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Master Thesis

MSc. Business Administration – Consumer Marketing

“Your preference” within fast fashion

A survey study on the moderating role of personalization in the relationship between perceived fit and brand credibility in fast fashion

University of Amsterdam

Faculty of Economics and Business Academic year 2021-2022

Student: Helena Lianne Becking Student ID: 13342371

Thesis supervisor: Dr Marco R. H. Mossinkoff Submission date: 27-01-2022 (final version) Amsterdam Business School, UvA

EBEC approval number: EC 20211019101055 Word count: 14654

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Statement of originality

This document is written by Student Heleen Becking who declares to take full responsibility for the contents of this document.

I declare that the text and the work presented in this document are original and that no sources other than those mentioned in the text and its references have been used in creating it.

UvA Economics and Business is responsible solely for the supervision of completion of the work, not for the contents.

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Theses

1) ““Your preference”. See yourself in the product and any other fit is redundant” - Heleen Becking

2) “You never have the wind with you – either it is against you or you’re having a good day”

(Daniel Behrman).

3) “We throw in extra parts, just to mess with you” (Ikea).

4) “Green washing at its best, when brands talk the talk but don’t walk the walk” (Thesis study respondent, 2021).

5) “We should note that the idea of “creation” is not simply about the creation of things, it is also about interpretation and meaning making” (Johnson, 2010).

6) “Bijna alles is logisch. Veel mensen zien dat het fout gaat. Veel minder zien wat er fout gaat”

(Johan Cruijff).

Almost everything is logical. Many people see it going wrong. Less people see what is going wrong.

7) “The aesthetics of brand strategy are driven by the classical notion of "good fit," a concept that explains the beauty and parsimony of a "perfect" solution to a functional problem” (Franzen &

Moriarty, 2009).

8) “You raise the blade, you make the change” (Pink Floyd, Brain Damage).

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Acknowledgement

I would like to express my appreciation and gratitude to my thesis supervisor, Dr. Marco Mossinkoff, for his guidance throughout this research process. He made it possible to conduct this research and offered advice and encouragement with his great knowledge of the fashion industry. With his critical viewpoint, he provided me with feedback during the process and encouraged me to delve deeper into the topic.

I would also like to thank Yujie Cheng for the interesting and educating lectures on the Thesis Workshop Survey Design and the Thesis Quantitative Data Analysis course.

I have been working on this thesis with great enthusiasm and have gained plentiful knowledge on this topic, for which I am grateful.

Heleen Becking

Amsterdam January 2022

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Abstract

A prominent area in the fashion industry is sustainable retailing. Several fast fashion brands have extended their clothing lines with a sustainable collection. Individuals are principally sceptic about brands claiming to develop clothing lines with sustainable ingredients. This study looks at the perceptions of fit of a sustainable line extension introduced by a fast fashion brand.

Prior studies have indicated a positive effect of perceived fit on brand attitude. So far, no light has been shed on what brands could do to create brand credibility without a perceived fit. This research examines how the moderating effect of personalization through co-creation plays a role in the relationship between fit and brand credibility. This study also identifies the different values of consumers with regards to the personalization of a sustainable line extension. A self- reported survey was conducted using a brand extension and co-creation scenario of Zara as stimuli. For N = 151, the results provide the support that personalization negatively correlates with the relationship between perceived fit and brand credibility. Specifically, deepening analyses suggest that for a low perceived fit, high credibility is assumed for a high level of personalization. Vice versa, for a high perceived fit, low credibility is assumed for a high level of personalization. The results also reveal that personalization positively correlates with brand credibility. Which means, there is a high level of credibility for a high level of co-creation. The results of this study lead to valuable theoretical implications. The insights gained from this study lead to a set of advices for fashion brands that seek to increase brand credibility in sustainability.

Keywords: Fast fashion, Sustainability, Brand extension, Perceived fit, Brand credibility, Co- creation, Personalization.

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Table of content

STATEMENT OF ORIGINALITY ... 2

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT ... 4

ABSTRACT ... 5

CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION ... 9

1.1GENERAL INTRODUCTION ... 9

1.1.1 The gap ... 10

1.1.2 Goal of the study ... 11

1.1.3 Research question ... 12

1.1.4 Sub-questions ... 12

1.2THEORETICAL AND MANAGERIAL CONTRIBUTIONS ... 12

1.3OUTLINE ... 14

CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW ... 15

2.1SUSTAINABILITY IN FAST FASHION ... 15

Sustainability ... 15

Fast fashion ... 16

Scepticism ... 17

2.2BRAND EXTENSIONS ... 17

Brand activism and congruency ... 18

Types of brand extensions ... 19

2.3PERCEIVED FIT ... 20

Types of fit ... 20

Construal level theory ... 20

2.4BRAND CREDIBILITY ... 21

Loved brands ... 22

2.5CO-CREATION WITH ITS PERSONALIZATION ... 23

Brand connection matrix ... 24

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2.6CONCEPTUAL MODEL ... 27

CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY ... 28

3.1METHOD ... 28

3.2DATA COLLECTION PROCESS AND SAMPLE ... 29

3.3STUDY QUESTIONNAIRE ... 30

3.4MEASURES ... 32

Perceived fit ... 32

Brand credibility ... 34

Personalization through co-creation ... 35

CHAPTER 4. RESULTS ... 37

4.1FREQUENCIES ... 37

4.2DESCRIPTIVE STATISTICS ... 38

4.2.1 Recoding counter indicative items ... 38

4.2.2 Normality check ... 39

4.2.3 Exploratory factor analysis ... 39

4.2.4 Reliability analysis ... 40

4.2.5 Correlational analysis ... 41

4.3HYPOTHESES TESTING ... 44

4.3.1 Direct effect ... 44

4.3.2 Moderation effect ... 46

CHAPTER 5. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION ... 49

5.1GENERAL DISCUSSION ... 49

5.2CONCLUSIONS ... 52

5.3THEORETICAL IMPLICATIONS ... 53

5.4MANAGERIAL IMPLICATIONS ... 55

CHAPTER 6. LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS ... 56

REFERENCES ... 59

APPENDICES ... 74

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APPENDIX A.TYPOLOGY FIGURE OF BRAND ACTIVISM ... 74

APPENDIX B.COVER LETTER AND INFORMED CONSENT ... 75

APPENDIX C.IDENTIFICATION QUESTIONS ... 78

APPENDIX D.SURVEY QUESTIONNAIRE ... 80

APPENDIX E.STIMULUS BRAND EXTENSION ... 92

APPENDIX F.STIMULUS CO-CREATION OFFER ... 93

APPENDIX G.HISTOGRAMS OF THE NORMALLY DISTRIBUTED VARIABLES ... 94

APPENDIX H.BOXPLOTS OF THE NORMALLY DISTRIBUTED VARIABLES ... 95

List of tables and figures List of tables Table 1. Cronbach’s Alpha 40

Table 2. Descriptive statistics and correlations between key variables 41

Table 3. Hierarchical regression model of Brand Credibility 44

Table 4. PROCESS model 1 47

Table 5. Overview outcomes of hypotheses 48

List of figures Figure 1. Framework of optimal congruence 18

Figure 2. Brand connection matrix 25

Figure 3. Conceptual model 27

Figure 4. Conceptual model 32

Figure 5. Correlation between key variables Perceived Fit and Brand Credibility 43

Figure 6. Correlation between key variables Personalization and Brand Credibility 43

Figure 7. Conceptual model with coefficient values 46

Figure 8. Effect of levels of Personalization on relation Perceived fit and Brand Credibility 48

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Chapter 1. Introduction

“Marketing does not simply surround us, it envelops us; it is in part how a society defines itself and its treatment of its members”. - Marketing ethicist George Brenkert (2008, p. 357)

1.1 General introduction

Nowadays, one of the most prominent areas in the field is sustainable retailing of second-hand fashion (Ryding et al., 2017). Second-hand fashion consumption finds itself in a state of global growth, being defined as ‘pre-loved or pre-owned’ (Ryding et al., 2017). According to an Oxfam report, global trade in second-hand retailing has been growing since 1990. Looking at the vintage clothing trend for example, started with iconic British celebrities such as Kate Moss and David Beckham, entrepreneurs seek new opportunities underpinning this overall growth of second-hand clothing sales (Ryding et al., 2017). Over the past few years, several brands have extended their clothing lines with a sustainable extension (Hill, 2011). Likewise, fast fashion brands develop these collections. These are brands situated within a category that satisfies consumers with low prices, trendiness, and frequent merchandise turnover (Kim & Oh, 2020). For example, H&M has created a ‘Conscious’- line, using recycled materials. It is found that consumers view sustainable products as fitting with fast fashion retailers, based on knowledge and affect with regards to the brand and cause of the extension (Hill, 2011). It would be interesting to discover how this ‘fit’ influences a brand’s credibility. Lafferty and Goldsmith highlight the importance of corporate credibility. They touch on credibility as a strong influence on a consumer’s attitude towards a brand, leading to a consumer’s purchase intentions (Lafferty, 2007).

According to prior academic scholars, consumers rate a product’s quality and trust higher when they are customized or personalized (Sundar & Marathe 2010). When consumers are involved in the production process of their product, the perceived transparency of

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companies is higher, leading to a higher trust (Nyilasy et al., 2014). This also results from consumers recognising their values within products (Ramaswamy, 2008). Companies like Nike involve their customers in the value creation process by providing opportunities to create customized sneakers. Therefore, it is valuable to find out how personalization, through a process of co-creation, could affect the relationship between perceived fit and brand credibility.

Nowadays, people are mostly sceptic about fashion brands claiming to develop clothing lines with sustainable ingredients (Lipke, 2008; Nyilasy et al., 2014). Due to this scepticism, brands must become more transparent to their customers about these claims and production processes to gain their trust. It would be of added value to find out how credibility would be influenced by a brand’s offer of creating the product ‘together’, for consumers not naturally perceiving a fit. Specifically, for fashion brands launching a sustainable line extension.

1.1.1 The gap

The reasoning in the previous paragraph clearly demonstrates that a perceived fit between a parent brand and its sustainable brand extension affects brand attitude. Very few published works have focused on analyzing perceived fit of sustainable brand extensions in the fast fashion sector for sustainable clothing (Chatterjee, 2009; Liao et al., 2008). Extensions should be done on knowledge about fashion brands introducing sustainable line extensions and its effect on consumers’ credibility perception of the brand. Some brands do not succeed in creating credibility among their consumers after launching sustainable brand extensions, which is why a moderator role is the subject of investigation in this study. For brands to understand the consumers’ demand towards sustainable extensions, they need to understand the consumers’

values on sustainability, with a close eye on personalization (Lueg et al., 2015). No clarity exists

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Research so far has only investigated the impact of perceived fit on change in one outcome variable, brand attitude. It would add more depth to understanding feedback effects, if the focus of research would be directed to the impact on other aspects of the brand, e.g., credibility (Dwivedi et al., 2010). Little is known about how consumers rank the credibility of a brand, when having a personal fit1 with the product. Therefore, the results of assessing a new moderator of personalization for the relation between perceived fit and credibility would be academically contributing. According to Ferraro et al. (2016), there is an academic lack of research on the relation between sustainable shopping motivations and consumers’ values (Ferraro et al., 2016). Little is known about consumers valuing personalization and co-creation in brand extensions in general, which makes it an interesting topic to generate knowledge on (Lueg et al., 2015). Through this research, a gap will be filled on whether perceived differences in fit will matter, even though consumers consider the credibility of the brand, based on different factors, such as personalization.

1.1.2 Goal of the study

This study aims to identify the relationship between a consumer’s perceived fit between the associations with the parent brand and its sustainable line extension, and the brand’s credibility.

Additionally, the study examines how a moderating role of co-creating personalized sustainable clothing relates to this direct relation. The following research question and sub-questions have been formed, to conduct the research.

1 Personal fit refers to when one’s values are seen back in the product itself, the ‘preference fit’ = the fit between

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1.1.3 Research question

“How does personalization through the co-creation of sustainable clothing relate to the effect of perceived fit between a brand extension of a sustainable clothing line and the fast fashion parent brand on brand credibility?”.

1.1.4 Sub-questions

To give an answer to the research question, the following sub-questions have been formulated.

The first sub-question focuses on the relation between the perceived fit and the credibility of the sustainable clothing line. The second sub-question is designed to determine if and how personalization and perceived fit correlate. The third sub-question examines if and how personalization and brand credibility are correlated. Finally, the fourth sub-question investigates how personalization correlates with brand credibility in case of a lack of perceived fit.

Sub-question 1: “How does perceived fit between the brand extension of a sustainable clothing line and the fast fashion parent brand relate to brand credibility?”

Sub-question 2: “Does the offer of co-creating personalized sustainable clothing in the line extension relate positively or negatively to perceived fit?”

Sub-question 3: “Does the offer of co-creating personalized sustainable clothing in the line extension relate positively or negatively to brand credibility?”

Sub-question 4: “In case of a lack of perceived fit, how does personalization relate to brand credibility?”

1.2 Theoretical and managerial contributions

Academically, the study adds to the knowledge of brands introducing sustainable line

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industry consumers are sceptical about sustainable claims made by fast fashion retailers (Lipke, 2008; Mintel, 2009; Nyilasy et al., 2014). Studying the outcome of brand credibility as a result of perceived fit sheds light on transparency by introducing co-creation. This provides a richer market dynamic process of brand extensions and thus perceived fit on credibility resulting from the moderating effect of personalized offers. In addition, the study contributes to scientific knowledge of co-creating brands being possibly rated higher on credibility by consumers than non-co-creating brands. This way, the study has a conceptual contribution to theories on fast fashion brands introducing sustainable line extensions.

For marketers working in the fast-growing sustainable clothing market, the study gives beneficial strategic recommendations to meet the values and motives of consumers for purchasing sustainable clothing (Ramaswamy, 2008). In addition, co-creation makes that companies could learn directly from customer’s direct input of preferences and build relationships with customers. For managers working in the field of sustainable line extensions, it may be useful to gain insights into the consumers’ values with regard to the motives behind the extension. In addition, the importance of perceived fit is highlighted in the literature.

Managers should keep in mind these values and adjust marketing of the line extension to the values of the perceived fit of consumers to develop credibility (Hill, 2011). Moreover, retailers should leverage on consumers’ knowledge of the brand through marketing of sustainable products. Studying the importance of transparency by introducing a moderator factor into the model, considers the managerial contribution for fashion retailers and marketers working in the field of sustainable line extensions. It provides knowledge on how personalization through co- creation can add to brand credibility when there is a lack of fit between the sustainable extension and the brand.

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1.3 Outline

After this introduction, the second section provides an in-depth analysis of existing literature which contributes to the study of several variables focused on in this study. The literature overview starts with the lately evolving sustainability trend in fast fashion and motives for second-hand shopping. Secondly, the importance of brand authenticity and brand congruence will be discussed, followed by an elaboration on different types of brand extensions. Third, to designate the importance of a consumer’s perceived fit between associations of the parent brand and its extension, several literature theories about this are reviewed. Fourth, the review sheds light on brand credibility and the dimensions essential to create this, such as trust and commitment. This subchapter also clarifies the phenomenon of ‘greenwashing’ and indicates an additional value for fast fashion companies to critically look at the fit when launching a sustainable line extension. The last part of the literature review includes the role of co-creation and personalization and focuses on why this variable could be positively related to credibility.

Chapter 3 describes the method used for this study, presenting its design, sample, and data collection processes and elaborating on the variables’ conducted measures, in detail. After this, the fourth chapter reveals the quantitative results of the study and analyzes these using frequencies and descriptive statistics and tests the hypotheses operating a linear regression analysis and a PROCESS macro of Hayes (2014), through SPSS. Chapter 5, the discussion, summarizes and concludes the findings in the light of the hypotheses, answers the research question and elaborates on this for managerial and theoretical implications. Finally, chapter 6 presents several limitations of the study and gives directions for follow-up studies.

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Chapter 2. Literature review

Academic research has pointed out the impact of perceived fit between the parent brand’s associations and its brand extension, on brand attitude. In addition, research has shed light on the emerging trend of sustainability and the importance of credibility, transparency and personal values within this trend. A critical in-depth literature review on these topics, categorically in the fast fashion industry, follows in the following subchapters. This is to provide the foundation on which this research is built (Saunders et al., 2019). Subchapter 2.6 formulates the hypotheses and this study’s conceptual model.

2.1 Sustainability in fast fashion

“Consumers talk in general terms of saving the environment, are committed to recycling, and express dedication to organic food… Yet, these very same consumers routinely availed themselves of trend-led fashionable clothing that was cheap: i.e., low cost to them, but high cost in environmental and societal terms”. (Joy et al., 2012, p. 280).

Sustainability

Sustainability has been and still is, emerging as a ‘mega-trend’ (Ryding et al., 2017). It is one of the most dominant considerations for millennial corporations. For decades, a big concern has been acknowledged for the environment, resulting in second-hand fashion becoming increasingly favoured nowadays (Beard, 2008; Koch & Domina, 1997). By offering quality and authenticity of vintage products, the second-hand market has the opportunity for brands to limit negative experiences that can damage brand images. For this reason, many clothing brands have been extending their brand domains with sustainable fashion lines (Abbes et al., 2020). Ryding et al. (2017) review the attitudinal and behavioural motivators towards sustainable consumption for the fashion industry (Ryding et al., 2017). Together with findings of research

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by Ferraro et al. (2016), the motives ‘a need for uniqueness and exclusiveness’, ‘personalized value seeking’, ‘fashion involvement’ and ‘avoidance toward classic market systems’ can be identified (Cervellon et al., 2012; Ferraro et al., 2016, p. 266). The current industry makes clothing out of recycled materials offering charm with a vintage touch (Ryding et al., 2017).

Some retailers in the denim industry, such as Levi Strauss, currently identify themselves by encouraging consumers to return old jeans to clean, repair and resell them as vintage (Cervellon et al., 2012). Another example is Yves Saint Laurent, introducing a recycled unique collection in 2010, called ‘New Vintage’. Over the past years, many companies have added sustainable line extensions to their brand domains to keep up with this evolving trend (Hill, 2011). For instance, H&M and Zara, with their ‘Conscious’ lines, “Created with a little extra consideration for the planet” (Whiting, 2019).

Fast fashion

Fast fashion, also called ‘disposable’ fashion, has continued to gain popularity and profits over de last decades due to its affordability and cheap fabrics (Joy et al., 2012; Park & Kim, 2016). Kim and Oh (2020) define fast fashion as “A brand category that satisfies consumers with low prices, trendiness, and frequent merchandise turnover. At the same time, these brands face many problems in the manufacturing and distribution process, including human rights violations, low wages, and environmental pollution” (Kim & Oh, 2020, p. 3). Even though, companies like Zara have a proven negative environmental footprint, cause severe environmental pollution and are pointed out as the leading fashion industry culprit, they are striving to create sustainable fashion that highlights social responsibility and awareness.

Nevertheless, sceptical consumers still distrust the eco-friendly efforts of these brands (Joung, 2014; Kim & Oh, 2020).

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Scepticism

Consumers support sustainability in general. However, when there is no perceived fit of brands claiming sustainability, the corporate’s operation could be seen as greenwashing (Lipke, 2008).

This phenomenon occurs when companies offer false claims on, in this case, their clothing extensions, about the sustainability of products (Nyilasy et al., 2014; Vredenburg et al., 2020).

These false claims negatively affect the attitude towards the brand extension. Consumers become sceptic about the sustainable claims of fast fashion brands and due to this scepticism, brands need to aim for transparency about sustainability and more meaningful claims (Lipke, 2008; Mintel, 2009; Nyilasy et al., 2014). To build trust, become transparent and provide consumers with information and education on the environmental impact of line extensions, companies could involve customers in the creation process and with this, produce personalized clothing (Hill, 2011). However, there is a lack of research on personalization combined with claims on sustainability through clothing extensions aiming for increased brand credibility.

2.2 Brand extensions

The literature on brand extensions has been derived from evaluating them with research on the effect of brand extensions on parent brands2 (Dwivedi et al., 2010). This effect is called the

‘feedback effect’, which can be either positive or negative, resulting in a corresponding attitude towards a brand. Dwivedi et al. (2010) suggest that transportation of attitude and knowledge from the parent brand takes place to the brand extension when a brand extension is launched.

With this, a perception of fit is developed, based on shared associations, between the parent brand and the extension (Dwivedi et al., 2010; Keller & Aaker, 1992).

2 Parent brand, or parent company is a brand controlling subsidiaries, which are the entities the brand has a

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Brand activism and congruency

Research by Vredenburg et al. (2020) shows that brands could either develop a brand extension with an authentic brand activism cause or an inauthentic brand activism cause (Vredenburg et al., 2020). When a brand matches its messaging, purpose and values of the extension with its prosocial corporate practices, it engages in authentic brand activism. Nevertheless, when the brand mismatches its activist messaging from its purpose, values and approach, it is engaging in inauthentic brand activism through ‘woke washing’. Woke washing is defined as “Potentially misleading consumers with their claims, damaging both their brand equity and potential for social change” (Vredenburg et al., 2020, p. 444). An overview of the typologies in brand activism, according to Vredenburg et al. (2020), can be found in Appendix A.

Vredenburg et al. (2020) also focus on the congruence between the parent brand and

“The controversial socio-political cause it engages with, in activism attempts” (Vredenburg et al., 2020, p. 452). A moderate level of incongruence may lead to elaborate evaluations and consumers perceiving it as more interesting. Therefore, moderate incongruency is ideal for brands in terms of equity outcomes than complete congruence and complete incongruence.

Figure 1 shows this relationship between the brand and socio-political cause factors.

Figure 1. Framework of optimal congruence (Vredenburg et al., 2020)

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Types of brand extensions

Several types of extensions can be identified, based on the article of Chatterjee (2009) (Chatterjee, 2009). First, a brand extension can be horizontal or vertical. Horizontal brand extensions are extensions with products of the same price/quality level. Within horizontal brand extensions, a brand could be entering new product categories, called a category extension, or stick to the same product category, defined as a line extension. A brand creates products within the same category for vertical extensions, but either on an upscale or down scale price and quality level. According to Dwivedi et al. (2010), brand extension success alone does not guarantee a positive brand attitude. The brand extension should associate with the parent brand to have this viable marketing investment of an extension (Dwivedi et al., 2010). According to the results of the study by Dwivedi et al., it can be stated that perceived fit is one of the strongest influences on brand extension feedback, which makes it an important variable to do research on. Moreover, Swaminathan suggests that for fast fashion brands introducing a brand extension, communication is crucial for loyalty and purchase behavior of the subsequent extension (Swaminathan, 2003). Consequently, providing the consumer with information on the fashion extension makes the consumer more familiar with the brand extension’s marketing strategy and pay more attention to the parent brand (Choi et al., 2010).

Based on literature within this phenomenon, a lack of knowledge is observed about fast fashion brands introducing sustainable line extensions and its effect on a consumer’s perceived fit between the associations of the parent brand and the brand extension (Chatterjee, 2009; Liao et al., 2020). In the fashion industry, a fit between a parent brand and its sustainable clothing extension could affect credibility (Hill & Lee, 2015; Lafferty, 2007). The concept of fit will be discussed in the following subchapter, in which brand associations play a supreme role (Broniarczyk & Alba, 1994).

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2.3 Perceived fit

Literature states that environmentally friendly brands, generally create higher purchase intentions and more favorable brand attitudes among their consumers (Bartels & Hoogendam, 2011; Sander et al., 2021). However, a brand or line extension could negatively affect brand evaluations when a lack of perceived fit occurs. This perceived fit holds correspondence between “The number of shared associations between the parent brand and its extension”

(Keller & Aaker, 1992, p. 38; Lafferty, 2007). The greater this number, the greater the fit. The perceived fit consumers identify can thus be seen as a mediator of the relation between a brand extension and the attitude towards a brand.

Types of fit

Researchers identify a brand fit and a category fit between the brand extension and the parent brand (Bridges et al., 2000; DelVecchio & Smith, 2005). If the extension can be identified with the brand and the products are congruent with the brand image, the brand fit is high. When the extension can be identified with the product category of the brand and the products are prototypical for the product category, the product fit is high. For fashion brands extending their brand domains by adding a sustainable fashion line, the focus is on the brand fit. Resulting from various research on marketing phenomena, such as brand extensions, the congruence theory supports the effects of this fit (Lafferty, 2007; Vredenburg, 2020). This theory is defined as

“The storage and retrieval of information from memory influenced by relatedness or similarity”

(Lafferty, 2007, p. 448).

Construal level theory

Another theory affiliated with perceived fit is the construal level theory by Liberman and Trope

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importance on perceived fit when they see stimuli in terms of abstract features. Additionally, consumers give less importance to perceived fit and more importance to concrete elements of the brand extension when they construe stimuli in terms of concrete and contextual elements (Kim & John, 2008). This finding leads to an interesting gap in research on brands offering some kind of contextual features to the brand extension to lower the consumer’s importance of fit. Offering contextual features is associated with the offer of co-creation, creating a concrete view on the brand extension by generating and developing meaning in the process of interaction (Ind & Coates, 2013; Johnson, 2010). However, only little research has been done on the effect of a lack of perceived fit on credibility for fast fashion companies launching a sustainable line extension and what a brand could do to accomplish brand credibility still.

2.4 Brand credibility

A brand’s credibility can be defined as “A dimension of corporate reputation and represents the degree to which consumers, investors, and other constituents believe in the company's trustworthiness and expertise” (Lafferty, 2007, p. 448). As mentioned in subchapter 2.3, academic research has pointed out that a high perceived fit between the parent brand and its extension affects the attitude towards a brand positively (Dwivedi et al., 2010). Lafferty and Goldsmith (2008) found that corporate credibility strongly affects attitude towards a brand, which leads to a consumer’s purchase intentions (Lafferty, 2007). Therefore, a consumer’s considered brand credibility is deemed important. Low credibility results from a lack of congruence between the brand and the activism cause of the brand extension (Carter & Curry, 2013). If credibility is low, as found in the Journal of Marketing Research, evaluations of the proposed extensions and the brand itself will be inadequate (del Barrio-García & Prados-Peña, 2019). Moreover, a consumer’s trust will be damaged in believing the brand’s capacity and willingness to consistently deliver what is promised, which results in a lower commitment (del

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Barrio-García & Prados-Peña, 2019). Lower commitment and trust in a brand lead to a lack of customer loyalty towards a brand (Homburg & Giering, 2001; Shin & Thai, 2015).

Loved brands

In the research by Batra et al. (2012) on brand love, it is found that brand love effectively predicts loyalty, worth of mouth and resistance to negative information (Batra et al., 2012). The last is interesting for this study, considering it could help managers turn merely liked fast fashion brands with a low perceived fit, into loved brands. Additionally, loved brands maintain high means of brand prototype factors, which include a ‘sense of natural fit’ and ‘self-brand identification’ (Batra et al., 2012). These can be translated to the preference fit induced by co- creation (Batra et al., 2012; Franke et al., 2009). Preference fit is defined as the fit between consumer preference and product attributes (Moon & Lee, 2014). Finally, it has been mentioned that, in order to build this ‘brand love’, managers should let consumers create a positive emotional connection with the brand (Hwang & Kandampully, 2012; Loureiro et al., 2012).

This includes a sense of attachment and may be achieved by funding a brand with authenticity, which is also associated with and can be developed by a co-creation personalization process of products.

Brand credibility consists of two components: trustworthiness and expertise (Erdem &

Swait, 1998). Trustworthiness refers to “The willingness of firms to deliver what they have promised” and expertise is “The ability of firms to deliver what they have promised” (p. 138).

Further elements as commitment, attractiveness and forgiveness are also fundamental for a brand to be credible (Wang & Yang, 2010). Brand credibility reflects the consistency of the whole marketing mix3, because a consumer’s perceived trustworthiness and expertise of a brand

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rest on a brand’s previous marketing strategies (Erdem & Swait, 1998; del Barrio-García &

Prados-Peña, 2019). Studies indicate that the influence of sustainable brand extensions on positive brand trustworthiness, may not be feasible for fast fashion brands. Consumers may still develop brand trust and loyalty for fast fashion brands, despite perceiving unfavorable features of these brands’ sustainable leadership (Park & Kim, 2016).

Given its importance to organizations, it is surprising that relatively little research has been conducted on finding other variables that may affect a brand’s credibility. Hence, studying new moderators that could have an effect on the relation between perceived fit and a brand’s credibility will be academically contributing. Specifically, little knowledge has been defined on whether perceived differences in fit will matter, even though consumers consider the credibility of the firm based on other factors. Therefore, it would be interesting to determine the extent to which a fast fashion brand can be reactive in its sustainability initiatives by extending and still be credible, regardless of fit. It is expected that people perceiving a fit would have a higher brand credibility, than people not perceiving a fit. This leads to the following hypothesis:

H1: A perceived fit between a brand extension of a sustainable clothing line and the fast fashion parent brand is positively related to brand credibility.

2.5 Co-creation with its personalization

Co-creation is a phenomenon utilized increasingly by companies to create product innovations together with the consumer (Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2014). Prahalad and Ramaswamy (2004) define it as “The process in which both parties systematically interact, learn, share information and integrate resources to create personalized value jointly” (p. 7). According to several studies, co-creation increases product relevance and performance and helps brands open up new

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markets, for instance in case of brand extensions (van Dijk et al., 2014). Linking this to sustainable fashion, according to van Dijk et al. (2014), co-creation is progressively fundamental for physical product development and as studies suggest, co-creation can lead to positive product perceptions and behavioural intentions. Co-created products are perceived as more attractive, innovative, unique and better suited to the needs of the consumer (van Dijk et al., 2014). According to France et al. (2020), the process provides the customer with awareness of the sources of product quality and expectations of performance improvements (France et al., 2020).

Brand connection matrix

The phenomenon co-creation creates a relationship between a consumer and a brand (Cambra- Fierro et al., 2018). One can classify different relationship concepts with the brand based on the Brand Connection Matrix with its functional connections and emotional connections (Fletscherin & Heinrich, 2014). The matrix in figure 2 implies four dimensions: ‘functionally invested’, ‘fully invested’, ‘un-invested’ and ‘emotionally invested’. Functionally invested consumers are satisfied with the brand’s performance and are not as price-sensitive as ‘un- invested’ consumers, but the functionally invested consumers might switch brands. Fully invested consumers ‘love’ the brand, are fully connected and outcomes of this type of relationship lead to brand loyalty and higher brand forgiveness. Emotionally invested consumers like brands for affective reasons, such as meeting their personal values, even though the brand has functional shortcomings. The emotional needs compensate for these functional shortcomings. It is associated with the situation in which consumers do not perceive a fit between the parent brand’s values and the brand extension’s values, but when there is an emotional connection, this shortcoming might be overlooked.

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Figure 2. Brand connection matrix (Fletscherin & Heinrich, 2014)

Identifying with a brand

Resulting from qualitative research by Cecilia Fredriksson (2013), informants buying sustainable clothing, isolate themselves from others and seek to value unique things, highlighting that material values did not drive them, but instead strived to a modest way of living and connecting to their ‘own identity and personality’ (Fredriksson, 2013). This is in line with elements of the brand love prototype of Batra et al. (2012). Consumers strongly identify with things they love, “Reflecting the important function of loved brands in expressing existing identities and enacting desired identities” (Batra et al., 2012, p. 4). Consumers’ identification occurs through the relationship with the product and the brand’s facilitation of interpersonal relationships. Another element of brand love associated with personalization is ‘a sense of natural fit’ (Batra et al., 2012). The sense of a natural fit and harmony with a brand lead to a certain relationship with a brand and a strong feeling of advocacy. The third element of the prototype complementing co-creation is the ‘frequent thought and use’, arguing that to gain a relationship with a brand, the consumer must engage in frequent, interactive behavior with the brand and its products (Fournier, 1998). This specific element would be implemented during the process of co-creating products in a collaboration between the brand and the consumer.

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As previously discussed, transparency for sustainability claims in brand extensions becomes essential to avoid any scepticism among consumers and to build trust (Kim & Han, 2014; Resnik & Alcorn, 2018; Strähle & Klatt, 2016). Hence, it would be interesting for marketing managers to understand how offering a co-creation option of personalized clothing would affect the brand extension’s credibility, if one’s values return in the product itself, indicating the ‘preference fit’ (van Dijk et al., 2014; Franke et al., 2009; Merz et al., 2018). It would contribute to scientific knowledge of co-creating brands being possibly valued and rated higher on credibility and attitude by consumers than non-co-creating brands because of more transparency (van Dijk et al., 2014). A lack in research results can be identified on the moderating factor of personalization on the relation between the perceived fit and credibility.

It would be managerially and theoretically relevant to look at this moderator and its result in credibility. Therefore, the following hypotheses are formulated:

H2a: Personalization through co-creation moderates the relationship between the perceived fit between a brand extension of a sustainable clothing line and the fast fashion parent brand and the brand credibility, such that this relationship is stronger for a high level of personalization.

H2b: Personalization through co-creation moderates the relationship between the perceived fit between a brand extension of a sustainable clothing line and the fast fashion parent brand and the brand credibility, such that this relationship is weaker for a high level of personalization.

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2.6 Conceptual model

This study aims to theoretically conceptualize and empirically demonstrate the effect of personalization from a brand on the relationship between the perceived fit and brand credibility in the fast fashion industry. Taken together the literature review and research gaps, the study proposes the following conceptual model including associated hypotheses (figure 3).

Figure 3. Conceptual model

The brand extension of a sustainable clothing line can be seen as the stimulus of the conceptual framework. The construct perceived fit in this theoretical framework means the fit the consumer perceives between the associations of the fashion brand’s sustainable line extension and the parent brand’s associations. The behavior of co-creation in this theoretical framework means that the fashion brand, offering to create and design clothes from the sustainable line extension together with the consumer, generates a personalized touch and consequently reflects on the consumer’s personal values. This moderating variable, personalization, could have a positive effect on credibility, as the fit between one’s values is seen back in the product itself, delivering a closer ‘preference fit’ (Franke et al., 2009; Kim & Han, 2014; Resnik & Alcorn, 2018). The outcome variable brand credibility holds the degree to which the consumers believe in the company's trustworthiness and expertise.

Brand extension of a sustainable

clothing line

Perceived Fit Brand Credibility

Personalization through Co-

creation H2a

+ H1

H2b -

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Chapter 3. Methodology

For this study, quantitative deductive research is conducted through surveys, to predict the relation between perceived fit and brand credibility, moderated by the offer of co-created personalized sustainable clothing (Saunders et al., 2019). Perceived fit refers to the fit between a parent brand and its sustainable clothing line. Its conceptual model can be found in subchapter 2.6. The study is done through quantitative deductive methods, as this research is concerned with hypotheses testing instead of observing consumers (Lynch, 2012). A deductive approach is seen as basing analysis on pre-existing theory, whereas an inductive approach “Goes beyond the information given and makes inferences that may not be deductively valid” (Goswami, 2010, p. 405). Additionally, quantitative research is defined as “A type of research that is explaining phenomena by collecting numerical data that are analysed using mathematically based methods (in particular statistics)” (Creswell, 1994, p. 260). The hypotheses have been systematically tested whereas relationships are identified and the research question was answered.

3.1 Method

To test the theory, a survey was chosen to conduct for this specific topic, for the reason that an explanatory type of survey makes associative claims about the relationship between two or more variables (Andres, 2012; Chang, 2017). This research aimed to discover more about the relation between the variables ‘Perceived Fit’ ‘Brand Credibility’ and ‘Personalization’, stimulated by a brand extension of Zara. “Survey research comprises a cross-sectional design in relation to which data are collected by questionnaires on more than one case at a single point in time to collect a body of quantifiable data in connection with two or more variables, which are examined to detect patterns of association” (Thuerridl, 2021). Survey research is

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easier to administer, the data is consistent and comparable and coding, analysis and interpretation are elementary.

3.2 Data collection process and sample

The data collection began with an invitation letter, presented in Appendix B, for the self- administered survey sent to potential respondents through an email and was shared on social media channels such as LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook (Dillman, 2000).

Further, it was placed on online market forms such as Survey Circle, Survey Swap and LinkedIn groups. All respondents read and checked the informed consent before starting the survey. This provided information about the purpose, interpretation of results and anonymity. Anonymity was placed emphasis on, to minimize the responding bias of social desirability (Chung &

Monroe, 2003). The respondents needed to accept the informed consent before entering the survey. After finishing the questionnaire, in approximately 15 minutes, the respondents were thanked for their time and effort.

The survey started with a set of questions on interest in sustainable fashion and experience with the brand and ended with questions on demographic identification. This, to validate the control variables gender and age, which were held statistically constant (Cheng, 2021). A set of questions was asked to determine whether the respondent is familiar with Zara’s values and the respondent’s associations with Zara. The questions can be found in Appendix C.

The selected sample was approximately 150 respondents, which is generally considered a minimum requirement for an adequately empowered survey design and is in line with previous brand extension research samples (Aaker & Keller, 1990; Brysbaert, 2019; Chen &

Liu, 2004). The online survey has been developed and data collection has been done through Qualtrics.com, providing online questionnaires, which started on Thursday, November 11th, 2021 and was closed four weeks later on Thursday, December 9th, 2021 (Miller, 2020;

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Qualtrics, 2021). From the 211 respondents that started filling in the questionnaire, 151 respondents fully completed the questionnaire; these were all suitable for statistical analysis (response rate 72%). Most survey respondents were generation Y consumers between 18 and 36 years old. This sample was chosen, based on previous research on fast fashion brand extensions and the target group age of Zara (Hill & Lee, 2015; Lopez & Fan, 2009).

Furthermore, the frequency table in SPSS showed that 99.3% of the respondents were familiar with Zara and 60.9% had an interest in sustainable fashion. Moreover, 76.2% of the respondents had experience with Zara in the past 12 months and 80.8% was aware of the fact that Zara runs in the category of fast fashion. Finally, regarding gender, 116 of the 151 respondents were female. The other 23.2% identified themselves as male, non-binary or preferred not to disclose.

The average age of the respondents in years was 31. The sample of the study contained female and male consumers, despite previous research suggesting the high propensity of female consumers toward fast fashion (Kim & Oh, 2020; Morgan & Birtwistle, 2009).

3.3 Study questionnaire

The questionnaire was conducted to collect quantifiable data on to what degree respondents perceive a fit between Zara as the parent brand and its brand extension of a sustainable clothing line. A promotional ad for Zara’s brand extension was designed as the stimulus in the survey.

In order to determine an appropriate brand for the study, the following factors ensured the final selection of Zara to be successful (Choi et al., 2010). First, the respondents should be familiar with the brand and second, an outspoken attitude towards the brand was needed to get insights into the perception of fit and brand credibility. Third, a variance in the perceived fit among the respondents should occur to ensure an extensive set of results. As mentioned in subchapter 2.1, a great number of fast fashion brands are striving to be sustainable, to highlight social

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environmental footprint, causes severe environmental pollution and is pointed out as a main fashion industry culprit (Kim & Oh, 2020; Lopez & Fan, 2009;). There are still sceptical consumers distrusting the eco-friendly efforts of the brand, which is why this specific brand has been chosen for the stimulus. Zara is a Spanish go-to clothing brand, specialized in fast fashion (Kim & Oh, 2020; Lopez & Fan, 2009). The fashion group owns brands such as Pull & Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Oyscho, Stradivarius and Uterqüe. Zara manages to develop up to 20 clothing collections a year. The well-known brand is chosen for this study, as it is acknowledged for its unsustainable fabricate of clothing (Kim & Oh, 2020). Moreover, this brand is a successful stimulus for this research, as it demonstrates a high variance among the respondents’

perception of fit, ensuring comprehensive results. This variance is based on pre-test questions answered by the social network of the researcher (N = 15).

A pilot test has been executed with a separate group (N = 20) collected from the researcher’s network, to evaluate the efficiency of the brand extension and personalization stimuli. Based on this pilot test, refinements have been implemented in the questionnaire for the study. In the shape of fixed-response alternative questions, the respondents chose from a set of predetermined 5-point Likert scales and the correlation between the independent variable, perceived fit, and dependent variable, credibility, was recognised. Moreover, the offer of co- creation of personalized sustainable clothing fulfilled the role of moderator and was determined through the questionnaire as well. Questions about the moderator were asked, based on Zara personalizing a sustainable clothing line, by offering the option of creating the clothes together, co-creation4. Personalizing means the brand emphasising on the consumer’s preferences and values, through the process of co-creation (Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2014). The survey has been created and conducted through Qualtrics.com, and can be found in Appendix D (Miller,

4 Co-creation, defined as “the process in which both parties systematically interact, learn, share information and

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2020; Qualtrics, 2021). The data were collected in connection with the variables to detect patterns of association.

3.4 Measures

The following paragraphs place emphasis on the variable’s measures of this study’s conceptual model, including Perceived Fit, Brand Credibility and Personalization.

Figure 4. Conceptual model

Perceived fit

A promotional ad for Zara’s brand extension was shown to the respondents, within the questionnaire on perceived fit. A real fashion brand and its hypothetical extensions were chosen as the stimulus for perceived fit in this research, which is in line with prior brand extension research (Dwivedi et al., 2010; Hill & Lee, 2015). A real brand, Zara, was chosen, as fictitious brands do not carry well-formed associations and feelings that could lead to a sense of either perceived fit or brand credibility. Besides, using a real brand contributes to the level of realism and it therefore improves both the exactness of the research and the chance that the study provides knowledge on realistic consumer behavior (Morales et al., 2017). Increasing the

H2b - Brand extension

of a sustainable clothing line

Perceived Fit Brand Credibility

Personalization through Co-

creation H2a

+ H1

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away the intention of consumers to ‘predict’ their reaction in the consumer experience. The hypothetical brand extension scenario used as stimulus in the study was the launch of a sustainable clothing line, either perceived as in line with the parent brand’s image or not. It has been clarified in the questionnaire that the scenario of the brand launching the clothing line is purely hypothetical, which is supported by the ethical condition of debriefing (Smith &

Richardson, 1983). Appendix E shows the brand extension scenario the respondents were exposed to.

The stimulus was shown separately without any further illustration of the brand (Keller, 2003). This perceived fit of the respondents couldn’t be influenced in this way, as the mental representation of the brand and the information that appears in the respondent’s memory wouldn’t be changed. This way, the respondents had to rely on their own associations with Zara. Considering that the perceived fit is a construct that is not directly observable, respondents were asked to rate their perceived fit in self-reports on six items on 5-point scales (α = 0.76).

Similar to scales used in the past perceived fit research by Kim & John (2008) (α = 0.95) and Loken & John (1993) (α = 0.98). The focus in the questionnaire was on the perceived fit between the associations the respondents have with Zara and the values of the brand extension.

An example item is “With the brand extension’s values, Zara is operating consistently with the brand itself”, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). A high score on the scales indicated a high level of perceived fit between the parent brand and its brand extension.

In addition, and to avoid any response biases, both positively and negatively framed items were used (Baumgartner & Steenkamp, 2001). Items FitQ5_Rec and FitQ6_Rec were reverse-coded to reflect this. Furthermore, it was of added value that the respondents could write down their thoughts, without being guided into a specific direction. Which is why they could answer open questions in order to ventilate additional thoughts on the brand extension and their perceived fit (Aaker, 1992; Schwarz, 1999). Deeper insights were gained this way in motives of people

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either perceiving a fit or not. This question was coded precisely for quantitative statistical analysis.

Brand credibility

The dependent variable, brand credibility, is defined as “A dimension of corporate reputation and represents the degree to which consumers, investors, and other constituents believe in the company's trustworthiness and expertise” (Lafferty, 2007, p. 448). Given that credibility refers to trust, commitment, attractiveness, expertise and forgiveness, the questionnaire items were subdivided into these five dimensions (Wang & Yang, 2010). As this outcome variable is a construct and therefore only indirectly observable, brand credibility was measured through a self-report based on a 5-point Likert scale for 20 validated statements (α = 0.96). For illustration, an item in the category trustworthiness is “This brand does not pretend to be something it is not”. An item from the topic expertise is “This brand reminds me of someone who is competent and knows what she/he is doing” (Wang & Yang, 2010). The scales were anchored as strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5). Consistent with previous research on brand credibility using scales form Lafferty (2007) (α = 0.90) and Wang & Yang (2010) (α = 0.89 to 0.93) (Bode et al., 2011; Dimoka, 2010; Pavlou & Dimoka, 2006). A high score on the scale indicated a high level of brand credibility. To avoid any response biases, both positively and negatively framed items were used (Baumgartner & Steenkamp, 2001). Items Cred28_2_Rec, Cred29_2_Rec, Cred29_4_Rec and Cred31_2_Rec were reverse-coded to reflect this. It was of added value that the respondents could write down their thoughts, without being guided into a specific direction. Hence, apart from the scaling answers, they got the opportunity to write down additional thoughts on their perceived brand credibility (Aaker, 1992; Schwarz, 1999). This way, deeper insights were gained in motives of people either

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perceiving credibility or not. This question was coded carefully and precisely for quantitative statistical analysis.

Personalization through co-creation

Personalization contributed as the moderator in this research and is defined as “The process in which both parties systematically interact, learn, share information and integrate resources to jointly create personalized value” (Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2014, p. 7). A fictive case, which can be found in Appendix F, was presented to the respondents. Zara allegedly offered to create clothing a new sustainable line together, creating personalized items. Considering that this variable depends on the respondents’ personal perception, and was not directly observable, this questionnaire was executed. The respondents were asked about the degree to which they perceived any co-creation and personalization offered by the brand, and their opinion on that.

The questions were based on previous research with personalization (van Dijk 2014; France et al., 2020; Komlak & Benbasat, 2006; Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2014; Zhou et al., 2012). The variable was measured in self-reports on 19 statements 5-point scales (α = 0.91), using scales from Kim & Han (2014) (α = 0.84). An example of an item is “I have the feeling that my preferences are important to the brand’s new clothing line”, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). A high score on the scale indicated a high level of perceived personalization through co-creation. To avoid any response biases, both positively and negatively framed items were used (Baumgartner & Steenkamp, 2001). Item Pers2_Rec was reverse-coded to reflect this.

In addition, it was of added value that respondents could write down their thoughts, without guidance into one specific direction, with the opportunity to write down additional thoughts on personalization (Aaker, 1992; Schwarz, 1999). This way, deeper insights were gained in the

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motives of people whether or not preferring the offer of personalization. This question was coded carefully and precisely for quantitative statistical analysis.

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Chapter 4. Results

In this section, the results of the research are presented with statistical analysis through SPSS, Statistical software Package for Social Sciences (Version 1.0.0.1407, IBM, Armonk, NY, USA). First, the frequencies and descriptive statistics will be shown and elaborated on, consisting of a data analysis through statistical procedure. Second, the hypotheses testing was conducted. The direct effect for hypothesis 1 is analyzed through linear hierarchical regression, followed by the PROCESS analysis, to test the moderation effect of hypotheses 2a and 2b. The control variables, age and gender were first entered into the model. After this, the variables perceived fit and personalization entered and finally the interaction effect of perceived fit and personalization entered. With a confidence level of 95% an alpha level of .05 was used in all statistical procedures.

4.1 Frequencies

The file exported from Qualtrics into SPSS existed of 211 respondents in total. Missing data was handled with excluding these cases listwise through a frequency test, where only cases that had no missing data in any variable were analyzed. 60 questionnaires had to be deleted due to missing data, resulting in a total of 151 valid values for statistical analysis. No further errors were found in this test. In the frequency table it was shown that 99.3% of the respondents is familiar with Zara and 60.9% has an interest in sustainable fashion. 76.2% of the respondents had had one of more experiences with Zara in the past 12 months and 80.8% is aware of the fact that Zara operates in the category fast fashion. 116 of the 151 respondents were female.

The other 23.2% identified themselves as male, non-binary or did not disclose their gender. The average age of the respondents was 31 years old.

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4.2 Descriptive statistics

Cases that have extremely high or extremely low values in a variable could bias the mean, standard deviation or normality. An outliers check has been performed and no outliers were detected that exceeded -3 or 3, exclusion for outlying was not necessary (Field, 2014). As for data preparation, measure levels were adjusted and values have been controlled, as Qualtrics first coded disagreement to agreement on a scale from 8 to 12 instead of 1 to 5.

4.2.1 Recoding counter indicative items

Counter indicative items have been recoded, meaning items that were phrased so that an agreement with these items represents a low level of the variable being measured, were recoded (Field, 2014). The independent variable, Perceived Fit, was eventually, after excluding items with a cross-charge (subchapter 4.2.3), measured with four items on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = totally disagree; 5 = totally agree). Two of these items were reversed coded, namely “The brand extension is unusual for Zara” (FitQ5_Rec) and “Zara’s sustainable clothing line can be seen as offering false claims on sustainability, while not actually operating sustainable”

(FitQ6_Rec). The dependent variable, Brand Credibility, has been measured on 18 items with a 5-point Likert scale, (1 = totally disagree; 5 = totally agree). The four items “Zara doesn’t have the expertise to understand my needs and preferences” (Cred28_2_Rec), “Zara is unlikely to be reliable” (Cred29_2_Rec), “Zara pretends to be something it is not” (Cred29_4_Rec) and

“It is likely that I will choose another brand within the next year” (Cred31_2_Rec) were reversed coded. Finally, the moderator effect of Personalization was measured with seven items on 5-point Likert scales (1 = totally disagree; 5 = totally agree), where the item “If there is a better deal in terms of values, I will probably go to another brand” (Pers2_Rec) has been reversed coded. In order to enable use of gender as a control variable, this variable was recoded

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into dummies. As 77% of the respondent was female, ‘Female’ is coded as 1 and ‘Male’, ‘Non- binary’ and ‘Prefer not to say’ are recoded as 0.

4.2.2 Normality check

The findings were normally distributed for N = 151 concluding from the test for normality of residual errors, using a Skewness and Kurtosis check. According to the empirical criteria, the values are acceptable between -1 and +1 (Field, 2014). The Kurtosis statistics were negative, indicating the distributions being minimally flatter than the normal, called a Platykurtic. The independent variable Perceived fit (M = 2.48; Median = 2.50) was normal distributed as it had a Skewness between -1 and 1 (0.003). The distribution was symmetrical as most frequent scores were grouped towards the middle. The Kurtosis scored -0.932. The dependent variable Brand credibility (M = 3.15; Median = 3.05) was normal distributed as all items of brand credibility had a Skewness between -1 and 1 (0.068). The distribution was symmetrical as most frequent scores were grouped towards the middle. The dependent variable scored -0.861 on Kurtosis.

Finally, the moderating variable Personalization (M = 3.46; Median = 3.33) was also normal distributed as the Skewness was -0.231. This score means the distribution being asymmetrical and negatively skewed, as most frequent scores were grouped towards the right end. The Kurtosis statistic was -0.732. The histograms and boxplots of the variables are illustrated in Appendix G and H.

4.2.3 Exploratory factor analysis

A factor analysis has been performed as the study works with 3 factors, which resulted in excluding several items one by one. The items deleted, were found looking at the Extraction in the Communalities table in SPSS. Items that scored below 0.3 were removed. These were Q15_1, Q15_2, Q22_4, Q22_7, Q22_9, Q22_10, Q28_2_Rec, Q28_3 and all items of Q23.

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