Education plays a very important role in any country's pursuit of economic growth and national development. For years, Malaysia wants to become an educational hub in ASEAN (Arokiasamy, 2010; Loh, 2011; Arokiasamy & Nagappan, 2012). Thus, with the support of the government policy, the number private higher education institutions (PHEIs) are growing rapidly (Loh, 2011). From government perspective, this phenomenon indicates the good side of the higher education sector in Malaysia, however, from the perspective of the private higher education institutions (PHEIs), this means the intense competitive in this industry and the market.
According to Sia (2010), Wee & Periyayya (2013), Wagner & Fard (2009), due to the increasing number of the PHEIs, the higher education environment in Malaysia become more competitive. In 2011, Malaysia had 53 private universities and six foreign university branch campuses, 403 active private colleges (Khairini & Abdul Razak, 2013). From the number of these PHEIs, we can see that the competition among these PHEIs is becoming more intense. A few studies mentioned that the competition among PHEIs is becoming more and more intense (Wagner & Fard, 2009; Sia 2010; Wee & Periyayya, 2013). Besides that, the PHEIs usually are not funded by government indicates that universities have to compete for students in the recruitment markets to ensure the business success (Kusumawati, Yanamandram & Perera, 2010; Ng, Ong, Wong & Kuek, 2014). Private universities increasingly view students as their potential customers and try to market their institution intensively due to competition increases in the private higher education institution sector (Taiwo, 2010; Watjatrakul, 2009; Soares, 2009).
After graduate from high school or diploma, when students want to continue their degree studies, brand awareness is very important for universities. In such a number of private universities, brand awareness has the most important effects on potential students' decision making by affecting which brands enter the consideration set (Macdonal and Sharp, 2000; Subhani & Osman, 2009; Huang, 2005). Higher brand awareness helps in influencing consumers' purchase decision (Dodds, Monroe & Grewal, 1991; Grewal, Monroe & Krishnan, 1998). Since universities view students as their consumers; therefore, Altbach (as cited in Sohail & Saeed, 2003) claims that education has become a field where universities across the world compete with each other to increase potential students' brand awareness.
We have chosen Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) in our research. Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) was established under the UTAR Education Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, on 13 August 2002. UTAR is one of the leading players in the higher education business in Malaysia (Chai, 2007). Besides that, UTAR is one of the top 20 universities in Malaysia (University Web Ranking, 2014).
Our research objective is to determine the factors that influence brand awareness of potential students towards UTAR.
Chapter 2.0 Literature review
2.1 Review of literature
2.1.1 Brand awareness
Brand awareness is known as the aptitude of a customer to form and recall a brand (Aaker, 1996).The brand's intangible values are those that cannot be measured. Those intangibles values go further than the product level to become a synaptic process in the brain. In other words, it means to say that the ability of consumers in order to respond to theprecise brand without the presence of the product or service is guaranteed (Bedbury, 2012). Essentially, an intimate relationship may be established between the consumers and their brands (Roberts, 2013; Muniz and Schau, 2010).
Macdonald and Sharp (2000) state that despite of the consumers who are familiar and willing to buy the product or service,brand awareness is another important element that still influences the purchase. Eventually, research concludes that trust and familiarity are crucial in brand selection (Habbo Global Youth Survey, 2009).
When a customer is willing to purchase a good or service,the first brand name that pops in his mind shows that this product or service has greaterbrand awareness. The higher or greater level of brand awareness can affectthe buying decision of the consumers (Chi, 2009; Balakrishnan, 2010; Shah, 2012). Hence, higher brand awareness leads to higher level of understanding and purchase intention (Lin, 2011). When an organization establishes their brand awareness successfully, it shows that the products and services provided by the organization have a good reputation in the market and acceptable (Gustafson & Chabot, 2007).Hence, it has the learning and consideration as well as the choice advantages (Booth &Matic, 2011).
The reputation of an institution is an important factor in establishing brand awareness. Assumed that the numbers of higher education institutions are growing, students are becoming more critical and analytical when involve in the selection of higher educational institutions (Binsardi and Ekwulugo, 2012). Perceptions of students towards the reputation and image of their ideal institution are made by hearsay, past experience, and marketing activities that promote the institution (Ivy, 2013).
Researches indicate that good image of the educational institution able to influencethe students' preference intensely (Mazzarol, 1998; Bourke, 2010; Gutman and Miaoulis, 2012). Thus, in order to maintain their competitive advantage in the market, higher education institutions are forced to establish and solidify their distinct image (Jeong and Biocca, 2012).
University reputation has a tremendous effect in influencing students' brand awareness towards the selection of the university. For example, Jager and Soontiens (2009) have proved that South African students take institutional reputation as one of the important factor in selecting universities. As same goes to Daily(2010) also showed that reputation of the institution was one of the most essential attribute for students to further their studies. The importance of institutional reputation has also been mentioned in studies carried out by Ancheh (2007), O'brien(2007) and Sia (2010). They strongly agreed that institutional reputation was a strong influential factor in affecting the choice of students.
2.1.3 Brand Exposure
Brand exposure refers to after determine or identify the target market, the brand name itself supposed to start in disclose itself through certain strategies (Gole, 2009). The outcome of brand exposure is a psychological phenomenon. It happens when consumers who are stimulated will prioritize for things that have greater familiarity to them (Grimes, 2010; Matthes, 2012).
During the psychological occurrence, the positive impression is established in consumer's minds as a result of the familiarity due to the brand exposure (Hollebeek, 2011).Brand exposurehelps in shaping the behavior of consumer by cognitive mechanisms (Fitzsimon, 2008). According to the psychological concept stated above, the unintended participation procedures usually happen in marketing communications channel to expose particular brand through advertising in social media (Cianfrone, 2008).
Electronic-Word of Mouthrefers to the advent of computer-generated as a medium (Dellarocas, 2003).E-WOM is many to many communication which the receivers and senders are not familiar to each other. It is very influential in service market (Fang, Lin, Liu, Lin, & Lin, 2011). Quinton and Harridg (2010) have proved the intense effect of WOM in service sector whereas Bansal and Voyer, (2000) disclose its essentiality in services industry as well.
Furthermore, the effect of trusted websites is high and reliable due to the large number of people who involved in particular discussion (Shojaee&Azman 2011). Electronic Word of Mouthalso helps marketers to save advertising cost. This is because the effect of conveying a positive experience through E-WOM is greater than advertising (Nicholls, 2012). Consumersalways prefer to trustthe information from other consumercompare to the information delivered by the company itself (Jansen, 2009).
Based on Integrating Marketing Communications Model conducted by Kotler& Keller(2009), in order to build brand equity as well as the extended model by Chan and Xu (2010), Word of Mouthhassubstantial relationship towards brand awareness. When consumer is attractedby particular brand, product or service, he or she will communicate as well as transfer their messages from a few of people to the entire world through social media rapidly.
Social media has leads to the increment oftrustworthiness in Electronic Word of Mouthdue to the transparency of the information (Bickart& Schindler, 2012) as compare to traditional media. E-WOM is faster, effective and efficient, wide coverage, as well as low cost among the various types of marketing communication mix (Thackeray, 2010).
2.2 Research framework of the study
Determinants of potential students' brand awareness towards UTAR
Figure 2.2 : Conceptual framework
2.2.1 Proposed conceptual framework of determinants of potential students' brand awareness towards UTAR
Figure 2.2 shows the conceptual framework that we had done. The conceptual framework above represents our proposed framework for this research project. It indicates the relationships between the independent variables and dependent variable. The three independent variables to be tested are university's reputation,brand exposure and Electronic-Word of Mouth as the determinants of potential students' brand awareness towards UTAR.
H1 :University's reputation has significant effect on brand awareness
There is a significant relationship between university's reputation and brand awareness.
The reputation of universities was an essential factor in considerations for the students in selecting their next education level (Hassan, 2008). UTAR currently is ranked up to top 20 among universities in Malaysia (University Web Ranking, 2014). Thus, the ranking helps to create potential students' brand awareness towards UTAR.
H2 :Brand exposure has significant effect on brand awareness
There is a significant relationship between brand exposure and brand awareness.
Brand exposure improves brand awareness (Cornwell, 2012; Pitts & Slattery, 2010). Brand exposure helps to create the potential students' brand awarenesswhen students emphasize on their ideal choice of universities which are in demand. Zajonc(1968) also stated that 'Mere Exposure Theory' would be a potential theory todescribe therelationship between brand exposure and brand awareness. The greater the brand exposure, the greater the potential's students brand awareness towards UTAR.
H3 : Electronic-Word of Mouthhas significant effect on brand awareness
There is a significant relationship between Electronic-Word of Mouth and brand awareness.
Electronic Word of Mouth is a powerful tool for promoting a brand. It can be used as one of the advertising tools such as recommend and endorse a brand by using social media to others who may not aware of the brand (Weber, 2012). Thus, E-WOM plays an important role in creating the potential students' brand awareness towards UTAR.
3.0 Research Methodology
3.1 Research Design
Research design refers to framework or plan for data collection and conducting the study (Scott Smith, 2012). Research design purpose is to decide on how to collect, analyze, interpret further data, and find a solution to the problem (Sekaran, 2003). The objective of this research is to obtain a better understanding and clearer picture on the determinants of potential students' brand awareness toward UTAR. Descriptive research design is applied because it is one of the best methods for collecting information that show the relevance and describe its existent (Descriptive studies, n.d.). Descriptive research can determine research problem, people surveyed, and way of analysis to start data collection. Furthermore, 5W consist of who, what, where, when, why and how aspects of the research answers can be defined. In this research, survey design had chosen as one of the methods that included in descriptive research design due to it consists of the gathering and analyzing of data, and can examine the final answers concerning the current condition of the subject. This involves observation of tangible situation, formulation of hypothesis, collection and category of data, explanation of data, formulation of principles, adoption of facts and forecast.
3.2 Sampling Design
3.2.1 Target Population
The target population will be students between 17 to 22 years old who freshly graduated from secondary schools, international schools and Tunku Abdul Rahman University College. Target population chosen as SPM holder students and Diploma students because UTAR provide SPM holder students a Foundation Program which are one-year courses for students with SPM qualification as a preparation before enter into the UTAR Honours Degree programs (CFS, 2012). Furthermore, most of the Diploma holders from TARC will enter UTAR for further study (Malaysiakini, 2002) and UTAR allowed them exempted some of their subjects when they continue their studies at UTAR (UTAR, 2014).
3.2.2 Sampling Frame and Sampling Location
The sampling frame of this study are the potential students in Kampar which include students who freshly graduated from secondary school with SPM certificate, students from international schools and Diploma holder from TARC Kampar. . The median age of international university students in year 2007 is 23.2 (Meghan Dale, 2010). So, our sampling frames are students with ages around 17 to 22. Furthermore, the sampling locations chosen are the secondary schools in Kampar, SMK Sentosa, Chinese Independent High Schools such as Pei Yuan High School (Private), Westlake International School and TARC Kampar.
3.2.3 Sampling Elements
The respondents was identified in this study is potential students from Kampar who hold a SPM or Diploma certificate from those that are born from 1992 to 1997. Thus, the respondents will be of 17 to 22 years.
3.2.4 Sampling Technique
The sampling technique that we choose for this study is non-probability sampling technique. For non-probability sampling, there is a supposition that there is an equal distribution of characteristics inside the population, this makes the results will be more precise because the researcher suppose that any sample would be representative. (Statistics Canada, 2013). It means that each targeted population does not have a fix probabilistic opportunity to be chosen as the sample. Respondents are chosen based on judgmental sampling. The units from the population for study are selected by the researcher based on judgment. This sampling technique is the most appropriate way if the study population is hard to discover or if some members are thought to be more knowledgeable or willing than others to interview (University of Guelph). This method is chosen because it produces good estimate of the characteristics of population and it enable a large number of respondents to be evaluated in a relatively short time.
3.2.5 Sampling Size
Sampling size refers to the number of units that were chosen from which data were gathered (Gary M. Shapiro, 2008). It determines the number of respondent involved in the research. Usually, population with larger size may generate the possible outcome with higher accuracy. The bigger sample size in a research, the result is stronger and it prediction will be reliability and creditability (The Importance of Quality Sample Size, 2011). So, we are distributing 300 sets of questionnaires to our respective respondents. These 300 set of questionnaires may sufficiently generate the possible outcome as well as able to meet the objective of the research.
3.3 Data Collection Procedures
There are two types of data collection method which is primary data and secondary data (Types of Data, 2013). In this research, we have conducted only primary data of data collection method. Primary data sources included questionnaire that have been distribute to respective respondents
3.3.1 Primary Data
Primary data are data that are gathered for the particular research problem, using measure and procedure that suit the research problem best (Joop J. Hox, n.d.). When a researcher cannot find the data needed in secondary sources, primary data collection is the best way. In our research proposal, we are using questionnaire in order to gather data from our respective respondents. 300 respondents which are students from secondary schools, international school and TARC have been selected to answer our distributed questionnaire. We decided to use questionnaire as our data collection method because it is the most economical way to provide slightly accurate yet quickly and easily collected compared to other methods. While for the primary data collect procedure, we will go to the administration department of each respective school, such as SMK Sentosa, Westlake International School and TARC to collect a list of students who are freshly graduated with a SPM and Diploma certificate. From that list, we collect the contact information of each potential student and try to contact them to conduct a questionnaire for our research.
3.4 Pilot study
A pilot study is a small scale preliminary study conducted in order to evaluate feasibility, time, and cost in an attempt to predict an appropriate sample size and improve upon the study design prior to performance of a full-scale research project.
The pilot test is a test that giving researchers a good chance to distinguish and solve the potential problems from the questionnaire that they state out. By the way, the question in the questionnaire maybe will make some respondents do not understand due to the questions are ambiguous or some of the question will combine two or more issues in a single question. For this situation, we can call it as 'double-barreled question'. Other than that, there maybe have some question will make respondents feel uncomfortable because the setting of question. Besides, it's also used to ensure that the ideas or methods behind the research are sound and also used to test an idea or hypothesis.
Before conduct the full-scale research project, a total of 300 questionnaires were distributed in SMK Sentosa, Westlake International School and TARC tto check the accuracy and validity of the questionnaire contents. The target population will only be young adults between 17 to 22 years old .
3.5 Questionnaire Description
A pilot test was conducted before the actual research take place; this is to ensure that there will be no error or mistake happen in questionnaire. The questionnaire consists of 2 parts, which is section A and section B. Section A is about the demographic information of the respondents. Those questions involved gender and age only. For section B, the questions are related to dependent variable (Brand awareness) and independent variables in this research, which are University's reputation, EWOM and Brand expose. Each variable has three questions to answer that related with the attributes of each of them. There have four variables which are twelve questions to answer. The completed questionnaire will be attached in the Appendix. This questionnaire had verified by professional in UTAR.
3.6 Proposed Data Analysis Tools
3.6.1 Internal consistency reliability
In this research, consistency of reliability has to text on the five dimensions of SERVQUAL model; the Cronbach's alpha coefficient was computed. The average of all possible split-half coefficients resulting from different ways of splitting the scale items. This coefficient varies from 0 to 1, and a value of 0.6 or less generally indicates unsatisfactory internal consistency reliability, those in the range of 0.70 are acceptable, and those over 0.80 are good (Sekaran, 2003).
3.6.2 Content validity
Researchers are going to test the content validity of the questionnaire in order to measure the content of research are accurate and how well an instrument measures a particular concept. Therefore, a draft of questionnaire is ready for establishing the validity. One of the ways the researchers used is based on the pilot test that can be used to measure the content validity. It examined qualitatively and relied on subjective judgment.
In this research, descriptive analysis is used to summarize the data and describing what occurred in the sample. The purpose of this analysis is to help researchers to detect sample characteristics that may influence their conclusion. Frequency distribution, mean, median and mode are used for accomplishing this task. Frequency distribution presents the description of the selective number for each option and included the percentage of each variable such as gender and age. Mean and median obtained for the interval scales independent and dependent variable while mode is obtained for nominal scale. Mode used to measure the central tendency and show the value that are most frequently occurred within the dataset. Mean and median used to measure the gap between perception and expectation of the customer by using three variables.
3.6.3 Inferential Analysis
Multiple regressions are analyses of association in which the effects of two or more IVs on single, interval-scaled dependent variables are investigate simultaneous (Malhotra, 2010). This particular technique had been used to determine which IVs have the most significant impact on DV. Researchers choose this method with the purpose of using the information of IV to improve the accuracy in predicting values for DV. It is a popularly used method for estimating the cost-volume formula (y = a + bx). The beta value is the indication of the weight of the data. Multiple regressions will be examined by using the proposed formula:
Brand awareness = a + b1(University's reputation) + b2(EWOM) + b3(Brand Expose)
Brand Awareness: Dependent Variable.
University's reputation , EWOM and Brand Expose: Independent Variable.
a: Intercept or Constant.
b: Partial Regression coefficients.
Appendix 1: Questionnaire
Section A: Demographic Profile
Please tick ONE appropriate answer.
1 Gender Female
2 Age 17-19years old
20-22 years old
23 years old and above
Section B: Factors That Influence Brand Awareness toward Utar
Please circle the best answer based on the scale of 1 to 5 [(1) = Strongly Disagree; (2) = Disagree; (3) = Neutral; (4) = Agree; (5) = Strongly Agree].
No Questions Strongly Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly Agree
3a Reputation is the first consideration when you select UTAR 1 2 3 4 5
3b UTAR has high reputation 1 2 3 4 5
3c UTAR reputation affect your preference for choosing education institution 1 2 3 4 5
4a I have been searching/ exposing towards people's perception about UTAR via online (eg: email, blog, webpage) 1 2 3 4 5
4b I have been received any positive, negative statement made by former or actual UTAR students via Internet 1 2 3 4 5
4c Information of UTAR which include reader's opinion and suggestion is easy to obtain in Internet 1 2 3 4 5
5a I have seen/ know or exposed to any kind of advertisement of UTAR (eg: print advertising, radio, flyers) 1 2 3 4 5
5b The advertisement increase my interest toward UTAR 1 2 3 4 5
5c The advertisement increase my curiosity toward UTAR getting to know about UTAR requests. 1 2 3 4 5
6a UTAR is the first company that comes to mind when you think of education institution. 1 2 3 4 5
6b You are familiar with UTAR 1 2 3 4 5
6c You able to recognize UTAR logo 1 2 3 4 5
Table 4.1: Gender of respondents
Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid Male 15 50.0 50.0 50.0
Female 15 50.0 50.0 100.0
Total 30 100.0 100.0
Figure4.1: Gender of respondents
The result of figure 4.1 is showing that the analysis of the respondent's gender. There are 50% of male and 50% of female.
Table 4.2: Age group of the respondents
Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid 17 ' 19 years old 8 27.0 27.0 27.0
20 ' 22 years old 19 10.0 10.0 37.0
23 and above years old 3 63.0 63.0 100.0
Total 100.0 100.0
Figure 4.2: Age group of respondents
Based on Figure 4.2, the majority respondents come from age between 20-22 years old (63%) and follow by 27% which belong 17-19 years old. There is only 10% respondents is 23 years old and above.
Table 4.3 Reliability Test
Variable No of Items Cronbach's Alpha
University Reputation 3 0.8770
E-word of mouth 3 0.7212
Brand Exposure 3 0.8267
Brand Awareness 3 0.7232
Table 4.4 Multiple Linear Regressions
4.1 Findings and Discussion (pilot study)
Table 4.1 and table 4.2 is showing the gender and also the age group of our respondents. We have 30 respondents to take our survey.
Moreover, in previous chapter, we have state that we going to use the SAS program to test whether there is a relationship between our independent variables and dependent variable or not.
Thus, before we continue our research we need to test whether our variables can be use for our research or not. Therefore, we use Cronbach's Alpha (reliability test) to test whether our independent variables are reliable or not. If the level of result is 0.70 or higher then it is reliable. From the Table 4.3 all of the independent variables are reliable and dependent variable also. University reputation (IV1) which the number 0.8770 , E-word of mouth (IV2) with the number 0.7212, brand exposure (IV3) with the number 0.8267 and also brand awareness (DV) with the number 0.7232. As we can see, the result for all of the items of this research was in the range which from 0.70 so we can conclude that there has a good reliability between the items.
Besides that, we have used another analysis tool to determine whether we need accept the independent or not. The multiple regressions is used to test which independent variables is more significance to dependent variable.
From the table 4.4, we can see the result of multiple linear regressions. We can know whether our independent variables have relationship with our dependent variable or not. If the significance level of this research is 0.05, that mean there is a significance relationship between our IV and DV. Thus, for the university reputation (IV1), its Pr is 0.0475 so we can say that there a significance relationship between university reputation and brand awareness. Follow by another two IV which are E-word of mouth and brand exposure, the Pr value for them are <0.001 and 0.0473. So, these two variables also have significance relationship with our brand awareness. From the table 4.2 we can see that our second IV ( E-word of mouth) has better impact towards our DV.
Last but not least, we conclude that, E-word of mouth has more significance relationship with brand awareness compare with others independent variables.
5.0 Conclusion and Implications
5.1 Overall Conclusion
Based on our study, we have covered problem statement and research objectives in chapter one. Chapter two is doing about literature review and past studies and these studies is help to identify independent variables which the factors affecting our potential student's brand awareness towards UTAR. Other than this, a conceptual framework helped us to identify the relationship among independent variables and dependent variable. In chapter three, the chosen of research methodology such as research design, sampling design, data collection procedures, pilot study, research instrument and data analysis tools has been proposed. In the last chapter which is chapter 4, using the SAS program we find out the data for our research and also interpret them. So, by using SAS program, we have concluded the hypotheses have significant relationship between university reputations, e-word of mouth, and brand exposure towards our potential students' brand awareness towards UTAR. From the research, we found e-word of mouth have greater impact towards the brand awareness. Moreover, university reputations and brand exposure have not so much impact towards brand awareness compare to e-word of mouth.
5.2 Theoretical Implication
In our study, we conduct a new framework our study. According to this framework, there are some variables will affect the brand awareness towards a university which are university reputations, electronic word of mouth and brand exposure. This new framework helped us to find out the relationship between university reputations, electronic word of mouth and brand exposure with brand awareness have significance relationship. Therefore, this new framework can be used for other researcher to have their future studies in other industries that may help to enhance their business performance.
First of all, electronic word of mouth is important to help a business enhance the brand awareness and maintain the relationship with customers. Therefore, it able helps the business gain more profit. Secondly, brand exposure also important to a business when developing brand awareness. Because after businesses implement the brand, they need use some media to exposure their brand to customers knows. The last but not least, reputation is important to a company when they want to develop their brand awareness. Because people may think if the company has good reputation they will to try on it.
Moreover, for future researcher, beside our independent variables they may find more variables which will affect the brand awareness.
5.3 Managerial Implication
Electronic word of mouth is the variable that has the strongest impact for potential student's brand awareness towards UTAR. Electronic word of mouth is quite important to help to create the brand awareness for those potential students towards UTAR. Word of mouth is spreading the news to each other and for electronic word of mouth is using the internet/website to spread the news. The technology is getting more and more innovative, most of people are know how to use internet. Therefore, electronic word of mouth is a method that to help those marketers reduce the cost of advertising and can reach their customer more effective.
The next variable is brand exposure which has less impact for potential student's brand awareness towards UTAR compare to e-word of mouth. When after a brand built, find its target market, the brand will start to exposure itself by some strategies. This called brand exposure. Marketers can use come marketing communication to develop the brand exposure for example advertising on social media. This may help the company exposure the brand to customers knows.
In my study, university reputation is the last variable that affects our brand awareness towards UTAR. In past studies, there are some researchers stated that university reputation has greater impact in affecting student's brand awareness for choosing a university. Moreover, a good reputation may help to build stronger brand awareness for the university.
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