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Effects of Online Brand Community on Brand Loyalty

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0024618/00001

Material Information

Title: Effects of Online Brand Community on Brand Loyalty A Uses and Gratifications Perspective
Physical Description: 1 online resource (67 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Lee, Jaejin
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2009

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: brand, community, loyalty, online, purchase, virtual
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Advertising thesis, M.Adv.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: EFFECTS OF ONLINE BRAND COMMUNITY ON BRAND LOYALTY: A USES AND GRATIFICATIONS PERSPECTIVE The exponential growth of the Internet has enabled us to have various communication tools including an online brand community. While numerous virtual communities have appeared on line and become a powerful socio-economic phenomenon, few research studies have empirically explained the effect of online brand communities on brand loyalty. This study investigates how online brand community characteristics affect online brand community loyalty, brand loyalty, and purchase intention by employing a uses and gratifications perspective. The research found that interactivity, convenience of use, reliability of information, and reward for activity significantly influence online brand community loyalty. The results of the analyses also showed that emotive needs and contextual needs in using an online brand community moderate the relationship between online brand community characteristics and online brand community loyalty, while functional needs did not show a significant moderating effect. Furthermore, this study found that online brand community loyalty increases brand loyalty, and brand loyalty increases purchase intention consequently. Other interpretations and implications of the findings are also discussed.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Jaejin Lee.
Thesis: Thesis (M.Adv.)--University of Florida, 2009.
Local: Adviser: Villegas, Jorge.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2009
System ID: UFE0024618:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0024618/00001

Material Information

Title: Effects of Online Brand Community on Brand Loyalty A Uses and Gratifications Perspective
Physical Description: 1 online resource (67 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Lee, Jaejin
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2009

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: brand, community, loyalty, online, purchase, virtual
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Advertising thesis, M.Adv.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: EFFECTS OF ONLINE BRAND COMMUNITY ON BRAND LOYALTY: A USES AND GRATIFICATIONS PERSPECTIVE The exponential growth of the Internet has enabled us to have various communication tools including an online brand community. While numerous virtual communities have appeared on line and become a powerful socio-economic phenomenon, few research studies have empirically explained the effect of online brand communities on brand loyalty. This study investigates how online brand community characteristics affect online brand community loyalty, brand loyalty, and purchase intention by employing a uses and gratifications perspective. The research found that interactivity, convenience of use, reliability of information, and reward for activity significantly influence online brand community loyalty. The results of the analyses also showed that emotive needs and contextual needs in using an online brand community moderate the relationship between online brand community characteristics and online brand community loyalty, while functional needs did not show a significant moderating effect. Furthermore, this study found that online brand community loyalty increases brand loyalty, and brand loyalty increases purchase intention consequently. Other interpretations and implications of the findings are also discussed.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Jaejin Lee.
Thesis: Thesis (M.Adv.)--University of Florida, 2009.
Local: Adviser: Villegas, Jorge.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2009
System ID: UFE0024618:00001


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1 E FFECT S OF ONLINE BRAND COMMUNITY ON BRAND LOYALTY: A USES AND GRATIFICATIONS PERSPECTIVE By JAEJIN LEE A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ADVERTISING UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2009

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2 2009 Jaejin Lee

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3 To my loving and supportive husband and family

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to express my gratitude to all the people who helped me in the completion of my Masters degree. The successful completion of this study could not have been accomplished without the ir assistance. First of all, I would like to g ive special thanks to my wonderful chair and advisor, Dr. Jorge Villegas, for his attentive support, invaluable guidance, and encouragement with the warmest heart. I also would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Dr. Robyn Goodman and Dr. Jon Morris for their time and support as my committee members. I am deeply grateful to my beloved family, especially my husband, Yoengchul Cha, who has always been there with great love and support during every single moment in the last four year s My parent s Yong Hyu n Lee and WonJa S eo, who are the greatest hero es in my entire life, have supported me with their strong belief and eternal love. I am also thankful for my sisters and brother, Jaeseo Lee, Yujin Lee, and Joosub Lee, and for my brother in law, Jinwoong Namk oong all of whom have been my closest friends and mentors, for their unwavering love and caring. My heartfelt appreciation is extended to my parents in law Jong Ryul Cha and Kwang Ok Kim who have supported me with love and belief. Moreover, I would like to thank my American parents, Mr. Darwin Smith and Ms. Myra Smith, for their unconditional love and guidance since we met at the lovely lake house in 2001. Without all my family s love encouragement, and everlasting belief in me, it would have been impos sible to ach ieve all the things today Lastly, I would also like to express my special gratitude to the great friends who m I have met during my master s years in Florida, including Korean Mass CommuniGators and my classmates, especially Sooyeon Kim, Moonhee Cho, Jiyoung Cha, Jooyun Hwang, Jinsuk Lee, Jinsoo Kim, Kyongsub Lee, YuShiang Bien, Mari Luz, and Keitra. Because of them, my life in graduate school was bearable and fun.

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ...............................................................................................................4 page TABLE OF CONTENTS .................................................................................................................5 LIST OF TABLES ...........................................................................................................................7 LIST OF FIGURES .........................................................................................................................8 ABSTRACT .....................................................................................................................................9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ..................................................................................................................10 2 LITERATURE REVIEW .......................................................................................................13 Community .............................................................................................................................13 Virtual Community .................................................................................................................13 Brand Community ..................................................................................................................14 Online Brand Community .......................................................................................................16 A Uses and Gratifications Theory and Virtual Communities .................................................16 Characteristics of an Online Brand Community .....................................................................18 1) Interactivity .................................................................................................................18 2) Convenience o f Use ....................................................................................................19 3) Reliability of Information ...........................................................................................19 4) Reward for Activity .....................................................................................................20 Brand Community Loyalty .....................................................................................................20 Hypotheses ..............................................................................................................................21 3 METHODS .............................................................................................................................26 Research Design .....................................................................................................................26 Participants ......................................................................................................................27 Data Collection and Procedure ........................................................................................27 Measures and Instrument .................................................................................................28 Independent Variable ...............................................................................................29 Dependent Variable ..................................................................................................30 Moderator Vari able ..................................................................................................31 4 RESULTS ...............................................................................................................................34 Data Analysis ..........................................................................................................................34 Sample Profile .................................................................................................................34

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6 An Online Brand Community Use and the Internet Usage .............................................34 Reliability Test ................................................................................................................35 Hypotheses Testing .................................................................................................................36 Effect of Online Brand Community Characteristics on Online Brand Community Loyalty .........................................................................................................................36 Interaction Effect .............................................................................................................36 Effect of Online Brand Community Loyalty on Brand Loyalty ......................................39 Effect of Brand Loyalty on P urchase Intention ...............................................................39 5 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS ..................................................................................48 Discussion ...............................................................................................................................48 Implications ............................................................................................................................50 Limitations and Future Research ............................................................................................50 APPENDIX ONLINE SURVEY QUESTIONNAIRE ..............................................................53 LIST OF REFERENCES ...............................................................................................................62 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .........................................................................................................67

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7 LIST OF TABLES Table page 41 Sample characteristics ........................................................................................................40 42 Online brand community (OBC) a nd the Internet usage ...................................................41 43 Descriptive statistics for measures and result of ANOVA ................................................42 44 Means and Reliability check for each variable ..................................................................42 45 Online brand community characteristics Online brand community loyalty (H1), result of multiple regressions .............................................................................................43 46 Online brand community characteristics Emotive needs Online brand community loyalty (H2_2), result of multiple regressions ...................................................................43 47 Online brand community characteristics Contextual needs Online brand community loyalty (H2_3), result of multiple regressions ...................................................................43 48 Descriptive statistics for measures: Convenience of use vs. Emotive Needs ....................44 49 Two way ANOVA: Convenience of use (CU) vs. Emotive Needs (EN) ..........................44 410 Descriptive statistics for measures: Convenience of use vs. Contextual Needs ................44 411 Two way ANOVA: Convenience of use (CU) vs. Contextual Needs (CN) ......................44 412 OBC loyalty Brand loyalty (H3), result of bivariate linear regression ..............................45 413 Brand loyalty Purchase Intention (H4), result of bivariate linear regression ....................45

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8 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 21 Overview of the study ........................................................................................................25 41 Interaction effect (Convenie nce of use Emotive Needs ) on OBC loyalty ......................46 42 Interaction effect (Convenience of use Contextual Needs) on OBC loyalty ..................47

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9 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Advertising E FFECT S OF ONLINE BRAND COMMUNITY ON BRAND LOYALTY: A USES AND GRATIFICATIONS PERSPECTIVE By Jaejin Lee August 2009 Chair: Jorge Villegas Major: Advertising The exponential growth of the Internet has enabled us to have various communication tools including an online brand community While numerous virtual communities have appeared on line and become a powerful socioeconomic phenomenon, few research studies have empirically explained the effect of online brand communit ies on brand loyalty This study investigate s how online brand community characteristics a ffect online brand community loyalty, brand loyalty, and purchase intention by employing a uses and gratification s perspective. The research found that interactivity, convenience of use, reliability of information, and reward for activity significantly influence online brand community loyalty. The results of the analyses also showed that emot ive needs and contextual needs in using an online brand community moderat e the relationship between online brand community characteristics and online brand community loyalty while functional needs did not show a significant moderating effect. Furthermore, this study found that online brand community loyalty increases brand loyalty, and brand loyalty increases purchase intention consequently. Other interpretations and implications of the findings are also discussed.

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10 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Since the beginni ng of the twenty first century the growth of the Internet has been exponential. It has grown considerably in terms of both quantity and quality. A Nielsen report revealed that the number of Internet users has doubled in the last seven years. In 2007, the percentage of Internet users rose more than 25%, which meant that 70% of the population of the United States consid ered themselves Internet users (internetworldstats, 2007). This proliferation of the Internet enables people to meet their needs for communic ation, information, and entertainment. Moreover, the advent of this new media provide s more opportunities and applications for advertisers and marketers in their strategy development because of its distinctive characteristics such as interactivity, low set up costs, global coverage, and so forth (Pavlik, 1996). Especially in the case of interactivity, the unique nature of online media gives consumers various ways of assessing information, making price and quality comparisons, and interacting with companies and with other consumers in many different ways (Negroponte & Maes, 1996). These interactions are conducted via email, instant messaging, homepages, blogs, forums, online communities, newsgroups, chat rooms, hate sites, review sites, and social networking sites (Goldsmith, 2007). This kind of stream has led to the establishment of a variety of online communities (Jang Ko, & Koh, 2007). Rheingold (1993) defined a virtual community as social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on public discussion long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace (p. 10). E lectronic virtual communities on the Internet meet the following four types of consumer needs: transaction, interest, fantasy, and relationship (Armstrong & Hagel, 1996). As a result, the word

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11 community no longer refers only to social groups bound together by geography (Shang e t al., 2006; Muniz & OGuinn, 2002). Virtual communities can be divided into two types: commercial (brand community) and noncommercial (Leimeister at al., 2004). Non commercial communities (Thorbjornsen et al., 2002), are operated or founded by people or a thirdparty for the purpose of information exchange (Shang at al., 2006). And, according to Muniz and OGuinn (2001), brand community is a specialized, non geographically bound community based on a structured set of social relationshi ps among admirers of a brand ( p. 412). Consumers a re now sharing their personal experiences and impressions about the brand or products on the Internet. Previous research has suggested that the online brand community has become a powerful socio economic phenomenon (Arnould & Thompson, 2005). Because of th e advantages of the Internet such as two way interaction, virtual communities not only have become important to consumers, but also have become an important tool in marketing and branding through the evolution of online brand communities. A b rand community makes and develops a relationship between the customer and brand (McAlexander & Schouten, 2002). From the consumers standpoint, online brand communities provide the chance to interact with others, including the company; f r om the marketers standpoint, ne w and deeper relationships with their consumers can be built (Armstrong & Hagel, 1996). In order to build a strong relationship with the consumers, marketers should know and understand the consumers needs and develop their online brand community strategie s to specifically meet those needs. This new type of community exhibits four characteristics, different from a traditional community: interactivity, convenience of use, reliability of information, and reward for activity (Jang et al., 2007)

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12 Finally, the question of why people participate and use online brand communities must be addressed. Consumers look to meet their needs through online brand communities in a way that they have not been met through other communication channels. Therefore, a uses and grat ification s approach will be used to develop and answer research hypothese s and draw implications. When an online brand communitys characteristics meet consumer needs, it will enhance the effect, especially in terms of gratif ication s on both consumers as participants and marketers. This study explain ed the effect of an online brand community on brand community loyalty. In line with this purpose, this paper attempts to elucidate the following aspects: definition of community, virtual communities and an online brand community the uses and gratifications theory with virtual communities, key characteristics of an online brand community and the influence of communities characteristics and users needs on community loyalty, attitude toward brand, and purchase intention. The data for this study will be collected via an online survey with self administered questionnaires to measure variables. In order to achieve the purpose of this study, structural equation modeling will be the best way to see the relationsh ip among variables However, due t o a relatively small sample size to do the structural equation modeling, multiple regressions will be conducted to test the hypotheses. In addition, the results will provide practical implications for advertisers and mark eters with the effectiveness of online brand communities.

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13 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Community Community has been defined as an organization of individuals or small groups that have the intention of coming together with a sense of responsibility for others (Rheingold, 2000). According to Muniz and OGuinn (2002), at least three core components of community have been identified: consciousness of kind, the presence of shared rituals and traditions, and a sense of moral responsibility. First, consciousness of kind is the intrinsic connection which members feel with the other members of the group and the collective sense of difference from others who are not in the community with them. The second component is the presence of shared rituals and traditions. Rituals and traditions are developed by the communitys shared history, culture, and consciousness. T he third component of community is a sense of moral responsibility that is a kind of felt senses of duty or obligation to the community as a whole and to its individual members. Initially, community was thought of as a place. However, throughout the twent ieth century the idea of community continued to widen (Muniz & OGuinn, 2002), due to new technologies (e.g. telephones and World Wide Web). Virtual Community Virtual communities as a new type of community on the Internet have received widespread attentio n during the past decade (Shang et al., 2006). The ubiquity of the internet and the human desire for connection, knowledge and information, have combined to create new social forms such as an online community. According to Amstrong and Hagel (1996), an onl ine community is a group of people gathered by their own interest and needs on the Internet. An

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14 online community is the social aggregation of people who desire to make a relationship through public discussion with affiliation in cyber space (Rheingold, 1993). Jones ( 1997) describes online communit ies as a group of people who want to create a relationship through Computer Mediated Communication (CMC). In an online community, people who share common interests get together regularly and electronically. In ot her words, people communicate in person and through the Internet, and agree on the benefits they receive through their actions (Jang et al., 2007). Online communities provide the integration of communication with content developed by community members to e ither groups or individuals who engage in online interactions through virtual spaces. Brand Community In the category of community a new concept, brand community, has come into being. In reference to Kotler (2001), brand is a tangible and intangible equi ty of company that is a kind of name, symbol, or design to distinguish the companys product and services. A b rand community is a community based on the brand. A brand community starts with its core asset, that is, the brand itself, and continues to build relationships among members interested in the brand (Jang et al., 2007). A b rand community is the term that describes like minded consumers who identify with a particular brand and share significant traits (Kalman, 2005). It is a specialized, nongeograph ically bound community based on a structured set of social relationships among admirers of a brand (Muniz & OGuinn, 2001, p. 412). This kind of a brand community has three components. First, it is centered on the brand. Second, it fosters relationship s between members who share a common interest in the brand, and finally, there is the community. Examples of brand communities include Apple and Mac communities, Harley Davidson community, and Jeep owners community.

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15 The importance of a brand community has been studied by McWilliam (2000), who found that an online brand community i s one of the ways to develop a brand. The purpose of McWilliams study was to enhance company sales and brand image through developing a brand community. The study showed that consumers organize into these communities to share their experiences of a brand (Kalman, 2005). Moreover, on the marketers side, a brand community not only provides companies with an additional communication channel but also allows the possibility of establ ishing linkages to devoted users (Andersen, 2005). Brand communities carry out important functions on behalf of the brand itself and provide assistance to both consumers and companies (Shang et al., 2006). In addition to, a brand community can be grouped largely into two major groups based on the criterion of the community initiators (Jang et al., 2007). First, the brand community that is a consumer initiated community voluntarily built by community members, second the company initiated community built by the company with ownership in the brand, in order to establish a relationship with consumers and to induce productive feedback from consumers (Kang, 2004). Past research has shown that there are unique qualities of brand communities which differ from more traditional communities. First, brand communities have no geographical limitation (Jang et al., 2007). Second, brand communities are commercial. This means the brand community is built on a brand, which is the commercialized feature. A b r and community is a virtual community that is established on interest in the brand. Third, it is relatively safe because of a sense of moral responsibility and common goal or consciousness, and members of brand communities feel some a sense of duty or oblig ation to the community (Muniz & OGuinn, 2001). Fourth, Consumers gather together in a brand community based on their own needs and interest s; therefore, it encourages the members voluntary interpretation of the brand (Jang et

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16 al., 2007, p 3). Fifth, br an d community members earn a high level of identity with brand (Muniz & OGuinn, 2001). Online Brand Community Recently there are some studies that explain the effectiveness and importance of online brand community. First of all, Kim, Choi Qualls and Han (2008) described that online brand community participants have stronger brand commitment than consumers who are not members of the community. Based on Kim and his colleagues study, among online brand community members, brand commitment is enhanced for both active brand users and nonusers. They confirmed that online community commitment is a key influence on brand commitment. Casalo Flavin and Guinalu s study (2008) analyzed the effect of participation in a virtual brand community on consumer commitment. According to their study, participation in a virtual brand community has a positive influence on consumer commitment to the brand. Also, they found that satisfaction with previous interactions and the l evel of communication increase the level of trust in a virtual community and this trust in a virtual community had a positive effect on members participation in the virtual community activities. A Uses and Gratification s Theory and Virtual Communit ies A uses and gratification s theory is founded on the premise that media users are active and goal directed in their consumption of media content (Katz, Blumler, & Gurevitch, 1974; Rubin & Perse, 1987). According to this theory, audiences use media to meet the ir needs and fulfill their personal gratification. Traditionally, most studies apply a uses and gratifications approach while attempt ing to explain the use of mass media, especially television. Rubin (1987) classified television news audiences into two groups : ritualized and instrumental audiences. According to his study, ritual audiences focus more on the medium than content while instrumental audiences are more intentional and selective to specific contents.

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17 The growing popul ation of Internet users has led to a number of studies on uses and gratifications theory and use of the Internet. The Internet is different from the traditional media in terms of its characteristics and users motivation for use Papacharissi and Rubin (2000) suggested five different motives for using the Internet including interpersonal utility, passing time, information seeking, convenience, and entertainment, and they distinguish between instrumental and ritualized internet use. According to Papachariss i and Rubin, instrumental use is more goal oriented in seeking information. Conversely ritualized use is more habitual and less goal oriented usage of the Internet such as time consuming. Ferguson and Perse (2000) also distinguished four motives of using the Internet such as entertainment, passing time, relaxation, and social information. Ebersole (2000) conducted a survey among college students and found eight motives for visiting websites. These included research/learning, easy access to entertainment, s omething to do when bored, access to material otherwise unavailable, communication/social interaction, product info/tech support, games/sexually explicit sites, and consumer transactions. The motivations of participants of virtual communities are varied. Several researchers have attempt ed to identify consumers reasons for participat ing in virtual communities ( Dholakia et al., 2004; Mathwick 2006; Sicilia & Palazn 2008; Sunanda, 2005) According to Sicilia and Palazn (2008), the gratification of indivi dual needs in a virtual community depends on the perceived value of being a member. The re are three categori es of values: functional, social, and entertainment values. First, functional value (e.g. advice and information giving and seeking) describes the m otive of participating in a virtual community as the value derived from accomplished some pre determined instrumental purpose (Dholakia et al., 2004). Virtual communities offer individuals the opportunit y to give and receive information they may be

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18 inter ested in. Second, social value implies friendship, emotional support, self esteem, social status, and social enhancement (Sicilia & Palazn, 2008). According to Mathwick (2006), the virtual community delivers the consumer the value of interpersonal connect ivity. The affiliation with virtual community presents a social benefit to consumers by offering them identification and social integration (McWilliam, 2000). Finally, entertainment value represents fun and relaxation derived from playing or interacting with others (Dholakia et al., 2004). Characteristics of an O nline B rand C ommunity According to previous studies, there are four distinctive characteristics of brand community compared with traditional communities : interactivity convenience of use, reliability of information, and reward for activity (Jang et al., 2007; Seo, 2005). 1) Interactivity Before the development of the I nternet, the meaning of interactivity was limited to interpersonal communication (Morris & Organ, 1996). The I nternet has changed the way that people relate to one another by becoming a major vehicle of communication. S everal different points of view on interactivity have resulted Some studies focus on the website as a medium. In reference to Rice (1987 ), interactivity is the speed, structure, and context of the communication between sender and receiver based on Computer Mediated Communication (CMC). According to Neuman (1991), under the increased control system by sender and receiver of information, int eractivity is one of the characteristics of web based electronic communication. Both studies put emphasis on interactivity as a user controlled activity. Other studies have focused on interactivity as a process of interchange of communication. Alba et al. (1997) defined interactivity as the nature of the inter communication between seller and buyer, and focused on two dimensions such as response time and response contingency. In

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19 this case, interactivity is the responsiveness. Lee (2000) argued that underst anding interactivity depends on how the individual understands, recognizes and uses interactivity, rather than the analysis of process or measuring the characteristic of the communication. Newhagen et al. (1995) gave a definition of interactivity as the se nse of self efficacy and sense of system efficacy. Self efficacy is the ability to navigate on an Internet website. In other words, users may know where they are and where they should go to get the right information they want in cyber space (Lee, 2000). S y stem efficacy is the response to the system, which means the proper response of the website toward user activity (Choi at al., 2000). 2) Convenience of Use The mean ing of convenience of use indicates that customers believe that certain systems are easy to use (Michael & Segev, 1996). Differing from the offline communities, online communities ubiquitously acquire information from various sources. Norris (1997) described convenience of use as the functional convenience that helps consumers easily find produc t information and purchase finally use the product. Moreover, Norris (1997) explained its importance in satisfying various needs and expectations of todays consumers. If a website provides a well organized structure of information that helps consumers understand information and make decisions it would be a huge asset of online brand communit ies (Choi et al., 2000). 3) Reliability of Information Reliability has been mentioned in many research studies. Reliability is a firm expectation that something is related to oneself (Choi et al., 2000). In reference to Lewis (1999), if the operator of a website provides valuable information to consumers, then consumers will begin to trust the information they receive from the website. Raymond and Matthew (1999) indi cated that accurate, opportune, and useful information influences reliability in electronic commerce.

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20 4) Reward for A ctivity Williams and Hazer (1986) explained that when companies acknowledge consumers contributions to its brand, consumer s devotion to t he brand increases. C onsumers feel a stronger connection with a company when they are provided with positive feedback. Berry and Parasuraman (1991) described ways to build a strong connection with consumers and increase their satisfaction to the company an d brand, asserting that the company should provide financial and social rewards to consumers. Financial rewards for example, include mileage programs initiated by airline companies and monetary rewards, such as prizes or discounts. With s ocial rewards suc h as interaction among community members, community manager and marketers cultivate strong relationships between consumers and companies. These kinds of rewards give value to consumers. Brand Community Loyalty According to Kotler et al. ( 1989) l oyalty can be defined as individuals personal feeling s of attachment to certain brands and companies. Companies can acquire competitive advantages in marketing, such as reducing corporate marketing and transactional costs and increasing sales if their consumers ha ve strong brand loyalty. Arker (1991) defined brand loyalty as the degree of consumers emotional attachment towards a brand. He reported brand loyalty as six different aspects such as consumer willingness to repurchase, price premium, satisfaction rate, s witching cost, preference over brand, and commitment to brand. Brand communities directly influence the factors associated with brand equity, such as brand loyalty, brand awareness, perceived quality, brand associations, and other proprietary brand assets (Aaker, 1991). Therefore, well formed brand communities will not only affect brand loyalty and brand commitment but also fortify the brand itself (Keller, 1993).

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21 Unfortunately, few research studies describe and measure online brand community loyalty Choi et al. (2000) connected brand community loyalty with visit frequency, visit length, and the intention to rec ommend the community to others. Jang and colleagues investigated the relationship between an online community and the online brand in South Korea ( 2007). They examined how an online brand community characteristic s (e.g. information quality, system quality, interaction, and reward) affect community commitment and brand loyalty. Through the survey, they found that both interaction and reward for the a ctivities significantly influence the community commitment. T his study will follow the methods used in Jang et al.s study to examine the purpose of the study Hypotheses Previous literature reviews indicate that communities and consumers characteristics are the main factors affect ing attitudes toward the brand community. Based on this assumption, the following hypotheses are proposed in this research: This study addresses four major characteristics of the online brand community : interactivity, convenience of use, reliability of information, and reward for activity. Based on these characteristics, the current study develops the following hypothes e s: Interactivity refers to the degree of interaction among members of an online bra nd community (McWilliam, 2000; Muniz & OGuinn, 2000). I nteractivity can be defined by the degree of exhibition of new context, the degree of inquiry and response speed, and the degree of information exchange and activity among members. H1a: Interactivity in an online brand community positively affects online brand community loyalty Convenience of use implies that c onsumer s tend to like something is easy to use. According to previous research conducted by Michael and Segev (1996) and Norris (1997),

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22 conveni ence of use indicates fast and easy information searching and well organized conte nt on the web page. For example, a w eb page which is organized and designed well and which is easy to navigate will produce convenience of use H1b : Convenience of use in an online brand community positively affects online brand community loyalty According to Lewis (1999), if the operator of a website provides valuable information, then consumers will begin to trust the information they receive from the website. Based on Lewis study, in this research t he r eliability of information shows the quality of information provided through an online brand community. This can be investigate d by determining the accuracy of information and whether the inform ation i s kept current H1c : Reliability of information in an online brand community positively affects online brand community loyalty Berry and Parasuraman (1991) described that one of the ways to build a strong connection with consumers and increase thei r satisfaction to the company and brand is that the company should provide financial and social reward to consumer. For this study, reward for activity refers to the tangible and intangible rewards for active members in the online brand community Activity can be investigate d by following reward related activity: t angible reward ( e.g. monetary rewards, mileage, and prizes ) and i ntangible reward ( e.g. availability to the online community, such as reading the context or using the information). H1d: Reward for activity in an online brand community positively affects online brand community loyalty Based on a uses and gratification s theory in virtual communities, gratification would vary with individual needs such as functional, social, and entertainme nt in a virtual community

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23 (Sicilia & Palazn 2008). Also Sunanda (2005) investigated the motivating needs that persuade users to become members of a virtual community. She identified three key needs for virtual community use: functional, emotive and conte xtual. V irtual communit y users functional needs are satisfied with the quality and quantity of content received from virtual community (Sunanda, 2005). Therefore, for this study, functional needs refer to the users needs to have sufficient and believabl e information from an online brand community. H2 a: Functional needs in using an online brand community will moderate the relationship between online brand community characteristics and online brand community loyalty. Emotive needs are social interaction, p ersonal uses and self expression through an online brand community. According to Sunanda (2005), these intrinsic and extrinsic needs are fulfilled by acceptance of relationship building through interaction and communication in virtual community (p. 7). H 2b: Emotive needs in using an online brand community will moderate the relationship between online brand community characteristics and online brand community loyalty. Contextual needs relate to individual user specific expectations and experiences (Sunanda, 2005). In this study, host organizations of online community or offline activities for entertainment can be applied to this. H2c: Contextual needs in using an online brand community will moderate the relationship between online brand community c haracteristics and online brand community loyalty. Generally, positive attitudes toward the brand community developed by the brand community characteristics will create brand community loyalty. In other words, customers intend to visit the brand community frequently and, simultaneously, develop a commitment to the

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24 community. Additionally, the effects of an online brand community on consumer outcomes (e.g. attitude toward the brand, brand loyalty, purchase intention) have recently become part of marketers concerns. Companies want consumer loyalty toward the brand, but have rarely been able to cultivate one on one relationships with their customers ( Armstrong & Hagel, 1997) According to Casalo and colleagues study (2008), online brand communities help marketers to understand consumer needs and to promote bra nd loyalty a nd involvement. Therefore, once online brand community loyalty has been established, it is expected to form brand loyalty as a consequence. H3: Online brand community loyalty positively a ffects on brand loyalty. Moreover, i f loyalty is defined in terms of repeat purchases, or coming back for more," communities can be a one of the vehicles for increasing loyalty to a vendor's products ( Casalo et al., 2008) H4: Attitude toward the brand positively relates to purchase intention. A following model is developed by the researcher in reference to Jang and colleagues model.

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25 Figure 21. Overview of the study O nline brand community Loyalty Brand Loyalty Purchase Intention Interactivity System Quality Reward for Activities Reliability of Information O nline brand community Characteristics User s Needs Functional Needs Emotive Needs Contextual Needs Moderating Role

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26 CHAPTER 3 METHODS The purpose of this research is to describe how online brand community characteristics and consumers needs affect the consumers attitude toward the community and brand, (i.e., brand community loyalty & brand loya lty) and also how the consumers attitude s toward brand community affects their behavioral intention (i.e., purchase intention) The data for this study w ere collected via an online survey wit h self administered questionnaires to measure variables. According to Babbie (2007), surveys may be used for descriptive, explanatory, and exploratory purpose. In reference to Floyd (200 2), the purpose of the survey was to produce statistics, that is, qua ntitative or numerical descriptions about some aspects of the s tudy population (p. 153). Survey research is the best method available to the social researcher who is interested in collecting original data for describing a population too large to observe directly (Babbie, 2007, p 244). T he primary means of collecting information is by asking people questions and using their answers constitute the data to be analyzed (Floyd, 2002). Research Design An online survey was employed in the current research, and was conducted from February 10, 2009 to February 2 8, 2009. During this time period, participants received an invitation for the online survey or visit ed the announcement that was posted on the onli ne brand community s website. They were asked to click a link which le d them to the questionnaire for this study Five latent constructs were examined throughout this online survey: participants needs for using online brand communities (functional, emotive, and contextual ), an online brand community s characteristics (interactivity, convenience of use, reliability of information, and reward for activities), online brand community loyalty brand loyalty, and purchase intention.

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27 Participants The survey w as conducted online with purposive sampling. The purposive sampling is a type of nonprobability sampling whereby the respondents are selected, in part or in whole, at the convenience of the researcher on the basis of the researchers judgment of which one s will be the most useful or repr esentative ( Babbie, 2007). T his survey was conducted based on convenient sampling, because this research focuses on consumer s who are active member of an online brand community Therefore, participants of thi s research need ed to be people who use the internet in their daily life and who are member s of certain online brand communities and participate in the activity on that website. In order to achieve the purpose of this study, a total of 154 of respondents at least 18 year s of age were chosen to participate in the survey Data Collection and Procedure In order to recruit people who ha d some experience with online brand communities, participants were recruited through an online brand community and a social networking site. Researcher contacted several online brand communities administrators to get permission to conduct the online survey. However, only one online brand community, iLounge.com, showed interest in this study and allowed to do the research. The administrator pos ted the invitation to participate in the study at the main page of iLounge. After 10 days, participation rate was very low (a result that was expected considering that there were no incentives for participation) so the researcher invited participation to m embers of different social networking site s using a snowball sampling. The online survey was created in Surveymonkey website (www.surveymonkey.com) which is a tool to create and publish custom surveys on the Internet. First of all, a mong survey participants, some of the subjects were registered members of www.i L ounge.com which is one of the largest online brand communities in the United States. This website offers news, information, discussion forum, and some tips and tricks relevant to all

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28 models of iPod including iPhone. To begin, the r esearcher obtain ed the approval of a chief administrator of iLounge community for the survey, a nd asked him to post the announcement to its members. In the announcement, an introduction and short description of this study were provided with a link to the online survey to induce members voluntary participation. The other participants were registere d members of Facebook, which is the biggest social networking site in the US. Survey participants were selected b y snowball sampling from the researcher s acquaintance with others. They were given an invitation with survey related information. In the notification for the survey, the researcher introduce d herself and explained the purpose and a nature of the study and also notified the participants that the all information and responses will be for confidential us e by the researcher for this study not for the sales or marketing. Measures and Instrument The questionnaire (Appendix A) shows the online survey. The questionnaire for this online survey consisted of five main sections. The measurements included were: internet usage and consumer interest in brand communities, n eeds for using online brand communities, attitude toward the online brand community according to the brand community characteristics, brand community loyalty, brand loyalty, purchase intention, and demographic variables. Besides the initial screening question and demographic, all questionnaires were measured using scale s that Jang and his colleagues (2007) and Sunanda (2005) employed in their stud ies Generally, research focuses on the causal relations, which contain the variables. Variables are classified by their location in the causal relationship (Neuman, 2006). Generally, a basic causal relati onship has two variables, i.e., an independent variable and dependent variable. A more com plex causal relationship has additional variable s i.e., an intervening variable and a moderator variable

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29 Basically i n this study, the hypotheses are tested based on a threevariable relationship: to test H 1, the online brand community characteristics ( i ndependent variable) affect brand community loyalty ( dependent variable) To test H2, participants needs for using an online brand c ommunity (moderator variable) will also affect to the result of H1 Independent Variable An independent variable is presumed to cause or determine a dependent variable in a causal relationship (Babbie, 2007; Neuman, 2006). Online brand community character istics are employed as an i ndependent variable to test hypothese s And, online brand community characteristics are composed of four major dimensions (i.e., interactivity, convenience of use, reliability of information, and reward for activity) that accurately portray the nature of the online brand community The brand community characteristics were measured using a 29 item scale adopted from Jang et al. (2007) Since the original study was carried out in South Korea, the items were carefully translated by a graduate student bilingual in Korean and English. For all the variables, t he respondents were asked to describe their feelings about an online brand community using a seven point Likert scale ranging from 7 ( s trongl y agree) to 1 ( s trongly disagree). Interactivity was measured by ten items 81 ) : (1) This community s concept matches my interest; (2) The other members of this community have the same interests as I do; (3) This community provides proper c ommunication channel s among members; (4) Other members respond quickly to my inquiries; (5) The community managers respond quickly to members inquiries; (6) This community provides off line meeting s for members; (7) If there are off line meetings with com munity members, I would like to participate in them ; (8) This community manager sends messages or newsletters to each member individually; (9) The community manager sends messages to the members on a regular basis; and (10) This community accept/apply any request or recommendation from members.

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30 F or convenience of use, four items w ere used 77) The questions are (1) I can easily find the information that I need; (2) The website is well designed; (3) The page loads up quickly; and (4) This c ommunity is generally easy to search for information Reliability of information show s the quality of information that is provided through the online brand community 91) For this characteristic, six items were included. The survey used the following items: (1) I can believe the information in this community; (2) This community has diverse information that I need about the brand; (3) This community has interesting up to date information; (4) This community has a lot of information about the brand; (5) This community has valuable information about the brand and product; and (6) This community provide s enough information that I need to know Finally, there are nine items used for reward for activity 89 ) : (1) This community offers monetary rewards, such as mileage, to proactive members; (2) This community recognizes members activities on the website (i.e. choosing the best user/member of the month, etc.); (3) This community provide s product coupons for its members; (4) My st atus in the community can be upgraded/downgraded based on my degree of activity in the community; (5) Sharing my own experience/opinion in this community is enjoyable; (6) Managers or members of this community appreciate my activities or participation; (7) Managers or members of this community believe each others information and knowledge; (8) I a m known as an information giver in this community; and (9) I have an ability to give information about this brand and product that other members want. Dependent Variable Three depen dent variables were measured in this study: online brand community loyalty, brand loyalty and purchase intention. The set of items for each variable were also borrowed from Jang and his colleagues study (2007). For this study, t he wording of scale items was

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31 modified to appropriately fit in the context of the current study. These variables were measured using seven point Likert scale ranging from 7 ( s trongly agree) to 1 ( s trongly disagree) To measure online brand community loyalty, the respondents were asked to describe their feeling s about the community itself. In this study, commitment toward the online brand community was used as the indicator to measure online brand community loyalty. Staw (1980) classified commitment into two ty pe s : attitudinal and behavioral. Attitudinal refers to emotional attachment towards a community, while behavioral means more than emotional --it could lead to actual behavior beyond that. In this study both attitudinal and behavioral commitments were measu red using six items 92) : (1) I feel loyalty to this community; (2) I feel any problem that this community is faced with is the same as my own problem s ; (3) I often talk about this community to my family and friends; (4) If this community off er ed an opportunity to work for the community, I would do it; (5) I would like to help any member in this community if they ha d either an online or offline problem; and (6) I feel empty when I do not use this community website for more than a week. Brand loyalty 86) was measured using three item scales: (1) I think this brand is the best compared to others in the same category, (2) I would like to introduce this brand to others; and (3) I would choose this brand even if there were disadvanta ges to the product. Purchase intention was measured using 2item scales: (1) If I buy a product in the brand s product category, I will choose this brand; and (2) I would consistently choose to use this brand s product. Moderator Variable According to Baron and Kenny (1986), a moderator variable is a qualitative (e.g. sex, race, class) or quantitative (e.g. level of reward) variable that affects the direction and/or strength of the relation between an independent or predictor variable and a dependent or criterion variable (p.

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32 1174) In this study, the consumers needs to use an online brand community were considered as a moderator variable which can affect the result of testing the hypotheses. Consumer needs were measured using a 23 item s cale adopted from Sunanda s study (2005 ) Sunanda divided the consumers need into three: functional needs, emotive needs, and contextual needs. Functional needs 79) were measured by using 6 item scales including objective information, infor mation of high value, information for my exact needs, expert information, information from opinion leaders, and trust information for investments. Emotive needs have three dimensions (social interaction, personal uses, and self expression uses) which were measured by 12 item scales. First, social interaction 76) was measured by visit threads, enjoy ment of discussion and participation, enjoy ment of virtual companionship, interaction with people, and large number of membership. Second, persona l uses 67) were measured with items such as meet ing peer group, easy to find people in a community, and meet ing industry leaders and influential people. Third, self expression uses 66) were examined by items such as express es my knowledge, reader and a contributor, moderation of content, and community as extension of me. Finally, contextual needs were divided into two dimensions: entertainment and host. Entertainment 63) were measured using 3 item scales: chat groups, the site surfing and navigation, and offline expert seminars are useful. Host 47) will be measured by rules and regulations, and posting from CEO. A revision for the all questionnaires was conducted from November 10, 2008 to November 13, 2008 to refine and clarify the survey questionnaire First of all all survey items were double checked by translators two graduate student s who can speak both Korean and English. After that, f ive graduate students major ing in A dvertising at a southeastern American university participated

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33 in this revision process. Some of students reported that given words need ed more specific definitions or examples Based on their reports, some examples for content of comm unity, communication channel, and reward for activity were added for the actual survey.

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34 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS Data Analysis Sample Profile A total of 154 subjects participated in the online survey. Because of the unique nature of this study which focus es on only online brand community users experi ences with their communities, 21 subjects who did not have any experience with an online brand community or who dropped the survey at the very beginning were eli minated in the data analysis. As a result, the total valid sample was 133. Table 41 shows the descriptive statistics of the sample characteristics. Among the respondents, 47.6% were male and 52.4% were female. The subjects age ranged from 18 to 60 years old, but the majority of participants were between 18 to 30 (65.1%) years old. Of the total respondents, 62.1% had a 4year college degree or higher education. This indicates that online brand community users are relatively young with a high education back ground. Furthermore, most of the respondents were Asian and Pacific Islander (35%) and White and Caucasian (35%). An Online Brand C ommunity Use and the Internet Usage As Table 4 2 shows 33.6% were iLounge members while 66.4% were members of other online brand communities. In the case of the number of an online brand community membership most of respondents (79.4%) were member s of 1 to 3 online brand communities. T he result also illustrate s that 43.5% of respondents answered that they visit an online brand community more than 7 times in a month. Most respondents (81.7%) said the amount of time they spent on an average daily spending time on online brand communities was less than 1 hour. Also, m ost respondents 79.4% use the Internet every day and 17.6% use the Internet 4 to 6 days in a week.

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35 Table 4 3 shows the mean score comparison between iLounge members and other online brand communities members for all variables. Generally, iLounge members mean scores are hig her than other an online brand community members for all variables, including interactivity (M = 4.94), convenience of use (M = 5.49), reliability of information (M = 6.01), reward for activities (M = 4.80), functional needs (M = 5.52), emotive needs (M = 4.72), contextual needs (M = 4.21), online brand community loyalty (M = 4.73), brand loyalty (M = 5.46), and purchase intention (M = 5.63). However, ANOVA results indicate neither group of respondents showed a significant difference between two means in ev ery variable, except reliability of information [MiLounge = 6.01, Mothers = 5.36, F1, 11 3 = 7.10, p < .01 ] and functional needs [MiLounge = 5.52, Mothers = 4.80, F1, 11 3 = 9.39, p < .01 ]. Reliability Test To ensure the reliability of the measures a reliability analysis was conducted on each of the variables. The results showed that the scales used in the study were reliable according to Nunally s study (1978) which recommends that instruments used in basic research have a relia bility of about .70 or better In this study, all values were above the .70 minimum to ensure reliability. As shown in Table 44, r eliability measures suggested high internal consistency for independent variables: interactivity (Cronbachs alpha = 92) convenience of use (Cro nbachs alpha = .87), reliability of information (Cronbachs alpha = .94), and reward for activity (Cronbachs alpha = .91). Cronbachs alpha for dependent variables, online brand community loyalty, brand loyalty, and purchase intention, were above .90 to ensure the reliability (Cronbachs alpha = .92, .92, and .94 respectively). Participants needs to use an online brand community as a moderat ing variable, functional needs (Cronbachs alpha = .89), emotive needs (Cronbachs alpha = .94), and contextual needs (Cronbachs alpha = .88), also had high internal consistency.

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36 Hypotheses Testing The main goal of the study is to explore the relationship among four online brand characteristics online brand community loyalty, brand loyalty, and purchase intention. In order to achieve the goal of this study, structural equation modeling will be needed to see relationships among variables. However, the samp le size was not large enough to conduct structural equation modeling. Therefore, in this study series of multiple regressions were performed to test the hypotheses. After scale validation, further analyses were performed to test the hypotheses of this study. Effect of Online Brand C ommu nity Characteristics on Online Brand C ommunity L oyalty H 1 expected that online brand characteristics positively influence online brand community loyalty. Multiple regressions were conducted to test H1, with four online brand community characteristics as independent variables, and one dependent variable, online brand community loyalty. Multiple regression analysis is used to measure the linear association among variables ( Hair et al., 2006). As shown in Table 45, Interactivity and reward for activity are found to be more significant predictors of online brand loyalty. In this study, we have two statistical significant coefficients for interactivity and reward for activity ( t = 4.12 and 3.39 respectively p < .01). Th e percentage of variance in the online brand community loyalty 74% was explained by online brand community characteristics. This percentage shows that the more respondents believe interactivity and reward for activity is important in using online brand communities, the greater their loyalty toward their online brand communities. The model was statistically significant [F (4, 88) = 61.80, p < .01]. Interaction Effect Consumers needs in using an online brand community w ere expected to moderate the relations hip between online brand community characteristics and online brand community

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37 loyalty. In order to investigate the relationship between the main effect (four major online brand community characteristics and online brand community loyalty) and moderating ef fect (users needs: functional, emotive, and contextual), multiple regressions were conducted to test H2. After a series of multiple regressions, different sets of analyses were done to illustrate the interaction effects more specifically. First of all, mu ltiple regressions were conducted to reveal a relationship between online brand community characteristics and online brand loyalty as a main effect and functional needs as an interaction effect. The model with online brand characteristics and online brand community loyalty was statistically significant [F (5, 87) = 49.89, p < .01]. However, adding the interaction, the F value dropped significantly from 61.8 to 49.8. This reduced the power of significance of the main effect Therefore, functional needs do not moderate the relationship between online brand community characteristics an d online brand community loyalty. Second, interaction effect of emotive needs was added to the multiple regression analysis to see how emotive needs moderate the relationship between online brand community characteristics and online brand communit y loyalty. As shown in Table 46 after adding interaction effect, the F value increased from 61.8 to 76.04, and there was a significant interaction effect ( p < .01). At this time, only one interaction term (convenience of use*emotive needs) was significant ( t = 5.97) This interaction effect indicates that emotive needs in using an online brand community positively affect the relationship between convenience of use and online brand community loyalty. Third, Table 47 shows the result of multiple regressions with online brand community characteristics, online brand community loyalty, and contextual needs. Adding the interaction, the F value increased from 61.8 to 103.23, and it was statistically significant ( p < .01). In this

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38 case, only one interaction term between convenience of use and contextual needs was statistically significant ( t = 8.45). Ther efore, contextual needs in using an online brand community are positively associated with the relationship between convenience of use and online brand community loyalty. In sum, the results indicated that there were significant interaction effect s between online brand community characteristics and emotive needs and contextual needs, respectively, in using an online brand community on online brand community loyalty. In addition, previous investigation has show n no significant interaction effect between online brand community characteristics and functional needs on online brand community loyalty. Therefore, H2 was partially supported. For a detailed explanation of the significant interaction effects, the interaction term was explored by conducting twoway AN OVA analyses for convenience of use and emotive needs, and convenience of use and contextual needs, separately in terms of online brand community loyalty Subjects were categorized by a median split to see interaction effects visually As shown in Table 48 and Table 49, there is a statistically significant main effect of emotive needs and convenience of use ( p < .01) on online brand community loyalty. People who use an online brand community because of their emotive needs are likely to express more onli ne brand community loyalty ( M = 5.83, SD = .79) than those who do not ( M = 3.26, SD = 1.27), and individuals who think convenience of use is important in using an online brand community ( M = 5.44, SD = 1.29) showed more online brand community loyalty compa red with people who do not think convenience of use is important ( M = 4.01, SD = .1.64). However, there is no statistically significant interaction effect. In other words, effect of convenience of use is not influenced by emotive needs (Figure 41).

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39 Table 410 and Table 411 show that there is a statistically significant main effect of contextual needs and convenience of use ( p < .01). The result shows that people use an online brand community based on their contextual needs are likely to have more online brand community loyalty ( M = 5.81, SD = .80) than they use without contextual needs ( M = 3.28, SD = 1.29). However there is no significant interaction effect of these two variables. The effect of convenience of use is not influenced by contextual needs (Figure 42). Effect of Online Brand C ommunity L oyalty on Brand Loyalty To inspect the relationship between online brand community loyalty and brand loyalty a bivariate regression was conducted. As the result s show in Table 412, 58 % of variance in brand loyalty was explained by online brand community loyalty Th is result was statistically significant [F (1, 91) = 123.91, p < .01 ]. Thus, online brand community loyalty positively enhanced brand loyalty. Effect of Brand Loyalty on Purchase Intent ion H4 expected that brand loyalty positively relates to purchase intention. A simple regression was performed to test H4 (Table 4 13 ). Brand loyalty explained 74% of variance in purchase intention, and the result was statistically significant [F (1, 91) = 264.03, p < .01].

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40 Table 4 1. Sample characteristics Characteristics Frequency Percent Gender Male 49 47.6 Female 54 52.4 Age 18 21 18 17.5 22 25 27 26.2 26 30 22 21.4 31 40 27 26.2 41 50 6 5.8 51 60 3 2.9 Education Level Less than High School 3 2.9 High School/GED 11 10.7 Some College 13 12.6 2 Year College Degree (Associates) 12 11.7 4 Year College Degree (BA/BS) 41 39.8 Master's Degree 16 15.5 Doctoral Degree 4 3.9 Professional Degree (MD/JD) 3 2.9 Ethnicity Arabic 3 2.9 Asian/ Pacific Islander 36 35 .0 Black/African American 9 8.7 Hispanic/Latino 10 9.7 Native American 6 5.8 White/Caucasian 36 35 .0 O ther 3 2.9 N=13 3

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41 Table 4 2. Online brand community ( OBC) and the Internet usage Characteristics Frequency Percent OBC membership iLounge 44 33.6 O thers 87 66.4 Number of OBC membership 1 OBC 49 37.4 2 OBCs 33 25.2 3 OBCs 22 16.8 4 OBCs 5 3.8 5 or more OBCs 22 16.8 Visit OBC in a month 1 3 times 55 42 .0 4 6 times 19 14.5 7 9 times 11 8.4 O ver 10 times 46 35.1 Hours of using OBC L ess than 30 min. 63 48.1 30min less than 1 hour 44 33.6 1 less than 3 hours 17 13 .0 3 less than 5 hours 4 3.1 O ver 5 hours 3 2.3 Use the Internet in a week E veryday 104 79.4 4 6 days 23 17.6 1 3 days 4 3.1 Hours of using the Internet L ess than 30 min. 10 7.6 30min less than 1 hour 18 13.7 1 less than 3 hours 46 35.1 3 less than 5 hours 35 26.7 O ver 5 hours 22 16.8 N=13 3

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42 Table 4 3. Descriptive statistics for measures and result of ANOVA OBC membership N M S D F Sig. Interactivity iLounge 32 4.94 1.11 .73 .40 Others 65 4.71 1.34 Convenience of use iLounge 32 5.49 .91 3.26 .07 Others 65 5.03 1.32 Reliability of information iLounge 32 6.01 .72 7.10 .01* Others 65 5.36 1.28 Reward for activit y iLounge 32 4.80 1.21 2.14 .15 Others 65 4.38 1.38 Functional Needs iLounge 39 5.52 .95 9.39 .00* Others 76 4.80 1.30 Emotive Needs iLounge 39 4.72 1.35 2.75 .10 Others 76 4.23 1.54 Contextual Needs iLounge 39 4.21 1.53 1.02 .31 Others 76 3.88 1.69 OBC loyalty iLounge 30 4.73 1.76 .0 7 .79 Others 63 4.64 1.60 Brand loyalty iLounge 30 5.46 1.74 1.24 .27 Others 63 5.05 1.58 Purchase Intention iLounge 30 5.63 1.73 .73 .39 Others 63 5.33 1.57 Note: All items were measured on a 7 point scale ( *p<.01) Table 4 4. Means and Reliability check for each variable Variables Mean Cronbachs alpha Independent variable O nline brand community Characteristics 1. Interactivity 4.78 .92 2. Convenience of use 5.19 .87 3. Reliability of Information 5.57 .94 4. Reward for activity 4.52 .91 Dependent variables O nline brand community l oyalty 4.67 .92 Brand Loyalty 5.18 .92 Purchase Intention 5.42 .94 Moderating variable Needs to use online brand community 1. Functional Needs 5.04 .89 2. Emotive Needs 4.40 .94 Social interaction 4.58 .89 Personal use 4.09 .89 Self expression use 4.40 .87 3. Contextual Needs 3.99 .88 Entertainment 4.21 .80 Host 3.66 .83 N=133

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43 Table 4 5. Online brand community c haracteristics Online brand community loyalty (H1), result of multiple regression s Effect B t Sig. (Constant) .57 1.26 .21 Interactivity .69 .52 4.12 .00* Convenience of use .04 .03 .34 .74 Reliability of information .01 .01 .09 .93 Reward for activit y .48 .39 3.39 .00* Dependent Variable: O nline brand community loyalty N= 93, R=. 86, R=.74, F( 4, 88)= 61.80*, *p<.01 Table 4 6. Online brand community characteristics Emotive needs Online brand community loyalty (H2_2), result of multiple regressions Effect B t Sig. (Constant) .52 1.36 .18 Interactivity .44 .33 2.97 .00* Convenience of use .55 .40 4.12 .00* Reliability of information .13 .09 1.19 .24 Reward for activit y .16 .13 1.20 .23 Convenience of use Emotive Needs 1.21 .86 5.97 .00* De pendent Variable: O nline brand community loyalty Excluded Variables: Reliability of information EN, Convenience of use EN, Interactivity EN N=93, R=.90, R=.81, R Adj= .80, F(5,87)=76.04*, *p<.01 Table 4 7. Online brand community characteristics Contextual needs Online brand community loyalty (H2_3), result of multiple regressions Effect B t Sig. (Constant) .36 1.07 .29 Interactivity .41 .32 3.22 .00* Convenience of use .60 .43 5.38 .00* Reliability of information .03 .02 .36 .72 Reward for activit y .03 .03 .26 .80 Convenience of use Contextual Needs 1.38 1.00 8.45 .00* Dependent Variable: O nline brand community loyalty Excluded Variables: Reliability of information CN, Convenience of use CN, Interactivity CN N=93, R=.93, R=.86, R Adj= .85, F(5,87)=103.23*, *p<.01

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44 Table 4 8. Descriptive statistics for measures: Convenience of use vs. Emotive Needs Emotive Needs (EN) Convenience of use (CU) M SD N Use OBC not because of EN CU is not important 3.02 1.27 30 CU is important 3.88 1.10 12 Total 3.26 1.27 42 Use OBC because of EN CU is not important 5.49 .78 20 CU is important 6.04 .73 31 Total 5.83 .79 51 Total CU is not important 4.01 1.64 50 CU is important 5.44 1.29 43 Total 4.67 1.64 93 Table 4 9. Two way ANOVA: Convenience of use (CU) vs. Emotive Needs (EN) Source Type III Sum of Squares df Mean Square F Sig. EN 108.37 1 108.37 110.73 .00 CONV 9.99 1 9.99 10.21 .00 EN* CONV 0.47 1 .47 .48 .49 Error 87.11 89 .98 *p<.01 Table 4 10. Descriptive statistics for measures: Convenience of use vs. Contextual Needs Contextual Needs (CN) Convenience of use (CU) M SD N Use OBC not because of CN CU is not important 2.99 1.30 29 CU is important 3.91 1.06 13 Total 3.28 1.29 42 Use OBC beca u se of CN CU is not important 5.40 .82 21 CU is important 6.10 .66 30 Total 5.81 .80 51 Total CU is not important 4.01 1.64 50 CU is important 5.44 1.29 43 Total 4.67 1.64 93 Table 4 11. Two way ANOVA: Convenience of use (CU) vs. Contextual Needs (CN) Source Type III Sum of Squares df Mean Square F Sig. CN 110.02 1 110.02 112.52 .00* CONV 13.50 1 13.50 13.80 .00* CN CONV .25 1 .25 .26 .61 Error 87.01 89 .98 *p<.01

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45 Table 4 12. OBC loyalty Brand loyalty (H3), result of bivariate linear regression Effect B t Sig. (Constant) 1.66 4.95 .00* OBC loyalty .75 .76 11.13 00* Dependent Variable: Brand l oyalty N= 93, R=. 76, R=.58, F( 1, 91)= 123.91*, *p<.01 Table 4 13. Brand loyalty Purchase Intention (H4), result of bivariate linear regression Effect B t Sig. (Constant) .99 3.47 00* Brand loyalty 86 8 6 1 6.23 00* Dependent Variable: Purchase Intention N= 93, R=. 86, R=.74, F( 1, 91)= 264.03*, *p<.01

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46 Figure 4 1. I nteraction effect ( Convenience of use Emot ive Needs ) on OBC loyalty

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47 Figure 4 2. I nteraction effect ( Convenience of use Contextual Needs ) on OBC loyalty

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48 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION AND CONCL USIONS Discussion This study was designed for the purpose of understanding how online brand community characteristics affect online brand community loyalty. In addition, by adapting a uses and gratifications theory the study also examined why consumer s use online brand communities and how their needs affect the relationships between online brand community characteristics and their loyalty toward communities. Based on Sunanda s study (2005), three key motivat ions for an online brand community use (functional, emotive, and contextual) were used in this study. Regarding the study hypotheses, Hypothesis 1 was supported. The findings from the previous chapter showed that there is a relationship between four major characteristics of online brand communities (interactivity, convenience of use, reliability of information, and reward for activity) and online brand community loyalty. This finding supports Jang and colleagues study (2007) that interactivity and reward f or activity significantly affect community commitment. According to their study, information quality and system quality exert a greater influence upon community commitment. Based on the results of this study, b ecause of the unique nature of the online comm unity, users seemed to have more loyalty toward their online brand community if it offers a way of interaction among users and administrators, is well designed and easy to use website, has believable and useful content, and includes monetary or emotional r ewards for activities. In H2, this study attempted to explain how motivations of online brand community users moderate the effectiveness of online brand community characteristics on online brand community loyalty. O nline brand community users might have their own needs and motivations for using it such as information acquisition or entertainments. The more an online brand

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49 community fulfills its members needs with its own successful characteristics, the more loyal th eir members will feel. After conducting separate multiple regression analyses by consumer needs such as functional, emotional, and contextual, H2 was partially supported. The results indicated that there were significant interaction effect s between online brand community characteristics and emotive needs, and online brand community characteristics and contextual needs on online brand community loyalty. However, the interaction effect of functional needs was not supported. The results imply that online brand community characteristics and functional needs do not have a direct effect on online brand community loyalty. This result may be explained by sample characteristics which were collected from not only one online brand community but from many other random communities. If the samples were collected from one online brand community then users motivations for use might be relevant. For example, an e lectronic product community may be built around users interested in useful information about t heir products or contents such as mp3 file s Based on this assumption, if an online brand community offers believable information and useful content the users commitment or loyalty toward community might be positively affected. However, in this study, sa mples that come from various online brand communities might be comprised of different levels of motivations. And this may affect the result of this hypothesis testing. Based on the results, H3, online brand community loyalty predicts brand loyalty, was supported. There was a positive effect of online brand community loyalty on brand loyalty which is consistent with Jang and colleagues study (2007). Finally, H4 was also supported. The study results revealed that positive brand loyalty can subsequently affect online brand community users purchase intentions. It shows that increasing brand loyalty through an online brand community can benefit the company after all.

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50 Impli cations These days, there are various types of virtual communities on the Internet. One of the major benefits of virtual community is interactivity among community members. Rheingold (1993) describes virtual communities as hav ing a sufficient human feelin g to form webs of personal relationships (p.14). With this consideration, online brand communit ies are providing new opportunities for interaction between marketers/advertisers and consumers and among consumers themselves Especially for marketers an online brand community can be a powerful vehicle through which to deepen and broaden their relationships with people who are interested in their brand and who also actually buy their goods and services. In this respect, this study improves our understanding of how online brand community characteristics influence users positive feeling toward community and brand through online brand community loyalty, brand loyalty and purchase intention. In practice, the findings of this study suggest that creating a well o rganized online brand community can benefit a company in terms of improving financial performance. An online brand community can be a new marketing communication tool which allows for interact ion among existing customers who already own the brand and are already strongly attached to it, and potential customers as well. Therefore, by understanding existing and potential customers characteristics and their needs, marketers should strive to provide believable information about a brand and its products, a well designed and systemized website, a proper way of interaction with customers and among customers themselves, and tangible or intangible reward s such as monetary reward or upgrade membership program. Limitations and Future Research This study has sever al limitations that mostly relate to sampling issues. First of all, not enough samples were collected due to the unique nature of this study. The aim of this study was

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51 to seek knowledge of online brand community users Hence, data should be collected among online brand community users. Online community is nongeographically bound community (Muniz & O Guinn, 2001). Therefore, in this study, an online survey was inevitability used for collecting valid data. However, because of the nature of online survey, the re were many respondents who dropped out of the survey right after the informed consent form or in the middle of the survey. A larger sample would be expected to show more significant results and is, therefore, recommended for future research Second, it is a limitation that large portion of samples were drawn from one online brand community. Among the total sample, about 35% were from iLounge which is one of the biggest iPhone and iPod communities. This has the potential to skew the result s of this study due to the unique character of this community. Therefore, future examination should recruit a more balanced sample to see if this model can be projected in to in the real world. Third, participants who were recruited from iLounge chose to participate in t his online survey themselves, since this survey was posted on the website with an announcement requesting participation. There is a high possibility that people who decided to participate in the survey already have a high interest or loyalty toward communi ty or brand. Therefore, the results may have been different had more general members from the population been recruited in the sample. For future study, more updated recruit ing method will be needed. Forth, the scale for each variable has the potential be another limitation in this study. This study examined the interaction effect of consumers needs by applying a uses and gratification theoretical framework to an online brand community. In this study Sunanda s scales (2005) that were used to examine th e relationship between consumers motivation and virtual community in general were adopted. However, there is a need for further study on the relationship between an

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52 online brand community and consumers motivation with an appropriate scale. In future studies, it would be valuable to have a more precise scale to measure each variable.

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53 APPENDIX A ONLINE SURVEY QUESTI ONNAIRE Your responses to the following questions or statements should reflect your experience in online brand communities. Please respond to the following questions. Section 1: This section is asking you about your internet usage and your interest on brand community. Please choose one answer. 11. How often do you use the Internet in an average week? (e.g. online shopping, game, online newspapers, e mail, chatting, Google, Social Network Site such as Facebook, MySpace, etc.) Everyday 4 6 days 13 days None 12. How many hours on average do you use the Internet per day? Less than 30 minutes 30 minutes Less than 1 hour 1 Less th an 3 hours 3 Less than 5 hours Over 5 hours 13. How many online brand communities have you participated in (including iLounge)? 1 an online brand community 2 online brand communities 3 online brand communities 4 online brand communities 5 or more online brand communities 14. How long have you been a member of iLounge ? Less than 6 months 6 month less than 1 year 1 year less than 2 years 2 less than 3 years More than 3 years An online brand community is the specialized, non geographically bound community based on a structured set of social relationships among interest of a brand. (e.g. I love Starbucks, Harley Davidson Club, and Nike+ )

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54 15. How many times do you visit online brand communities in a month? 1 3 times 4 6 times 7 9 times Over 10 times 16. On a daily basis, approximately, how much time on average do you spend with online brand communities? Less than 30 minutes 30 minutes less than 1 hour 1 hour less than 3 hours 3 hours less than 5 hours More than 5 hours Section 2: The following questions ask about your use of and participation in iLounge community. Please rate the following statements according to your own opinion. 21. I use this community to obtain objective information in my area of interest. strongl y disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 22. I use this community to receive highly qualified information. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 23. I use this community to get information for exactly what I need/want to know. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 24. I use this community to get information from experts. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 str ongly agree 25. I use this community to get information from opinion leaders. (Opinion leader: an individual whose ideas and behavior serve as a model to others.) strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 26. I use this community to get trust information for investments. (e.g. purchase products, investment purpose, etc.) strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree

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55 27. I use this community to visit threads. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 28. I enjoy discussion and any other participation in this community. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 29. I enjoy virtual compa nionship among members in this community. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 210. I use this community to interact with people. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 211. I use this community because of the large number of membership. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 212. I use this community to meet people who have same interests strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 213. I use this community because I can easily find people that I want to know from this community. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 214. I use this community to meet industry leaders and influential people. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 215. I use this community to express my knowledge. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 216. I use this community as a contributor. (e.g. posting the message and data about brand, brands product, and personal experiences) strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 217. I use this community because I can share the information such as up to date data or personal experience about the brands product. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree

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56 218. I think of this community as extension of myself. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 219. I use this community because I enjoy participating in community s chat groups/discussion forum. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 220. I use this community to enjoy the site surfing and navigation. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 221. I use this community to participate in offline meeting with others (e.g. members and experts). strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 222. I use this community because I like the rules and regulations that are applied to this community. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 223. I use this community to read postings from the CEO of this brand. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree Section 3: This section measures your attitude toward Apple s iPod and iPhone Please indicate your level of agreement with the following statements. 31. I can believe the information in this community. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 32. This community has diverse information that I need about the brand. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 33. This community has interesting upto date information. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree

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57 34. This community has a lot of information about the brand. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 35. This community has valuable information about the brand and product. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 36. T his community provide s enough information that I need to know strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 37. I can easily find the information that I need. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 38. The website is well designed. e.g. arrangement of information and pictures, design, etc.) strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 39. The page loads up quickly. stron gly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 310. This community is generally easy to search for information. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 311. This communitys concept matc hes my interest. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 312. The other members of this community have the same interest s as I do. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 313. This community provides proper communication channel s among members (e.g. C hat room and discussion forum) strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 314. Other members respond quickly to my inquiries. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree

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58 315. The community managers respond quickly to members inquiries. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 316. This community provide s an off line meeting for members. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 317. If there are off line meetings with community members, I would like to participate in them strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 318. This community manager sends messages or newsletters to each member individually. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 319. The community manager sends messages to the members on a regular basis. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 320. This community accept/apply any request or recommendation from members. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 321. This community offers monetary rewards, such as mileage, to proactive members. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 322. This community recognizes to proactive members (i.e. choosing the best user/member of the month, etc.) strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 323. This community provides product coupons for its members. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 324. My status in the community can be upgraded/downgraded based on my degree of activity in the community. (ex. Level of membershipetc.) strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 325. Sharing your own experience/opinion in this community is enjoyable. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree

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59 326. M anagers or members of this community believe your own information and know ledge. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 327. Managers or members of this community believe you own information and knowledge. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 328. You are known as an information giver in this community strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 329. You have an ability to give information about this brand and product that other members want. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree Section 4: The following questions ask about your loyalty to this an online brand community & brand, and finally purchase intention. Please indicate your level of agreement with the following statements 41. I feel loyalty to this community. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 42. I feel any problem that this community is faced with is the same as my own problem. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 43. I often talk about this community to my family and friends. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 44. I f this community offer ed an opportunity to work for the community, I would like to do it strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 45. I would like to help any member in this community if they had either an online or offline problem. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree

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60 46. I feel empty when I do not use this community website for more than a week. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 47. I think this brand is the best compared to others in the same category. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 48. I would like to introduce this brand to others. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 49. I would c hoose this brand even if there were disadvantages to the product. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 410. If I buy a product in the brands product category (e.g. MP3 player, phone, etc) I will choose this brand. strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree 411. I would consistently choose to use this brands product (e.g. iPod, iPhone, etc.) strongly disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 strongly agree Section 5: These questions are for demographic information. Please answer the following questions by filling in the blank or checking one option. 51. What is your gender? Male Female 52. What is your age? 1821 2225 2630 3140 4150 5160 61 or over

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61 53. What is the highest level of education you have completed? Less than High School High School/GED Some College 2Year College Degree (Associates) 4Year College Degree (BA/BS) Master's Degree Doctoral Degree Professional Deg ree (MD/JD) 54. What is your ethnicity? Arabic Asian Black/African American Hispanic/Latino Native American White/Caucasian Other (please write your answer here : ) 55. Do you own any product from this brand such as iPod or iPhone ? Ye s No (go to the question #57) 56. If yes, How many do you own? 1 2 3 4 5 or more 56. Below, please provide me with any comments regarding the website you browsed and the questionnaire you completed: This is the end of the survey. Thank you for your participation and contribution to the social research.

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67 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Jaejin Lee was born in South Korea. She completed her undergraduate study majoring in c hild and f amily s tudies, business a dministration, and E nglish l anguage and l iterature at Kyungpook National University. After graduation in 2003, she worked for Samsung Electronics for three years. She continued her masters degree in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida in fall 2007. She will pursue her doctoral studies at University of Florida.