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In today’s highly competitive businesses, it is not enough just to produce a quality product or offer a unique service. Increasingly, the battle for the consumer occurs not between the goods or the companies but between their images and their advertisements. Every company that operates in a competitive environment has to be highly attentive to its own strategy, which determines the attitude of not only consumers but also suppliers, investors, and business partners. Thus, the brand becomes a powerful tool to influence people while its entire image determines the future of the company in general.

Objectives:

  • to study the formation of the main brand image provisions in the consumers’ minds;
  • to select those image characteristics that are crucial in making purchasing decisions.

Keywords: brand image, branding, brand trust, purchase/buying behavior, consumer, advertisement, brand equity, customer/consumer.

Nowadays, branding is an attractive perspective that seeks to establish a connection with the consumer in terms of “here and now”. However, the organized advertising campaign is not enough for the formation of an effective brand (Priyanka, 2012, p.462). Most significantly, a brand has to provoke the emotional feedback in the minds of consumers, create a certain aesthetic image and the desire to join the company’s world by purchasing its product or choosing its service (Priyanka, 2012, p.462). In this regard, the image of the brand is the deliberately generated image that enriches the company with the individual characteristics and fills it with meaning and significance.


The aim of the research is to analyze the formation of the main brand image, brand trust, and advertisement provisions in the consumers’ minds, and investigate the influence of the above-mentioned concepts on customers’ purchase behavior. Therefore, the Coca-Cola Company will get familiar with the characteristics that are crucial in making purchasing decisions. Moreover, the purpose of the paper is to prove that all three variables, if they are developed effectively, enhance sales, profits, and reputation. The results obtained after conducting the survey will allow Coca-Cola Company to develop a new effective marketing strategy that will concentrate on the most significant factors of production promotion.

Background and Significance

The positive image of the brand is the active means of communication, which allows the company to set its own conditions on the market and expand the target segments. In this regard, the main objective of creating a positive image is to ensure such comfortable conditions under which the purchase of branded goods will become a capacious and desirable process. The analysis of brand image aspects is reflected in the works of many prominent scientists and marketing specialists. The scientific studies examine principal concepts of branding image, including main stages and types of instruments forming the image of the brand. The main difficulty of such researches is the ambiguity of interpretation of the image. Moreover, the understanding of the actual content of the concept heavily influences its further formation. Although the scientists thoroughly investigate the instruments of image formation, other concepts such as the methodological grounds of brand image formation in the consumers’ minds, and the process of image influence on the final choice of the consumers remain poorly researched.

Brand image can be examined from different perspectives as a brand’s prestige, a brand’s concept, a brand’s reputation and/or the perception of the brand (Bian & Moutinho, 2011, p.193). A high-quality image has to reflect the thoughts, feelings, and expectations of the target audience. Besides, the main function of the image is the formation of a positive attitude to the brand, which, in turn, leads to the selection of a particular product / service by the consumer. Moreover, the established positive perception of the brand strengthens the competitive position of the company. Among the most influential and effective positive impacts of brand image on the choice of the consumer, there are the formation of trust and confidence towards the company, high estimation of the goods, a choice of brand products in preference to goods-analogues, and the increase of the company’s prestige (Rindell, Korkman & Gummerus, 2011, p.441).

The first stage, which is decisive for the formation of a positive image, is the enhancement of consumers’ confidence and trust towards the brand. Trust may be provided by many factors, the most remarkable of which are (Price, 2010, p. 232):

  • Reliability – the duration of the organization’s existence and functioning on the market, the high quality of offered products / services, availability of a large number of resources, fulfilment of promises given to customers and business partners;
  • Progressivity – flexibility of brand’s competition policy, ability to deal with complex issues, creative approach to problem solving, willingness to develop new ways to meet consumer needs;
  • Competence – a high level of employees’ proficiency, the high level of production specialization;
  • Social and ethical aspect – organization of charity activities and entertainment events, participation in the area improvement, arrangement of manufacture process with a focus on environmentally friendly methods.

Ideally, a brand which main purpose is to earn the trust of consumers has to use each of these factors and actively incorporate them into the target segment. Moreover, favorable brand identity is “a central driver of consumer preference and usage, as a consumer is more likely to associate them with the desired group or ideal self-image” (Bian & Moutinho, 2011, p. 194). The image is a factor of customer’s trust, the increase in the number of sales, and, hence, the prosperity or failure of the company, its owners and employees (Bian & Moutinho, 2011, p.194).

On the next stage, after realizing why the brand is trustworthy, the consumer starts assessing efforts made by the company. In this case, the generated positive brand image certainly influences the choice of the consumer. Arriving at the place of sale, the buyer more likely will choose a product which name he/she repeatedly hears in a positive context (for instance, as ecofriendly or made from high-quality raw materials) than a product which is unknown to him/her, or one that causes negative associations (Qu, Kim, & Im, 2011, p.469). Undoubtedly, the increased sales entail the enterprise’s competitiveness improvement. Moreover, they provoke the increase of the capacity, influence and prestige of both the company and its brand (Rindell et al., 2011, p. 443). This practice, in turn, opens a space for better management within the company, and production development. Consequently, it strengthens the confidence in the brand on the consumers’ behalf and increases the market share.

Ksawaneh and Hasouneh (2010) in their work The effect of familiar brand names on consumer behavior: A Jordanian Perspective state that the consumer realizes the purposefulness of the brand referring to brand characteristics. Furthermore, the scholars note that consumers’ demographic characteristics (age, gender, marital status) do not relate to the brand recognition and do not affect it in any way. Nevertheless, branded products are more expensive than non-branded ones; people consider their price is justified with its extra quality. Finally, the ability to buy branded products is an indication of high social status.

Qu, Kim, and Im (2011) support the idea that the brand management implies the utilization of marketing tools for a product, a series of products, or a brand. If a brand is administrated effectively, the value of the branded product and the loyalty to a brand will be increased in consumers’ minds. In addition, the specialists regard brand as an assurance that the quality of the product will remain the same in the future. This promise considerably enhances customers’ brand trust, and, therefore, promotes sales. Moreover, the authors claim that organizations’ social amenable practices positively influence consumers’ brand preference. Unlike brand image, trust, and advertisement that affect consumer purchase behavior positively, environmental issues have a negative influence.

Bian and Moutinho (2011) clarify that such brand’s characteristics as status symbol, guarantee, personal and social identification are able either to encourage or discourage the customers’ recognition of the brand. Accordingly, if the characteristics are positive, the loyalty towards a brand and the readiness to admit brand’s extensions rise remarkably. The image developed for a particular brand affirmatively relates to user buying preferences. As stated by Bian and Moutinho, a brand is a useful and compelling tool aimed at seizing consumers’ attention and directing it to particular goods or services. The demeanor of the buyers can be analyzed from the perspectives of brand recognition, loyalty, and association. Consider an illustration, many people have a negative attitude towards brands originated from China. Consequently, they prefer buying expensive products of the reliable and respected European brands to cheaper products of Chinese brands.

Price (2010) in his work How Brand Name and Packaging Quality Affect the Consumer Choice Process supports the idea that females’ purchase behavior is strongly affected by the brand status, brand trust, self-preferences, and opinions of others. Modern society considerably transformed the global market making it more favorable for branding. Moreover, people become more and more involved in the branding process. The result of such an active involvement is that people start choosing branded products and services more reasonably and consciously.

Rindell et al. (2011) in their work The Role of Brand Images in Consumer Practices: Uncovering Embedded Brand Strength ascertain that brand objectivity consists of brand recognition, apprehended quality, brand image, and brand originality. The brand is considered a tool that assists corporations in taking advantage of competitive profits. Besides, brand equity is a structure that consists of several dimensions and has a consumer as its main target. The authors also state that brand is elusive and abstract notion that, however, directly influences customers’ purchase behavior. The customers’ brand orientation and brand perception are based on the marketing campaign conducted by the organization’s management. If the campaign is successful (for example, the company uses effective advertisement, analyzes and meets the needs of the target audience), the brand will certainly succeed and be approved by the public.

Furthermore, Priyanka (2012) notes that advertising is a powerful instrument that attracts consumers’ attention and directs it towards the purposed product or service. There exists a direct connection between purchasers’ buying consideration, emotional and environmental factors. For instance, if the customer has a particular emotional preference to the product, he/she would rather buy it.

According to Rasool et al. (2012), people occasionally start using other brands just to test them and compare them with the ones they have previously used. Moreover, the article states that the purchase attention changes as the income level of consumers grows or decreases. The study also explores that male purchasers are more prone to be influenced by the advertisement than female purchasers are. state that “an advertisement conveys the message to the targeted consumers, groups or individual users and [attracts] the [consumers] to use the company’s goods and services” (p. 571). Nevertheless, it is important to mention that an extremely persistent advertisement provokes the occurrence of negative purchase behavior and brand aversion (Rasool et al. (2012).

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Solomon, Russell-Bennett, and Previte (2013) consider advertising as the marketing promotional action plan that seeks to attract potential consumers’ attention to a specific service or product. The authors also agree that consumers choose those brands and products that provoke positive feelings and attraction. At the same time, Sandikci (2011) analyzes the advertising issue from a different perspective. The scientist demonstrates that in a case when the competitive market offers too many brand choices, the attention should be placed not on the consumers’ purchase behavior but on the company. The manufacturer should analyze the factors that influence the buyers’ choice and consider them to develop a successful marketing campaign. The article also proves that both male and female purchasers are equally determined by the advertisement. Additionally, it was identified that the majority of people prefer TV advertisements to printed and radio ones. To summarize, in a today’s competitive environment, the advertisement is considered one of the main factors of influence that can bring the company either success or failure.

Schiffman and Kanuk (2010) conclude that individuals living in urban areas are less subjected to advertising impact than those who live in the rural areas. An advertisement induces the unrestrained aspiration to utilize the product at least once. It is necessary to mention that in order to achieve a maximum success, advertisements often use celebrities who make the product look more desirable and indispensable. The above-mentioned authors also state that advertising is “a form of marketing communication used to encourage, persuade, or manipulate an audience to take or continue to take some action” (p. 12). Creating the perfect image of life, advertisements make people believe that this is the promoted product that makes such considerable and unbelievable changes to the lives of its users.

Among the characteristics of brand’s positive perception by the consumers, an appeal occupies the first place. Beyond any doubt, every individual wants to feel and look attractive. Many people associate the concept of attraction with confidence (Qu, Kim, & Im, 2011, p. 469). It is important to stress that by choosing a specific brand, a customer improves himself/herself, becomes better than he/she was before when he/she did not possess a particular product. In general, the appeal is rather a complex phenomenon as it is closely related to fashion, trends, and mentality (Qu et al., 2011, p. 471). Thus, it is necessary for purchasers to understand that what is attractive today may become repulsive tomorrow.

Another significant characteristic of positive brand image perception is its uniqueness. The desire to be an individual, a personality in the eyes of others is successfully used by many brands due to its simplicity – “purchase our special commodity and you will become special too” (Bian & Moutinho, 2011, p.196). Before proceeding to the implementation of brand image, in reality, the company should clearly realize what to do, how to do it and what the ultimate goal is (Rindell et al., 2011, p.445). Naturally, every company wants to create a positive, attractive image for its brand, but this desire is too generalized. In particular, the enterprise should formulate the desired image and carefully consider every possible scenario of consumers’ perception of a particular factor to continue developing the most successful scenario and gradually move away from ambiguous or negative one.

Brand image is formed continuously, regardless of whether the company is making some effort for this process or not. The severity of brand image management is caused by its instability (Khasawneh & Hasouneh, 2010, p. 37). Specifically, every consumer generates a unique brand image that is the most appropriate and comfortable only for him/her. These images, in turn, are formed by the social, cultural, psychological, and personal qualities of the individual (Khasawneh & Hasouneh, 2010, p. 46). The thorough examination of the target audience allows the company to determine what the audience respects the most in a particular brand. If considering brand a communication, the user from the target group and the brand manufacturer are two different sides while the brand image is a mediator between them (Schiffman & Kanuk, 2010, p.246).

Finally, the desired brand image should include the positive associations that exist in the consumers’ minds along with this brand (Solomon et al., 2013, p.284). Solomon et al. state that a brand should have its personality, which is “the set of traits people attribute to a product as if it was a person” (p. 124). Any generated image is a reflection of the material world in humans’ mind; it is formed in the process of perception of different properties and effects due to the impact on the senses. Moreover, the image is completely subjective concept because it depends on the characteristics of the individual, and it is formed in the individual’s mind in the process of branded goods / services consumption (Sandikci, 2011, p.255). Accordingly, in the consumer’s mind, there appear certain emotions that support or, conversely, weaken the brand engagement. Thus, the brand image is formed in the minds of consumers as a result of impressions that are evoked by the company’s influencing body sensations and those conceptions that existed in the consumers’ mind before (personal, cultural, social factors).

With an extreme increase of goods quantity on the market, there appear certain difficulties with their marketing. Currently, the functional value of goods is not enough for their full realization in terms of market saturation (Rasool et al., 2012, p. 572). Therefore, it is necessary to draw attention to other goods’ values. As a result, a certain image that creates the benefits, acquired after the purchase of a particular brand product, is formed. The image becomes a kind of motivation that determines the behavior of consumers when choosing a product. Furthermore, the construction of a positive brand image entails the formation of significant competitive advantages (Rasool et al., 2012 p. 573). The consumers want to associate themselves with the chosen brand, thus, the emotional component of the image becomes decisive. The study and the subsequent use of the image characteristics of strategic brand development will enable the company to increase its own market share by persuading consumers in the greater value of its product in comparison with others (Sandikci, 2011, p. 255). One should clearly understand the purpose of forming brand image and organize the work of image management on its basis. Significantly, without further image management, all previously spent efforts can become useless.

Alternative Course of Actions.

  • A) Develop a new marketing strategy

After the analysis of the data gathered, Coca-Cola Company will analyze its marketing strategy and find the drawbacks. Taking into account the factors that influence purchase behavior the most, the HC Marketing Personnel will develop a new marketing strategy that will concentrate on the most significant and influential aspects.

  • B) Update current marketing strategy

After the analysis of the data gathered, Coca-Cola Company will analyze its marketing strategy and find the areas that need minor or major improvement. Taking into account the factors that influence purchase behavior the most, the HC Marketing Personnel will update the current marketing strategy so that it satisfies the company’s purpose and customers’ expectations.

  • C) Do not change current marketing strategy

After the analysis of the data gathered, Coca-Cola Company will analyze its marketing strategy and conclude that:

  1. The marketing strategy is perfect and needs no corrections, changes, or updates.
  2. The marketing strategy is not perfect, but there is no use/need/wish/financial support to change it.
  • D) Organize marketing training for the personnel

Having understood the effectiveness of opinion polls concerning the factors that influence consumers’ purchase behavior, the Coca-Cola Company will organize trainings and meetings teaching its personnel how to build a successful marketing strategy.

Procedures

Underlying Causes

Currently, the development of strong Coca-Cola brand strategy becomes a necessary condition for sustainable and long-term business success, which can be achieved by enabling to prescribe higher prices without changing sales, providing a more stable demand, and creating entry barriers for new competitors. Moreover, the Coca-Cola Company will notice the reduction of the capital expenditures and costs directed at attracting and retaining personnel. The active sales and customer loyalty will lead to a reduction in the cost of sales and more favorable conditions for suppliers.

Conceptual Framework

This study aims at examining the theoretical framework of the agents that influence the purchasing behavior of random shopping center customers of different social status, gender, and age. The study will determine the main characteristic features that provoke Coca-Cola brand image perception and brand trust. The research framework of the study is concentrated on the determinative factors of consumers’ buying behavior controlled by the brand image or the brand trust, which are acting as the mediators between the consumer and goods or services. Accordingly, the paper will determine the following visualized hypotheses:

Analyzing the factors of the influence on the consumers’ choice of goods and buying behavior, the study will answer the following research questions and will test the following hypotheses:

RQ1: How does effective brand image influence purchase behavior?

H1: Effective brand image enhances purchase behavior.

RQ2: How does brand trust influence purchase behavior?

H2: Brand trust enhances purchase behavior.

RQ3: How does effective advertisement influence purchase behavior?

H3: Effective advertisement enhances purchase behavior.

Research Design

To explore the effects of brand trust, brand image, and advertisement on consumer purchase behavior opinion poll method will be adopted for the survey. The designed, self-structured questionnaire will comprise of two parts. The first part will be devoted to the personal data of the survey participants including their marital status, age, gender, income level (measured by a nominal scale), and education level. Another part of the questionnaire will deal with the inquiries relevant to the variables, specifically, brand trust, advertisement, brand image, and consumer purchase behavior. The second section will combine multiple choice questions and questions that will be assessed by 5-point scale.

The sampling procedure employed for the project will be simple random sampling. There will be selected random consumers (of different age, gender, marital status, and education level) in markets and shopping centers as a testing frame of the study, from which the questionnaires will be distributed by implementing the non-probability testing technique. 400 questionnaires will be given arbitrarily to the general public of 10 supermarkets and shopping centers. Simple random sampling will ensure surveying representatives of diverse social and ethnical groups and, therefore, allows the project members to estimate the results of the representatives of all groups.

Operational Definitions of Variables

Brand trust is the customers’ desire to depend on his/her apprehended ability of a particular brand to keep the promises and meet the customers’ expectations based on his/her knowledge of the brand.

Brand image is the customers’ view of the brand. It is defined as a unique set of characteristic associations that exist in the minds of target purchasers. It displays what the brand currently stands for. In summary, a brand image is a number of beliefs held about a particular brand.

Advertisement is a notification or a paid announcement distributed in the broadcast, print, or electronic media, intended to attract attention to a particular product or service.

Statistical Analysis

To illustrate the influence of brand image, brand trust, and advertisement on customer purchase behavior, the study will apply Pearson correlation and multiple regression analysis. These methods will help to analyze the relationships between variables. To check the inclination of the participants, the study will calculate mean and standard variation using descriptive statistics.

Limitations and Assumptions

The sampling method is not always able to show the real picture of the situation. For instance, many respondents may consider the study as a waste of time and provide unreliable information. Another part of respondents may conceal the truth and answer the questions randomly, choosing any option regardless of its meaning. Moreover, a project is time-consuming while the target number of respondents is supposed to comprise 400 people of different social status, gender, marital status, age, and education level. Accordingly, a lot of time will be spent just to circulate the questionnaires and receive the replies. Many respondents may fill in the questionnaires incorrectly, therefore, reducing the number of appropriately filled samples. As a result, the final number of samples that will be analyzed can be considerably reduced (it is expected that, at least, 300 respondents will succeed to fill in the forms correctly and provide reliable and real data).

Validity/Reliability

The respondents will not be bothered by the obtrusiveness or any other influence of the project members. The respondents will have enough time to analyze their purchase behavior and successfully finish the survey. Moreover, in order to check whether the sample is filled randomly or not, it will contain secret control questions that will have only one correct answer familiar to every person. In case the answer, given by the respondent, is incorrect, the sample will be regarded as randomly filled and will not be taken into account during further analysis. At the beginning of the survey, the project members will provide clear short instructions for the respondents that will minimize the risk of the respondents’ misunderstanding and mistakes.

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Sample Instrument

Section I – Personal Data

1. Name _________________

2. Gender

Male Female

3. Age Group

15-20 20-25 25-30

30-35 35-40 40-45

45-50 Above 50

4. Current Marital Status

Married Unmarried

5. Educational Qualification

Under-graduate Graduate

Post-graduate Higher Qualification

6. Monthly Income

1000-2000$ 2000-3000$

3000-4000$ more than 4000$

Section II – Consumer Attitude and Performance

1. Which media attracts your attention?

Print Radio

TV Word of mouth

2. How does advertisement affect you?

Annoys Provokes a desire to buy the product

Interests Does not affect

3. Which form of advertisement creates a greater impact on you?

Printed words Words with sounds

Visualized commercial None

4. Does an advertisement urge you to try a new brand?

Yes No Sometimes

5. How often do you buy the same product/service as you see in the commercial?

Always Sometimes

Most of the time Never

6. Do you refer to your friends or family before purchasing a product?

Yes No Sometimes

7. How does effective brand image affect you?

Does not affect Enhances to purchase the product

Provokes interest in brand Attracts attention

8. Is brand image important for you?

Yes No Not sure

9. What do people need to breathe? (control question)

Water Fire

Helium Air

10. Do you pay attention to the list of ingredients when you buy food?

Yes No Sometimes

11. What affects the creation of a positive brand image in your mind?

Brand’s reputation Personal experience

Advertisement Product Quality

12. Is brand trust important for your purchase preferences?

Yes No Not sure

13. In which ways does brand deserve your trust?

Meets your expectations Keeps its promises

Has a good reputation Produces high-quality goods/service

14. If you are supposed to choose from the following list of drinks, which one will you choose? In one word explain your choice.

Fanta Sprite

Coca-Cola Pepsi

Answer: _______________

15. Using 5-point scale, evaluate the influence of the following factors on your purchase behavior (1 stands for low influence, 5 stands for considerable influence):

Brand Image 5 4 3 2 1

Brand Trust 5 4 3 2 1

Advertisement 5 4 3 2 1

Project Report

A written report will be submitted, and an oral presentation of the findings will be made by the project team.

Project Cost and Schedule

The project will be completed within the period of 12 weeks (57 working days) from the time Coca-Cola HC marketing personnel provides necessary information requirements to our team. However, the schedule of the project depends on the assumption that the data collection process will be completed within a five-week period. The estimated cost of the project is supposed not to exceed $15.000. The estimated time of the study’s beginning is April 11, 2016, ending – June 28, 2016.

Table 1. Project schedule.

Activity Time Period Responsibility
Meeting Coca-Cola HC MKTG Personnel April 11, 2016 IMC
Designing Questionnaire April 12-13, 2016 IMC
Obtaining Coca-Cola HC Approval April 14-15, 2016 IMC
Pretesting Questionnaire April 18-19, 2016 IMC
Redesigning Questionnaire April 20, 2016 IMC
Making Multiple Copies April 21, 2016 IMC
Developing Coding Mechanism April 21, 2016 IMC
Selecting Sampling Frame April 11-21, 2016 IMC
Data Collection April 22- May 4, 2016 SIR
Data Entry May 4-17, 2016 SIR
Data Error Checking May 18-20, 2016 IMC
Data Analysis May 23-27, 2016 IMC
Report Writing/Tables/Graphs May 30-June 6, 2016 IMC
Obtaining Feedback from HC June 7-10, 2016 IMC
Additional Analysis June , 13-16 2016 IMC
Making Changes in Report June 16-23, 2016 IMC
Submitting Final Report June 24-27, 2016 IMC
Making Presentation to HC June 28, 2016 IMC

Results and Expectations

The study is aimed to examine the factors that have the most significant influence on consumers’ purchase behavior. Moreover, the study is expected to analyze the connections between such notions as brand trust, brand product, advertisement, and purchasers’ buying behavior. It is important to mention that the results of the study will allow Coca-Cola Company to save money on those aspects that bring no results and concentrate its effort and financial support of those aspects that enhance sales, profits, and consumers’ purchase behavior. The results of the survey conducted in ten different supermarkets are expected to determine the most significant features affecting brand preferences, mainly effective TV advertisements, positive reputation of the brand, high quality of the product and its appropriate price.

The results of the survey are also expected to prove that Coca-Cola Company’s effective brand image, brand trust and advertisement will encourage consumers’ purchase behavior and have a positive influence on the company’s share value, sales, and profits. The respondents of the survey are supposed to choose the main factors that influence their brand choices and preferences. Therefore, there will be designed a chart (Table 2), where the final results of the survey are displayed. These results will show how many people agree that a particular variable influences their choice; how many respondents disagree on this issue; and how many respondents are not sure about the reply or have never thought about it. After the chart with the final results is designed, it will be analyzed, and the chart with the final rate will be introduced (Table 3). It will show which variable influences consumers’ purchase behavior the most, and which variables take second and third places respectively. Accordingly, the company’s HC personnel will be able to analyze the graph, and therefore, develop an effective strategy for the promotion of its goods.

Table 2. General results.

Variable Agree Not Sure Disagree
Brand Image
Brand Trust
Advertisement

Table 3. Final rate.

Variable Number of supporters, % Number of supporters, quantity
Brand Image
Brand Trust
Advertisement

In the final analysis, the purpose of branding is not only the popularization of the product or service in order to obtain quick profits, but also an important investment in the future of the brand. If a certain number of customers forms a clear idea of Coca-Cola brand as prestigious / useful / available, the further promotion of the brand will require less advertising investment. Moreover, it will also increase shareholder value. Thus, a strong brand is not afraid of neither economic instability nor the worst of the crisis. Finally, branding is a complicated marketing strategy, each aspect of which influences consumers’ purchase behavior and creates the demand for a particular product and service.