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1.1  Background to the Study

In today’s economy, the financial services industry that insurance belongs is exposed to increasing performance pressures and competitive forces (Goergen, 2001). Modern media, such as the internet, have created new challenges for this industry (Fuchs, 2001). New business concepts, a change in client sophistication and an increasing number of new competitors entering into the market, such as independent financial consultants, have changed the business models and the competitive forces that established financial services organizations are facing today worldwide (Davis, 2006; Shameem and Gupta, 2012).

Branding has become a prominent paradigm and has begun to be linked to strategic management decisions of organizations including insurance especially in the advanced economies. The concept is based on the recognition that clients buy brand products not because of their inherent qualities but also because of a bias, a disposition towards the providers. Bayton (cited in Osei and Katsner, 2014), points out that people tend to “humanize” companies, attribute personality characteristics to them, see them much as they do to humans in terms of being “mature,” “liberal,” “friendly,” and such other related attributes. Maintaining or expanding market share, keeping customers and business relations loyal, pre-empting competitive moves, and maintaining a profitable position will depend on differentiation and a unique positioning in the minds of corporate audiences (Van Heerden and Puth, 1995). Sunter (1993) indicates that the only way consumers will be able to differentiate between institutions in future is through image and brands. The importance of having a well-defined identity is therefore of major relevance for service providers such as insurance institutions. Thus, Gronroos (1984) argues that image is of utmost importance to service firms and is to a great extent determined by customers’ assessment of the services they receive.

A strong brand helps in creating a sustainable competitive advantage (Doyle, 1990). It gives to consumer a reason to prefer a brand over another competitor’s brand – a reason which cannot be easily copied from other competitors (Barney, 1991). Literature suggests that strong brands are characterized by perceived quality, perceived uniqueness/differentiation, vivid/rich imagery and deep customer relationship (Berry, 2000; Young & Rubicam, 2001). Strong brand help companies to enlarge their market share, increase profits, charge higher prices, build and maintain loyalty, and even surpass accidental failures in the eyes of consumers. Today, brands have become a very valuable asset for a company (Cerri, 2012). An attempt to define the relationship between customers and brands produced the term “brand equity” in the marketing literature (Wood, 2000). The brand equity generates a type of added value for products which help with companies' long term interests and capabilities (Chen, 2008). Over the past two decades, a great deal of research has addressed various aspects of brand equity; brand equity is generally accepted as a critical success factor to differentiate companies and service providers from its competitors. Brands with high levels of equity are associated with outstanding performance including sustained price premiums, inelastic price sensitivity, high market shares, and successful expansion into new businesses, competitive cost structures and high profitability all contributing to companies’ competitive advantage (Keller and Lehmann, 2003; Vazquez et al., 2002).

Brand equity is significant in assisting consumers to process information, especially, when the information is overloaded (Krishan and Hartline, 2001). For firms, growing brand equity is a key objective to be achieved by gaining more favourable associations and feelings of target consumers (Falkenberg. 1996). In other words, financial meaning from the perspective of the value of the brand to the firm and customer-based meaning from the perspective of the value of the brand to the customer which both come from a marketing decision-making context (Kim and An, 2003). With growing stress on product or service differentiation in the face of stiff competition, brand equity and management has taken the centre stage in firms’ strategic planning agenda in liberalized global business environment. Since the concept of brand equity began gaining widespread attention in the 1980s, many different methods of defining and measuring brand equity have been conceptualized. Researchers mainly embrace the task of defining the term brand equity exclusively from either the perspective of the consumer or the firm (Das, 2012). Keller and Lehmann (2003) divide brand equity measures into three categories: customer mindset, product market outcome, and financial outcome measures. The first category of measurement i.e. measuring brand equity from customers’ perspective by taking into consideration the impact of the brand on customer mindset have become very popular throughout the world. Customer mindset includes “everything that exists in the minds of customers with respect to a brand (e.g. thoughts, feelings, experiences, images, perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes)”.

Insurance industry has been recognized globally as a driver of economic growth and development. The industry provides financial security to policy holders, through the pooling and investment of premiums out of which those who suffer unexpected losses are indemnified (Unachukwu, Afolabi, Alabi, 2015). Today, the insurance industry is characterized by globalization, standardization, fast technological changes and large scale advantages. These changes have resulted in questions being raised among insurance providers such as "who are we'? and `what kind of business do we operate"? questions that are closely related to management of identity and branding (Balmer, 2008, Hatch and Schultz, 1997).

Thus, the constant changes experienced within the insurance industry have led not only to intense competition among the insurance firms but also making these companies to portray its image intensively (Gronroos, 1990). Also insurance is a business built on trust and the major ingredient that gives flavour to the strategic roles played by insurance in the economy is confidence at such the corporate brand remains a priceless asset that will not only strengthen the already existing public confidence but create brand awareness and association for the industry. It is therefore, more important for insurance to understand their customers and the image perceived by customers of the organization (Balmer, 2008). Brand equity is a set of assets and commitments linked to a brand's name and symbol that adds to (or subtracts from) the value provided by a product or service to a firm and/or that firm's customers (Aaker, 1996). Brand equity is the differential effect of brand recognition on consumer response to the marketing of that brand Keller (1993).

1.2   Statement of the Problem

Even with the understanding that there is an abysmal culture of insurance in Nigeria, many insurance companies in a bid to achieve and sustain competitive advantage in the Nigerian insurance industry seem to be too busy chasing profitability even at the expense of their brand equity. They seem not to realize that competitiveness is not just about immediate rewards but certainly the impression that people and businesses hold about a given service or brand owing to the trust that they repose in it. Customer, analysts, employees, institutions or general public decide when a company deserves their regard, association and trust depending on its service delivery towards the market and the society, and this service delivery is expected to shape the performance of the corporate entity be it an insurance company or any other form of business. Various firms aim to achieve higher customer loyalty, trust, associated increased sales and reduced operating costs which are all benefits of brand equity. This can be achieved through truthful awareness creation or brand awareness, brand association, ethics, goodwill and having a history of excellent service delivery to various stakeholder groups thereby increasing the competitive advantage of an insurance company.

In the advanced insurance business clime the management of corporate assets like brand, identity and reputation are integrated into the managerial tactical tools to strengthen not just competitive advantage but to command impromptu demand. But in the developing countries, particularly in Nigeria the significance of corporate branding seem not to be acknowledged by the insurance practitioners; a reason why many feel that the poor performance of the insurance industry in Nigeria may not be unconnected to corporate brand equity. Hence, this research work seeks to explore the effect of brand equity measurements on service delivery in selected insurance companies in Nigeria.

1.3       Objectives of the Study

The main objective of the study is to find out the effect of brand equity measurements on service delivery in insurance companies in Nigeria. Specific objectives are;

a)  To examine if there is a significant relationship between brand trust and demand for insurance companies in Nigeria.

b)  To find out the influence of brand awareness on financial performance of insurance firms.

c) To investigate the effect of brand association on service delivery in insurance companies in Nigeria

d) To explore the relationship between brand management and insurance companies profitability.

1.4  Research Questions

The study was guided by the following research questions;

1. Is there a significant relationship between brand trust and demand for insurance companies in Nigeria?

2. What is the influence of brand awareness on financial performance of insurance firms?

3.  To what extent does brand association affect service delivery in insurance companies in Nigeria?

4.5    Research Hypotheses

The researcher intends to test the following hypotheses;

Hypothesis One:

Ho: There is no significant relationship between brand trust and demand for insurance companies in Nigeria.

Hi:  There is a significant relationship between brand trust and demand for insurance companies in Nigeria.

Hypothesis Two:

Ho: Brand awareness is not related to financial performance of insurance firms

Hi:  Brand awareness is related to financial performance of insurance firms

Hypothesis Three:

Ho: There is no significant relationship between brand association and service   delivery in       insurance companies in Nigeria

Hi: There is a significant relationship between brand association and service     delivery in       insurance companies in Nigeria


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