Services cannot be seen, felt, tasted or touched in the same manner in which goods can be sensed. Therefore, the key to success in services marketing is to ‘tangibilizing the intangible’ by using an extrinsic cue like a brand. Moreover, brands that are high in brand equity are organization powerful assets. They can lead to customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. This study is to explore customer perceptions on brand equity dimensions among consumers of bank services in Malaysia. The results show brand meaning is an important factor to create brand equity that will lead to customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Field of Research: Services, Banking, Brand Equity, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Loyalty
1. Banking Sector and Service branding
Malaysian banking sector is in a process of restructuring in supporting and preparing the sector towards fulfilling the World Trade Organization bank service agreement. For that, the Malaysian government has introduced Financial Sector Masterplan with guidelines and milestones to be followed (Bank Negara Malaysia, 2005). The sector is experiencing deregulation and liberalization, which also indicate more competitions, not only among the major local players but most importantly from global players. With that, it is crucial for these organizations to examine their strategy in order to survive in their businesses. One of the strategies is to understand their customers better, and this can be done through managing the brand of the organization. Branding is regarded as the tool to compete particularly in the sector that is regarded as highly intangible such as service sectors (Berry, 2000; Berry and Clark, 1986). What is a service? Kotler and Amstrong (2006:243-244) describe four characteristics of services, they are: (1) Intangibility – cannot be seen, tasted, felt, heard or smelled before they are bought. (2) Inseparability – produced and consumed at the same time and cannot be separated ____________________________ *Norbani Che Ha – Faculty of Business and Accountancy, University of Malaya; Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia. email@example.com **Shahrizal Hashim, Faculty of Economics and Business, University Malaysia Sarawak, Malaysia
Che-Ha & Hashim
(3) Variability – their quality may vary greatly, depending on who provides them and when, where, and how. (4) Perishability - they cannot be stored for later sale or use from their providers. Due to the unique characteristics of services, customers have difficulty in differentiating and evaluating the content and quality of competing service offerings (Zeithaml et al., 2001). However, a key to success in services is to ‘tangibilizing the intangible’ (Berry and Clark, 1986). One way is to use an extrinsic cue like branding. Brand is a “name, phrase, design, symbol, or some combination of these elements that identifies organizations services and differentiates it from competitors” (Lovelock and Wirtz, 2007: 626). It is supposed to appeal to the rational, logic, senses of taste and feelings of customers (Margaret, 1998). It is also intended to make them feel comfortable, as if the brand represents their personality, lifestyle, aspirations and behavior. A brand identifies the source of the product, assigns responsibility to the product maker, provides a promise, reduces customer search costs and risk (Lovelock and Weitz, 2007) and signals the quality of the product (Janiszewski and van Osselaer, 2000).
2. Brand Equity
Brands, particularly those that are high in brand equity (value of the brand) can be organizations most powerful assets (Herremans et al., 2000). It allows organizations to enjoy high brand loyalty, name awareness, perceived quality and strong brand associations with customers (Bristow et al., 2000). Besides building on...