Awarded Best MSc Dissertation at London South Bank University
Becoming a ‘top of mind’ brand: Testing the value of using high quality versus high quantity attributes in tourism destination brands
This research examines the relationship between brand and attribute association on subsequent brand salience. For the purpose of this study, brand salience is defined as top of mind awareness in buying situations (Sharp, 2010.) This study tests the popular theories that emphasise the use of high quality attributes in branding as opposed to using a large quantity of attributes, or linking a wide range of attributes to a brand regardless of the quality of those attributes. In addition, this study advocates brand salience as a real-world marketing objective in that it is a more practical strategy and a strong precursor to purchase intention. The study analysed the quality of attributes on the basis of level of importance, perceived differentiation, and attribute category type (product, benefit, situation). This study challenges the popular theories of quality attributes and suggests that applying attributes to marketing activity may simply be a numbers game; thereby becoming a top-of-mind brand is achieved by simply linking the most attributes as possible to the brand.
The data was obtained through application to the travel and tourism sector using five international destination brands. An online questionnaire was distributed to 400 UK residents. The destination brands were analysed based on the relationship between the attributes they were most strongly associated with and their individual brand salience rating. The findings indicate an overall lack of evidence to support a relationship between the quality of attributes and subsequent brand salience. Therefore, the results suggest that marketers would gain from shifting from a focus on the quality of attributes to a focus on the quantity of attributes. The evidence suggests that the more attributes associated with the brand, the more salient the brand, regardless of attribute quality.
Therefore, stress should be placed on linking the brand to a wide range of attributes, with the overall aim being that the brand becomes salient to a large number of customers who are likely to use any number of attributes in a buying situation. The study also concludes that building brand salience using quantity attributes is a practical way to stimulate purchase intention. The more attributes associated with the brand, the higher the number of links created, the bigger the brand’s potential share of mind.
This study’s main contribution is a clear empirical finding that challenges popular theories on strong brand positioning and differentiation, which stress the use of highly important and highly differentiating attributes. These popular theories fail to provide evidence to support their validity in a real-world marketing context. It also holds significant managerial implications for destination marketing organisations and tourism marketers, as well as marketers and brand managers in general, that are applicable to real-world marketing practice. The study dismisses the importance of using quality attributes and instead uncovers a strong relationship between the quantity of attributes and brand salience. This change of focus not only encourages marketers to re-evaluate their attribute strategy, but also permits marketers to place higher emphasis on the actual creativity behind the message. In addition, marketers will uncover deeper insight into the role brand salience plays in marketing success. Ultimately, this study provides a practical strategy for building a top-of-mind brand in a real world context.