Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Business and Law

First Advisor

Professor Hugh Wilkins

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Maria Ryan

Third Advisor

Dr Claire Lambert

Abstract

Luxury and upscale hotels, in common with businesses in other service industries and more broadly, seek to develop a strong brand that will contribute to a long-term competitive advantage. However, research on consumer-based brand equity in luxury and upscale hotels is limited. Therefore, the current research, based on fundamental theories of brand equity development established in the packaged goods and the service industries including hotels, has developed a consumer-based brand equity model for the luxury and upscale hotel sector.

A mixed methods research design was employed. A qualitative study was first conducted using focus groups with the data being content analysed to explore the brand equity development process from the consumer’s perspective. Afterwards, a quantitative examination was administered using an online questionnaire and inferential data analyses including structural equation modelling to identify significant brand equity dimensions and antecedents, and their interrelationships.

Research findings highlighted that consumer-based brand equity in the luxury and upscale hotel sector can be assessed by two dimensions: a commonly identified dimension of brand choice and a new dimension of online brand advocacy. The findings indicate that in today’s digital hotel market where consumers frequently communicate about a brand online, consumer advocacy online becomes a strong predictor of consumer-based brand equity.

The current research supported the commonly identified brand equity antecedent of brand image and revealed five additional brand equity antecedents in the luxury and upscale hotel sector, including customer relationship management, social image congruence, brand affect, brand trust and consumer-generated content. In particular, customer relationship management as reflected by a brand’s effort in building relationships with individual consumers was found to be the most influential to brand equity development. The study also found that brand equity development in the luxury and upscale hotel sector is driven by unique brand characteristics, including the brand’s symbolic benefit (social image congruence) and experiential benefits (brand affect). It is understandable that in the luxury and upscale hotel sector, consumers’ desires of experiential and symbolic benefits are strong and are likely to increase, with the constructions of super luxury hotel properties worldwide. Therefore, brands need to address these consumer desires in order to cultivate consumer-based brand equity. The identification of brand trust indicates that in the hotel service industry, a consumer’s confidence in the business reliability is influential. Moreover, this study identified the role of consumer-generated content for brand equity development, which not only highlights the influence of digital word-of-mouth on brand equity development in the current research context but also provides a foundation for future research across other markets.

Overall, the current research uncovered unique brand equity dimensions and antecedents from the perspective of luxury and upscale hotel consumers. These additional findings enhance brand equity theories in the luxury and upscale hotel sector and offer a specific reference for luxury and upscale hotel businesses to efficiently build an influential brand in the consumer’s mind.

Available for download on Friday, January 11, 2019

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