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Authors

Grace Ing Phang

Abstract

Corporate rebranding has been evident in the qualitative corporate rebranding studies as an imposed organizational change that induces mixed reactions and ambivalent attitudes among consumers. Corporate rebranding for the established and familiar corporate brands leads to more ambivalent attitudes as these companies represent larger targets for disparaging information. Consumers are found to hold both positive and negative reactions toward companies and brands that they are familiar with. Nevertheless, the imposed change assumption and ambivalent attitude, in particular corporate rebranding, have never been widely explored in the quantitative corporate rebranding studies. This paper aims to provide a comprehensive empirical examination of the ambivalence towards rebrandingrebranded brand attitude-purchase intention relationships. The author proposes that corporate rebranding for familiar corporate brands is a double-edged sword that not only raises the expectation for better performance, but also induces conflicted and ambivalent attitudes among consumers. These consumers` ambivalent attitudes are influenced by both the parent brands-related and general attitude factors which further affect their rebranded brand attitude and purchase intention. A total of 156 useable questionnaires were collected from Malaysian working adults; and two established Malaysian airfreight operators were utilized as the focal parent brands. The study found a significant impact of prior parent brand attitudes on ambivalence towards rebranding (ATR). The parent brand attitudes served as anchors in influencing how new information was processed (Mazaheri et al., 2011; Sherif & Hovland, 1961) and closely related to behavioral intention (Prislin & Quellete, 1996). The ambivalent attitudes experienced were higher when individuals held both positive and negative reactions toward the parent brands. Consumers also held higher ambivalent attitudes when they preferred one of the parent brands; while disliked the other brand. The study also found significant relationships between the lead brand and the rebranded brand attitude; and between the partner brands and ATR. The familiar but controversial partner brand contributed significantly to the ambivalent attitudes experienced; while the more established lead brand had significant impact on the rebranded brand attitude. The lead and partner brands, though both familiar, represented different meanings to consumers. The author attributed these results to the prior parent brand attitudes, the skepticism and their general ambivalence toward the corporate rebranding. Both general attitude factors (i.e. skepticism and general ambivalence towards rebranding) were found to have significant positive impacts on ATR. Skeptical individuals questioned the possibility of a successful rebranding (Chang, 2011) and were more careful with their evaluations toward ‘too god to be true’ or ‘made in heaven’ pair of companies. The embedded general ambivalent attitudes that people held toward rebranding could be triggered from the associative network by the ambiguous situation (Prislin & Quellete, 1996). In addition, the ambivalent rebranded brand attitude was found to lower down purchase intention, supporting Hanze (2001), Lavine (2001) and van Harreveld et al. (2009)`s studies. Ambivalent individuals were found to prefer delay decision making by choosing around the mid-ranged points in ‘willingness to buy’ scale. The study provides several marketing implications. Ambivalence management is proven to be important to corporate rebranding to minimize the ambivalent attitudes experienced. This could be done by carefully controlling the parent brands-related and general attitude factors. The high ambivalent individuals are less confident with their own conflicted attitudes and are motivated to get rid of the psychological discomfort caused by these conflicted attitudes (Bell & Esses, 2002; Lau-Gesk, 2005; van Harreveld et al., 2009). They tend to process information more deeply (Jonas et al., 1997; Maio et al., 2000; Wood et al., 1985) and pay more attention to message that provides convincible arguments. Providing strong, favorable and convincible message is hence effective in alleviating consumers` ambivalent attitudes. In addition, brand name heuristic could be utilized because the rebranding strategy sends important signal to consumers about the changes that happen or going to happen. The ambivalent individuals will pay attention to both brand name heuristic and rebranding message in their effort to alleviate the psychological discomfort caused by ambivalent attitudes. The findings also provide insights to Malaysian and airline operators for a better planning and implementation of corporate rebranding exercise.

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