Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1 Background of the study

In recent times, it is evident that there exists a huge gap between the old generation and the “me generation” in China. “Me generation” pertains to the younger Chinese people who have been born from 1980s where the “one child policy” was imposed. Accordingly, this young generation is now in their early adulthood and enjoying more convenience in life than the first generation. It was stressed that most of them are successful in their careers and earning hefty amount of salaries. Nonetheless, what makes them different from the old generation is seemed to be entailed in terms of their lavish lifestyle. It was emphasized that they prefer to spend their money on shopping and enjoying lavish things compared to the old generation that exhibit more frugal lifestyle. Hence, this study opted to assess different perspectives about the way “me generation” behaves in line with their purchasing behavior toward lavish apparel or clothing.

1.2 Rationale of Research

The study opted to delve into the purchasing behavior of “me generation” women in regard to their daily leisure wear. In specific, the main objective is to assess the impact of foreign women leisure wear brands on the “me generation” women in China. It has been acknowledge that this particular generation is far different from the older generation when it comes to their lifestyle and consumption behavior. Accordingly, “me generation” is more inclined to spend on shopping and prefer luxurious brands. Likewise it is interesting to investigate onto this matter by analyzing what factors are influencing the consumption behavior of “me generation” women towards foreign brand daily leisure wear.
Research aims and objectives

The following are the aims and objectives of the study:

1. To analyze the existing circumstances of foreign women’s leisure wear brand in Beijing China.
2. To examine different variables affecting consumer behavior such as personal factors and psychological factors.
3. To discuss the influence factor of consumer’s motivation and attitude
Research Questions
It is of utmost importance to develop clear and precise questions which would guide the entire research process. Hence, the following are the sub problems that this study purports to resolve:

1. What is the perception of “me generation” women as regards foreign leisure wear brand?
2. Is there any relationship between brand awareness and consumer behavior?
3. Is there any relationship between brand attitude and consumer behavior?
4. Is there any relationship between brand association and consumer behavior?
5. What is the impact of foreign leisure wear brand on purchasing behavior of “me generation” women in China?

1.3 Testable Hypotheses

HO1. There is no significant relationship between brand awareness and consumer behavior
HO2. There is no significant relationship between brand attitude and consumer behavior
HO2. There is no significant relationship between brand association and consumer behavior

1.4 Structure of the Dissertation

Introduction – This part provides an overview of the study, presenting the issue/s that will be dealt with. It is also the section in which the study outlines the aims and objective for conducting this research, juxtaposing to the research questions which will be the key guidelines of the dissertation.

Literature Review – Part and parcel of the study is the data collection that are relevant and significant for the topic. Therefore, the literature review will be the collation of all these data derived from other studies and materials found befitting for discussion. Given this, the analysis of data derived from focus group interview and case studies will be compared for evaluation and assessment with the literatures obtained. The structure of the literature review will be thematic in form so as to provide a meaningful and easy comprehension for the readers, by means of presenting the information according to themes or subjects.

Methodology – The study will be dealt with qualitatively using focus group interview and quantitatively using survey research method. In this aspect, the study needs to acquire data that are relevant and substantial in form in order to assure the validity and reliability of the results. Through focus group interview, the perception of the respondents will be explored to gain insights into the issues being discussed. Nonetheless, a questionnaire survey will also be conducted to support the findings of the other method and to provide a more robust conclusion.

Results and Findings – After the data are accumulated, collated and organized, an analytic evaluation will be employed to assert the objectives of the study. Using critical and careful evaluation of all the results of two methods and the retrieved literatures, the study will provide a conclusion that will answer directly the issues previously presented.

Conclusion, Recommendation, Limitation and Reflection – This serves as final part of the study wherein a conclusion is made based on the results of the investigation of the study. Also, a practical recommendation will be given to ascertain the applicability of the findings in practical living. Likewise, it will also provide an insightful learning about how the research process developed the skills for critical thinking, time management and careful attention to details of the researcher. It is opted to assert how problems incurred in the process have been resolved and what lessons were learned from them by the researcher. The limitation part entails the honest admission of probable limitations of the study and how this might have influence the findings. Likewise, this will serve as basis for the next section which deals with the areas for further research.

Chapter 2: Review of Related Literature

2.1 History of foreign brands in China

“Me Generation”

This refers to those born after the implementation of the “one child” policy in China. Hence, they are also depicted to be the “young emperors” for they grew up spoiled as no children in China had for generations.

Female buying behavior in China

It was asserted that Chinese women today become one of the most powerful consumer groups. Hence, it was asserted that in order to understand China’s women, it is indeed important to look into the four main classifications of Chinese women today: These are identity builders, career builders, family builders and new life builders (Mok, Nd).

Female Identity builders refer to those high school and college students who see themselves as “I’m not a girl but not yet a woman”. In this specific group, the members particularly value personal growth and self-discovery. Likewise, they are also depicted to be the “me generation”. Accordingly, the female identity builders have much knowledge and preference for “in” items from hip accessories to stylish clothings, cutting-edge electronic equipment and gadgets and even entertainment activities. Moreover, social acceptance is also important for them. In which case, gaining high education is also perceived to be a way for them to attain social recognition. Therefore, many of them seek education overseas because of the belief that knowledge can create success and therefore lead to a fulfilling life (mok, Nd).

In connection, female career builders entail a competitive edge as first generation “only children”. They are mostly successful in their careers thus enable them to have strong financial means to spend for things they desire. Nonetheless, they also value their professional image, thus, they tend to spend their money wisely on items that could project their ideal lifestyle. Likewise, they are likely to buy foreign brands such as luxurious brand like Versace, Louis Vuitton, Miss Sixty, Prada, BCBG and DKNY. Accordingly, these women find ways to enhance their lifestyle such that some would enroll to gym to also serve as a means to relax from tiring day and at the same time become fit. Furthermore, career-builder women are more inclined to travel places such as England, France, Italy and Spain. Nonetheless, they are still very loyal to their country that some opt to return to the home country after working abroad (Mok, Nd).

On the one hand, the family builders tend to focus only on their child most of the time as a result of the one child policy. They tend to spend weekends in educational places like museums, zoos, park and expose their child to activities that will boost his/her talent. Compared to other groups, these women desire to have long-term investments yet they tend to be impulsive buyer of clothes, cosmetics and accessories. Advertisements have strong influence in their purchasing behavior as well as recommendations of friends, co-workers and experts. Unlike career-builders, they tend to have little attention in international clothing and cosmetic brands (Mok, Nd).

Lastly, new life builders are the older generations who are depending on low compensation coming from the government or retirement plans. Health and longevity are the two main concerns of these women and so, they tend to look for other jobs that could augment their income. Likewise, when it comes to consumption decision, this is usually a need-basis. In which case, they only buy what is necessity unlike with other groups (Mok, Nd).

2.2 Consumer Attitude

Researchers have focused on social psychological study of the relationship between attitudes and behaviours, in order to outline the procedures by which attitudes of the consumers are transformed to behavior. A number of scholars have looked at the facets of the consumer, while others have concentrated on the influence of the social aspect, including reference groups, on the choice of the consumer. Other researchers have centered on implicit and explicit preferences of consumers and how these choices interrelate with consumer preference. Meanwhile, some researches focused on the comparative effect of cognitive against affective aspects on the preferences of consumers. Ultimately, scholars have studied the foremost frameworks of the attitude-behavior association to elucidate on consumer behavior. One such framework is the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB). TPB is used as a facility to predict both self-reported behavior and behavioral intentions in connection with consumption. It is among the well-supported, influential theories that are used in studying human behavior in social psychology (Ha 1998; Smith et al 2008).

The fundamental principle of TPB is that behavioral judgments are not made on one’s own accord alone; instead it is the result of a logical procedure wherein behavior is induced, although indirectly, by norms, attitudes, and perceptions of power over the behavior. The framework suggests that attitude (i.e., the assessment of the intended behavior), subjective customs (i.e., recognized social pressure pertaining behavior performance), and the PBC or perceived behavioral control (i.e., perceived power over behavior performance) affect behavior predominantly by their bearing on behavioral intention. For this reason, intention is perceived as the proximal indicator of behavior. PBC is believed to project both explicit impact on behavior and implicit effect by means of intention (Smith et al 2008).

Over twenty years of study by means of planned behavior and reasoned action theories have supplied massive prop up for the frameworks. In addition, the prognostic capacity of these frameworks has been illustrated across a span of consumer domains, as well as food preferences, goals to buy environmentally affable products and sumptuous items such as mobile phones and watches, intents to acquire celebrity goods, intentions to be involved in consumer discontent responses, purposes to utilize e-coupons, and even plans to shoplift. Marketing psychologists have listed down TPB as a remarkably useful model not only for comprehending conduct of consumers but also for influencing it (Shukla 2004; Smith et al 2008).

2.3 Affect on Branding?

Affect is defined as a feeling or emotion resulting from various reactions such as joy, anger and sorrow. Brand image and affect can be perceived by people through logos, brand names, and slogans, which can be evaluated either positively or negatively. Brand affect, in its simplest sense, is a positive feeling which a customer derives from consuming a certain product. In which case, the experience can be described as a happy, uplifting and exciting emotion (Chi et al 2009). There can be two possible brand affects that a person can get, namely: positive and negative brand affect. When satisfied with a product, it is depicted to be a positive brand affect. On the other hand, if the consumer feels uncomfortable and dissatisfied with the product, hence, it is stressed that a negative brand affect occurs. The consumer’s mood and emotion also complements brand affect. Likewise, factors encompassing brand name, logo or slogan may also determine positive or negative brand affect towards the product. The person usually feels the brand affect after using the product itself (Chi et al 2009).

According to Chaudhuri (2001), brand affect is the capability of a brand to produce a positive response from the customer as a result of the product’s frequent use. Chaudhuri (2001) also emphasized that loyalty to a brand is related to brand trust and brand affect. These two factors determine if customers are committed to a brand and if the concept of “one-to-one marketing relationships” is present. It is now suggested that when consumers habitually buy product brands to which they have high brand affect, they are more likely to have increased commitment to the brand.

Some products present vague benefits and yet can still elicit a positive brand affect. There are also pleasurable products as asserted by Chaudhuri (2001) that give high satisfaction, making customers feel a more positive response towards it.

2.4 Brand Loyalty

A brand is seen as a trademark or a distinguishing name of a merchandise or manufacturer. It is a term, name, sign, design symbol, or any combination employed to recognize the products and services of a merchandiser. A brand identity carries out many main functions. It distinguishes the merchandise or service and allows the consumer to identify, refuse or endorse a product or service. It communicates information to the customer (Palumbo & Herbig 2000). Information supplied could involve statements concerning the wealth, lifestyle, or modernity of its users. It serves as a piece of lawful property in which the proprietor can invest and by way of law is protected against rival trespass. Brand names bear the image of the merchandise; “brand” pertains to a term, name, sign, symbol or design employed by a company to distinguish its dealings from those of its rivals, to associate a product with a specific seller. Branding totes up value to goods and services. This value takes place from the experience acquired from using the brand: reliability, familiarity, and decreased risk (Palumbo & Herbig 2000).

2.5 Customer Satisfaction and Product Involvement

By nature, consumers tend to give higher regard and be more attached to one brand compared to others. Likewise, there are also differences in the level of knowledge a consumer has on one product than the other. This is where product involvement becomes more evident (Kwon, Lee, & Kwon 2008).

Product involvement pertains to the inherent needs, values, interest, and enthusiasm of consumers towards various product categories. As empirical researches claim, product involvement is positively associated with brand perception and preference. This implies that involvement with a product can best explain the consumer’s brand choice. A high involvement in the product will influence the consumer to have a more active information search while considering a wide array of alternatives in their decision-making. Consequently, low involvement in a product will make the consumer’s perception of product differentiation relatively weaker between alternatives. In low-involvement products, a lower price will appear to be a critical product attribute and is more likely to influence decisions (Kwon et al 2008).

The involvement of the customer can be viewed in various ways; consequently, an enormous deal of consideration in literature has concentrated on distinguishing the different meanings of the term. Vastly general, involvement has been defined as an interior condition of arousal composed of three key properties: direction, persistence and intensity (Warrington & Shim 2000). Intensity pertains to the degree of motivation or involvement of an individual. Degree of involvement runs along a continuum starting from low to high. It also differs across situations, products and individuals. Despite that fact that clients individually perceive various degrees of involvement for diverse purchase situations and product classes, a number of purchase situations and product classes are commonly viewed as more engaging over others (Warrington & Shim 2000).

Direction is described as the issue or object upon which a customer is motivated, while persistence pertains to the period of the intensity of involvement. Consumers display different levels of involvement concerning products, marketing communications and/or purchase situations (direction) in comparatively brief to prolonged periods of time (dubbed as persistence) (Warrington & Shim 2000).

Involvement is usually regarded as a function of three components: (a) individual attributes such as needs, values, goals and interests of a person; (b) situational aspects such as the purchase event or the perceived threat linked with the purchase judgment; and the (c) attributes of the stimulus or object such as the kind of communication channel or variations in the product class. Results correlated with strong involvement include more effort and time dedicated to search related activities, greater variation in product characteristics, increased probability of creating brand preference, and extensive decision making (Warrington & Shim 2000).

Involvement towards a product is hypothetically analogous to the idea of ego involvement. The concept of ego involvement exists in the event that an object or issue is associated with a peculiar set of values and attitudes which form the self-concept of a person. Likewise, involvement with a product exists when a merchandise category is associated with an individual’s centrally maintained self-concept and values. Product involvement can be classified as being either enduring or situational. An intense, comparatively short-term level of interest in merchandise is regarded as situational involvement, whereas an individual’s continuing interest in a merchandise category is pertained to as enduring involvement (Warrington & Shim 2000). These refer to differing degrees of persistence.

Theoretically, the difference between situational involvement and enduring involvement is on specificity. Each type of involvement connects to the client’s feelings of self-association or relevancy towards a product. Situational involvement is headed towards the utilization of merchandise in a particular situation, while enduring involvement is founded on the association of the merchandise to the client’s essentially held values across all purchases. For the purpose of this research, product involvement is operationalized as the perceived significance of a product category according to the client’s intrinsic interests, values and needs (Warrington & Shim 2000).