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The Role of Consumers Attitude toward Product Brand: It's Implication to the SMEs
Methaq Ahmed (Contact No: +006012-5971187; E-mail: nabsiah@usm.my, methaq68@yahoo.com) School of Management Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia. _____________________________________________________________________ Abstract This article focuses on the importance of consumers attitude toward brand (Ab) which is hypothesized to influence their purchase intention (PI) of products found in the marketplace. It also focuses on the assumption that consumers attitude toward brand is anteceded by corporate credibility (C/C) -- i.e. how credible that company is seen as by the consumers. A study carried out in Yemen using 250 women respondents as consumers of a Ghee product (cooking oil) found that consumers attitude toward brand (Ab) significantly influences their purchase intention (PI) of the product. The study also found that corporate credibility (C/C) acts as antecedent of consumers attitude toward brand (Ab). The implication for the SMEs is such that these entrepreneurs should emphasize on the importance of the aspects of product branding in their marketing strategy since consumers intention to purchase products at the marketplace is influenced by their attitude toward the product brand. In addition, the SMEs must also take note of the importance of corporate credibility (C/C) factor-- as credibility antecedes consumers attitude toward product brand.

Introduction
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play a critical role in the economic development of a country, they are vital to the ability of an economy to innovate, diversify and create new jobs (Poon et al, 1994). Apart from employment creations, the SMEs also act as the economic engine driving the global quality of life, hence the major role the SMEs and entrepreneurship play in the world economy (Hill et al. 1999). In addition, Amini (2004) noted the evidences indicating that small business play a big role in ensuring economic stabilization that any decline in the small business sector will somehow (sooner or later) affect the rate of economic growth. Consumers behavioral factors such as what the consumers think of a product brand (i.e. consumers attitude toward product brand) that can be found in the marketplace, the credibility of a company in the marketplace (i.e. corporate credibility) and their intention to purchase a product have been acknowledged in the literature as amongst the important factors needed to be addressed by the SMEs to compete and survive especially in the aggressive markets. In line with this note, it is the objective of this article to explore the role of consumers attitude toward brand (Ab) in terms of: a) whether attitude toward brand (Ab) influences consumers purchase intention (PI) of a product, and that

b) whether corporate credibility (C/C) plays antecedent role to attitude toward brand (Ab). Empirical study conducted in Yemen of a select consumer product brand will be used to test these relationships amongst variables. Implications of the study findings to the SMEs will be discussed at the end of the article.

Literature review
Corporate credibility (C/C) According to Yoon et al. (1998), source credibility can be conceptualized as a weight that can enhance the value of information in a message and its importance has been supported by many studies. Thus, the literature has acknowledged that a highly credible communication source is more effective than a less credible source in terms of causing positive attitude change and behavioral intentions of consumers. Many researchers define credibility as the extent of which the source is perceived as possessing expertise that is relevant to the communication topic or message and hence can be trusted to give an objective opinion on the particular subject (Ohanian, 1990; Goldsmith, Lafferty and Newell, 2000). Taking the credibility definition further, Goldsmith et al. (2000) describe corporate credibility as the extent of which consumers believe that a firm can design and deliver products and services that satisfy customer needs and wants. Although it is still a fragile concept, corporate credibility (C/C) is to date perceived to be the ultimate key to success in the business world. It is considered the foundation upon which investors and other stakeholders including employees, customers, suppliers, local communities and other pressure groups base their confidence in the future success of an enterprise (Harding, 1999). C/C is cited as the central link between company behaviour and public confidence, also encompassing the promise/ performance gap between consumer expectations and product/service delivery (Greyser, 1999). This means that when a company has credibility, it does not need to defend itself against every charge; a credible company typically has the reputation and support of the community that deflects half-truths or lies lobbed at it by an environmental rights group or a disgruntled community activist (Kelly 1997). To measure C/C, expertise and trustworthiness have been acknowledged as the dimensions of the variable (Ohanian, 1990; Goldsmith et al, 2000). Previous studies have also used C/C as an antecedent variable to attitude toward brand (Ab) (Ohanian, 1990; Goldsmith et al, 2000). Attitude toward Brand (Ab) Attitude toward brand (Ab) is a predisposition to respond in a favorable or unfavorable manner to a particular brand after the advertising stimulus has been shown to the individual (Phelps & Hoy, 1996). Ab has been found to play an important role in influencing consumers purchase intention (Goldsmith et al, 2000; 2002; Gresham & Shimp, 1985; Yi, 1990). Many studies found that Ab had a positive and significant effect on (PI) (Machleit & Wilson, 1988; Phelps & Hoy, 1996; Mackenzie & Lutz & Belch, 1986; Mitchell & Olson, 1981; Batra & Ray, 1986;

Brown & Stayman, 1992; Homer & Yoon, 1992; Youjae Yi, 1990; Shimp & Gresham, 1985; Homer, 1990). Attitude toward brand was also used in previous studies as an independent variable for C/C (Goldsmith et al, 2000; 2002). Purchase intention (PI) Purchase intention has been defined as how likely it is that the individual would purchase the product (Phelps & Hoy, 1996) or the predisposition to buy a certain brand or product (Belch & Belch, 2004). Purchase intention has been found to play an important role as predictor of the consumers purchase behavior (Goldsmith et al, 2000; 2002; Gresham & Shimp, 1985; Yi, 1990). Hence, it has been, on many previous occasions, studied or treated as a dependent variable (Goldsmith et al, 2000; Yi, 1990; Dena et al., 1987; Machleit & Wilson, 1988). Likewise, for the purpose of this study, (PI) is the major variable or the dependent variable.

Conceptual Framework
Based on the above-mentioned literature review, the following theoretical model framework (see Figure 1) has been developed. Figure 1: Theoretical Framework

Corporate Credibility (C/C) *expertise *trustworthiness

H1

Attitude toward brand (Ab)

H2

Purchase Intention (PI)

In line with the model framework, two main hypotheses were also built to be tested. These are: H1: Corporate credibility (C/C) has a direct, positive relationship with attitude toward brand (Ab) As C/C is multidimensional in nature as has been acknowledged in the literature, the two dimensions that make up this variable are used as corollary hypotheses for H1 as shown below: H1.1: Corporate expertise has a direct, positive relationship with attitude toward brand (Ab). H1.2: Corporate trustworthiness has a direct, positive relationship with attitude toward brand (Ab). H2: There is a positive and significant relationship between consumers brand attitude (Ab) and purchase intention (PI).

Methodology
As stated earlier on, the objective of this study was to explore the role of consumers attitude toward brand (Ab). Thus, specific relationships (between C/C and Ab, and between Ab and PI) as had been shown in the theoretical model (Figure 1) and the two main hypotheses have been developed and to be tested. To achieve the objective, an advertisement for a very popular and well known brand for a Ghee product (a cooking oil) in Yemen i.e. Al-Kamariah, was chosen to be evaluated by Yemeni consumers. As it is the women who usually buy and cook using the ghee product, judgmental sampling was used in this study. A total of 250 questionnaires were personally distributed to selected group of Yemeni women consumers who reside at Taiz city. The questionnaires contain a full-page advertisement of the Al-Kamariah brand (on which the companys name was stated clearly in the advertisement to represent the C/C aspect) and a series of related questions pertaining to the objectives of the study. The survey instruments were adapted from previous studies (Goldsmith et al 2000; 2001; 1999; 2002; Holbrook and Batra (1987). The data collected were analyzed using SPSS.

Findings:
Of the total 250 respondents, only 243 were found be useable for further analysis as 7 of them were found to be not aware of the Al-Kamariah brand tested in the study. Thus, these seven respondents were considered not qualified to give their responses. Respondents Profile. Table 1 shows the select profile of the respondents used in the study. As shown, the majority of them are not married (57.6%), and of those who are married (36.2%), the majority have children (26.7%). Only a small percentage of the respondents are either married without children or are in a divorce state (totaling to 15.9%). The respondents were nearly equal in numbers in terms been made up of the students (49.8%) and teachers (50.2%) groups. The respondents were made up of young consumers with the majority of the respondents age falls between 20-30 years old (71.2%), and that 27.6% of them aged between 30-40 years old. Only 1.2% of the respondents were over 41 years old. In terms of behavioral cooking life style, it was found that all of the 243 respondents use Ghee in their everyday cooking. The statistic shows that the majority of them use ghee always in their cooking (99.2 %) and that only 0.8% use ghee to cook sometime. Interestingly, it was found that the majority of them are concerned about the brand type of ghee that they use (95.6%), while only a small percentage (4.1%) were left unconcerned. Table 1 - Profile of Ghee Users Variables
Marriage

Description
Married with Children Married without Children Divorced Not Married

Frequency
65 23 15 140

Percentage
26.7 9.5 6.4 57.6

Occupation

Student Teacher 20-30 30-40 Over 41 Yes No Always Sometimes Seldom Never Yes No

122 121 173 67 3 243 0 241 2 0 0 233 10

50.2 49.8 71.2 27.6 1.2 100 0 99.2 .8 0 0 95.6 4.1

Age

Use Ghee in Cooking Frequency of using Ghee in Cooking

Concerned about the Brand Type of Ghee

Hypothesis 1: The relationship between corporate credibility (C/C) and attitude toward brand (Ab)
This section describes the results on hypothesis 1 that tested the relationship between corporate credibility (C/C) and attitude toward brand (Ab). The hypothesis is stated again as follows: H1: Corporate credibility (C/C) has a direct, positive relationship with attitude toward brand (Ab). Factor analysis conducted to examine the multidimensionality of the C/C variable found that C/C is indeed a two dimensional variable (i.e. corporate expertise and trustworthiness) as had been described in the literature. In terms of reliability, C/C was found to have high reliability value with Cronbachs alpha at 0.92. In addition, Attitude toward brand (Ab) was found to be a unidimensional factor. It is also highly reliable (Cronbach's alpha =0.91). Table 2: Results of multiple regression analysis on H1 - The effect of corporate credibility (C/C) on Ab
Independent Variables Dependent Variable: Attitude toward Brand (Ab) Beta Coefficients and Significant Levels Expertise -.03 Trustworthiness .42*** R .40 R .16 Adjust R .16 F 23.3 Durbin-Watson 1.52 Note: Significant levels: **p<0.01; *p<0.05

As shown in Table 2, the multi regression analysis results indicated that only corporate Trustworthiness has significant effect on Attitude toward Brand. As for the explanation of the effect of C/C on Ab, it was found that the two dimensions of C/C explained only 16% of the variance in Ab (R =0.16). Since only trustworthiness in C/C was found to be positively and significantly associated with Ab ( = .42, P<0,

001), while the dimension of expertise ( = -0 .03, P>0, 01) was negatively associated with Ab, Hypothesis 1 (H1) can only be partially accepted (H1.2 - accepted, H1.1 rejected).

c) The relationship between attitude toward brand (Ab) and purchase intention (PI)
Similar tests were conducted for the second hypothesis that focused on the relationship between attitude toward brand and purchase intention (H2: There is a positive and significant relationship between consumers brand attitude (Ab) and purchase intention (PI)). Factor analysis conducted in the variable found that both Ab and PI are undimensional variables each. Both variables have high reliability values with Ab (Cronbach's alpha =0.91) and PI (Cronbach's alpha = 0.92). Regression analysis was carried out to analyze the relationship between Ab and PI found (H2). Table 3 presents the results that show attitude toward brand (Ab) explained approximately 39% of the variance in purchase intention (PI) (R=.39). The variable of Ab was found to be positively and significantly associated with PI (=.63, p<0.01). From the result, it can be concluded that this hypothesis (H2) which had proposed the effect of (Ab) on (PI) is accepted. Table 3: Results of multiregression analysis on H2 - The effect of attitude toward brand (Ab) on purchase intention PI
Independent Variables Dependent Variable: Purchase intention (Ab) Beta Coefficients and Significant Levels Attitude toward brand .63*** R .63 R .39 Adjust R .39 F 165.1 Durbin-Watson 2 Note: Significant levels: **p<0.01; *p<0.05

Implication of the study results to the SMEs


Ryan et al. (2000) advised that it is important to note that SMEs may mean different things to different people depending on the circumstances surrounding the subject. For Baer (1989), there are major differences in outlook and modes of operation for the small to midsized public relations firms, even among entrepreneurs. All entrepreneurs, for example, may not necessarily want their firms to be anything but small. Others do want their firms to grow, such as through: 1. diversifying, 2. finetuning their specialized expertise and marketing it in another geographic base, 3. joining other firms or becoming affiliates of the giants, and 4. seeking to buy another firm, merge, or be acquired. No matter how the SMEs and the entrepreneurs want their company to be in terms of size or operations, there are two things to be noted following the results of the study.

1- The importance of Ab
The finding implies that consumers attitude toward brand (Ab) directly affect their purchase intention (PI). As such, for the SMEs, they have to ensure that their consumers or target consumers possess favorable attitude toward product brands that they carry. For example, in this study it was found that Yemeni women consumers do have favorable attitude toward the Al-Kamariah brand. Hence, their intention to purchase that brand for their cooking needs.

2- The importance of C/C as antecedent to Ab variable


The findings also imply that attitude toward brand (Ab) is made up of the corporate credibility (C/C) component. That means, for SMEs, for the consumers at large to have favorable attitude toward brand (Ab), they will look and evaluate the credibility of the company that carries the so called brand. In the case of this study, Yemeni consumers do have favorable image (C/C) of the manufacturer of the Al-Kamariahs brand. And this leads to the favorable attitude toward the product brand that it carries.

Conclusion
The study acknowledges the important of attitude toward brand (Ab) in triggering purchase intention (PI). In addition, the role of corporate credibility (C/C) as antecedent for Ab has also been concluded.

Limitation
The study has quite a few limitations. For instance, the use of Ghee cooking oil product may mean that this study cannot easily be generalized to rather products and industries. In addition, since this study was conducted in Yemen, it may not have the ability to capture the actual situation experienced for the Malaysian marketplace. The differences in various factors especially culture, may have an impact on the study results.

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