RESEARCH PROPOSAL IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN CHANGING NEGATIVE BELIEF HELD AGAINST A BRAND

RESEARCH PROPOSAL
IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN CHANGING NEGATIVE BELIEF HELD AGAINST A BRAND
(A STUDY OF AJINOMOTO SEASONING BRAND)
By:
OBADINA OMOTAYO OMOLARA
099076003
Master of Business Administration (MBA),
University of Lagos.

INTRODUCTION
1.1Background to the Study
Erroneous beliefs or misinformation about a brand can be a nightmare, the widespread nature of these belief makes it is a source of concern, such that efforts to redeem the brands reputation afterwards becomes more like an uphill task.
According to the new thesaurus dictionary, erroneous belief is a misconception resulting from incorrect information. Misinformation often originate from rumors, spread through word of mouth and actions, and as the populace became literate, the means to spread information diversified. People who do not possess direct knowledge or experience often rely on the media ; television, the press and more recently, the internet which through technological innovations has increased the speed by which news could travel, this has influenced to a large extent the ways in which information is communicated and misinformation is spread.
The information a populace receives helps them to form their opinions and beliefs, particularly if major streams of beliefs are in opposition to established facts. If the truth is not established overtime, misinformed individuals could make decisions for themselves and their families that are not in their best interest and can have serious consequences. Erroneous news is a dire threat to brands worldwide, especially when it gets picked by the media and goes viral. Thus, brands become vulnerable to the effects of such news, often resulting in loss of customers, potential customers and revenue, making it difficult for a brand to experience customer loyalty and retention.

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A brand is a unique name, term, words, sign, symbol, design, a combination of these, or any other feature that identifies products and services of a company and differentiates them from the competition (American Marketing Association 2016). A brand is an intangible, but also a critical component of what a company represents (Davis and Bojalil Re?bora, 2002, 3). Brands help companies to create a connection with customers on an emotional level. For this reason, many companies try to build unique and favorable strong brands (Kotler and Keller, 2012, 32), such that the experience a consumer obtains from a brand determines its success. A brand is successful if the consumers perceive it as better than the competition, and fails if they do not (Weilbacher 1999, 22). In the era of social media, this is becoming even more apparent, when communication is becoming more centered on the consumer.

As a result of intense competition, companies all over the world are continually looking for new ways to communicate with their customers effectively. For that social media has become one of the most important media with 67 percent of all internet users using social media (Pew Research Center, 2012). Using social media platforms for marketing purposes is a new and rapidly growing way to develop positive relationships with customers (Erdogmas & Cicek, 2012). A study by Madden and Zickuhr (2011) reported that 65% of U.S. adult Internet users now use social networking sites, more than double the percentage reported in 2008 (29%) and that 43% of online adults use social networking sites daily. A more recent report from statistica (2018) reported that as of 2017, daily social media usage of global internet users amounted to 135 minutes per day, up from 126 minutes in the previous year implying global social networking audience’s surpassed 2 billion users in 2016. The power of social networking according to statistica (2018) is such that the number of worldwide users is expected to reach some 3.02 billion monthly active social media users by 2021, around a third of Earth’s entire population.

In Nigeria, several studies suggest that when Nigerians go online (predominantly with their mobile phones) they spend much of their time on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and so on). Sending and reading e-mails, reading news and posting research queries have become less important activities for Nigerians. To confirm this, the minister of communications, Mr Adebayo Shittu in an interview he granted punch newspaper, November 17, 2017,(Everest 2017), stated that about 75% of Nigeria’s population that use the internet are on the social media, and the number keeps growing both on social networking sites and blogging sites. This unarguably points to the fact that social media, amongst many other strategies, is a perfect place to target customers. It is therefore important to focus on the platform where your customers usually spend more time on a daily basis.

Social media refers to the means of interactions among people through which information and ideas are created, shared and exchanged over virtual communities and networks. (Kaplan ; Haenlein, 2012) defined social media as a group of Internet-based applications built on the ideological and technological foundations of Web and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content. Social media allow dynamic interaction in real time, disrupting the traditional balance of power between the firm and the consumers. The concept of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), where the firm has significant information about its clients, is challenged, because consumers receive access to big amounts of information through the social media (Malthouse, Haenlein, Skiera, Wege, ; Zhang, 2013).
Social media can take many forms, including social networks (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, snapchat and so on),internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, microblogging, wikis, podcasts, pictures, videos, rating and social book markings (Kaplan ; Haenlein, 2010; Weber 2009). As social media evolves into a more sophisticated tool for interaction and global reach, many individuals and companies are leveraging on it to capture the audience of a vast majority. Social media primarily attracts the attention of the millennial generation. According to the 2010 Pew Research report, the millennial is defined as having been born between 1977 and 1992 (Norén, L. 2011). For this generation, various social media channels have become inseparable part of every phase of their lives, with Facebook and YouTube dominating their top choices. The emerging trend in Nigeria shows a widespread use in Facebook, YouTube, Instagram stories and tweets for business, such that investment in social media is no longer a matter of choice, but that of compulsion. Businesses will begin to integrate content marketing strategy with social media effort to boost their revenue. In a recent article on 2018 social media trends that would influence any business, (Adepeju, 2018), identified a new generation Z (Digital natives), who spend their entire time glued to the virtual world on their phones, and laptops. These set of individuals are even more valuable than the millennial generation, they are born between the 1990 and 2010, such that any organization that wants to grow should cater to the needs of this generation.

As breaking news unfolds people increasingly rely on social media to stay abreast of the latest updates. Its sometimes inevitable that such information may encourage rumors, many of which are unverified at the point of release .This study will therefore will test the reliability of social media as a credible source of information , focusing specifically on the most popular social network sites; Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and twitter as the most frequently visited platforms in Nigeria. Based on the analysis of these platforms, recommendations would be made on how to debunk misinformation about a brand, which will help to design effective retraction strategies of erroneous beliefs, design educational tools and public information campaign strategies for West African seasoning and the Ajinomoto brand.
1.2Problem Statement
Negative feelings, thought and beliefs patterns of customers are a concern to organization sustainability. Companies are constantly evaluated by the way they are perceived by the competition, the media and their customers and as frustrating as it might be, firms now have little or no control over how existing and potential customers or the public perceives their numerous brands. It is important to understand how to counter negative thinking in order to reduce these negative consequences.

One of the many challenges organizations are facing in this global age is the determination of appropriate medium to reach target audience and influence favorable and positive buyer’s behaviors towards a brand. Organizations today in their pursuit for survival in a tensed and ever conscious/informed consumer have no other option order than to develop interest in social media research and the need for hiring social media experts.
In most old generation organizations however, especially organizations with tangible products like AJINOMOTO seasoning brands, the use of traditional media (TV, radio, direct mail, outdoor), over reliance on the sales personnel, and customers word of mouth testimonials to potential customers is still prevalent.

Traditional media with recent digital media evolution, is more like a one way communication to a mass audience and is not as effective in creating engagement in comparison to social media. Also, with increased population explosion, sales personnel efforts at establishing relationship with potential buyers or passing favorable news about a brand is limited.
This proposed study therefore will investigate deeply erroneous beliefs held against AJINOMOTO seasoning brand, analyze the impact of social media in changing this erroneous belief , propose strategies for debunking such via social media platforms and increase the understanding of the role of social media for creation of brand awareness.

1.3Aim and Objectives of the Study
The general aim of this study is to determine optimal strategies to improve sales and correct erroneous belief held against AJINOMOTO seasoning brand, through an increased presence on social media platforms. Specific objectives are to;
Examine the extent to which Instagram can help to improve the public image of AJINOMOTO seasoning brand.
Determine the extent to which Facebook can be employed to communicate the benefits of using AJINOMOTO seasoning brands to consumers.

Determine the effectiveness of creating YouTube channels in positioning AJINOMOTO as a healthy seasoning brand to consumers
Determine the effectiveness of Twitter in communicating the brand value of AJINOMOTO seasoning.

Analyze the belief held by the general public against the Ajinomoto brand, access the impact of current media strategies of West Africa seasoning and evaluate the impact Social Media campaign Strategies will have on the AJINOMOTO seasoning brand in the south west region of Nigeria.

1.4Research Questions
In the course of this study, the following research questions are raised and shall be answered through the development testing of hypothesis;
What are the erroneous beliefs held by the general public against the Ajinomoto brand?
Will social media be a useful medium in changing the negative perception held against the Ajinomoto brand?
What are the effects of Facebook in communicating the benefits of using AJINOMOTO seasoning brands?
Will Instagram be effective in redeeming the public image of AJINOMOTO seasoning brand?
What are the effects of YouTube videos in positioning AJINOMOTO as a healthy seasoning brand to consumers?
Will Twitter be effective in communicating the brand benefits of AJINOMOTO seasoning?
What are the impacts of present Media campaign Strategies of West African seasoning on sales and correcting the erroneous belief held by the general public about AJINOMOTO seasoning brand in Nigeria
1.5RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS
For the purpose of the study, the following hypothetical statements are proposed and will be tested using scientific tools:
Hypotheses One:
There are no erroneous beliefs significantly held against the AJINOMOTO seasoning brand.

Hypotheses Two:
The use of social media is not significant as a medium in changing the negative perception held against the Ajinomoto brand.

Hypotheses Three:
The use of Facebook platform does not significantly influence the communication of the benefits of using AJINOMOTO seasoning brands to consumers
Hypotheses Four:
The use of Instagram is not effective in significantly redeeming the public image of the AJINOMOTO brand.

Hypotheses Five:
The use of YouTube video channels does not significantly position AJINOMOTO as a healthy seasoning brand to consumers.

Hypotheses Six:
The Twitter social media platform does not significantly influence the communication of the brand benefits of AJINOMOTO seasoning brand
Hypotheses Seven:
The present media campaign Strategies of West Africa Seasoning does not significantly influence the erroneous belief held by the general public against AJINOMOTO seasoning brand in Nigeria
1.6Significance of the Study
This study will offer West African seasoning the opportunity to right a wrong perception about their brand, while adopting better strategies to reposition their brands and gain more market share. It contributes significantly to the advancing literatures in the field of social media communication, in relation to customer perception and brand management. It is believed that social media is changing the way businesses used to work, so Managers clearly need to be convinced of the impact that social media communication has on their brand, and more importantly look into activities which can improve the relationship between their brands and consumers. This study therefore has significance in marketing, as a vital aspect of marketing strategies nowadays. Also significant is the fact that marketers are being guided on how to choose the right activities for the right consumers.

1.7Scope of the Study
The study will seek to investigate the effects of social media as an effective medium for correcting negative belief held about AJINOMOTO seasoning brand from the consumers/customers perspectives. The study will analyze platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and twitter and will be constrained to consumers and customers in Lagos state, Nigeria.

1.8Limitation of the study
The limitations envisaged in relation to this study include the following:
Time constraint in gathering of data is a limiting factor, considering a project is time bound and temporal, timely response from respondents and time to investigate responses may tend to delay the project progress and may often result to non-response and limited size of the sample.

The research requires access to people, organizations and documents which may often be denied.

The research data is based on a consumer survey, it requires self- reporting by the respondents. The fact that respondents might some-times not answer questions in a way that corresponds with reality could be limiting.

Substantial financial resources are required for a detailed research study to cover expenses such as printing of journals, transportation and communication among others.

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