual self will define the products that will satisfy the needs of the customers as well as those that will not. In order to satisfy the customers fully, Lin (2002) say that various hotels in the UK and US consider studying the customers’ self-images.

Research studies by Hosany and Martin, (2012) note that the perceived image will make it easy for the hotels to determine the actual types of services and needs of the customers. According to Chang and Liu (2009), it is stated that the knowledge of the customers’ image enhances the ability of a business to produce brands that match the images. However, if hotels fail to determine the customers’ actual images, they will find it hard to satisfy the customers as Lin (2002) stipulates that the knowledge of image alone cannot guarantee the satisfaction to the customers. The way customers see themselves therefore determine the products that the customers will purchase. This dissertation is based on the definition of actual self image by Claiborne & Sirgy (2015). A research done in this area done by Ibrahim and Najjar (2007) on the effect of self-congruity on shoppers purchase behaviour, the findings strong link actual self-image to choice of commodities – which translates to preference for a certain brand. This is also evidenced in the study by Hughes (1976) on self-image and customer preference where the findings indicate that customers who need to satisfy actual needs choose low consumption visibility products. This means such customers reach for a certain calibre of products. This research shall fill a research gap by trying to demystify this concept in regard to the Chinese hotel industry.

Influence of Social Self-image Congruence on Customers’ Brand Preference

The social self-image congruence refers to how individuals see an individual in respect to the brand created. The phenomenon affects the quality and designs applied in the brands (Chang & Liu, 2009). According to Christodoulides and De Chernatony (2010), the social self-image will affect the way the businesses perceive the consumers’ needs. In as much as the businesses project the images of the customers, they tend to capture the actual brand preferences that the consumers have. The social self-image may not accurately define the actual brand preferences for individual consumers. For instance, Chang and Liu (2009), note that the perception of the images of the visitors in certain countries affects the choices of foods that the hotels will provide for the consumers.

However, the hotels in various countries around the globe use the social self-images to influence the brand choice made by the consumers. What the hotels in various countries thinks of the consumers will ultimately influence the decisions and choices that the customers will make. For instance, the hotels in the UK provide services that match the expectations of the consumers coming from particular countries (Duarte & Raposo, 2010). As such, the services must match the self-images of their customers. These assertions are further supported by the findings of a research done by Sirgy and Danes (1982). The findings indicate that social self image congruence constitutes of how other people view a person and determines the choice a person makes on items. The respondents were more inclined to choose products that seemed to fit what other people thought about them.

Influence of Ideal Self-image Congruence on Customers’ Brand Preference

According to Chang and Liu (2009), the ideal self-image is the image that the consumer dreams of becoming. Ideally, the ideal self-image congruency influences the way the customers will rate the hotel services in every country. According to Govers and Schoormans (2005), sometimes it becomes so hard to accurately measure the ideal self-image since many individuals tend to think that their ideal aspirations are easily achieved. However, Maehle and Shneor (2010) say that the experiences and levels of satisfaction from the consumers are varied and can help in determining the ideal self-image. Tourists tend to have ideal expectations that must be integrated into hotel services. Both actual and ideal self-images tend to influence the brand preferences among consumers equally. In as much as the consumers understand themselves, they also rely on high expectations (Cretu & Brodie, 2007). In order to satisfy the customers, Lin (2002) agrees that the hotels in china have the duty of providing super-quality services. The nature of the product will determine the satisfaction of the ideal needs. However, the actual needs can help in projecting the ideal needs of the consumers. As such, the ideal self-image will leverage the quality of services in hotels (Hosany & Martin, 2012).

Every customer has self-esteem needs that need to be met and their ascription to a certain brand is part of boosting self-esteem. In a research done by Kressmann et al. (2006) on the impact of self-image on brand loyalty aspects, the findings infer that the consumers mostly go for products that address their ideal self image in order to satisfy their self-esteem needs. Hughes (1976) in his research in the impact of self-image on brand preference, in the findings he notes that ideal self image is attained through the high consumption visibility products.  This means that people will often use products whose consumption has high visibility to cater for their ideal self-image. These findings are congruent with those on self-esteem. The research gap arising from these findings is the extrapolation to the hotel industry. As such, this research addresses this gap.

The impact of the Chinese culture on brand preference

Luo (2009) in his research about the impact of Chinese culture on purchase behaviour unearths various elements of culture that are relevant in regard to influencing consumer preferences. Firstly, the cultures prevalent in the Chinese context include Confucianism – ‘Master Kong” – which consist of classical teachings by Master Kong that influences Chinese people till date. In addition there is Taoism which is a combination of the Laozi and Confucius culture that are a mixture of philosophy and religion. The resultant teachings have over the centuries grown to influence Chinese, Korean and Japanese cultures. Further there is the culture of Guanxi which essentially means the state where two individuals are connected in a sort of manner in which they owe each other or complement each other. It can also be a connection of achieving a sort of purpose. Besides the sub culture of Guanxi ther is Collectivism. Collectivism means that the Chinese people are connected and share in-group values and norms. They feel a sense of entitlement on to their respective cultural groups.

The above cultural connotations according to Luo (2009) influence buyer behaviour in aspects of need recognition and problem awareness – for example Confucianism and Taoism focus on family values versus and individual. This means a follower of the two will be inclined to spend in line with family ascriptions. Collectivism on the other hand means that the consumers are more willing to accept word of mouth information search instead of other sources. In terms of self perception, the “Mianzi” and “Guanxi” cultures cause the Chinese to want others to think of them as rich, generous and having good taste. This may incline shoppers to go for high-end and visible consumption items. Additionally, a person may overspend just to feel important. This extrapolates to the post purchase behaviour where dissatisfaction arises from cognitive dissonance. The findings also indicate that the same results from lack of recognition. This research intends to focus and establish the validity of these conclusions in the hotel industry.

Chapter summary

This chapter intended to offer a theoretical framework that will guide the conduct of the research. Essentially, the main direction posited from the literature review section is that self concept is an important determinant of consumer preferences. Additionally, self concept has been categorised differently as actual, ideal and social and still each of this affect consumer preferences differently. It is also imperative to note that the general effect of customer preference may not entirely be reliant upon customer preference since, firstly, this only happens is the measure of self-image is strict and, secondly, there is a very strong cultural influence in the Chinese context. This may also be looked at from a different perspective where each cultural element culminates in shaping the overall self concept of an individual. However the surety of such issues can only be established through this research.


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