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AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA ON BRAND PERCEPTIONS: THE CASE STUDY OF ESTÉE LAUDER

DISSERTATION

By

PALESA MAHLOELE

Presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of MSc Marketing

University of Wales
APRIL 2011

ABSTRACT

Social media has evolved through many generations and eras, it has been defined in various ways by different authors, researchers as well as academia. Some argue that it stems from the very early forms of interpersonal communication via email, while others solely accept it as the more recent form of social interaction on social media sites. Despite all the different arguments that exist regarding social media, extant academic literature on the topic is rather sparse. That being said however, the topic of brand perceptions has been studied and researched in depth in both the academic and corporate worlds. The understanding of brand perceptions has been the source of many debates which has resulted in a wealth of literature to draw on for this research study.

This research study sought to assess the impact that Social Media has on brand perceptions of consumers, with a specific focus on Facebook and the Blogosphere. In order to add structure and guidance to the research study, three research objectives were set. The first objective was to review extant conceptual models and theoretical frameworks related to social media and brand perceptions. The second was to evaluate Facebook and consumer blogs in their role as reference groups on consumers. The final research objective was to determine optimal strategies to improve sales and brand reputation of cosmetics through an increased presence on social media platforms; specifically Facebook and blogs.

The researcher deemed it appropriate to conduct this investigation from a qualitative research paradigm. Given the nature of the topic under investigation, qualitative research would allow the researcher to delve deeper into the subject matter. Consequently, the study was carried out in an inductive approach using a case study strategy where data was collected from Estée Lauder and using multiple sources of evidence. This data collection was coupled with online survey in-depth as well as semi-structured interviews for both employees of the company understudy as well as regular consumers of cosmetics products. For the purposes of analysis, thematic data analysis method was chosen based of the fact that it would be most appropriate for qualitative analyses. This method of data analysis allowed the researcher to draw major themes that arose from the data collected as well as the few permeated themes that came through.

The findings from this research study revealed that in principal, consumers and management accept and appreciate the importance of the impact that social media has on brand perceptions. It would seem, based on the results that the challenges boil down to the execution of social media marketing activities. Essentially, Facebook and the blogosphere fulfil distinctive roles in communicating marketing messages, both consumer and company generated. Where Facebook is considered to be a social interaction space, blogs are seen to serve an information providing role. Based on the results of this research study, cosmetics companies have failed to recognise these critical differences. Despite the fact that Facebook is considered a private interpersonal communication space, the findings suggest that adding tangible value in holding a presence on Facebook can yield positive results on brand perceptions. Results from this study reveal the untapped potential residing in social media provided strategies that have consumer needs and desires are critically considered.

Chapter One
Introduction

1.1Enquiry Overview
The purpose of this research was to investigate the impact of social media on brand perceptions using Estée Lauder as a case study. Social media in the...
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