Purpose – This study aims to examine the role of functional and symbolic image congruity in Chinese consumers' brand preferences in the auto market, and the role of brand familiarity in moderating the relationship between brand image congruity and consumers' preferences. Design/methodology/approach – A one‐on‐one survey was administered to 1,440 consumers by market research specialists on two popular auto brands in China. Findings – While confirming existing findings concerning functional image congruity, the results revealed that symbolic image congruity had a negative impact on Chinese consumers' brand preference when a brand's perceived symbolic image is higher than consumers' ideal expectations (i.e. upward incongruity), and brand familiarity does not moderate the role of symbolic image congruity in Chinese consumers' brand preference. Originality/value – The paper's findings could help managers to improve their brand management and enhance consumer satisfaction.
Journal of Product & Brand Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Feb 24, 2012
Keywords: Brand image; Brand preference; Brand management; Auto market; Symbolic and functional congruity; China
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