Evaluating the Influence of Social Media on Brand Equity
In the past few decades, brand equity has been regarded as a crucial concept because of the competitive advantage(s) successful brands bring to companies. Therefore, it is no surprise that the marketing literature provides substantial discussion on brand equity and various methods of assessment (Keller, 1993; Aaker, 1991, Simon and Sullivan, 1993; Mahajan et al., 1990). Furthermore, most of the studies examined focus either on the traditional ways of measuring brand equity (the marketing (customerbased) and financial (company-based) perspective) or extend it by suggesting a new set of measures adapted to the online environment. This thesis builds on the existing traditional and Internet-specific brand equity research by complementing it with new measures pertinent to social media (i.e., social networks and blogs). The primary objective of the thesis is to identify new, social media-specific measures of brand equity. Additionally, based on the collected data, the researcher plans to test and adapt existing models developed for traditional media, and to formulate a new model based on overall research findings that fully describes the relationship between traditional Aaker’s brand equity ten and new, social mediaspecific measures and brand equity. The planned research methodology includes secondary and primary data collection, data processing, analysis and presentation of the research results. Secondary data collection will use relevant and available monographs, textbooks, journal articles, conference proceedings, online databases and Internet data sources. Primary data collection is planned after the completion of exploratory secondary data collection, and it will provide empirical validation of related, relevant theory. The data collection will consist of two stages: 1) qualitative indepth semi-structured interviews with experts (both academics and practitioners) in the field of brand management, brand equity and social media. The researcher will conduct these interviews in Croatia, Switzerland, Italy and the USA. Interviews will be conducted in at least two iterations (adapted standard Delphi technique – experts will be polled in multiple stages, with the results of each stage being presented before the following polling stage starts). Experts will provide fundamental determinants for further research and model development. 2) A quantitative survey will be conducted on a sample of social media users in Croatia, Italy and Switzerland. Collected qualitative data will be processed using SPSS and AMOS statistical software in three steps: 1) Preliminary analysis, 2) Main analysis (model testing) and 3) Supplementary analysis.