An Exploration of Destination Brand Love among Theme-Park Based Tourists and Excursionists
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“Love” towards a brand functions as one critical component of customer brand relationships (CBRs) (Fetscherin & Heinrich, 2015; Fournier, 1998). Brand love is an under-researched but increasingly important marketing construct that includes both cognitive and emotional dimensions (Albert & Merunka, 2013; Albert, Merunka, & Valette-Florence, 2008a; Albert, Merunka, & Valette-Florence, 2008b; Fournier, 1998). Destination brand love is a type of emotional place attachment that has not received enough scholarly attention (Aro, Suomi, & Saraniemi, 2018). The very few qualitative and exploratory studies on destination brand love call for quantitate investigations to establish its measurement items, reliability, and validity. Aro et al. (2018, p. 80), for instance, emphasized that “once destination brand love has been sufficiently explored qualitatively, further studies could develop quantitative measures.” The current study built on the academic literature on brand love and established the multi-dimensional and multi-indicator destination brand love construct. I defined destination brand love as the degree of intense affection a tourist holds for a branded destination. In this study, destination brand love features a six-dimensional structure comprising self-brand integration, passion-driven behaviours, positive emotional connection, long-term relationship, attitude strength, and attitude valence (Batra, Ahuvia, & Bagozzi, 2012). Destination brand love stands out as a highly inclusive marketing construct because of its more abundant variety of sub-dimensions, antecedents, and outcomes. Consumers begin to interact with brands in their pre-patronage stage. In the case of theme-park based tourism, visitors’ pre-existing awareness, trust, and beliefs of a branded destination impact their overall emotional responses towards the destination. During travel experiences, evaluation of experiential attributes, such as shopping, activities and events, accessibility, attractions, environment, and dining, serves as a key catalyst to spark destination brand love. As a type of desirable CBR, brand loyalty requires close emotional bonds between consumers and brands and therefore is a potential outcome of destination brand love. Visitors’ actual on-site experiences at branded destinations may enhance their loyalty towards destinations. So far, few attempts have addressed the significance of destination brand love in constituting cognitive, attitudinal, and conative loyalty. Previous research on the outcomes of brand love have focused heavily on the “brand love leads to loyalty” paradigm, while neglecting brand love’s non-business consequences. Part of the reason may be that earlier brand love studies are mostly from a business management perspective. Indeed, it is highly probable that tourists and excursionists experience “non-business” outcomes of destination brand love, such as enhanced individual well-being, improved quality of life, and more intimate family relationships. As mentioned by McCabe and Johnson (2013), the association between tourism experiences, individual happiness, and family cohesion represents a relatively new line of research in the tourism discipline. However, there has been a dearth of exploration on destination brand love’s influences on individual happiness and family relationships. Very few systematic theoretical frameworks of destination brand love have been published to explain destination brand love’s brand-related and experience-related antecedents and outcomes at the individual (happiness-related), familial (family-cohesion-related), and business (loyalty-related) levels. To address this void, the researcher developed the multi-dimensional and multi-indicator conceptual framework of antecedents and consequences of destination brand love in a theme-park tourism context. Three key factors precede destination brand love include brand awareness, brand trust, and evaluation of experiential attributes. Destination brand loyalty (including cognitive, attitudinal, and conative), individual perceived happiness, and family togetherness are endogenous constructs. The overall purpose of this dissertation is to explore brand awareness, brand trust, and evaluation of experiential attributes as three antecedents of destination brand love, as well as the role of destination brand love in predicting consumer responses to theme park-based visitation experiences (i.e., individual perceived happiness, family togetherness) and business-related outcomes (i.e., cognitive, attitudinal, and conative brand loyalty). The researcher collected survey data from Shanghai Disneytown through on-site convenience sampling in January 2017. A total of 427 respondents visited Shanghai Disneyland with their families. The researcher used their responses in the Partial Least Square Structural Equation Modelling (PLS-SEM) analysis in SmartPLS M 3.0. A set of destination brand love scales were finally established through multiple methods, that is, Cronbach’s alpha reliability coefficients, factor loading, exploratory factor analysis, and confirmatory factor analysis. PLS-SEM results supported 15 out of 20 hypotheses put forward. Brand awareness did not exert any meaningful and significant influence on destination brand love (β=-0.076, p>.05, t=1.872; S.E=0.041). The direct effect of brand trust on destination brand love was statistically significant at 99.9% confidence interval level (β= 0.229, p<.001, t=5.233; S.E=0.044). Evaluation of experiential attributes generated a positive effect on destination brand love (β=0.710, p<.001, t=18.225; S.E=0.039). More importantly, destination brand love exerted positive effects on perceptions of family togetherness (β=0.613, p<0.001, t=17.756, S.E=0.035), perceived happiness of visitors (β=0.566, p<0.001, t=11.192, S.E=0.051), and all four sequential stages of destination brand loyalty, namely: cognitive brand loyalty (β=0.622, p<0.001, t=11.800, S.E=0.053), attitudinal brand loyalty (β=0.791, p<0.001, t=16.913, S.E=0.047), and conative brand loyalty (β=0.782, p<0.001, t=16.225, S.E=0.048). The more visitors perceive destination brand love, the more individual happiness, family cohesion, and brand loyalty they express. Furthermore, the development of destination brand loyalty followed sequential stages. As predicted, cognitive loyalty affected attitudinal loyalty in a positive and significant way (β=0.434, p<0.001, t= 8.058, S.E= 0.054). Furthermore, attitudinal loyalty impacted conative loyalty significantly (β=0.569, p<0.001, t= 10.249, S.E= 0.056). The researcher also carried out a series of mediating and moderation tests using the bootstrapping procedure and the moderation analysis techniques in SmartPLS M 3.0. Bootstrapping outputs indicated that destination brand love functioned as a statistically significant mediating construct in the conceptual framework. The mediation effect of destination brand love in the evaluation of experiential attributes → attitudinal loyalty relationship turned out to be positive and statistically significant (β =0.562, p< 0.001, CI=0.562-0.559). Similarly, the mediation effect of destination brand love in the evaluation of experiential attributes → conative loyalty relationship was also positive and statistically significant (β=0.555, p< 0.001, CI=0.555-0.557). Regarding moderation effects, the researcher examined “income” and “first-timers versus repeat visitors” as two categorical moderators. Bootstrapping results demonstrated that the influence of evaluation of experiential attributes on conative loyalty was stronger among repeat visitors compared with first-timers. The boosting effect of destination brand love on family togetherness was greater for low-income visitors than for their high-income counterparts. In other words, higher income levels entail a weaker relationship between visitors’ destination brand love and family togetherness, while lower levels of income lead to a stronger relationship between visitors’ destination brand love and family togetherness. This research addresses a significant gap in the literature by validating the construct of destination brand love and establishing the multi-dimensional and multi-indicator conceptual framework. It initiated destination brand love research in the seldom-studied non-Western branded destination context. The establishment of the conceptual framework of antecedents and consequences of destination brand love demonstrates the importance of understanding 1) brand-related, experience-related precursors related to destination brand love; 2) cognitive, attitudinal (including emotional), and conative consequences of destination brand love; and 3) well-being related and family-related outcomes of destination brand love. The findings have implications for academics, destination management organizations, and other destination stakeholders who wish to improve their understanding of the influences of destination brand love in theme-park based tourism.
Cite this version of the work
Kai Jiang (2019). An Exploration of Destination Brand Love among Theme-Park Based Tourists and Excursionists. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/14469