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Effects of Internal Information Cues on Perceived Source Credibility and Attitude

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0025066/00001

Material Information

Title: Effects of Internal Information Cues on Perceived Source Credibility and Attitude an Analysis of Corporate Reputation, Brand Familiarity, and Consumer Expertise
Physical Description: 1 online resource (115 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Cheng, Wen-Hsin
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2009

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: attitude, consumer, credibility, knowledge, reputation, source
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Mass Communication thesis, M.A.M.C.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: Consumers today are bombarded daily with thousands of messages and faced with a proliferation of brand choices in the marketplace. Therefore, to disseminate marketing messages to relevant audiences effectively and accurately has become a challenge to marketers. Acknowledging that the pre-purchase information search plays an important role in consumers decision making processes, scholars have devoted considerable efforts to examining consumers information seeking behaviors. Information searches can involve seeking both internal and external information. An internal search refers to the retrieval of information that is available in memory while external information may be collected from sources outside of memory. However, little research has empirically examined the communication effectiveness of marketer-controlled and non-marketer-controlled sources depending on individual differences in internal cues. The proposed model explored the way internal information cues influence external information evaluation and attitude formation. Corporate reputation and consumer knowledge were identified as influential internal cues that shape message persuasiveness and consumer attitudes. Whether level of involvement can moderate the effect of source credibility on attitude was addressed as well. Further, this study explored how consumers assign credibility to different sources of product/brand information, including company-generated messages and noncompany-controlled information. A 2 (high vs. low corporate reputation) by 3 (company, editorial, and consumer sources) factorial experimental design was employed. A total of 212 university students participated in the study. The researcher found that perceived source credibility was directly influenced by level of involvement, but not influenced by corporate reputation and brand familiarity. In addition, the results indicated significant interactive effect of consumer expertise and involvement on perceived source credibility. In general, this study found a difference in source credibility between company-generated messages and non-company-generated content. A professional journalistic source was perceived as more credible by respondents than was a company source and an unknown peer consumer. The results suggested that consumer attitude toward a company was related strongly to corporate reputation and was influenced by consumers credibility evaluations of external sources of information. In conclusion, this study confirmed that respondents level of involvement was related to the way consumers evaluate external information. The results of regression analyses supported the proposed conceptual model in which both internal and external cues are influential in attitude formation.
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 Wen-Hsin Cheng.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 2009.
Local: Adviser: Page, Janis Teruggi.
Local: Co-adviser: Kiousis, Spiro K.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2009
System ID: UFE0025066:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0025066/00001

Material Information

Title: Effects of Internal Information Cues on Perceived Source Credibility and Attitude an Analysis of Corporate Reputation, Brand Familiarity, and Consumer Expertise
Physical Description: 1 online resource (115 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Cheng, Wen-Hsin
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2009

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: attitude, consumer, credibility, knowledge, reputation, source
Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Mass Communication thesis, M.A.M.C.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: Consumers today are bombarded daily with thousands of messages and faced with a proliferation of brand choices in the marketplace. Therefore, to disseminate marketing messages to relevant audiences effectively and accurately has become a challenge to marketers. Acknowledging that the pre-purchase information search plays an important role in consumers decision making processes, scholars have devoted considerable efforts to examining consumers information seeking behaviors. Information searches can involve seeking both internal and external information. An internal search refers to the retrieval of information that is available in memory while external information may be collected from sources outside of memory. However, little research has empirically examined the communication effectiveness of marketer-controlled and non-marketer-controlled sources depending on individual differences in internal cues. The proposed model explored the way internal information cues influence external information evaluation and attitude formation. Corporate reputation and consumer knowledge were identified as influential internal cues that shape message persuasiveness and consumer attitudes. Whether level of involvement can moderate the effect of source credibility on attitude was addressed as well. Further, this study explored how consumers assign credibility to different sources of product/brand information, including company-generated messages and noncompany-controlled information. A 2 (high vs. low corporate reputation) by 3 (company, editorial, and consumer sources) factorial experimental design was employed. A total of 212 university students participated in the study. The researcher found that perceived source credibility was directly influenced by level of involvement, but not influenced by corporate reputation and brand familiarity. In addition, the results indicated significant interactive effect of consumer expertise and involvement on perceived source credibility. In general, this study found a difference in source credibility between company-generated messages and non-company-generated content. A professional journalistic source was perceived as more credible by respondents than was a company source and an unknown peer consumer. The results suggested that consumer attitude toward a company was related strongly to corporate reputation and was influenced by consumers credibility evaluations of external sources of information. In conclusion, this study confirmed that respondents level of involvement was related to the way consumers evaluate external information. The results of regression analyses supported the proposed conceptual model in which both internal and external cues are influential in attitude formation.
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 Wen-Hsin Cheng.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 2009.
Local: Adviser: Page, Janis Teruggi.
Local: Co-adviser: Kiousis, Spiro K.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2009
System ID: UFE0025066:00001


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1 EFFECTS OF INTERNAL INFORMATION CUES ON PERCEIVED SOURCE CREDIBILITY AND ATTITUDE: AN ANALYSIS OF CORPORATE REPUTATION, BRAND FAMI LIARITY, AND CONSUMER EXPERTISE By WEN HSIN CHENG A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS IN MASS COMMUNICATION UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2009

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2 2009 Wen Hsin Cheng

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3 To my family

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS My first thanks should go to my chair, Dr. Janis Page, and co -chair, Dr. Spiro Kiousis. Without Dr. Pages kind and warm support, I could not walk through the most difficult time in the final phase of this process I thank Dr. Kiousis for providing me with valuable guidance, constructive advice, and constant support throughout this study. Moreover, I would like to extend my gratitude to my attentive committee members, Dr. Sylvia Chan -Olmsted and Professor Deanna Pelfrey. I appreciate their support and willingness to share thoughtful suggestions that make this thesis more polished. Further, I would like to express my deepest thank s to my entire family for their endless support and caring They gi ve me confidence to pursuit my dream and have e ncouraged me during those stressful days. I thank my loving parent for always believing in me and giving me the opportunity to experience a different life. Without their support, none of this would have been possible. Lastly, thanks go to my dear friends f rom Taiwan and all the friends I met at the University of Florida. They make this journey more enjoyable and memorable. Special thanks go to Po -Han Chen who sha res every laugh and tear along this journey and has stood beside me as a considerate and tremendous companion

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .................................................................................................................... 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................................................................................................................ 7 LIST OF FIGURES .............................................................................................................................. 8 ABSTRACT .......................................................................................................................................... 9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ....................................................................................................................... 11 2 LITERATURE REVIEW ........................................................................................................... 14 External Source of Information .................................................................................................. 14 So urce Credibility ....................................................................................................................... 18 Corporate Reputation .................................................................................................................. 25 Consumer Knowledge ................................................................................................................. 29 Brand Familiarity ................................................................................................................. 32 Consumer Expertise ............................................................................................................. 35 Conceptual Mod el ....................................................................................................................... 38 Research Questions and Hypotheses .......................................................................................... 38 3 METHODOLOGY ...................................................................................................................... 44 Experimental Design ................................................................................................................... 44 Pretest ........................................................................................................................................... 44 Pretest Sample and Instruments .......................................................................................... 45 Pretest Results ...................................................................................................................... 46 Stimulus Materials ...................................................................................................................... 46 Pilot Study ................................................................................................................................... 47 Main Study ................................................................................................................................... 48 Sample and Procedure ......................................................................................................... 48 Independent Variables ......................................................................................................... 50 Dependent Variables ............................................................................................................ 51 Moderating Variable ............................................................................................................ 51 4 RESULTS .................................................................................................................................... 54 Analysis Summary ...................................................................................................................... 54 Sample Profile ............................................................................................................................. 55 Manipulation Checks .................................................................................................................. 55 Reliability Check ......................................................................................................................... 56 Sample Analysis .......................................................................................................................... 56

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6 Research Questions and Hypotheses Testing ............................................................................ 57 Effects of Corporate Reputation, Brand Familiarity, Consumer Exp ertise, and Involvement on Source Credibility ................................................................................. 57 Effect of Corporate Reputation on Attitude ....................................................................... 58 Effect of Source Credibility on Attitude ............................................................................ 59 Effect of Source Cue on Perceived Source Credibility ..................................................... 59 Overall Model Testing ......................................................................................................... 60 5 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION ........................................................................................ 69 General Discussion ...................................................................................................................... 71 Conclusion and Implications ...................................................................................................... 75 Limitations and Future Research ................................................................................................ 76 APPENDIX A QUESTIONNAIRE FOR PRETEST ......................................................................................... 81 B COMPANY GENERATED MESSAGE FROM ACER ......................................................... 83 C EDITORIAL CONTENTS FOR ACER .................................................................................... 85 D CONSUMER GENERATED COMMUNICATION FOR ACER .......................................... 87 E COMPANY GENERATED MESSAGE FOR APPLE ........................................................... 89 F EDITORIAL CONTENTS FOR APPLE .................................................................................. 91 G CONSUMER GENERATED COMMUNICATION FOR APPLE ........................................ 93 H QUESTIONNAIRE FOR APPLE .............................................................................................. 95 I QUES TIONNAIRE FOR ACER ............................................................................................... 98 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................................................................................................. 101 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ........................................................................................................... 115

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7 LIST OF TABLES Table page 3 1 Conditions of the 2x3 experimental design. ......................................................................... 53 3 2 Construct measurement summary ......................................................................................... 53 4 1 Summary of statistical analyses and results for research questions and hypotheses. ........ 62 4 2 Random assignment of participants in each condition. ....................................................... 63 4 3 Corporate reputation by company. ........................................................................................ 63 4 4 Reliability check. .................................................................................................................... 63 4 5 Valid sample in six conditions. ............................................................................................. 63 4 6 Between -subject effects, dependent variable: source credibility. ....................................... 64 4 7 Between -subject effects, dependent variable: consumer attitude toward the company. ... 65 4 8 Result of t test: corporate reputation attitude. ...................................................................... 65 4 9 Result of bivariate linear regression, dependent variable: attitude toward the company. ................................................................................................................................. 66 4 10 Perceived source credibility by source cue. .......................................................................... 66 4 11 F test of source credibility by source cue. ............................................................................ 66 4 12 Result of t test: source cue -source credibility. ..................................................................... 66 4 13 Result of t test: source cue -source credibility. ..................................................................... 66 4 14 Result of t test: source cue -source credibility. ..................................................................... 66 4 15 Regression analysis, dependent variable: source credibility. .............................................. 67 4 16 Regression analysis, dependent variable: consumer attitude toward the company. .......... 67 4 17 Hierarchical regression analysis of proposed model, dependent variable: consumer attitude toward the company. ................................................................................................ 67

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8 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 2 1 The components of familiarity and expertise. ...................................................................... 43 2 2 Theoretical model of source credibility in persuasion depending on prior corporate reputation, brand familiarity, and consumer expertise. ........................................................ 43 4 1 Interactive effect of consumer expertise and level of involvement on source credibility. ............................................................................................................................... 68 4 2 Significant results of regression models.. ............................................................................. 68

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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 Arts in Mass Communication EFFECTS OF INTERNAL INFORMATION CUES ON PERCEIVED SOURCE CREDIBILITY AND ATTITUDE: AN ANALYSIS OF CORPORATE REPUTATION, BRAND FAMILIARITY, AND CONSUMER EXPERTISE By Wen Hsin Cheng August 2009 Chair: Janis Page Cochair: Spiro Kiousis Major: Mass Communication Consumers today are bombarded daily with thousands of messages and faced with a proliferation of brand choices in the marketplace. Therefore, to disseminate marketing messag es to relevant audiences effectively and accurately has become a challenge to marketers. Acknowledging that the pre -purchase information search plays an important role in consumers decision making processes, scholars have devoted considerable efforts to e xamining consumers information seeking behaviors. Information searches can involve seeking both internal and external information. An internal search refers to the retrieval of information that is available in memory while external information may be coll ected from sources outside of memory. However, little research has empirically examined the communication effectiveness of marketer -controlled and non -marketer -controlled sources depending on individual differences in internal cues. The proposed model expl ored the way internal information cues influence external information evaluation and attitude formation. Corporate reputation and consumer knowledge were identified as influential internal cues that shape message persuasiveness and consumer attitudes. Whether level of involvement can moderate the effect of source credibility on attitude was addressed as well. Further, this study explored how consumers assign credibility to different

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10 sources of product/brand information, including company -generated messages and noncompany -controlled information. A 2 (high vs. low corporate reputation) by 3 (company, editorial, and consumer sources) factorial experimental design was employed. A total of 212 university students participated in the study. The researcher found t hat perceived source credibility was directly influenced by level of involvement, but not influenced by corporate reputation and brand familiarity In addition, the results indicated significant interactive effect of consumer expertise and involvement on p erceived source credibility. In general, this study found a difference in source credibility between company generated messages and non -company -generated content. A professional journalistic source was perceived as more cr edible by respondents than was a c ompany source and an unknown peer consumer. The r esults suggested that consumer attitude toward a company was related strongly to corporate reputation and was influenced by consumers credibility evaluations of external sources of information. In conclusion, this study confirmed that respondents level of involvement was related to the way consumers evaluate external information. The results of regression analyses supported the proposed conceptual model in which both internal and external cues are influential in attitude formation.

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11 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Searching for inf ormation is essential to a consumers decision making process (Bettman, 1979; Engel, Blackwell, & Miniard, 1986). Information searches can involve seeking both internal and external information. An internal search refers to the retrieval of information tha t is available in memory, such as prior brand experiences, beliefs, or previous exposure to advertising. External information may be collected from sources outside of memory, such as the Internet, word -of -mouth, consumer reports, or salespeople. As consume rs are unique and their behaviors vary, scholars have made efforts to investigate the antecedents of external searches (Beatty & Smith, 1980; Moore & Lehmann, 1980). Empirical studies have suggested that consumers exhibit very limited prepurchase informat ion search activity (Moorthy, Ratchford, & Talukdar, 1997, p. 263). Moreover, the body of literature has highlighted the influence of internal information cues on external information acquisition and information processing (e. g. Bettman, 1970; Duncan & O lshavsky, 1982; Sujan, Bettman, & Sujan, 1986) Previous research has recognized the importance of both internal and external information cues as the basis for attitude formation and judgment (Herr, Kardes, & Kim, 1991; Wood, Kallgren, & Preisler, 1985). F eelings and prior experiences serve as accessible internal information used by message receivers to evaluate new information and determine attitude (Keller, 1987; Wood, 1982). In this thesis, corporate reputation and consumer knowledge were identified as i nfluential internal cues that shape message persuasiveness and consum er attitude. A good corporate reputation mirrors beliefs a nd perceptions stored in memory and becomes a heuristic that directs how people perceive and evaluate messages regarding the firm and their attitudes toward it (Coombs & Holladay, 2006; Lyon & Cameron, 2004). Consumer knowledge has been acknowledged as one of the major determinants of external search behaviors

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12 (Grant, Clarke, & Kyriazis, 2007; Moore & Lehmann, 1980). In consumer knowledge structure, brand familiarity involves the quantitative aspect of a consumers direct and indirect experience with a brand, such as advertising exposure and purchase and use of a brand (Kent & Allen, 1994). Consumer expertise determines the ability t o perform product related tasks (Alba & Hutchinson, 1987). Both constructs serve as important internal sources of information (Lehto, Kim, & Morrison, 2006; Park & Stoel, 2005) that play key roles in individuals information acquisition, information proces sing, and information evaluation (Bettman & Park, 1980; Brucks, 1985). This thesis focused on the way internal information cues affect perceived source credibility among different external sources and consumers attitude formation. In the process of pre pu rchase information searches, cons umers may rely on both company-generated and noncompany -generated information. The former represents an official information source of brand or product related information, and the latter is produced by individuals or orga nizations not affiliated with a company. Due to increasing consumer skepticism about business (Edelman Trust Barometer, 2009), information from non-company sources has been viewed as more credible by consumers and is therefore better able to drive behavior al intentions than corporate communications (Bickart & Schindler, 2001; Chatterjee, 2001; Keaveney, 1995; Murray, 1991; Price & Feick, 1984). The traditional persuasion theory has documented ve ry capably the substantial impact of source credibility on comm unication effectiveness and attitude (MacKenzie & Lutz, 1989; Perloff, 2003). Source credibility has two major dimensions: expertise and trustworthiness (Hovland, Janis, & Kelley, 1953). Communication messages with a highly credible source yield

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13 greater ac ceptance by receivers and positive attitudes than messages with a source that lacks credibility (Hovland & Weiss, 1951; Goldsmith, Lafferty, & Newell, 2000a). The present study proposed that consumers rely on both internal cues retrieved from memory and va rious external information sources to form attitudes toward a company. Specifically, this study focused on source credibility as an influential message cue that affects attitudes. Previous research in the advertising literature has revealed interactive eff ects of knowledge factors (e.g. brand familiarity, prior attitudes, and product expertise) and source factors on advertising effectiveness and brand attitudes (Braunsberger & Munch, 1998; Goldber & Hartwick, 1990; Gill, Grossbart, & Laczniak, 1988). Howeve r, discussions on the communication effectiveness of company-generated messages and non-company-controlled information are rather scarce. This study seeks to fill this gap by examining whether personal differences in internal information cues might affect the way people process and evaluate messages from different sources and consequently, how these variations influence their attitudes toward the company. An understanding of how consumers assign credibility to company and non -company sources relative to the ir preexisting beliefs and levels of knowledge can provide theoretical and managerial implications.

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14 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW External Source of I nformation Given that consumers today are faced with a proliferation of brand choices in the marketplace and an overwhelming amount of marketing communication, marketers have been struggling to disseminate marketing messages to relevant audiences effectively and accurately (Geissler & Edison, 2005). Due to the growth of the Internet and an increa singly fragmented media environment, consumers have changed the way they search for information and obtain knowledge. Acknowledging that the pre -purchase information search plays an important role in consumers decision making processes, scholars have devo ted considerable efforts to examining information seeking behaviors in on -line and off line environments (Beatty & Smith, 1987; Grant et al. 2007). The common sources of information used during external searches can be divided into marketer -controlled and non -marketer -controlled communications. Marketer -controlled messages include various types of commercial communications produced and delivered by companies. Any form of online and offline advertising, public relations messages, marketing campaigns, personal selling, and product information on packages and brochures all represent possible venues through which companies communicate with consumers (Schmidt & Spreng, 1996). Such company-generated content serves as official sources of information for consumers Non -marketer -controlled information can be created by independent third -party organizations (Schmidt & Spreng, 1996). For example, product reviews and ratings published by editorial sources such as Consumers Union, J. D. Power, and Consumer Reports, and traditional mainstream media coverage (e.g. newspaper and magazines) are viewed as unbiased third -party sources. Traditional journalists act as gatekeepers who perform an important filtering funct ion

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15 and thus are viewed as important information sources by audiences rather than just a medium (Sunder & Nass, 2001). The value of publicity or publications produced by independent organizations or media outlets is that second -hand information is dee med much more legitimate and influential than their company -generate d counterparts (Cameron, 1994). Another type of no n -commercial information source for brand or product -related information is that of interpersonal sources that are not affiliated with com panies, such as knowledgeable relatives, friends, and acquaintances (Mourali, Laroche, & Pons, 2005; Price & Feick, 1984). Previous research has explored interpersonal search behavior and revealed the growing importance of consumer -created communications ( Geissler & Edison, 2005; Gilly, Graham, Wolfinbarger, & Yale, 1998; Muiz & Schau, 2007). Information provided by knowledgeable individuals was perceived as unbiased, immediate, and interpretable, and thus was more likely to be used than other information sources in the decision making process (Price & Feick, 1984). Marketing scholars have found that word-of -mouth communication from noncommercial, personal sources plays a particularly influential role in consumer awareness and attitude, product evaluations, choice and purchase decisions (Herr et al. 1991; Price & Feick, 1984), and selection of service providers (Keaveney, 1995). The emergence of the Internet and the rise of social media platforms have created new ways for consumers to share and gather infor mation and communicate with other consumers by engaging in electronic word -of -mouth (Chatterjee, 2001; Duan, Gu, & Whinston, 2008; HennigThurau, Gwinner, Walsh, & Gremler, 2004). Web-ba sed, consumer -generated content has emerged as the most influential in formation source, which produces dire ct impacts on consumer behavior (Bickart & Schindler, 2001; Park, Lee, & H an, 2007). The increased number of product review Web sites and virtual opinion platforms collect voluminous consumer to -

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16 consumer articulations about actual usage experiences, complaints, and advice ( Bailey, 2004; Hennig Thurau & Walsh, 2004). Other social media platforms, such as blogs, social networking sites, forums, and photo or vide o sharing sites also facilitate information exchange processes and expanded the traditional localized, face to -face, word of -mouth concept to incorporate any unknown online communicator beyond geographic boundary (Cheong & Morrison, 2008; Johnson & Kaye, 2004). Personal opinions, experiences, and recommendations communicated through online consumer publishing have been shared and embraced by hundreds of millions of people as additional sources of information to help evaluate product alternatives and gain reassurance of their choices and decision making processes (Baile y, 2005). Previous studies have shown that non -company-generated information is viewed as more credible and exerts greater influence on brand choices than information from the firm (Keaveney, 1995; Murray, 1991). Bickart and Schindler (2001, p. 32) sugge sted that Consumers voiced greater credibility to the opinion and accounts of personal product experiences because they regarded fellow consumers as trustworthy sources who have no vested interest in the product and no intentions to manipulate the reader. According to Geissler and Edison (2005), marketers should pay particular attention to the so called market mavens who are expert shoppers or opinion leaders with knowledge and influence across a broad range of product categories. This is because they actively gather and disseminate the latest product and other marketing mix information, and eventually become influential word -of -mouth communicators. In line with this notion, Cheong and Morrison (2008) also reported consumers reliance on consumer -genera ted content as trustworthy product information sources for purchasing decisions. The 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer provided empirical support of greater public trust in non -business sources. According to the report, editorial content and word -of -mouth

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17 communication were rated highly in evaluating the credibility of sources of information about a company: stock or industry analyst reports garnered 47% of participants trust, articles in business magazines attracted 44%, and conversations with your frien ds and peers attained 40%, which was the same as conversation with company employees (p. 12). On the other hand, all corporate channels of communication had lost their credibility in the minds of the public. Only 26% of respondents deemed press releases reports, and e -mails from firms as credible sources; other company-controlled messages posted even lower scores, including corporate Web sites (24%), business blogs (19%), and corporate or product advertising (13%). The results also suggested that inform ed publics prefer multiple sources of information before they believe it (p. 12). This thesis inc orporated various sources of product or brand related information, including company -generated and noncompany -controlled messages. Specifically, company gene rated messages were operationalized as official announcements that directly produced by companies to communicate with customers. Non -comp an y -controlled messages included communication messages from independent, third party media outlets and interpersonal s ources. The former provided legitimate, second -hand information while the latter offered immediate personal experiences. It was suggested that non-company-controlled communication plays a particularly influential role in consumers decision making processe s (Geissler & Edison, 2005; Mourali et al., 2005). The present study examined how consumers evaluate product -related communication messages from the company, editorial, and consumer sources in terms of source credibility Previous research into consumers information search behavior indicated that the types and numbers of external searches are determined by several environmental, situational, and individual factors, and that the amount of external search tends to be limited rather than

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18 extensive (Beatty & Smith, 1987; Guo, 2001; Mourali et al., 2005; Schmidt & Spreng, 1996). This study focused specifically on how corporate reputation, brand familiarity, and product expertise affect the perceived credibility of three major ex ternal sources of brand/product information: company-generated messages, independent, third -party editorial content, and consumer generated communication Source Credibility In persuasion theory, source credibility has been one of the most important charac teristics for effective communication. Academics and professionals have paid considerable attention to the influence of source credibility on persuasion in terms of changing peoples attitudes and behaviors. Since the 1950s, researchers have claimed a posi tive effect by highly credible sources on persuasion. Hovland and Weiss (1951) found that highly credible sources elicited changes in opinion regarding the direction advocated by the communicator to a greater extent than did less credible sources. A messag e attributed to a low credibility source was perceived as less fair and justifiable than when it came from a high credibility source. In line with their statement, Maddux and Rogers (1980) found that expert sources tended to yield greater acce ptance of arg uments than did in expert sources. Other studies have also supported the claim that a highly credible source resulted in more effective persuasion (Johnson, Torcivia, & Poprick, 1968; McGinnies & Ward, 1980; Warren, 1969). An information source can consist of p eople groups, or media. The present research focused on individual speakers who communicate directly with the audience and give opinions on an issue. In their book Communication and Persuasion, Hovland and colleagues (1953) characterized the credibil ity of individual sources as communicator credibility. Source credibility has two major components: expertise and trustworthine ss. Expertise is defined as how well informed and intelligent a communicator is perceived to be while t rustworthiness is the degr ee of

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19 confidence in the communicators intention to communicate (Hovland et al., 1953). Both factors contributed to effective persuasion and opinion change. Compared to a less credible source, a high ly credib l e source tended to generate more a favorable evaluation of the presentation and elicit greater acceptance of recommendations made by the communicator Since these findings were first reported, researchers have attempted to discover the constructs of source credibility (e.g. Applbaum & Anatol, 1972; Bow ers & Phillips, 1967; Slater & Rouner, 1996; Whitehead, 1968). McGuires (1985) source valence model included attractiveness as another component of source credibility. Based on factor analysis, McCroskey (1966) identified two factors: authoritativeness an d character, as constructs of source credibility. Berlo, Lemert, and Mertz (1969) proposed the dimensions of safety, qualification, and dynamism. In addition to expertise and trustworthiness, researchers in advertising and marketing also incorporated other constructs to assess source credibility (Simpson & Kahler, 198081; Wynn, 1987). Message quality, believability, sociability, and potency have emerged as different dimensions of source credibility. Despite the various definitions and operationalizations of source credibility found in the literature, expertise and trustworthiness have been the most widely used and applicable dimensions recognized by scholars (Hovland et al., 1953; Hovland & Weiss, 1951; McCracken, 1989; Ohanian, 1990). S ource credibility is based on a receivers perception (Perloff, 2003, p. 159). People a re bombarded daily with thousands of messages. Consumers thus make judgments depending on their knowledge, memories, and available information in puts in different contexts. C ontextual fac tors (i.e. the perceived amount of information) have been suggested to influence persuasive outcomes (Tormala & Petty, 2007). Living in such a multiple message e nvironment, peoples perception of a specific persuasive message may be affected by other messa ges they have

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20 encountered previously. Tormala and Clarkson (2007) proposed that the perceived source credibility of a target message is susceptible to other sources that were encountered recently Th e perceived credibility of sources that were encountered previously served as a standard of comparison for people when mak ing judgments about a current target message. They found that when people form a higher evaluation of expertise for target messages, they generate relatively more positive attitudes and respo nses. Other experimental research that examines the persuasiveness of source credibility has revealed an interaction between source credibility and other variables related to the source, message, channel, receiver, and destination (Pornpitakpan, 2004; Ster nthal, Phillips, & Dholkia, 1978). Extensive research efforts have focused on the effect of source credibility on attitude and behavior in different contexts. Most studies supported that a high credibility source is more persuasive and has a positive effec t on receiver s attitude s and behavioral intentions (Pornpitakpan, 2004) Warren (1969) observed that speakers using a highly credible source of testimony elicited greater attitude change and better evaluations of the speaker by subjects. In the advertisin g literature, source credibility has been identified as an important antecedent of attitude change and advertisement effectiveness. MacKenzie and Lutz s (1989) dual mediation hypothesis examined attitude formation relative to advertisements and brands. The ir model provided a framework for understanding how credibility influences consumers attitudes, and the findings they noted suggested that perceived advertiser credibility was related to ad credibility. More recently, corporate credibility has been introduced as another type of source credibility and a component of corporate reputation that shapes consumer attitudes and behavioral responses (Goldberg & Hartwick, 1990; Goldsmith, Lafferty, & Newell, 2000b). Goldsmith et al. (2000a) identified corporate cred ibility and endorser credibility as antecedents to attitude toward the

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21 advertisement, attitude toward the brand, and consumer purchase intentions. The dual -credibility model suggested that while endorser credibility had a strong impact on consumers evalua tions of advertisements, corporate credibility directly influenced consumers reactions to advertisements, perceptions of brands, and purchase intentions, independent of the effect of endorser credibility (Lafferty, Goldsmith, & Newell, 2002). Source credi bility is a multi -dimensional concept that is relevant to judgments by audiences and it involves the knowledge or ability ascribed to the communicator (Perloff, 2003). McCroskey (1997) defined credibility as the attitude toward a source of communication held at a given time by a receiver. Perloff (2003) identified authority, credibility, and social attractiveness as three fundamental characteristics of communicators. Authority figures influence others by compliance since people always fav or rewards and a void punishment. Credibility includes three attributes expertise trustworthiness, and goodwill. Attractive communicators persuade successfully because they are more likable, they are similar to audiences, or they are physically appealing In spite of the various dimensions of source credibility defined by different scholars, most of the studies supported the generalization that expert and trustworthy sources impart a greater degree of approval and attitude change. Effect of Source Credibil ity on Persuasion: Level of Involvement Aside from the established literature that examines the main impact of source credibility on persuasion, other studies have explored the relationship in view of the different conditions that moderate the effect of so urce credibility. Scholars have found that individuals ability and motivation to process a message may moderate the effect of source credibility on persuasion. The dual process models of persuasion suggested two different mechanisms by which communication affects attitudes. Both the elaboration likelihood model (ELM) proposed by Petty and Cacioppo (1986) and the related heuristic -systematic model (HSM) presented by Chaiken,

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22 Libermn, and Eagly (1989) suggested two distinct ways in which people process infor mation. According to the ELM, people may utilize either a central or peripheral route to process messages. The central route involves a high level of elaboration while the peripheral route is characterized by less cognitive effort being devoted to informat ion processing. Recipients understanding and cognitive elaboration mediate attitude formation. The different routes of inducing attitude change may work best depending on whether the elaboration likelihood is high or low in certain communication situation s. The model suggested that different levels of motivation and ability determine individual processing strategies (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). The central route implies that people focus actively on the communication and evaluate the arguments presented in t he message by using considerable cognitive elaboration. The central route processing tends to occur when individuals are motivated, highly involved in the issue, perceive a need for cognition, and are knowledgeable about a given topic. In contrast, the per ipheral route processing requires less cognitive effort and fewer cognitive resources. When lacking sufficient motivation and ability to process message s people examine them quickly and rely on simple cues or heuristics to make an evaluation. An expert so urce, the number of arguments, physical attractions, and a long list of endorsements are all common peripheral cues that may invoke attitude change and behavioral resp onses (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). Based on the dual -processing model, it has been discovere d that source credibility affects persuasion depending on the message recipients level of elaboration (Tormala, Brio l & Petty, 2007). Previous research suggested that peripheral cues (e.g. communicator credibility, argument quality) become more persuasi ve when recipients have a limited ability to process the information as well as when their motivation for extensive elaboration is low rather than high (Axsom, Yates, & Chaiken, 1987; Greenwald & Leavitt, 1984; Petty, Cacioppo, & Schumann,

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23 1983). The credi bility of the information source serves as a peripheral cue to persuasion under conditions of low elaboration (Petty, Cacioppo, & Goldman, 1981). When people are less involved in a given issue, a highly credible source tends to generate more attitude chang e than a low credibility source (Johnson & Schileppi, 1969). Ratneshwar and Chaiken (1991) found that subjects with low level s of comprehension expressed more positive attitudes to expert inventors and that their responses were associated strongly with sou rce related thoughts (e.g. source expertise). On the other hand, researchers also found that source credibility can affect persuasion when elaboration is high ( e.g. Heesacker, Petty, & Cacioppo, 1983; Homer & Kahle, 1990). Chaiken and Maheswaran (1994) mai ntained that people were biased positively by an expert source and consequently perceived arguments as stronger. The information processing that occurred with the biased thoughts resulted in more favorable attitudes. Other researchers suggested a different mechanism for the source credibility effect under conditions of high elaboration. In an early study by Heesacker, Petty, and Cacioppo (1983), the relationship between source credibility and attitude change in a high involvement communication was associate d with the personal characteristics of field dependence/independence. They found that a highly credible source appeared persuasive for subjects who were unmotivated to articulate and differentiate external stimuli (field dependence) for high involvement is sues because source credibility increased the scrutiny applied to the message. More recently, Homer and Kahle (1990) studied the interaction between source expertise, the timing of source identification, and involvement. They concluded that under high invo lvement, source factors aided persuasion when it was presented early in the message. When allocating considerable elaboration to information processing, people formed less favorable evaluations when they identified a less expert source

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24 early in the message According to the self -validation hypothesis of Petty, Briol, and Tormala (2002), under high elaboration conditions an individual s confidence in his or her thoughts can affect persuasion depending on the cognitive responses elicited by the message. Tor mala Briol and Petty (2006) contended that the positive thoughts about a message followed by the identification of a credible source result ed in a greater participant confidence which led ultimately to more favorable attitudes. In a subsequent study, t hey suggested further that source credibility influences attitudes by affecting the thought favorability or thought confidence of the message receivers. The differential effects were determined by the timing of the identification of source credibility; nam ely, whether the source credibility cue preceded or followed a message (Tormala, Briol & Petty, 2007). However, a number of studies have reported null findings regarding the source credibility effect on attitudes under conditions of high elaboration. When people were motivated or were able to process the message, deep elaboration on the message itself may have reduced their need to rely on source cues such as source credibility (Homer & Kahle, 1990). In summary, the dual -processing models of attitude cha nge contended that the concept of involvement is an important moderator of the amount and type of information processing elicited by a persuasive communication. The implication of the ELM on the persuasiveness of source credibility is that level of involve ment moderates the source credibility effect on persuasion. The literature review revealed mixed results for the impact of source credibility on attitudes under high and low involvement conditions based on different mechanisms. The present study included t his moderating variable to understand further how source cues influence attitude toward a company.

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25 Corporate Reputation It is believed by academic s and practitioners alike that corporate reputation is becoming increasingly important. Every year many organizations publish reputational rankings such as Ame ricas Most Admired Companies in Fortune magazine, the 100 Best -Managed Companies developed by Industry Week, Harris Interactives Reputation Quotient, and the U.S. RepTrak of Reputation Institu te, all of which attempt to quantify the abstract perceptions of corporate reputation. Reputation is highly prized by firms and contributes to brand equity (Chaudhuri, 2002; McCorkindale, 2008). The bottom -line implications of a strong reputation have prom pted managers to create and maintain a favorable corporate reputation (Roberts & Dowling, 2002). Reputation i s an asset to be leveraged for strategic opportunity, and it is vital to the economic success of a company. Reputation building requires long term efforts and is never an easy task. A favorable corporate reputation is desirable since it becomes a competitive strategy which ensures the longterm survival of a company (Dowling, 1986). A growing body of literature has revealed an abundance of definitions of corporate reputation. Balmer (1998) analyzed the development of the corporate reputation theory and found that the concept has evolved from cor porate image (1950s) to corporate identity and corporate communication (1970s and 1980s), and more recently to corporate brand management and reputation management (1990s). Scholars from a variety of academic disciplines (e.g. economics, marketing, accounting, management, sociology) have focused research efforts into reputation studies (Frombrun & Van Riel, 199 7; Rhee & Valdez, 2009). Reputation involves the historical aspect of what an organization has done and how it behaves over time (Balmer, 1998) It is based on subjective assessments of a firms past performance, which describes its ability to satisfy the interest of multiple stakeholders ( Fombrun & Van Riel 1997) Bromley (2002) maintained that reputation is a socially shared impression that reflects collectively -held beliefs

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26 about a company. Grounded in attitude -behavior theories, Caruana, Cohen, and Kre ntler (2005) associated reputation with the beliefs of and attitudes toward companies. Some empirical research has focused on the factors that influence corporate reputation. Fombrun and Shanley (1990) found that people constructed reputations based on se veral informational signals: market and accounting signals that indicate financial performance, institutional signals representing social responsiveness, and strategy signals that reveal the choice of business strategies. Rindova Williamson, Petkova, and Sever (2005) suggested that perceived quality of services/products and organizational prominence (derived from third -party endorsements) are two components of organizational reputation. The reason corporate reputation has been valued traditionally can be explained by its contribution to a firms sustainable development. The more favorable a companys reputation, the more likely its stakeholders are to engage in supportive behaviors ( McCorkindale, 2008). Previous research suggests that corporate reputation is related to everything from market share to employee morale (Chaudhuri 2002; Dowling, 1986; Rhee & Valdez, 2009). Public relations practitioners strive to enhance and maintain str ong corporate reputation because it affects every possible stakeholder group of a company, from consumers to employees, investors, shareholders, and government organizations. Reputation affects peoples behavioral intentions profoundly (Gaines Ross, 1997; Lyon & Cameron, 2004). Consumers reported higher purchasing intentions and were more willing to provide recommendations for products and services from companies that are highly regarded (Bontis, Booker, & Serenko, 2007; Graham & Bansal, 2007; Jeng, 2008; Lyon & Cameron, 2004; Rogerson, 1983). Reputation also served as a strong driver of customer loyalty (Andreassen, 1994; Bontis et al., 2007; Ryan, Rayner, & Morrison, 1999). It played an important

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27 role in the enhancement of brand relationships such that cu stomers were more willing to communicate with the firm and perceived a greater emotional exchange with the brand (Cleopatra & Moutinho, 2009). In addition, research has suggested that corporate reputation is related to the attraction and retention of quali ty employees (Gatewood, Gowan, & Lautenschlager, 1993; Highhouse et al., 1999; Turban & Greening, 1996) and investors (Chajet, 1997; Gaines Ross, 1997; Helm, 2007). A company with a good reputation is rewarded by other benefits, including easier product in troduction, better perceived product quality, the ability to influence regulatory processes, increased advertising effectiveness and credibility, and better perceptions of corporate giving (Bae & Cameron, 2006; Goldberg & Hartwick, 1990; Lyon & Cameron, 20 04; Weigelt & Camerer, 1988). Reputation can serve as a heuristic people can use to help them form perceptions about a firm. Research has confirmed a positive effect of reputatio n on attitudes (Lyon & Cameron, 2004). C ompanies with positive reputation wer e reported to be more prosocial and likable than companies with negative reputation, and their management styles and ethical standards also garnered more support from stakeholders (Lyon & Cameron, 2004). Especially in crisis situations, corporate reputatio n served as a key predictor of peoples attitude (Lyon & Cameron, 2004). Previous studies have indicated that the pre -crisis reputation of a company has substantial impacts on its post -crisis reputation and crisis outcomes (Coombs & Holladay, 2002; Klein & Dawar, 2004). Coombs and Holladay (2006) maintained that prior corporate reputation provides a halo effect; that is, it acts as a shield that leads stakeholders to ignore negative information created by the crisis and deflects reputational harm away from the organization. In other words, strong corporate reputation may act as a type of insurance policy that protects the reputational assets of a firm dur ing a crisis (Dowling, 2002).

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28 Reputation management has gained distinct prominence in the literature of p ublic relations (e.g. Hutton, Goodman, Alexander, & Genest, 2001; Kim, 2001; Skolnik, 1994; Yang, 2007). Among the various roles of corporate communication, reputation management has been ranked as the leading philosophy of corporate communication departme nts (Hutton et al., 2001). On behalf of the organization they represent, public relations practitioners are entrusted with the responsibility of creating and maintaining a corporate reputation in the most positive manner among different stakeholder groups. The excellence theory of public relations maintained that public relations efforts aided organizations in achieving their goals. The principle of two -way symmetrical communication has guided the profession to help companies build beneficial relationships with their key stakeholder groups and enhance mutual understanding between the two parties (Grunig & Grunig, 1992). In Hons study (1997), CEOs and managers believed that effective public relations contribute to creating the right corporate image and commu nicating positive and accurate messages. Previous research suggested a positive relationship between public relations expenditures and corporate reputation, and a favorable reputation was related to a companys financial success (Kim, 2001). The literature review revealed how actions and communication conducted through public relations affect corporate reputations. A firms media exposure appears to be highly related to its corporate reputation (Wartick, 1992). According to the agenda -setting theory, the se lection and display of news influences the prominence of the chosen topics and their images among the public (McCombs & Reynolds, 2002; McCombs & Shaw, 1972). Empirical studies also found that companies are able to acquire better reputations if their succe ssful attributes appear more frequently in media coverage (Meijer & Kleinnijenhuis, 2006). Carroll and McCombs (2003) argued that organized corporate communication can influence news content significantly. It was

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29 suggested that public relations messages ha ve an impact on shaping an organizations media coverage and that they ultimately influence public perceptions and opinions (Berger & Park, 2003; Carroll & MCombs, 2003; Kiousis, Popescu, & Mitrook, 2007). Kiousis et al. (2007) studied the relationships am ong public relations messages, media coverage, perceived corporate reputation, and financial performance and suggested a corporate communication strategy to differentiate public relations materials that target specific media outlets for the management of c orporate reputation. Corporate vision and leadership and corporate social responsibility were two message attributes in news content that are more likely to resul t in a better corporate image. In summary, the review of literature indicated that corporate r eputation can be regarded as an evaluation cue that influences and shapes peoples judgment of a company. Moreover, preexisting corporate reputations that remain in consumers minds are likely to affect their processing and evaluations on any given informa tion regarding the firm. Consumer Knowledge Consumer research literature has shown a long-standing interest in consumer knowledge and has revealed its impacts on individual behavior. Early studies into this subject focused on consumers prior knowledge and experiences. For example, Park and Lessig (1981) evaluated subjects perceived knowledge based on behavioral considerations, such as information search experience, usage experience, and ownership status. Johnson and Russo (1984) viewed the knowledge of a product class to be the same as product familiarity. In many cases, researchers have connected familiarity with knowledge and experience. Consumer knowledge and experience are shown to be important factors in consumer information processing (Bettman & Park 1980). Operationally, consumer knowledge has been measured in terms of the amount of purchasing or usage experience (Monroe, 1976; Moore & Lehmann, 1980) and information stored in memory (Brucks, 1985).

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30 In their review study, Alba and Hutchinson (1987) divided consumer knowledge into two dimensions: familiarity and expertise. Familiarity is defined as the number of product related experiences that have been accumulated by the consumer. These related experiences broadly include advertising exposure, inf ormation search, interactions with salespe ople word -of -mouth communications, trial s and purchasing (Alba & Hutchison, 1987). Alternatively, they defined expertise as the ability to perform product related tasks successfully. To clarify further the difference between the two constructs, de Bont and Shoormns (1996) argued that familiarity refers to the quantity rather than the quality or type of experience, while expertise involves qualitative aspects of consumer knowledge. Jacoby Troutman, Kuss, and Mazursky (1986) offered a more profound explication of experience and expertise. They stated that an individual can have many pe rsonally encountered experiences with a particular subject matter without becoming an expert; on the other hand, individuals that have the same level of expertise may possess different amounts of experience. Therefore, many experience based indices cannot truly reflect knowledge. This confusion may stem from the fact that both experience and expertise involve acquiring knowledge; however, having experience does not always equate to expertise. T he essential distinction between experience and expertise is th at expertise presents a qualitatively higher level of knowledge when compared to some external standard (Jacoby et al., 1986) In line with Jacoby et al. (1986), Braunsberger and Munch (1998) concluded that experience and expertise are two distinct constru cts. While the former reflects a degree of familiarity obtained through some type of personal exposure to a certain subject area, the latter involves a high degree of skill in or knowledge of a specific subject obtained through some type of formal training Figure 2 1 illustrates the differences between familiarity and expertise. Generally, accumulated experience

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31 and exposure to information result in greater familiarity (Ha & Perks, 2005), and increasing familiarity is associated with the development of exp ertise (Alba & Hutchinson, 1987; Brucks, 1985). Previous research indicated how different knowledge factors contribute to individual differences in experience and expertise. Philippe and Ngobo (1999) identified four dimensions of consumer knowledge structure familiarity, product class information, objective expertise, and subjective expertise. Different components of consumer knowledge were found to have diverse effects on cognitive tasks (Philippe & Ngobo, 1999). In their factor analysis, Mitchell and Dacin (1996) identified three knowledge factors subjectiv e/objective knowledge, magazine read ing / number of motorcycles owned, a nd friends owning motorcycles which exert different effects on consumer knowledge. Subjective/objective knowledge factor s were found to support and explain the difference s in the content and organization of knowledge and the reasons for consumer choice. The number of correct choice s in choice tasks was affected by subjective/objective knowledge and friends owning motorcycles They also found that magazine read ing / number of motorcycles owned and friends -owning-motorcycles are more related to the amount of experience with a product class These experiences may not necessarily translate into knowledge but would increase consumers familiari ty with the product. Their findings supported the claim that experience and expertise are two different yet related constructs acquired through different processes. Given that familiarity and expertise each contribute to individuals cognitive and behavior al differences, this research incorporates brand familiarity and consumer expertise to better capture consumer knowledge. The idea that consumer knowledge could be utilized as a differentiating strategy and market segmentation technique was widely supporte d in previous research. For example, Su,

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32 Comer and Lee (2008) revealed that consumer expertise can influence the perceived effectiveness of interactive recommendation agents by e tailers in online purchasing environments. They suggested that online marketers migh t consider designing different W eb pages or usage interfaces for expert and novice customers to accommodate their preferences and enhance satisfaction. Moreover, research into con sumer responses to advertising showed that technical advertising elicited more cognitive responses for higher familiarity consumers (Edell & Mitchell, 1978). For marketers, it is important to note that communication should match the technical complexity of its intended audience (Johnson & Russo, 1984). Brand F amiliarity Brand familiarity reflects the extent of a consumers direct and indirect experience with a brand (Kent & Allen, 1994) and captures the consum ers brand knowledge structures; that is, the br and associations in the consumers memory (Campbell & Keller, 2003). Alba and Hutchison (1987) defined familiarity as the number of product related experiences that have been accumulated by the consumer. Based on this definition, Tam (2008) defined brand f amiliarity as the accumulated related experiences customers have had with a brand. Research in consumer behavior has shown that consumers familiarity with brands/products influences their information acquisition (Johnson & Russo, 1981; 1984) and informat ion processing (Bettman & Park, 1980) These differences are apparent in various consumer behaviors, such as the decision-making process (Bettman & Park, 1980; Park & Lessig, 1981), behavioral intentions ( Sderlund 2002; Tam, 2008), satisfaction formation (Sderlund 2002; Tam, 2008) and preference construction (Coupey, Irwin, & Payne, 1998). Johnson and Russo (1984) have conducted several studies on the relationship between product familiarity and information acquisition and learning. Given high famil iarity, consumers spend less time searching for product information, have a better ability to encode new

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33 information, and are capable of distinguishing relevant from irrelevant information (Johnson & Russo, 1984). Therefore, consumers familiar with a brand would be less vulnerable to exaggerated and deceptive information in advertisements (Biswas, 1992). Individuals abi lities and motivation determine the amount of processing involved in given messages. In the context of reference prices, Vaidyanathan (200 0) showed that subjects with greater brand familiarity have a better developed price schema and thus rely less on external cues when constructing price estimates. The results supported that customers with different levels of prior knowledge and experience exert different degrees of processing available information (Bettman & Park 1980). Previous research suggested that well known brands are better liked than less familiar brands and enjoy positive customer evaluations (Colombo & Morrison, 1989; Sen & Johns on, 1997). Familiar things gave people a feeling of intimacy and a glow of warmth experience (Titchener, 1910). By repeated stimulus exposure, which Zajonc and Markus (1982) called the exposure effect an enhancement of positive affect toward an object occurs and makes individuals attitude s toward the object more positive. People tend to attribute more positive features to companies that are better known (Brooks, Highhouse, Russell, & Mohr, 2003; Luce Barber, & Hillman, 2001). Similarly, McCorkindale (2008) found that familiarity plays a major role in corporate reputation, which hold s true for companies in six different industries. When encountering an unfamiliar brand, consumers learn about and form impressions of the brand during consumption (Campbel l & Keller, 2003). Customers less familiar with the brand perform satisfaction evaluation s depending on whether the perceived performance exceeds their expectations (Tam, 2008). In contrast, given that highly familiar customers already possess established brand associations and complicated knowledge structure s they exert less cognitive

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34 effort on expectations (Tam, 2008) and are less motivated to learn from consumption experience (Hoch & Deighton, 1989). It was suggested that when brand familiarity increase s through experience performance perception will dominate the satisfaction formation process and determine consumers purchase intentions (Tam, 2008). Sderlund (2002) showed that a high level of familiarity was associated with more extreme post -purchase responses in satisfaction and behavioral intenti ons (e.g. repurchase and word -of -mouth intentions). This was true especially when customer s perceived performance in ext reme conditions; that is, either high or low performance. There is evidence which shows that brand familiarity is associated with consumer behavior In consumers decision -making process es decision biases and heuristics are functions of consumers familiarity. Park and Lessig (1981) showed that people with various levels of familiarity are d ifferent in terms of perceptual category breadth, use of functional/nonfunctional product dimensions, decision time, and confidence in choice. A high level of brand familiarity is desirable since it facilitates the decision process and boosts confidence in the chosen brand; consequently, it increases purchase intentions (Bennett & Harrell, 1975; Laroche, Kim, & Zhou, 1996). As brand name awareness increases, consumers perceive less uncertainty and risk regarding the purchasing decisions they make (Erdem & S wait, 1998). The positive effect of brand familiarity on purchase intentions has been verified in both traditional store settings and online shopping environments (Laroche et al., 1996; Park & Stoel, 2005). Monroe (1976) studied the interaction of price di fferences and brand familiarity and the interactive effect on brand preferences. The researcher revealed a dominant impact of brand familiarity, such that whenever a buyer has had previous purchase use experience with a brand, that information is likely t o be a dominant factor in choice behavior. Similarly, Mano and Davis (1990) found that

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35 brand familiarity and brand preferences are highly correlated for low involvement, experience related, and nontechnical products (i.e. breakfast cere als and fast food r estaurants). In the marketing literature, brand familiarity has been an important variable that has substantial impact on peoples responses to the firm/brand Campbell and Keller (2003) maintained that the difference between familiar and unfamiliar brands lies in the amount and type of brand associations stored in a consumers memory. Consumers possess a variety of dif ferent types of associations with familiar brands based on their experience with the brand. In their experimental studies, brand familiarity can affect consu mers processing of advertising and the effectiveness of advertising. A high familiarity brand enjoyed an advertising advantage: consumers are more likely to recall the brand and advertisement information, and their memories are less affected by exposure to competitors ads (Brennan & Babin, 2004; Kent & Allen, 1994). The advertising literature has revealed a significant effect of brand familiarity on the relationship between attitudes toward ad vertising and attitudes toward brands (Edell & Burke, 1986; Gill et al. 1988; Machleit & Wilson, 1988; Messmer, 1979; Park, Hitchon, & Yun, 2004; Stammerjohan, Wood, Chang, & Thorson, 2005). For familiar brands, attitude s toward ad verti sing significantly affect attitude s toward those brands (Phelps & Thorson, 1991). Regardless of program context, brand familiarity was reported to generate more favorable brand attitudes and customer responses (Shen, 2001). Simon (1970) found that advertis ements for leading brands score higher in consumer purchase attitude than the ad content may warrant, whereas advertisements for less familiar brands may not score as well even though they may be superior with respect to the product attributes revealed in the advertising. Consumer Expertise A review of the literature shows that expertise has been defined in several ways. In the persuasion literature, Hovland et al. (1953, p. 21) defined a communicators expertness as the

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36 extent to which a communicator is perceived to be capable of making valid assertions. For McGuire (1969), expertise is an individuals ability to know the correct stance on an issue. The founding theory of consumer expertise provided by Alba and Hutchinson (1987) defined consumer expertis e as the ability to perform product related tasks successfully. Consumer expertise is developed through increased familiarity, which is based on accumulated experiences with a brand/product (Alba & Hutchinson, 1987). Expert and novice consumers have dem onstrated differences in their information acquisition (Coupey et al. 1998), information processing (Chase & Simon, 1973; Johar, Jedidi, & Jacoby, 1997; Larkin et al., 1980; Maheswaran & Sternthal, 1990; Moore & Lehmann, 1980; Su et al. 2008), information evaluation (de Bont & Schoormans, 1995; Maheswaran, Sternthan & Grhan, 1996; Sujan, 1985), and judgment (Bettman & Sujan, 1987; Chiou, 2003; Frankenberger & Liu, 1994). According to Alba and Hutchinson (1987), compared to novice consumers, expert consum ers need less cognitive effort during the decision -making process, have a more complicated cognitive structure (which helps to categorize and differentiate different brands/products), and demonstrate a stronger ability to analyze, elaborate, and recall inf ormation. Therefore, expert consumers employ a reasoning strategy while novice consumers utilize heuristics and surface value when establishing preferences and making assertions. Moreover, differences have been found between experts and novices in their pr eferences regarding information type. Expert consumers are found to be more satisfied and likelier to use attribute based information than novice consumers, who are more comfort with benefit based information (Su et al., 2008). Given a richer knowledge bas e and available cognitive capacity, expert consumers tend to focus more on product related information (Alba & Hutchinson, 1987).

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37 Previous research showed that expert consumers evaluate a product and make judgments based on attribute messages and that benefit based information alone cannot motivate them to engage in message elaboration (Maheswaran & Sternthal, 1990). In contrast, lacking sufficient knowledge, novice consumers rely more on observable features and literal benefits when assessing a product (Su et al., 2008). De Bont and Schoormans (1995) analyzed three factors that explain the information processing of expert consumers: cognitive structure, the degree of information analysis, and the ability to elaborate on information. In their analysis, exper t consumers have more structured and detailed product information. Given their increasingly diversified expertise regarding a particular product, expert consumers possess a more detailed cognitive structure and a superior ability to distinguish between inf ormation units. The degree of analysis involves the extent to which consumers process information that is relevant to a particular task. It was suggested that increased expertise improves consumers ability to process information analytically. Moreover, ex pert consumers have a better ability to elaborate on information based on functional determinants. In their assessment of different measures of consumer expertise, Mitchell and Dacin (1996) discussed how experts and novices differ in the content and organi zation of knowledge and reasons for a decision in the choice tasks. It has been found that experts are more aware and knowledgeable of the alternative models of a product than are novice consumers. Furthermore, expert consumers tend to organize their knowl edge around product types and store the product information at the physical attribute level, which enables them to make evaluations for different usage situations. In contrast, novice consumers recall fewer brands and models available in the market and are more likely to focus on the general performance of particular models.

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38 Previous research indicated that product expertise is important to understanding how consumers make evaluations and judgments (Bettman & Sujan, 1987). Consumers with different levels o f expertise prefer various types of messages, which affect their evaluations of products (Maheswaran et al., 1996). Relative to product development, consumers with higher levels of product related expertise have demonstrated extensive information processin g, which enables them to provide evaluations and suggestions that are better articulated and more internally consistent and stable over time (de Bont & Schoormans, 1995). This suggested that expert consumers demonstrate different ways of thinking when maki ng evaluations, and the evaluations they present have stabler and more trac table characteristics. Conceptual Model Based on the previous discussions, a conceptual model was proposed, which is illustrated in Figure 2 2. This study investigated the differences in perceived source credibility depending on prior corporate reputation, brand familiarity, and consumer expertise. The study also evaluated the effect of source cues on persuasion. In oth er words, source credibility was associated with consumers attitudes toward the company. Research Questions and Hypotheses Understanding consumers information search behavior is critical to firms strategic decision making. Therefore, it is not surprisi ng that empirical research on consumers information search behavior has a long tradition in marketing (Moorthy et al., 1997, p. 263). This study explored the relationship between internal information in memory and external information evaluation, paying particular attention to the role of consumers prior beliefs, experience, and knowledge in shaping message persuasiveness. Perceived source credibility served as a key determinant of persuasion and attitude change.

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39 The prior beliefs and perceptions of a company in the minds of consumers direct their responses to external information. For example, Sujan et al. (1986) found that consumer expectations can affect how they process information in purchasing situations. Previous impressions of the company, operati onalized as corporate reputations in this research, should be incorporated as one of the factors that influence the perceived source credibility of a message. Corporate reputation reflects the publics collective judgment of a company based on its financia l, social, and environmental performance over time (Barnett, Jermier, & Lafferty, 2006). Companies with favorable reputations seem to be in a better position to gain consumer trust through corporate messages and garner positive responses by consumers. Previous research has found that the advertising messages from a reputable company tend to be regarded as more credible and generated greater degrees of attitude change and message acceptance (Goldberg & Hartwick, 1990). In crisis communication, scholars also suggested that corporate reputation plays a key role in communica tion effectiveness and attitude (Coombs & Holladay, 2002; Klein & Dawar, 2004; Lyon & Cameron, 2004). Slater and Rouner (1996) maintained that prior beliefs and affective responses are likel y to be powerful in shaping message impact. Therefore, it was expected that corporate reputation is positively related to perceived source credibility and consumer attitude toward the company. H1. Corporate reputation is positively related to perceived so urce credibility. H2. Corporate reputation is positively related to consumer attitude toward the company. Consumer behavior literature has confirmed the notion that individual differences in knowledge and experience play a major role in external informatio n search a nd evaluation (Schmidt & Spreng, 1996). Two components of consumer knowledge familiarity and expertise have substantial impacts on individual information processing and judgment (Alba &

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40 Hutchison, 1987). Previous research has confirmed the influe nce of extant attitude relevant information on persuasion. Wood (1982) explored the relationship between subjects retrieval of beliefs and prior experiences and their changes in opinion. The researcher observed that respondents with access to internal kno wledge cues apparently used these data to make judgments on a given issue; thus, a new external information cue may have little impact on respondents opinions. Previous research has indicated that a well known brand name serves as one of the most importan t extrinsic cues (attributes that are not part of the physical product), which has the ability to dominate consumer evaluations (Richardson & Dick, 1994). A familiar brand appeals to customers because it reduces search cost and cognitive effort when making judgments, and it decreases the perceived risk and uncertainty about products (Dawar & Parker, 1994; Erdem & Swait, 1998). When people encounter information about a company, brand familiarity also functions as a simple heuristic that affects their evaluat ions of the messages. Therefore, a better evaluation of perceived source credibility is anticipated for high familiarity brands. H3. Consumers brand familiarity is positively related to perceived source credibility. Consistent with the predictions of dual processing theories such as ELM, it has been determined that a higher level of knowledge and experience can enhance an individuals ability to make evaluations, and it is positively related to a persons i nvolvement with the topic (Wood et al., 1985). Ratneshwar and Chaiken (1991) maintained that peoples prior knowledge structures afford them greater message comprehensibility and consequently reduce the persuasive impact of source expertise. They defined comprehension as the act of using prior knowledg e to extract meaning from a message based on its components and their inter -relations. In general, source credibility was viewed as a peripheral cue in persuasion and attitude formation

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41 (Petty et al., 1981). Other studies also showed that source credibilit y may affect attitude under high elaboration by enhancing argument quality as well as the confidence and favorable thoughts of message recipients (Chaiken & Maheswaran, 1994; Tormala et al., 2007 ). Based on previous discussion, it was proposed that consume r expertise can influence the perceived credibility of different information sources dependi ng on the level of involvement. RQ1. How does consumer expertise affect perceived source credibility? H4. The respondents level of involvement will moderate the ef fect of source credibility on attitude. In persuasion theory, source credibility has been recognized as one of the important source factors that has substantial influence on communication effectiveness (MacKenzie & Lutz, 1989; McCroskey, 1966; Perloff, 2003). It has been observed that the characteristics of a message source serve as antecedents to attitudes. As noted by Burgoon et al. (2000, p. 554), Understanding a message and assigning credibility to it or its information source are a prerequisite to mes sage or information acceptance. A number of studies have confirmed a positive effect of source credibility on message effectiveness and attitude (Hovland & Weiss, 1951; Lafferty et al., 2002; MacKenzie & Lutz, 1989). H5. Perceived source credibility is positively related to consumer attitude toward the company. The attribution of sources is important in evaluating information and message effects on attitudes (Sunder & Nass, 2001). The way audiences assess source credibility has been of interest to communic ation scholars as well (Slater & Rouner, 1996). Research has suggested that sources controlled by non -marketers are perceived as unbiased and thus more credible than commercial sources. For example, editorial content was given more credence by readers comp ared to paid

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42 advertisin g (Cameron, 1994). In Flanagin and Metzgers (2007) study, which explored credibility perceptions in an online setting, information from media organizations was rated as relatively more credible than was information from other commer cial or personal sources. Similarly, a number of studies also found that interpersonal sources and word -of -mouth communication play key roles in consumer searching behaviors (Mourali et al., 2005; Price & Feick, 1984) and decision making processes (Chatter jee, 2001; Murray, 1991). Both reports and research have acknowledged consumer -generated content as being a reliable and trusted source of information (Cheong & Morrison, 2008; Edelman Trust Barometer, 2009). However, there is little research that compares simultaneously consumer perceived credibility among company, journalist, and consumer sources. The final research question explored how consumers assign credibility to these three sources of product information. RQ2. What are the differences in perceived credibility among different information sources (e.g. company generated messages, third -party independent editorial contents, and consumer generated communication)?

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43 Figure 2 1. The components of familiarity and expertise. Figure 2 2. Theoretical model of source credibility in persuasion depending on corporate reputation, brand familiarity, and consumer expertise. Familiarity Purchasing experiences Usage experience Exposure to other information (e.g. advertising and word -of -mouth ) Expertise Skill Knowledge gained from training Consumer Knowledge

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44 CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY Experimental Design This study examined the effects of corporate reputation, brand familiarity, and consumer expertise on the perceived credibility of different information sources, and how these constructs affect consumer attitudes toward a company. Based on the literature review and proposed conceptual model, the leve l of involvement among participants served as a moderating variable that influences the persuasiveness of source credibility. A 2 (high corporate reputation vs. low corporate reputation) by 3 (different sources: company -generated messages, third -party, ind ependent editorial content, and consumer -generated communication) factorial experimental design was employed to test hypotheses and explore research questions. Prior to the main study, a pretest was conducted to determine a product category and two compani es with high and low corporate reputations. Based on the results of the pretest, stimulus materials were created for the main study. Pretest The purpose of the pretest was to search for a product category and two brands appropriate for this study that repr esented high and low reputations. Several factors were considered when choosing a product category for the experiment. First, the selected product category should contain two brands with high or low reputations. The differences in perceived corporate reput ation between the two brands should be identifiable. In addition, participants familiarity with the product category should be considered when selecting product stimulus (Su et al. 2008). For this study, t he product category should be familiar to a stude nt sample which was utilized in the main study. Moreover participants var ying degrees of knowledge and expertise about the selected product should be identifiable. C onsumer electronic products appeared to be a

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45 widely used product category in the experti se literature (Chiou, 2003; Su et al., 2008). O n the basis of these cons iderations, the pretest incorporated two product categories laptop computers and mobile phones and a list of brands that might be appropriate for this study. The list of brands in two product categories was derived from consumer ratings published by independent organizations or media. Five brands of mobile phones were selected based on the U.S. wireless mobile phone evaluation study carried out by J.D. Power and Associates (2008). The study measured overall satisfaction with mobile phones based on responses from consumers, who rated the features, durability, physical design, battery life, and operation of their mobile phones. The five mobile phone brands included LG, Motorola, Nokia, Sa msung, and Sony Ericsson, which scored differently in the consumer satisfaction scale ranging from 0 to 5 points. Seven brands of laptop computers were chosen based on Consumer Report s product ratings of 13.3inch and 14.1inch laptop computers (2008). Th ese included Acer, Apple, Dell, Gateway, HP, Sony, and Toshiba. The report showed the overall score for each brand evaluated based on performance and features. The scores ranged from 0 to 100 points. Pretest Sample and Instruments The pretest engaged 26 st udents enrolled in an introductory Public Relations course at the University of Florida. In a survey questionnaire (Appendix A) the respondents were asked to indicate their familiarity with two product categories ( laptop computer s and mobile phone s), and then evaluated corporate reputations for the different brands in each product category. The participants were asked to rate their familiarity with each product category on a seven point scale ranging from not familiar at all to very familiar. A higher score represented a greater degree of familiarity with the product category. Corpor ate reputation was measured using three items developed by Cleopatra and Moutinho (2008). Using a 5 -point Likert scale that ranged from strongly disagree to strongly agree, the r espondents reported on the items, this

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46 brand is trustworthy, this brand is reputable, and this brand makes honest claims. The reputation score of each company was the mean score among the three items. Demographic information was col lected at the end of the questionnaire. Pretest Results The 26 respondents were comprised of 8 males (31%) and 18 females (69%), with a mean age of 20.77 years old. Among the group of students, 17 were juniors (65%), 7 were seniors (27%), and 2 were sophom ores (8%). The mean score for product category familiarity was significantly higher (t=2.82, p<.05) for mobile phones (M=6.31, SD=.97) than for laptop computers (M=5.81, SD=1.06). Among laptop computer brands, Apple yielded the highest mean reputation scor e (M=4.19, SD=.71) and Acer had the lowest score (M=2.88, SD=.16). The mean difference in corporate reputation between Apple and Acer was significant (t= 6.13, p<.05). Regarding mobile phones, LG was rated highest in reputation (M=4.11, SD=.71) while Sony Ericsson was the lowest (M=3.35, SD=.87). The mean difference between the two brands was also significant (t=3.86, p<.05). Based on results of the pretest, the laptop computer and two brands, Apple and Acer, were chosen to be employed in the main study as stimuli since the two brands had the most polarized corporate reputation scores. Stimulus Materials Six articles of product related information served as the stimulus materials in the experiment. Three were created for the low reputation brand, Acer, to describe a new model of its laptop computer, the Acer Aspire 3935, which was launched in April 2009 (Appendixes B, C, and D). T hree articles focused on the new generation of Apples MacBook Pro launched in early June 2009, which represented the high reputat ion brand (Appendix es E, F, and G). Three sources

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47 were attributed to the articles: companys official announcements, editor reviews from PC Magazine and consumers reviews. The rationale for product selection was that both models were new and were launche d close to each other in 2009. Therefore, consumers would have little experience with either product. Moreover, the two models selected were categorized as thin and -light laptops, had similar features and specifications, and were often mentioned and compar ed in editors reviews, such as in PC Magazine All six articles were adapted from genuine information written by the companies, editors, and consumers. Company -generated messages were obtained from Acer and Apples official announcements, advertising, or product information. Editorial content for each product was obtained from PC Magazine s product reviews, which were written originally by Cisco Cheng, a lead analyst for laptops and tablet PCs for the magazine since 2003. Stimulus articles from the editor included a short paragraph that described Cisco Chengs background and profession. The consumer generated reviews were attributed to Peter Anderson, who shar ed his usage experiences in a blog. The sentence This review was quoted directly from his personal blog on June 14, 2009 appeared below his name in the stimulus articles that included consumer sources. The content of each paragraph of the six articles wa s identical but with different tones that resembled company -generated messages, editorial content, and consumer -generated communication. The length of each article was similar in that appeared on a single page using 12point font size. Pilot Study In order to ensure that the manipulation of corporate reputation and source cues worked successfully, a pilot study was conducted prior to the main study. In it, 30 participants were recruited from the University of Florida and were assigned randomly to six condit ions.

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48 Corporate reputation was manipulated by exposure either to a high or low reputation brand. Based on the pretest, Acer represented the low reputation brand while Apple served as the high reputation brand. The pilot test revealed a successful manipulation of corporate reputation for the stimuli. The mean difference in corporate reputation between Acer and Apple was significant (t= 2.10, p<.05). The results also showed that manipulation of three different source cues worked successfully, with 93 % (28 respondents) having correctly identified the sources of the article. Main Study The main study used a 2 (high corporate reputation vs. low corporate reputation) by 3 (different sources: company -generated messages, third -party, independent editorial c ontent and consumer generated communication) factorial experimental design. C orporate reputation was manipulated in the stimulus materials by including either a high reputation (Apple) or low reputation (Acer) brand. The source cue was manipulated using t hree different sources of product related information: company, journalist, and personal sources. The experiment employed a student sample, and participants were randomly assigned to one of six treatment conditions ( Table 3 1). Sample and Procedure The par ticipants were recruited from several classes within the College of Journalism and Communications and from sending invitation e -mails through listserv at the University of Florida. The participants were randomly assigned to one of six treatment conditions: product information from Acers official announcement; PC Magazine editors review of Acers laptop; consumer product review of Acers laptop; product information from Apples official announcement; PC Magazine editors review of Apples laptop; consumer product review of Apples laptop.

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49 The instrument employed for the study included two versions of the questionnaire designed for Apple and Acer, respectively. The participants assigned to high reputation brand conditions received the questionnaire for Appl e (Appendix H) with a stimulus article from one of three information sources. Similarly, those who were assigned to low reputation brand conditions received the questionnaire for Acer (Appendix I) with a stimulus article from one of three source cues. Two questionnaires were identical except for the name of company. The experiment was conducted both online and offline. Students in classes completed a paper andpencil version of the questionnaire while others received e -mail that included a link to a Web -bas ed questionnaire at an online survey service (surveymonkey.com). The questionnaire began with an introduction that explained the purpose of the research, the time needed to complete the questionnaire, and a discussion of how the respondents confidentiality would be protected. Students who volunteered to participate in the study were informed that they were free to withdraw from the study at any time without consequences. The first part of questionnaire measured brand familiarity, corporate reputation, and consumer expertise. In the following section, participants were asked to read through the stimulus articles before completing the rest of the questionnaire. After reading the article, they completed questions or measures related to information source ident ification, level of involvement, perceived source credibility, and attitude toward the company. At the end of the questionnaire, demographic information was collected. For the purpose of statistical analyses, participants were classified as high/low reputa tion groups, high/low familiarity groups, expert/novice groups, and high/low involvement groups. Corporate reputation wa s manipulated in the experiment. Respondents who received the questionnaire for Apple were classified as the high reputation group while those who received

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50 the questionnaire for Acer were classified as the low reputation group. Respondents brand familiarity, consumer expertise, and level of involvement were measured in the questionnaire. They were assigned to either high or low groups bas ed on the mean scores they achieved on the respective measurements. Independent Variables Corporate reputation was manipulated by exposure either to a high or low reputation brand. Based on the pretest, Acer represented the low reputation brand while App le served as the high reputation brand. Corporate reputation was measured in the main questionnaire to accommodate manipulation check s Following Graham and Bansal (2007), corporate reputation was measured by four items using a 7 p oint rating scale anchore d by strongly disagree and strongly agree The respondents were asked whether the company has a good reputation, whether the company performs well compared to others, whether the company is legitimate, and whether the company operates in an acce p table manner (Table 3 2). Consumer expertise was measured by subjective product expertise scales. The subjective measure reflected an individuals perception of how much he or she knows about a given product (Jognson & Russo, 1981). The p articipants were then classified as expert or novice consumers based on their scores from the subjective measurement. T he self assessment knowledge was measured using a 7 -point Likert scale that ranged from strongly dis agree to strongly agree with five items developed by Flynn and Goldsmith (1999) (Table 3 2). According to Baker, Hutchinson, Moor, and Nedungadi (1 986), brand familiarity is a uni dimensional construct that is related directly to the amount of time spent processing information about the brand, regardless of the type of content or processing involved. Consumers familiarity with the brand was a self reported measure: how familiar are you with

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51 this company with respect to products and services (Tam, 2008). The 7 point scale was anchored by not familiar at all and very familiar Dependent Variables Ten 7 -point semantic differential scales assessed perceived source credibility (Table 3 2) These scales were borrowed from Ohanian (1990) in order to measure celebrity endorsers perceived attrac tiveness, trustworthiness, and expertise. Because this study neither included physical appeals in the research model nor presented any physical cues in stimulus materials, only items for measuring trustworthiness and expertise were used in the study. For t his purpose, 10 items used 7-p oint semantic differential scales. Five items dependable/undependable, honest/dishonest, reliable/unreliable, sincere/insincere, and trustworthy/untrustworthy measured trustworthiness. Expertise was assessed by five items anchored by expert/not an expert, experienced/inexperienced, knowledgeable/unknowledgeable, qualified/unqualified, and skilled/unskilled. To measure attitude towar d the company, the participants were asked to use four items in 7 point semantic differential scales to rate their overall impression s of the company (Table 3 2) Borrowed from the previous study by Holbr ook and Batra (1987), the items anchored with unfavorable / favorable, bad/ good, disl ike / like, and negative / p ositive Moderating Variable The r espondents level of involvement was treated as a moderating variable in the study. Researchers in advertising have proposed different conceptualizations and classifications of involvement (e. g. Andrews, Durvasula, & Akht er, 1990; Antil, 1984; Houston & Rothschild, 1978; Muncy & Hunt, 1984). For thi s study, however, involvement was conceptualized as message inv olvement. Message involvement was defined as the motivational state of an individual induced by a particular stimu lus or situation (Laczniak, Muehling, & Grossbart,

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52 1989). Andrews et al. (1990) labeled this view of involvement as attention/processing strategies. The rationale for this involvement categoriza tion was that attentional effort and processing intensity are critical stages in information acquisition (Mitchell, 1981). Therefore, people who are highly involved were characterized as experiencing greater cognitive elaboration, which in turn led to greater persistence of message effects (Batra & Ray, 1985). The pr esent research explored the moderating effect of level of involvement on the persuasiveness of source credibility. Based on the ELM, high involvement respondents were expected to focus on the content (message cues) while the low involvement group was more likely to utilize peripheral heuristics, such as source credibility (source cues). Hence, a measurement of involvement depending on attention to and processing of information was appropriate for this study. Borrowed from Ellen and Bone (1998), a four item, 9 -point scale measured the level of involvement of respondents ( Table 3 2 ). The scale, which was called motivation to process by Ellen and Bone (1998), measured the cognitive effort an individual reports having expended relative to processing a stimulus This measurement captured the situational state of a person at a particular time as opposed to an enduring predisposition (Batra & Ray, 1985).

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53 Table 3 1. Conditions of the 2x3 experimental design. Source cue Company source Editorial source Consumer source Corporate reputation High Group (1) Group (2) Group (3) Low Group (4) Group (5) Group (6) Table 3 2. Construct measurement summary Variables Scale items Corporate reputation 1 Whether the company has a good reputation. 2 Whether the company performs well compared to others. 3 Whether the company is legitimate. 4 Whether the company operates in an acceptable manner. Brand familiarity 1 How familiar are you with this company with respect to products and services? Consumer expertise 1 Among my circle of friends, Im one of the experts on laptop computers. 2 I know pretty much about laptop computers 3 I do not feel very knowledgeable about laptop computers. 4 Compared to most other people, I know less about laptop computers. 5 When it comes to lapto p computers, I really dont know a lot. Source credibil i t y 1 Dependable/undependable 2 Honest/dishonest 3 Reliable/unreliable 4 S incere/insincere 5 T rustworthy/untrustworthy 6 E xpert/not an expert 7 E xperienced/inexperienced 8 K nowledgeable/unknowledgeable 9 Q ualified/unqualified 10 S killed/unskilled Attitude toward the company 1 Unfavorable/favorable 2 Bad/good 3 Dislike/like 4 Negative/positive I nvolvement 1 To what extent did you try to evaluate the information in the article? 2 How much effort did you put into evaluating the information in the article? 3 I paid close attention to the article. 4 I carefully read the article.

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54 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS Analysis Summary This section provided an overview of the statistical methods and parameters employed to test the proposed hypotheses and explored the research questions. SPSS was used throughout the statistical analysis. In this study, the proposed model examined the effects of corporate reputation, brand familiarity, consumer expertise, and level of involvement on p erceived source credibility and attitude. An analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to examine the effect of three independent variables and one moderating variable on perceived source credibility. Participants were classified as high or low reputation grou ps according to their exposure to different stimulus articles about the high or low reputation company. They were also identified as being within high/low familiarity groups, expert/novice groups, and high/low involvement groups based on the mean scores of the construct measurements. The overall sample means and medians of each variable were considered together to dichotomize the two groups. An ANOVA was employed to test H1 (corporate reputation-source credibility), H3 (brand familiarity -source credibility) and H4 (level of involvement -source credibility), and to clarify the correlation between consumer expertise and perceived source credibility (RQ1). Another ANOVA was used to explore whether independent variables have any impact on attitude toward the com pany. The analysis was used to test H2, which anticipated a positive effect of corporate reputation on attitudes. H5 tested the relationship between source credibility and attitude toward the company. Since the two variables were measured by interval scales, a simple regression was used to assess the relationship between two constructs. RQ2 explored whether a difference in perceived source credibility exists among the three different information sources. An analysis of variance (ANOVA) test was

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55 conducted to identify the variance of source credibility means among three groups. Then, separate t tests were used to compare the mean differences between groups in pair. Finally, correlation and regression analyses were used to evaluate further the proposed chain of influence among the variables in the model. A summary of the statistical analyses and results is presented in Table 4 1. S ample Profile The study sample included 212 university students comprised of 115 (54%) males and 97 (46%) female s The respondents ra nged in age from 18 to 43 with a mean age of 23.78 years old. A ll respondents were students from the University of Florida, including graduate and undergraduate students. Only 1 w as a freshm a n while 19 were sophomores, 42 were juniors, 51 w ere seniors, and 99 were graduate students. The 212 p articipants were randomly assigned to one of six conditions (Table 4 2 ). There were 35 respondents in the Apple and company source group, 35 in the Apple and editor ial source group, 35 in the Apple and consumer source group; further, there were 36 in the Acer and company source group, 35 in the Acer and editor ial source group, and 36 in the Acer and consumer source group. M anipulation Checks Manipulation checks for source cue s and corporate reputation were performed. T he results showed that the manipulation of source cue s worked successfully. Among the 212 respondents, about 94% correctly identified the source of information. The data from 13 participants who misidentified the source of stimulus articles were eliminate d from the subsequent analysis ; thus, t he total valid sample was 199. The manipulation check of corporate reputation worked successfully as well. Participants were asked to evaluate the corporate reputation s of Apple and Acer based on four scale items. In

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56 view of the pretest, Apple was set as the high reputation company while Acer served as the low reputation comp any, which was confirmed in the pilot study as well Consistent with the pilot study, the reputation mean difference between Apple and Acer was st atistically significant (t=10.12, p<.05) ( Table 4 3 ). R eliability Check A reliability analysis was conducted to ensure the internal reliability of each construct used in the main study. The Cronbach alphas for the major constructs are presented in Table 4 4 The results showed that the reliabilities of every variable were satisfactory, and the scales were internally consistent. Regarding the independent variables, corporate reputation (Cronbach alpha = .92) and consumer expertise (Cronbach alpha =.93) had C ronbachs alphas in excess of alpha =.93) and attitude toward the company (Cronbach alpha =.92), were also confirmed as reliable constructs. Finally, the moderating variable, level of involve ment (Cronbach alpha =.89), showed high internal consistency as well. Sample Analysis The sample population for this study consisted of 212 university students Of these, there were 199 valid samples, including varied numbers of respondents in each conditi on ( Table 4 5 ). Participants were classified as high/low reputation groups, high/low familiarity groups, expert/novice groups, and high/low i nvolvement groups based on the mean scores they achieved on the respective measurements. Those who were assigned to conditions with stimulus articles on Apples product were labeled as the high reputation group while those who were exposed to Acers product information were characterized as the l ow reputation group. Previous manipulation check s had confirmed a statisti cally significant difference among the corporate reputation scores of the two companies.

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57 Brand familiarity was measured by a single item. The mean score for brand familiarity for all respondents was 3.57 (SD=1.87) and the median was 3. Therefore, the respo ndents were divided into high and low familiarity groups based on their overall mean score s Those who achieved s cores of 4 or higher were considered part of the high familiarity group while those who scored from 1 to 3 were placed within the low familiari ty group. Respondents were classified as expert or novice consumers based on their self -reported assessment s o f their product expertise with laptop computers. The mean score for overall expertise measure was 4.48 (SD=1.49) with a median of 4.6. The mean sc ore was utilized to dichotomize the two groups. As a result, those who scored higher than 4.48 were labeled as expert while others with scores lower than 4.48 were categorized as novice. The overall mean score of the respondents level of involvement was 5.43 (SD=1.61), with a median of 5.75. The re were 12 respondents who had involvement scores of 5.75. The score of 5 represented the middle of the scale. Therefore, the data was divided into high and low involvement groups according to mean. R esearch Questions and Hypotheses Testing Effects of Corporate Reputation, Brand Familiarity, Consumer Expertise, and Involvement on Source Credibil it y Based on the conceptual model proposed in this study, perceived source credibility was hypothesized to be influenced by corporate reputation, brand familiarity, consumer expertise, and level of involvement. Hypothesis 1 predicted that corporate reputation is positively related to perceived source credibility. Hypothesis 3 expected that respondents with a higher level of brand familiarity would perceive the source of informat ion as more credible. Research Q uestion 1 explored the effect of consumers product expertise on perceived source credibility. Hypothesis 4 predicte d that level of involvement would moderate the ef fect of source credibility on attitude.

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58 An ANOVA was employed to explore how these constructs affect consumer s perceived source credibility. Table 4 6 summarized the results and between -subject effects. The results showed that corporate reputation had no significant effect on perceived source credibility. Therefore, Hypothesis 1 was not supported. It was also found that participants brand familiarity has no significant impact on perceived source credibility. Thus, Hypothesis 3 was not supported. Research Q uestion 1 explored how consumer expertise influences perceived source credibility. Table 4 6 revealed that there was no significant direct effect of expertise on source credibility. However, a significant interactive effect of consumer expertise and invo lvement on perceived source credibility was revealed. In addition, the results indicated that involvement itself has a significant impact on perceived source credibility. Therefore, Hypothesis 4 was supported. For both the expert and novice group s source credibility was rated higher under high involvement than low involvement conditions (Figure 4 1). For the high involvement group s expert consumers perceived higher source credibility (M=5.24, SD=.84) than did novice consumers (M=5.04, SD=0.69). In contras t, under low involvement conditions, the novice group reported higher source credibility scores (M=4.68, SD=1.03) than did the expert group (M=4.33, SD=.87). Effect of Corporate Reputation on Attitude A second ANOVA was employed to examine how consumer att itude toward the company was influenced by corporate reputation, brand familiarity, consumer expertise, and involvement. The results in Table 4 7 revealed a significant effect by corporate reputation on consumer attitude toward the company. A t test was pe rformed to compare the attitude mean difference between the high and low reputation group s The result indicated that respondents attitude mean

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59 score was significantly higher (t=4.92, p<.05) for the high reputation group (Apple) than for the low reputatio n group (Acer) (Table 4 8 ). Therefore, Hypothesis 2 was supported. Effect of Source Credibility on Attitude In Hypothesis 5, perceived source credibility was expected to be positively related to consumer attitude toward the company. A simple regression wa s performed to determine the correlation between the two constructs ( Table 4 9 ). The regression coefficient showed a positive correlation between source credibility and attitudes and t he relationship was statistically significant, =. 25, F(1, 197)=66.68, p<.05. Thus, Hypothesis 5 was supported. Effect of Source Cue on Perceived Source Credibility Research Q uestion 2 explored the differences in perceived credibility among three product related information sources: company -generated messages, edi torial content, and consumer generated communication. Table 4 10 summarized the mean scores of perceived source credibility for three source cues, and the editorial source was rated highest among the three (M=5.19, SD=.77). An analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to determine whether any mean difference existed among the three groups. As shown in Table 4 11, the test yielded significant results, F(2, 196)=6.41, p<.05. Three t -tests were performed to confirm how the three groups differed in credibility mea n scores. The product information from editorial sources (i.e. PC Magazine ) was perceived as more credible than the other two sources. The credibility mean score of the editorial source was significantly higher than that of company source (t= 2.77, p<.05) (Table 4 1 2 ), and consumer source (t=3.59, p<.05) ( Table 4 1 4 ). However, the credibility mean difference between the company and the consumer source groups was not statistically significant (t=.63, p>.05) ( Table 4 1 3 ). The results suggested that opinions a nd product related information from professional

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60 editorial sources were perceived as more credible than company -generated messages and consumer generated content Overall Model Testing To confirm further the suggested causal relationships between the independent and dependent variables in the proposed model, multiple regression analyses were employed to examine how corporate reputation, brand familiarity, consumer expertise, and involvement predicted perceived source credibility and attitude toward the company. Except for the manipulated variables, including corporate reputation and source cues, each construct was tested through regression analyses by original numeric data rather than dichotomized group assignment. Corporate reputation and source cues w ere dummy -coded. First, a multiple regression examined the correlation between the independent variables (i.e. corporate reputation, brand familiarity, consumer expertise, involvement, and source cues) and the dependent variable, perceived source credibili ty. Table 4 1 5 summarized how perceived source credibility was predicted by the five constructs. O nly involvement was significantly correlated to perceived source credibility. A second regression was used to determine how the five constructs were related t o consumer attitude toward the company ( Table 4 1 6 ). The results revealed that corporate reputation, brand familiarity, and level of involvement have significant impacts on consumer attitude toward the company. In sum, the results were consistent with prev ious ANOVA tests. Figure 4 2 showed how each construct in the model was related. Finally, the data was examined in a hierarchical regression analysis ( Table 4 1 7 ). Here, a ttitude toward the company served as the dependent variable. The f irst block of varia bles included corporate reputation, brand familiarity, consumer expertise, involvement, and source cue s (Model 1). Source credibility was added in the second block (Model 2).

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61 The overall relationship of model 1 was significant [F(5,193) =12.88, p<.001]. In model 1, significant impacts by .50, p<.001), brand familiarity and After adding an extra variable of source credibility in model 2, the overall relationship was significant as well [F(6, 192) =22.96, p<.001] and the additional 16.8% variance was explained by the second model Consistent with the first model, corporate reputat found to be significantly co rrelated to consumer attitude toward the company. In addition, the results indicated significant and positive effects of consumer expertise source cue H owever, the significant impact of level of involvement and brand familiarity on attitudes disappeared in the second model. This was understandable since familiarity and expertise were two dimensions of consumer knowledge (Alba & Hutchinson, 1987). Moreover the previous ANOVA results ( Table 4 6) revealed significant interactive effect s of brand familiarity, consumer expertise, and level of involvement on consumer attitude toward the company. Comparing the two models in the hierarchical regression analysis, the second model i ndeed showed a better predictive ability than did the first model. I ncluding perceived source credibility, these variables accounted for 42% of the variance, which was higher than the first model ( =.25 ). In summary, corporate reputation, consumer knowledge, level of involvement, and perceived source credibility were important influencers of consumer attitude toward the company. The results also supported the interactive effect of consumer knowledge and involvement on perceived source credibility, which in turn influenced consumer attitude toward the company.

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62 Table 4 1. Summary of statistical analyses and results for research questions and hypotheses. Dependent variables Independent variables Statistical technique Hypothesized effect Result H1 Source credibility Corporate reputation ANOVA Positive effect Not supported H2 Attitude toward the company Corporate reputation ANOVA Positive effect Supported H3 Source credibility Brand familiarity ANOVA Positive effect Not supported RQ1 Source credibility Consumer expertise ANOVA No direct effect H4 Source credibility Involvement ANOVA Interaction effect Supported H5 Attitude toward the company Source credibility Simple regression Positive regression coefficient Supported RQ2 Source credibility Source cues ANOVA Editor > Consumer Editor > Company

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63 Table 4 2 Random assignment of participants in each condition. Source cues Company Editorial Consumer Total Corporate reputation Apple (High) N=35 N=35 N=35 N=105 Acer (Low) N=36 N=35 N=36 N=107 Total N=71 N=70 N=71 N=212 Table 4 3 Corporate reputation by company. M SD N Apple (High) 5.61 .92 N=97 Acer (Low) 4.14 1.10 N=102 Table 4 4 Reliability check. Variables Cronbachs Alpha Independent variable Corporate reputation Consumer expertise .92 .93 Dependent variable Source credibility Attitude toward the company .93 .92 Moderating variable Level of involvement .89 Table 4 5 Valid sample in six conditions Source cues Company Editorial Consumer Total Corporate reputation Apple (High) N=34 N=32 N=31 N=97 Acer (Low) N=35 N=34 N=33 N=102 Total N=69 N=66 N=64 N=199

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64 Table 4 6 Between -subject effects, dependent variable: source credibility. Source df MS F Reputation 1 .079 .107 Source 2 2.239 3.048* Familiarity 1 2.134 2.905 Expertise 1 1.287 1.751 Involvement 1 5.766 7.849** Reputation Source 2 .015 .020 Reputation Familiarity 1 .672 .915 Source Familiarity 2 .281 .382 Reputation Source Familiarity 2 .394 .536 Reputation Expertise 1 .053 .073 Source Expertise 2 1.376 1.873 Reputation Source Expertise 2 .037 .050 Familiarity Expertise 1 .039 .053 Reputation Familiarity Expertise 1 .031 .042 Source Familiarity Expertise 2 .091 .124 Reputation Source Familiarity Expertise 1 .001 .001 Reputation Involvement 1 .008 .011 Source Involvement 2 .178 .243 Reputation Source Involvement 2 .130 .176 Familiarity Involvement 1 .066 .090 Reputation Familiarity Involvement 1 .003 .003 Source Familiarity Involvement 2 .750 1.020 Reputation Source Familiarity Involvement 1 .628 .854 Expertise Involvement 1 4.030 5.486** Reputation Expertise Involvement 1 .129 .176 Source Expertise Involvement 2 .012 .016 Reputation Source Expertise Involvement 1 .192 .261 Familiarity Expertise Involvement 1 .818 1.114 Reputation Familiarity Expertise Involvement 1 .012 .016 Source Familiarity Expertise Involvement 1 .023 .032 Note. N=199, *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001

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65 Table 4 7 Between -subject effects, dependent variable: consumer attitude toward the company. Source df MS F reputation 1 6.896 10.344** source 2 1.003 1.504 familiarity 1 5.906 8.858** expertise 1 .035 .053 involvement 1 3.705 5.557** reputation source 2 1.310 1.965 reputation familiarity 1 1.309 1.963 source familiarity 2 .333 .499 reputation source familiarity 2 2.301 3.451* reputation expertise 1 .004 .005 source expertise 2 .555 .833 reputation source expertise 2 .112 .168 familiarity expertise 1 .054 .082 reputation familiarity expertise 1 .211 .317 source familiarity expertise 2 .216 .324 reputation source familiarity expertise 1 .623 .935 reputation involvement 1 .786 1.180 source involvement 2 .573 .860 reputation source involvement 2 1.075 1.612 familiarity involvement 1 1.500 2.250 reputation familiarity involvement 1 .093 .140 source familiarity involvement 2 .271 .407 reputation source familiarity involvement 1 1.703 2.555 expertise involvement 1 2.330 3.495 reputation expertise involvement 1 .460 .690 source expertise involvement 2 .639 .959 reputation source expertise involvement 1 .545 .817 familiarity expertise involvement 1 3.710 5.564** reputation familiarity expertise involvement 1 .528 .792 source familiarity expertise involvement 1 .157 .235 Note. N=199, *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001 Table 4 8 Result of t -test: corporate reputation attitude. M SD N t Sig. (two tailed) Corporate reputation Apple (High) 5.50 .87 97 4.92 .000*** Acer (Low) 4.88 .90 102 Note. 1. Dependent variable: attitude toward the company 2. *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001

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66 Table 4 9 Result of bivariate linear regression dependent variable: attitude toward the company B Beta t Sig. (Constant) 2.695 8.696 .000 Source credibility .510 .503 8.166 .000*** Note. N=199, R=.50, =.25, F(1, 197)=66.68***, ***p<.001 Table 4 10. Perceived source credibility by source cue. M SD N Company source 4.77 .99 N=69 Editorial source 5.19 .77 N=66 Consumer source 4.66 .91 N=64 Table 4 11. F -test of source credibility by source cue. Sum of squares df Mean squares F Between groups 10.41 2 5.21 6.41** Within groups 159.12 196 .81 Note. *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001 Table 4 12. Result of t test: source cue -source credibility. M SD N t Sig. (two tailed) Source cue Company source 4.77 .99 69 2.77 .006** Editorial source 5.19 .77 66 Note. 1. Dependent variable: source credibility 2. *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001 Table 4 13. Result of t test: source cue -source credibility. M SD N t Sig. (two tailed) Source cue Company source 4.77 .99 69 .63 .53 Consumer source 4.66 .91 64 Note. 1. Dependent variable: source credibility 2. *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001 Table 4 14. Result of t test: source cue -source credibility. M SD N t Sig. (two tailed) Source cue Editorial source 5.19 .77 66 3.59 .000*** Consumer source 4.66 .91 64 Note. 1. Dependent variable: source credibility 2. *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001

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67 Table 4 15. Regression analysis dependent variable: source credibility. R Adjusted F Sig. Beta t Sig. Corporate reputation .410 .168 .146 7.788 .000*** .004 .056 .955 Brand familiarity .101 1.354 .177 Consumer expertise .073 1.090 .277 Level of involvement .384 5.662 .000*** Source cue .072 1.094 .275 Note. *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001 Table 4 16. Regression analysis dependent variable: consumer attitude toward the company R Adjusted F Sig. Beta t Sig. Corporate reputation .500 .250 .231 12.883 .000*** .269 3.905 .000*** Brand familiarity .155 2.191 .030* Consumer expertise .086 1.352 .178 Level of involvement .261 4.053 .000*** Source cue .117 1.871 .063 Note. *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001 Table 4 17. Hierarchical regression analysis of proposed model dependent variable: consumer attitude toward the company Model 1 Model 2 Standard error Standard error Block 1 Corporate reputation .504*** .129 .501*** .114 Brand familiarity .078* .036 .055 .032 Consumer expertise .054 .040 .075* .036 Level of i nvolvement .152*** .038 .052 .036 Source cue .134 .072 .171** .063 Block 2 Source credibility .455*** .061 .250 .418 Adjusted .231 .400 F 12.883*** 22.958*** Note. *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001

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68 0 1InvolvementDot/Lines show Means 0 1Consumer expertise 4.40 4.60 4.80 5.00 5.20Source credibility Figure 4 1. Interactive effect of consumer expertise and level of involvement on source credibility Figure 4 2. Significant results of regression models. Path coefficients (beta weights) appear above each line (*p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001).

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69 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION AND CONCL USION The present study was based on two main research areas: consumer behaviors and persuasion theory. Specifically, this study focused on how consumer information search behaviors affect their information processing and attitude formation. One objective of this study was to understand how internal information cues stored in memory affect the way co nsumers perceive product related information from different sources. The proposed model incorporated several important cognitive or attitude related factors, which are believed to influence the persuasiveness of external information. Corporate reputation c aptures consumers general perceptions of a company based on its past actions and performance and thus served as an influential cue that resides in customers minds. In addition, each consumer has a varied knowledge structure about products and brands. Con sumers brand familiarity is acquired by product or brand related experiences. People might also have different levels of product expertise, which is established through increased familiarity or gained from learning. Therefore, consumers perception of co rporate reputation, their familiarity with a brand, and expertise were expected to influence their perceived source credibility of external information. Another aim of this research was to investigate how consumers respond to three different sources of inf ormation and form attitudes toward the firm. Three distinct sources of information were examined in this study, including company -generated communication, journalist/editorial content, and consumer -generated communication. According to the ELM, peoples engagement in information processing affects attitude change through two routes (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). The central route involves considerable thinking about an object. In contrast, the peripheral route is taken when people employ a low level of elaborati on and rely on simple cues. Source credibility was regarded as one of the influe ntial cues that affect attitude Message involvement

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70 refers to the extent of cognitive effort an individual utilizes to process a stimulus (Ellen & Bone, 1998). Therefore, vari ed levels of involvement were expected to influence whether a source cue can affect persuasion. Specifically, consumers who are high in expertise were expected to focus more on message content and thus were less influenced by a source cues. The present s tudy employed an experimental design to test the proposed model. Participants were exposed to product -related information attributed to a source of a company, an editor from PC Magazine or a peer consumer. The selected products were from either a company with high corporate reputation or one with low reputation. The content and length of each article were kept identical across different conditions to ensure that respondents perceptual variances were due to a source factor. This study sought to clarify how consumers perceived source credibility and attitudes toward a firm were influenced by their assessments of corporate reputation, brand fami liarity, and product expertise. The results found that perceived source credibility was influenced by respondents level of involvement. Further, a significant interactive effect of consumer expertise and involvement on perceived source credibility was observed. However, the research findings indicated that corporate reputation brand familiarity, and consumer expertis e have no significant and direct effect on perceived source credibility. Therefore, this study suggested that the amount of information processing elicited by a persuasive communication w as related to the way consumers evaluate external information. Based on regression analyses, the results indicated that both internal information cues and external information affect consumers formation of attitude. In addition, the influence of perceived credibility of external information sources on attitude was moderate d by the message receivers level of involvement.

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71 In general, this study found a difference in source credibility between company-generated messages and non-company-generated content. In terms of laptop computers, a professional journalistic source was pe rceived as more credible by respondents than was a companys product information and an unknown peer consumer. The results suggested that consumers attitude toward a company was related strongly to corporate reputation. In addition, attitude was influence d by consumers credibility evaluations of external sources of information. Hence, the research results supported the proposed conceptual model in which both internal and external cues are influential in attitude formation. General Discussion The research findings shed light on the relationship among corporate reputation, consumer knowledge structure, and perceived source credibility, and how these factors jointly affect attitude toward the company. This research combined the concept of internal and extern al information cues to better understand consumers information processing and attitude formation. Furthermore, it provides a consumer -focused approach to persuasion and proposes a link between internal information differences and external information eva luations. Hypothesis 1 was not supported. The data showed that corporate reputation was not significantly related to perceived source credibility regarding product -related information. This finding contrasted with those of previous studies, which have obse rved a positive impact of corporate reputation on perceived credibility (Goldberg & Hartwick, 1990). However, it should be noted that most of the positive relationship between corporate reputation and perceived credibility came from the literature related to crisis communication (Coombs & Holladay, 2002). This could be explained by the fact that corporate reputation plays a key role in message effectiveness, especially in negative situations. According to Herr et al. (1991), when a well defined prior impres sion was available from memory or when extremely negative information

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72 was encountered, the effect of external information cues would be reduced. Therefore, a positive relationship between corporate reputation and perceived source credibility might be more easily observed when respondents encounter negative information. Since the stimulus articles in this study presented positive features of newly launched laptop computers, the effect of corporate reputation might not be substantial in shaping message receiv ers evaluations of perceived source credibility. Hypothesis 2 stated that corporate reputation is positively related to consumer attitude about the company. Consistent with the body of extant literature, companies with high corporate reputation indeed yie lded positive consumer attitudes compared to those with low reputation (Bae & Cameron, 2006; Weigelt & Camerer, 1988). This study provided empirical support that companies should continue to establish and manage their corporate reputation to garner favorab le attitudes from consumers. Hypothesis 3 and Research Question 1 focused on two dimensions of consumer knowledge, familiarity and expertise. Hypothesis 3 anticipated that brand familiarity predicts perceived source credibility; however, this was not supported. Brand familiarity was not significantly related to perceived source credibility. This result might be related to the relative high percentage of responses of low familiarity with the two brands The frequency distribution of brand familiarity scores showed that 52% (103 re sponses ) belonged to relatively low familiarity scores (scores of 1 to 3); only 35% (70 responses) reported relative ly high familiarity scores (scores of 5 to 7). In addition, the modes of the data were sc ores of 1 and 3. Since the sample distribution of brand familiarity was skewed to the right, the sample might not be representative enough to generate a significant impact.

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73 Similarly, consumer expertise was not found to influence perceived source credibili ty directly. However, when level o f involvement among respondents was controlled, consumer expertise indeed affected their credibility perceptions of information sources. Therefore, Hypothesis 4 was supported. In line with previous research, source credibi lity affects persuasion depending on message recipients level of elaboration (Tormala et al., 2007). Our results showed that both expert and novice consumers reported higher source credibility scores under conditions of high involvement than under low inv olvement conditions. For the high involvement group, expert consumers perceived higher source credibility (M=5.24, SD=.84) than did novice consumers (M=5.04, SD=0.69). In contrast, under low involvement conditions, the novice group reported higher source c redibility scores (M=4.68, SD=1.03) than did the expert group (M=4.33, SD=.87). These findings confirmed that source credibility not only operated as a peripheral cue to persuasion but also aided persuasiveness when people devote extensive elabora t ion to i nformation processing. Regarding Hypothesis 5, it was found that source credibility is positively related to attitudes toward the company. Based on extensive regression analyses, the results demonstrated a strong and highly predic table relationship between perceived source credibility and consumer attitude toward the company. According to traditional persuasion theory, a highly credible source is more persuasive and has a positive effect on receivers attitudes (Hovland et al., 1953; MacKenzie & Lu tz, 1989) Research Question 2 explored how consumers assign credibility to three different sources of information, including company source, journalist/editorial source, and consumer source. Different source cues were manipulated in this study. In our findings, pr oduct reviews written by an editor from an authoritative computer magazine (PC Magazine) yielded the highest credibility

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74 scores. It has been posited widely in previous research that non -marketer -controlled sources are perceived as unbiased and therefore mo re credible than commercial sources (Cameron, 1994; Sunder & Nass, 2001). Traditional independent journalistic and editorial sources performed an important gatekeeping function for message receivers (Sunder & Nass, 2001); information provided by these sour ces was viewed as much legitimate and credible than company -generated messages (Cameron, 1994). However, there was no significant difference in perceived source credibility between the other two sources of information, namely, a company and a consumer sour ce. Previous studies have shown the growing importance of information from personal sources or consumer -generated communication such as word of -mouth in purchase decision making processes (Duan et al., 2008; Mourali et al., 2005; Price & Feick, 1984). Unli ke corporate announcements or commercial advertising produced by companies, recommendations and opinions from peer consumers were perceived as unbiased, immediate, and interpretable (Price & Feick, 1984). Therefore, personal sources were deemed as trustwor thy sources of information (Park et al., 2007). The powerful influence of interpersonal sources was not demonstrated in the present study. This might be explained by two reasons. First, the null findings on consumer -generated contents as credible informati on sources might be due to the product category employed in the study. Since laptop computers belong to a product category of high -end technology, a peer consumers opinion might not generate a significant impact on source credibility evaluations. Another possible explanation is that the content included in stimulus materials may have included too much detailed information about the functions, performances, and benefits of the two brands of laptop computers. Since the specifications of each branded laptop w ere provided and can serve as standardized benchmarks for consumers to assess the message, a source factor might not be in effect. Therefore, a company -generated

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75 message, including the extensive functional advantages of the products being promoted can poss ibly be rated highly as a credible source of product related information. Conclusion and Implications Consumer behaviors regarding information searching and processing have long been of interest to scholars and marketers. Grounded on a proposed model that considers both internal and external information cues applied by consumers to evaluating information and forming attitudes, this study provided empirical results about the ways consumers perceive various sources of information in terms of credibility depending on the existing informa tion they retrieve from memory. One of the important findings in this study is that consumers evaluation of external information was influenced by message involvement Previous research has suggested that consumers usually use a limited number of sources in their decision making because it reduced their search cost (Mourali et al., 2005). External search behaviors are driven by their ability and motivation to search (Schmidt & Spreng, 1996). The present study investigated the po tential antecedents to consumer information evaluation. It was found that people differ in their judgments regarding source credibility, and that the judgment is influenced by the extent to which they elaborate on the information or messages encountered. Second, this research contributed to an understanding of the attitude change process based on both internal and external information cues. The model used in this study demonstrated that consumer attitude is highly related to corporate reputation. Neverthel ess, a ttitude could be changed positively by providing external information from highly credible sources. In terms of product related information, communication messages from independent, professional editorial sources were rated as more credible than comp any and consumer sources in this study.

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76 From a theoretical standpoint, this study provides an additional explication of how personal differences in cognitive and knowledge factors influence information processing and attitude formation. Furthermore, the proposed model highlighted and tested several relationships among important internal and external information cues and their connections to persuasion. In terms of practical implications, this study provides marketers or public relations practitioners with insights into some variables that have substantial impacts on consumers perceptions of messages from different sources. Positive publicity and validated product information from professional or authoritative media outlets were found to serve recurrently as credible sources to consumers. Additionally, companygenerated communication can still garner positive evaluations and favorable attitudes among consumers if presented with truthful claims. Companies should also pay attention to establishing and maintai ning a positive corporate reputation. Reputation management becomes a focal point if organizations seek to elicit favorable attitudes from or build long term relationships with customers and other stakeholders. Finally, the research findings recognized tha t a firms strategic decision making should consider consumers information search behaviors and their knowledge structures. This study also held that consumer knowledge can be a viable way to facilitate consumer segmentation when designing corporate commu nication with customers regarding product related information (Guo, 2001). Limitations and Future Research There were several limitations to the present study. First, this study collected responses via both online and offline settings. While some of the sa mple population provided its opinions in a classroom environment using paper -based questionnaires, others completed the questionnaire via online survey services (surveymonkey.com). Although all respondents were randomly assigned to each condition in the ex periment, the researcher did not know whether any difference existed

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77 between the results gathered in the online and offline settings. Since respondents may prefer reading a Web -based article over having a sheet of paper in hand, the measures of their recog nition of sources, attitude, perceived source credibility, and involvement might be affected by this factor. Future research can determine whether any difference in information evaluation and attitudes exists when respondents use different media. Second, t he employment of real -world brands in the experiment provides external validity. However, the stimulus articles used in this study did not truly resemble those actually encountered by respondents in natural situations. In order to ensure a successful man ipulation of source cues in this experiment, controls for the content, length, and layout of stimulus articles were necessary. However, this resulted in the problem of artificiality as well. Therefore, one might argue that the perceived credibility and sub sequent attitude change based on these materials cannot be applied to real -world messages. Additionally, other message variables, such as message attributes and message claims, were not included in the present study. Therefore, the effect of message conten t on perceived source credibility was unclear in this study. Consequently, the lack of differences in perceived source credibility between consumer sources and company sources could result from the message design used for the stimulus materials. F uture res earch should exercise caution in the design of stimulus messages. Moreover, the present study examined consumers information evaluation and attitude formation based on single product category, laptop computers. It is possible that consumers information s earch behaviors would vary across different products and services. Further, the research findings confirmed the interactive effect of level of involvement and consumer knowledge on perceived source credibility. However, the result was somewhat surprising with respect to the better evaluation of source credibility reported by high involvement

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78 than low involvement groups. Specifically, for the expert consumer group, perceived source credibility was rated much higher by highly involved respondents than for the low involvement group. This was different from the general notion that source credibility serves as a peripheral cue to persuasion under conditions of low elaboration (Petty et al. 1981) Although previous studies found that source credibility can affec t persuasion when elaboration is high ( e.g. Heesacker et al., 1983; Homer & Kahle, 1990), the researcher did not know the reason for the results in this study. It is possible that some confounding variables were overlooked. It must be noted that the result s of this study can only be generalized to a population similar to that employed in the study. The use of a student sample reveal ed only a narrow scope of consumer perceptions and behaviors. As opposed to other subject groups, student subjects may rely mor e on the Internet, online social networking sites, and blogs as their sources of information. Their perceptions about a credible source are also different from those of people from other generations. Therefore, this characteristic becomes a limitation in t his research. In future studies, it would be valuable to replicate the present study with more representative samples. Since this study was limited to only one product category, greater insights into other product categories, services, or issues may be ach ieved if addressed in future research. Instead of an experimental method and quantitative approach, future studies could utilize qualitative designs (e.g. interview) to understand the way consumers search for product related information and to clarify the difference in perceived source credibility among three common sources of information. This study contributes to research on the antecedents to external information search and evaluation in the context of persuasion and attitude formation. Clearly, there ar e other variables that may influence the effect of source cues on persuasion. Moore, Hausknecht, and Thamodaran

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79 (1986) observed a significant interaction between source credibility and argument strength. In addition, t he advertising literature has revealed the effects of message factors (e.g. message claims and message attributes) on advertising effectiveness and brand attitudes (Goldber & Hartwick, 1990; Gill et al., 1988). Apparently, the effect of message attribute was ignored in the present study. Howev er, previous research indicated that the number of important and unimportant product attributes in messages has an impact on perceived source credibility and attitude judgments (Chaiken & Maheswaran, 1994). Other studies also found that consumers with vari ed levels of knowledge prefer different types of messages (Su et al., 2008). Hence, the use of attributed based or benefit based information in communication messages can influence the way people evaluate messages. Moreover, the differential influences of objective and subjective message claims were found to have an impact on shaping communication effectiveness ( Gill et al., 1988 ). Other message variables, which may affect perceived source credibility and attitude, have been addressed and tested in the pers uasion literature (Pornpitakpan, 2004). Therefore, future research, which includes examinations of the effects of message factors is suggested to clarify further the effect of source cues on persuasion. Finally, the present study included three different sources of information: company generated messages, journalist/editorial content, and consumer generated communication. A company -generated message was operationalized by a corporate announcement. An edit or review from PC Magazine represented journalist/editorial content. An unknown blogger was set as a personal source of consumer -generated communication. However, there are various types of communication tools and channels in the above three sources of inf ormation. For example, the credibility of someone who is known personally might be perceived differently than that of an

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80 unknown, interpersonal source. It would be interesting to explore perceived source credibility based on the various ways of presenting messages for each source category.

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81 APPENDIX A QUESTIONNAIRE FOR PRETEST Thank you for taking time to answer questions in this survey. Please read the following questions carefully, and check one choice from the scale that best describes your thoughts or feelings. Your answers will be used only for statistical purposes and will remain strictly confidential. Section 1. Please rate your overall familiarity with the following product categories. Product category N ot familiar at all Very familiar a Laptop computer 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 b Mobile phone 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Section 2. Please evaluate reputation of the following brands in each product categories. a Laptop computer Acer Strongly disagree Strongly agree This brand is trustworthy 1 2 3 4 5 This brand is reputable 1 2 3 4 5 This brand makes honest claims 1 2 3 4 5 Apple Strongly disagree Strongly agree This brand is trustworthy 1 2 3 4 5 This brand is reputable 1 2 3 4 5 This brand makes honest claims 1 2 3 4 5 Dell Strongly disagree Strongly agree This brand is trustworthy 1 2 3 4 5 This brand is reputable 1 2 3 4 5 This brand makes honest claims 1 2 3 4 5 Gateway Strongly disagree Strongly agree This brand is trustworthy 1 2 3 4 5 This brand is reputable 1 2 3 4 5 This brand makes honest claims 1 2 3 4 5 HP Strongly disagree Strongly agree This brand is trustworthy 1 2 3 4 5 This brand is reputable 1 2 3 4 5 This brand makes honest claims 1 2 3 4 5 Sony Strongly disagree Strongly agree This brand is trustworthy 1 2 3 4 5 This brand is reputable 1 2 3 4 5 This brand makes honest claims 1 2 3 4 5

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82 Toshiba Strongly disagree Strongly agree This brand is trustworthy 1 2 3 4 5 This brand is reputable 1 2 3 4 5 This brand makes honest claims 1 2 3 4 5 b Mobile phone LG Strongly disagree Strongly agree This brand is trustworthy 1 2 3 4 5 This brand is reputable 1 2 3 4 5 This brand makes honest claims 1 2 3 4 5 Motorola Strongly disagree Strongly agree This brand is trustworthy 1 2 3 4 5 This brand is reputable 1 2 3 4 5 This brand makes honest claims 1 2 3 4 5 Nokia Strongly disagree Strongly agree This brand is trustworthy 1 2 3 4 5 This brand is reputable 1 2 3 4 5 This brand makes honest claims 1 2 3 4 5 Samsung Strongly disagree Strongly agree This brand is trustworthy 1 2 3 4 5 This brand is reputable 1 2 3 4 5 This brand makes honest claims 1 2 3 4 5 Sonic Ericsson Strongly disagree Strongly agree This brand is trustworthy 1 2 3 4 5 This brand is reputable 1 2 3 4 5 This brand makes honest claims 1 2 3 4 5 Section 3. Demographic s 1 Gender: ( ) Male ( ) Female 2 Age: _______ 3 Current level of education: ( ) Freshman ( ) Sophomore ( ) Junior ( ) Senior or post -baccalaureate ( ) Graduate Student Thank you very much for your participation!

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83 APPENDIX B COMPANY GENERATED MESSAGE FR OM ACER Acer Announcement Enter the World of Glamour with the Acer Aspire 3935 Minimalist Design Meets Advanc ed Technology 20090408 New York. Slim, light, glamorous, ultra portable, great performer: a notebook with no compromises. Its not a dream; it is the new Acer Aspire 3935, an ultra pornotebook series less than one inch thick and with a 13.3 inch form at that combines inimistyle with cutting -edge technologies. The new Aspire 3935 is not simply another ultra -porlaptop. With a full metal structure with a brushed-metal finish, the 3935 is characterized by a distinctive style and personality that evokes bot h glamour and efficiency. Weighing just over 4 lb., this notebook begs you to take it wherever you go. At the same time classy and high tech, the Aspire 3935 does away with all excess providing an exceptionally comforuser experience. The Aspire 3935 featur es a 13.3" HD 1366x768 pixel resolution, high -brightness Acer LCD with a super slim frameless design and a 16:9 aspect ratio for best viewing of high definition content. Keys with a pearl gloss floating on the shiny base create an easy and effortless typin g experience. Acer FineTip keyboard, with larger key caps and key gaps, makes typing even more natural. Touch sensitive hotkeys give you easy access to frequently used functions, while the multi -gesture touchpad offers scrolling, zooming and flipping funct ionalities. Even in a compact size, the new notebook delivers impressive performance. The standard Acer 39356504 features genuine Windows Vista Home Premium; Intel Core2 Duo Processor P7350 (3MB L2 cache, 2.0GHz, 1066MHz FSB); 3GB (2/1) DDR3 1066 SDRAM; 250GB hard drive; integrated Super -Multi drive; 5 in 1 card reader; Acer CineCrystal 13.3" WXGA (1366 x 768) TFT display; Intel Graphics Medi a Accelerator 4500MHD; 802.11a/b/g/Draft N WLAN, Bluetooth, gigabit LAN, webcam; one -year parts andlabor warranty. For hassle -free usage on the go, the Aspire 3935 integrates several energy saving features. The panel uses LED backlight technology that be sides increasing readability in low light conditions is mercury -free and reduces power consumption. For greater energy savings, the panel can be switched off. The Aspire 3935 features Acer SmartPower button, a power saving switch that takes a series of act ions to reduce power consumption, giving you control over battery life. If equipped with an 8 cell battery, the Aspire 3935 will give you 8 hours of freedom from plugs and cables, for uninterrupted work or fun on the road. The 3935 has acquired certificat ions from three accredited institutions: Energy Star, EPEAT (Silver), and RoHS. Energy Star is a U.S. government backed program that helps businesses realize the energy -efficiency potential of their products, while EPEAT and RoHS evaluate products based on a broader range of environmental attributes, including energy efficiency and recyclability.

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84 The Aspire 3935 is an ultra -slim and elegant yet full -powered notebook for those who want the best in on the -go computing. It's truly your digital edge in today' s wireless world.

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85 APPENDIX C EDITORIAL CONTENTS F OR ACER PC Magazine Editor Review Cisco Cheng is PC Magazine's lead analyst for laptops and tablet PCs. He is responsible for benchmarking, reviewing, and evaluating all laptops and tablet PCs. Cisco started with PC Magazine in 1999 as a support technician, testing printers, PC components, networking equipment, and s oftware. He became the lead analyst for the laptop team in 2003 and since has written numerous reviews, buyer guides, and feature stories for both PCMag.com and the print magazine. Acer Aspire 3935 Review D ate : 04.22.09 Acer has been delivering affordable systems for as long as it has existed, but the majority of them have come with design trade-offs. Often they were too thick or too heavy, or just plain ugly. The Acer Aspire 3935 ushers in what hopefully will be a new era for the company. Forget the fact t hat it's a $900 laptop, because Acer is widely known for being a price aggressor. The sleek metallic cover, the 1 inch -thick chassis, and the sheer portability of this system are qualities that customers have been yearning for but hadn't been able to get i n such a sweet deal. Pairing aesthetics with good performing parts further cements the Aspire 3935 as the new Editors' Choice for our budget category. Brushed aluminum on the lida first on an Acer laptop looks absolutely gorgeous. The moldable characteri stics of the metals enabled Acer to produce a 1 inch thick design (dimensions are 12.7 by 9.4 by 1 inches), so the 3935 is almost as thin as the Apple 13-inch (Aluminum). And it's light, in fact, at only 4.1 pounds. The 3935's 13.3 inch widescreen is work and media -friendly, providing plenty of screen real estate for multiple spreadsheet columns or a 720p HD video. It has 16:9 aspect ratio. The scalloped, noninterconnecting keys of the full -size keyboard are another departure from other Acer laptops. The y are visibly spaced apart, resembling those of the MacBook and Sony. A lot has been made of the touchpad and buttons on the 3935. The touchpad provides multitouch features: You can pinch, scroll, and enlarge files and text by gesturing with two fingers. E ven in a compact size, the new notebook delivers impressive performance. The standard Acer 39356504 features genuine Windows Vista Home Premium; Intel Core2 Duo Processor P7350 (3MB L2 cache, 2.0GHz, 1066MHz FSB); 3GB (2/1) DDR3 1066 SDRAM; 250GB hard drive; integrated Super -Multi drive; 5 in 1 card reader; Acer CineCrystal 13.3" WXGA (1366 x 768) TFT display; Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD; 802.11a/b/g/Draft N WLAN, Bluetooth, gigabit LAN, webcam; one -year parts andlabor warranty. For has sle -free usage on the go, the Aspire 3935 integrates several energy saving features. The panel uses LED backlight technology that besides increasing readability in low light conditions is mercury -free and reduces power consumption. For greater energy savin gs, the panel can be switched off. The Aspire 3935 features Acer SmartPower button, a power saving switch that

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86 takes a series of actions to reduce power consumption, giving you control over battery life. The 3935's most impressive performance feat was in i ts battery life. If equipped with an 8 -cell battery, the Aspire 3935 will give you 8 hours of freedom from plugs and cables, for uninterrupted work or fun on the road. The 3935 earns our GreenTech Approved award, having acquired certifications from three accredited institutions: Energy Star, EPEAT (Silver), and RoHS. Energy Star is a U.S. government backed program that helps businesses realize the energy -efficiency potential of their products, while EPEAT and RoHS evaluate products based on a broader range of environmental attributes, including energy efficiency and recyclability. The list of achievements goes on and on for the Acer Aspire 3935. The 1 inch thick metallic design and surprisingly good battery score alone are merits worthy of an Editors' Choi ce. On top of these fabulous attributes, the 3935 is equipped with good performing parts and ample features, and thus earns our GreenTech seal of approval. Not too shabby, eh?

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87 APPENDIX D CONSUMER GENERATED COMMUNICAT ION FOR ACER Consumer Product Review By Peter Anderson (This review was directly quoted from his personal blog on June 14, 2009.) I received my new Acer Aspire 3935 today, and unpacked it at work. Working in IT, I could play with my new computer without arousing atte ntion, other than the admiring looks and comments from co -workers. The sleek metallic cover, the 1 inch -thick chassis, and the sheer portability of this system are qualities that customers have been yearning for but hadn't been able to get in such a sweet deal. Brushed aluminum on the lida first on an Acer laptop looks absolutely gorgeous. The moldable characteristics of the metals enabled Acer to produce a 1 inch thick design (dimensions are 12.7 by 9.4 by 1 inches), so the 3935 is almost as thin as the A pple 13-inch (Aluminum). And it's light, in fact, at only 4.1 pounds. The 3935's 13.3 inch widescreen is work and media -friendly, providing plenty of screen real estate for multiple spreadsheet columns or a 720p HD video. It has 16:9 aspect ratio. The sca lloped, noninterconnecting keys of the full -size keyboard are another departure from other Acer laptops. They are visibly spaced apart, resembling those of the MacBook and Sony. A lot has been made of the touchpad and buttons on the 3935. Touch sensitive hotkeys give you easy access to frequently used functions. The touchpad provides multitouch features: You can pinch, scroll, and enlarge files and text by gesturing with two fingers. Even in a compact size, the new notebook delivers impressive performance. The standard Acer 39356504 features genuine Windows Vista Home Premium; Intel Core2 Duo Processor P7350 (3MB L2 cache, 2.0GHz, 1066MHz FSB); 3GB (2/1) DDR3 1066 SDRAM; 250GB hard drive; integrated Super -Multi drive; 5 in 1 card reader; Acer CineCryst al 13.3" WXGA (1366 x 768) TFT display; Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD; 802.11a/b/g/Draft N WLAN, Bluetooth, gigabit LAN, webcam; one -year parts andlabor warranty. For hassle -free usage on the go, the Aspire 3935 integrates several energy savi ng features. The panel uses LED backlight technology that besides increasing readability in low light conditions is mercury -free and reduces power consumption. For greater energy savings, the panel can be switched off. The Aspire 3935 features Acer SmartPower button, a power saving switch that takes a series of actions to reduce power consumption, giving you control over battery life. The 3935's most impressive performance feat was in its battery life. If equipped with an 8 -cell battery, the Aspire 3935 wil l give you 8 hours of freedom from plugs and cables, for uninterrupted work or fun on the road. The 3935 has acquired certifications from three accredited institutions: Energy Star, EPEAT (Silver), and RoHS. Energy Star is a U.S. government backed program that helps businesses realize the energy -efficiency potential of their products, while EPEAT and RoHS evaluate products based on a broader range of environmental attributes, including energy efficiency and recyclability.

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88 So, my final thoughts? I love my new toy. The list of achievements goes on and on for the Acer Aspire 3935. The 1-inch thick metallic design and surprisingly good battery score alone are merits worthy of consumers' choice. On top of these fabulous attributes, the 3935 is equipped with good performing parts and ample features.

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89 APPENDIX E COMPANY GENERATED MESSAGE FO R APPLE Apple Announcement MacBook Pro Updated with New Models and Innovative Built in Battery June 8, 2009. The Macbook Pro is designed to provide the best computer experience you can have. From the smallest detail to the biggest engineering breakthrough, the new MacBook Pro truly is the next generation of notebooks. When you pick up a new MacBook Pro, you immediately noti ce the difference. Carved from a single block of aluminum, its unibody enclosure is the product of precise machining. The entire enclosure is thin and light. It looks polished and refined. And it feels strong and durable perfect for life inside (and outsid e) your briefcase or backpack. The moment you open your new MacBook Pro youre greeted by glorious, full screen brightness. But thats only one gleaming quality of the glossy LED backlit widescreen display. It offers a 60 percent greater color gamut than previous generations for richer, more vibrant colors. The seamless glass enclosure makes this display strong and durable. And the display is power efficient and mercury and arsenic -free, so its greener than ever. The rigid aluminum keyboard webbing has been cut precisely to hold the keys. And the keys are curved to perfectly fit fingers. The result? Pure typing bliss. The new MacBook Pro trackpad has no button because it is the button. That means theres more ro om to track, more room to click left, right, center, and everywhere in between and one less part. Youll find two USB 2.0 ports and a FireWire 800 port for connecting faster peripherals. Transfer your photos and videos to and from your MacBook Pro just as fast as youre able to take them. Built into the 13 inch MacBook Pro is a new SD card slot, so you can edit and share your photos and digital video on the spot. In terms of internal components, the MacBook Pro 13-inch has the 2.26 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7550 CPU. The MacBook Pro reaches a new level of high -speed, high-end game playing power. Not to mention pure performance for graphics -intensive applications like Aperture and Motion. The power -saving NVIDIA GeForce 9400M integrated graphics processor inside every MacBook Pro is great for everyday per formance Built right into each of the new MacBook Pro notebooks is a breakthrough battery that lasts dramatically longer and does so without increasing the size or weight of MacBook Pro. On a single charge, the battery in the new MacBook Pro lasts up to 7 hours Just how green is the new MacBook Pro? Every MacBook Pro model is ENERGY STAR 5.0 compliant, which means it meets the government standard for energy efficiency. All models have also earned EPEAT Gold status, the highest standard for environmental performance in the electronics industry. And every MacBook Pro is shipped in packaging thats 34 to 41 percent smaller than the original generation. That translates to fewer trees used for boxes and less fuel used to transport more systems on fewer planes. And at the end of its long, productive life, you can recycle almost all of your MacBook Pro. Only Apple could make a notebook like this. Hardware and software. Design and engineering. Production and manufacturing. The light and sturdy unibody protects the components inside. The

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90 LED -backlit display along with the graphics processor that helps power it gives you faster games and a brilliant canvas for your photos, movies, and more. The glass Multi Touch trackpad feels as good as it functions. Theyre all pa rt of a single process at Apple. When you start using your new MacBook Pro, youll discover what that means.

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91 APPENDIX F EDITORIAL CONTENTS F OR APPLE PC Magazine editor review Cisco Cheng is PC Magazine's lead analyst for laptops and tablet PCs. He is responsible for benchmarking, reviewing, and evaluating all laptops and tablet PCs. Cisco started with PC Magazine in 1999 as a support technician, testing printers, PC components, networking equipment, and s oftware. He became the lead analyst for the laptop team in 2003 and since has written numerous reviews, buyer guides, and feature stories for both PCMag.com and the print magazine. Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch Review Date : 06.10.09 After all the whining, the bickering, and the constant remarks about how Windows -based laptops have this and that and cost so much less, Apple a company known to make its own rules, is finally letting down its guard. The lovable MacBook Pro 13 inch enhanc es its feature sets and throws in a bigger battery while lowering prices which in the past would have been difficult for the company to pull off. All the improvements are signs that Apple is finally paying attention to its suggestion boxes. Indeed, it's a great time to be shopping for a new Apple laptop especially this one, which earns our Editors' Choice. The MacBook Pro 13inch measures only an inch thick, despite having a built in optical drive, and uses the same Unibody enclosure carved out from a thic k slab of aluminum. These are the fundamentals a metallic chassis and a thin design that have contributed to Apple's success. Reshuffling the ports and the adding a bigger battery didn't affect the new model's weight. Like the previous versions, the MacBoo k Pro 13 inch weighs 4.5 pounds (5 pounds with the adapter). Speaking of the aesthetic touches of a glass screen, the 13.3inch widescreen, according to Apple, now has a 60 percent greater color gamut than that of its predecessor, and when placed alongside those of the previous MacBook, it's clearly the superior screen. Regarding tiled keyboard, touch and non -touch typists alike will find it easy to adapt to this keyboard, as it is full -size and tactile. Having your keyboard light up in the dark is another invaluable asset in this price range. Other models, specifically Windows -based laptops, have tried incorporating touch gestures into the touchpad, but none have touchpads as fluid and responsive as Apple's. Aside from having the largest touchpad, the MacB ook Pro 13inch is also an all-in -one, complete with the single -click mouse button and the two to four -fingered touch gestures. The SD slot is the most compelling addition because no other Apple product before the MacBook Pro 13 inch has seen anything sim ilar. The return of the FireWire port isn't a feature one usually brings back. But give credit to Apple for listening to its customers (and reviewers) and for upgrading the port from FireWire 400 to 800. In terms of internal components, the MacBook Pro 1 3 -inch has the 2.26 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7550 CPU. It also has the advantage in graphics horsepower with an Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated chipset, giving the 3D benefits. Increasing the capacity of the battery (without doing the same to its dimensions) is the toughest part, and Apple has pulled off this feat. The battery is

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92 now essentially nonremovable, which scored an admirable 4 hours 44 minutes on our battery tests. More than 5 hours of battery life (Apple claims 7 hours) can easily be achieved with t he optimized operating system. Apple goes out of its way to emphasize the MacBook Pro 13inch's green credentials. The laptop is certified for Energy Star (in this case 5.0), EPEAT Gold, and RoHS. Incorporating an LED display eliminates the use of hazard ous materials (mercury and arsenic) and promotes energy efficiency In addition, Apple has an excellent recycling program in place, and the change to a nonremovable battery across all MacBook and MacBook Pro lines curbs the amount of waste heading into a l andfill. Historically, a depleted feature set and bloated prices have been the arguments against Apple's 13inch laptops, and Apple's superior operating system and unparalleled design have been used in their defense. Now you can stand proud and say that t he MacBook Pro 13 inch is a contender in terms of features (not to mention battery life) on top of all the other usual Apple triumphs.

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93 APPENDIX G CONSUMER GENERATED COMMUNICAT ION FOR A PPLE Consumer Product Review By Peter Anderson (This review was dire ctly quoted from his personal blog on June 14, 2009.) Yihay! I got an Apple Macbook today and unpacked it at work. Working in IT, I could play with my new computer without arousing attention, other than the admiring looks and comments from co -workers. The lovable MacBook Pro 13 inch enhances its feature sets and throws in a bigger battery while lowering prices which in the past would have been difficult for the company to pull off. All the improvements are signs that Apple is finally paying attention to its suggestion boxes. Indeed, it's a great time to be shopping for a new Apple laptop The MacBook Pro 13inch measures only an inch thick, despite having a built in optical drive, and uses the same Unibody enclosure carved out from a thick s lab of aluminum. A metallic chassis and a thin design look absolutely gorgeous. Reshuffling the ports and the adding a bigger battery didn't affect the new model's weight. Like the previous versions, the MacBook Pro 13 inch weighs 4.5 pounds (5 pounds with the adapter). Speaking of the aesthetic touches of a glass screen, the 13.3inch widescreen, according to Apple, now has a 60 percent greater color gamut than that of its predecessor, and when placed alongside those of the previous MacBook, it's clearly the superior screen. Regarding tiled keyboard, touch and non -touch typists alike will find it easy to adapt to this keyboard, as it is full -size and tactile. Having your keyboard light up in the dark is another invaluable asset in this price range. Other m odels, specifically Windows -based laptops, have tried incorporating touch gestures into the touchpad, but none have touchpads as fluid and responsive as Apple's. Aside from having the largest touchpad, the MacBook Pro 13inch is also an all-in -one, complet e with the single -click mouse button and the two to four -fingered touch gestures. The SD slot is the most compelling addition because no other Apple product before the MacBook Pro 13 inch has seen anything similar. The return of the FireWire port deserves extra credit to Apple for listening to its customers and for upgrading the port from FireWire 400 to 800. In terms of internal components, the MacBook Pro 13-inch has the 2.26 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P7550 CPU. It also has the advantage in graphics horsepower with an Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated chipset, giving the 3D benefits and so ideal for video games Increasing the capacity of the battery (without doing the same to its dimensions) is the toughest part, and Apple has pulled off this feat. The batter y is now essentially nonremovable, which scored an admirable 4 hours 44 minutes. More than 5 hours of battery life (Apple claims 7 hours) can easily be achieved with the optimized operating system. The MacBook Pro has acquired certifications from three accredited institutions. The laptop is certified for Energy Star (in this case 5.0), EPEAT Gold, and RoHS. Incorporating an LED display eliminates the use of hazardous materials (mercury and arsenic) and promotes energy efficiency In addition, Apple has an excellent recycling program in place, and the change to a nonremovable battery across all MacBook and MacBook Pro lines curbs the amount of waste heading into a landfill.

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94 So, my final thoughts? I love my new toy. Historically, a depleted feature set and bloated prices have been the arguments against Apple's 13 inch laptops, and Apple's superior operating system and unparalleled design have been used in their defense. Now you can stand proud and say that the MacB ook Pro 13 inch is a contender in terms of features (not to mention battery life) on top of all the other usual Apple triumphs.

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95 APPENDIX H QUESTIONNAIRE FOR AP PLE Introduction Thank you for taking time to participate in this study. The purpose of this research is to learn about how consumers evaluate product related information of laptop computers. Please read the following questions carefully, and check one choice from the scale that best describes your thoughts or feelings. Your an swers will be used only for statistical purposes and will remain strictly confidential. Thank you! Section 1. Please answer the following question. 1 How familiar are you with the company Apple with respect to its products and services? Not familiar at all (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Very familiar Section 2. How do agree/disagree with the following statements about the company Apple? 1 The company has a good reputation. Strongly disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Strongly agree 2 The company performs well compared to others. Strongly disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Strongly agree 3 The company is legitimate. Strongly disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Strongly agree 4 The company operates in an accepmanner. Strongly disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Strongly agree Section 3 How do you agree/disagree with the following statements ? 1 Among my circle of friends, I am one of the experts on laptop computers. Strongly disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Strongly agree 2 I know pretty much about laptop computers. Strongly disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Strongly agree 3 I do not feel very knowledgeable about laptop computers. Strongly disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Strongly agree 4 Compare d to most other people, I know less about laptop computers. Strongly disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Strongly agree 5 When it comes to laptop computers, I really dont know a lot. Strongly disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Strongly agree Section 4. Please read the attached article regarding Apples MacBook Pro 13, a new model launched in early June, and then continue to complete the rest of the questionnaire.

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96 Section 5. Please identify the source of the article you read. ( ) Official Apple announcement ( ) Editor review ( ) Consumer review Section 6. How would you rate the source of the article? Undependable (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Dependable Dishonest (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Honest Unreliable (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Reliable Insincere (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Sincere Untrustworthy (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Trustworthy Not an expert (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Expert Inexperienced (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Experienced Unknowledgeable (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Knowledgeable Unqualified (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Qualified Unskilled (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Skilled Section 7. Please answer the following questions. 1 To what extent did you try to evaluate the information in the article? Not at all (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) Very much 2 How much effort did you put into evaluating the information in the article? No effort at all (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) A great deal of effort 3 I paid close attention to the article. Disagree (1) (2) (3) (4 ) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) A gree 4 I carefully read the article. Disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) A gree Section 8. After reading the article, please rate your overall impression of the company Apple. Unfavorable (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Favorable Bad (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Good Dislike (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Like Negative (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Positive

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97 Section 9. Demographics 1 Gender: ( ) Male ( ) Female 2 Age: ___________ 3 Current level of education: ( ) Freshman ( ) Sophomore ( ) Junior ( ) Senior or post -baccalaureate ( ) Graduate Student Thank you very much for your participation!

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98 APPENDIX I QUESTIONNAIRE FOR AC ER Introduction Thank you for taking time to participate in this study. The purpose of this research is to learn about how co nsumers evaluate product related information of laptop computers Please read the following questions carefully, and check one choice from the scale that best describes your thoughts or feelings. Your answers will be used only for statistical purposes and will remain strictly confidential. Thank you! Section 1. Please answer the following question. 2 How familiar are you with the company Acer with respect to its products and services? Not familiar at all (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Very familiar Section 2. How do agree/disagree with the following statements about the company Acer? 6 The company has a good reputation. Strongly disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Strongly agree 7 The company performs well compared to others. Strongly disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Strongly agree 8 The company is legitimate. Strongly disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Strongly agree 9 The company operates in an accepmanner. Strongly disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Strongly agree Section 3 How do you agree/disagree with the following statements? 5 Among my circle of friends, I am one of the experts on laptop computers. Strongly disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Strongly agree 6 I know pretty much about laptop computers. Strongly disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Strongly agree 7 I do not feel very knowledgeable about laptop computers. Strongly disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Strongly ag ree 8 Compared to most other people, I know less about laptop computers. Strongly disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Strongly agree 10. When it comes to laptop computers, I really dont know a lot. Strongly disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Strongly agree Section 4. Please read the attached article regarding Acers Aspire 3935, a new model launched in early April, and then continue to complete the rest of the questionnaire.

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99 Section 5. Please identify the source of the article you read. ( ) Official Acer announcement ( ) Editor review ( ) Consumer review Section 6. How would you rate the source of the article? Undependable (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Dependable Dishonest (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Honest Unreliable (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Reliable Insincere (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Sincere Untrustworthy (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Trustworthy Not an expert (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Expert Inexperienced (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Experienced Unknowledgeable (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Knowledgeable Unqualified (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Qualified Unskilled (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Skilled Section 7. Please answer the following questions. 5 To what extent did you try to evaluate the information in the article? Not at all (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) Very much 6 How much effort did you put into evaluating the information in the article? No effort at all (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) A great deal of effort 7 I paid close attention to the article. Disagree (1) (2) (3) (4 ) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) A gree 8 I carefully read the article. Disagree (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) A gree Section 8. After reading the article, please rate your overall impression of the company Acer. Unfavorable (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Favorable Bad (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Good Dislike (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Like Negative (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) Positive

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100 Section 9. Demographics 1 Gender: ( ) Male ( ) Female 2 Age: ___________ 3 Current level of education: ( ) Freshman ( ) Sophomore ( ) Junior ( ) Senior or post -baccalaureate ( ) Graduate Student Thank you very much for your participation!

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101 L IST OF REFERENCES Alba, J. W., & Hutchinson, W. (1987). Dimensions of consumer expertise. Journal of Consumer Research 13, 411454. Anderson, R. E., & Jolson, M. A. (1980). Technical wording in advertising: implications for market segmentation. Journal of Marketing, 44(1), 5766. Andreassen, T. W. ( 1994). Satisfaction, loyalty, and reputation as indicators of customer orientation in the public sector. International Journal of Public Sector Management 7(2), 1634. Andrews, J. C., Durvasula, S., & Akhter, S. H. (1990). A framework for conceptualizing and measuring the involvement construct in advertising research. Journal of Advertising, 19(4), 2740. Antil, J. H. (1984). Conceptualization and operationalization of involvement. Advances in Consumer Research 11, 203209. Applbaum, R. F., & Anatol, K. W E. (1972). The factor structure of source credibility as a function of the speaking situation. Speech Monographs 39(3), 216222. Axsom, D., Yates, S., & Chaiken, S. (1987). Audience response as a heuristic cue in persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 53(1), 3040. Bae, J., & Cameron, G. T. (2006). Conditioning effect of prior reputation on perception of corporate giving. Public Relations Review 32(2), 144150. Bailey, A. A. (2004). Thiscompanysucks.com: the use of the Internet in negative consumer to consumer articulations. Journal of Marketing Communications 10, 169182. Bailey, A. A. (2005). Consumer awareness and use of product review websites. Journal of Interactive Advertising 6(1), 90108. Baker, W. H., Hutchinson, J. W., Moor D., & Nedungadi, P. (1986). Brand familiarity and advertising: effects on the evoked set and brand preference. Advances in Consumer Research 13, 637642. Balmer, J. M. T. (1998). Corporate identity and the advent of corporate marketing. Journal of Marke ting Management 14(8), 96396. Barnett, M. L., Jermier, J. M., & Lafferty, B. A. (2006). Corporate reputation: the definitional landscape. Corporate Reputation Review 9(1), 26 38. Batra, R., & Ray, M. L. (1985). How advertising works on contact. In L. F Alwitt & A. A. Mitchell (Eds.), Psychological processes and advertising effects: Theory, research, and applications (pp.13 44). Hillsdale, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates.

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102 Beatty, S. E., & Smith, S. M. (1987). External search effort: an investigation across se veral product categories. Journal of Consumer Research, 14(1), 8395. Bennett, P. D., & Harrell, G. D. (1975). The role of confidence in understanding and predicting buyers attitudes and purchase intentions. Journal of Consumer Research, 2(2), 110117. Be rger, B. K., & Park, D. J. (2003). Public relation(ship)s or private controls? Practitioner perspectives on the uses and benefits of new technologies. New Jersey Journal of Communication, 11(1), 7699. Berlo, D., Lemert, J., & Mertz, R. (1969). Dimensions for evaluating the acceptability of message sources. Public Opinion Quarterly 33(4), 563576. Best computers: laptops shrink, and so do desktops (buyers guide). (2008, September). Consumer Reports 73( 9), 3741. Bettman, J. R. (1970). Information processing models of consumer behavior. Journal of Marketing Research 7(3), 370376. Bettman, J. R. (1979). An information processing theory of consumer choice Advances in marketing series. Reading, Mass: AddisonWesley. Bettman, J. R., & Park, W. (1980) Effects of prior knowledge and experience on consumer decision processes: a protocol analysis. Journal of Consumer Research, 7(3), 234248. Bettman, J. R., & Sujan, M. (1987). Effects of framing on evaluation of comparable and noncomparable alternatives by expert and novice consumers. Journal of Consumer Research 14(2), 141154. Bickart, B., & Schindler, R. M. (2001). Internet forums as inferential sources of consumer information. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 15(3), 3140. Biswas, A. (1992). The moderating role of brand familiarity in reference price perceptions. Journal of Business Research, 25(3), 251262. Bontis, N., Booker, L. D., & Serenko, A. (2007). The mediating effect of organizational reputation on customer loyalty and service recommendati on in the banking industry. Management Decision, 45(9), 14261445. Bowers, J. W., & Phillips, W. A. (1967). A note on the generality of source credibility scales. Speech Monographs 34(2), 185186. Braunsberger, K., & Munch, J. M. (1998). Source expertise versus experience effects in hospital advertising. Journal of Services Marketing, 12(1), 2338. Brennan, I., & Babin, L. A. (2004). Brand placement recognition: the influence of presentation mode and brand familiarity. Journal of Promotion Management 10(1/2), 185202.

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115 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Wen Hsin Cheng was born in Taipei, Taiwan. She earned a B.A. in Foreign Languages and Applied Linguistics from National Taipei University (2006) in Taiwan. She joined the graduate program of the College of Journalism and Communication at the University of Florida in fall 2007. In summer 2009, she r eceiv ed a M.A. in Mass Communication with specialization in public relations. During her graduate studies, she was interested in applied communication research including corporate social responsibility, brand management, and relationship management in public relations