The Challenge of Electronic Word of Mouth for Hotel Branding

  • Mei Kun Loi

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


In response to the increasing ubiquity of social media, improved consumer choice, and technological progress, the importance of electronic word of mouth (eWOM) continues to grow for all sectors but has a notable impact in the area of hotel branding. Yet, there has been limited academic research to provide any systematic insight into the breadth and scope of opportunities that technological advances offer to hotel brand marketers or which clarify the inherent and unintended challenges that need to be reconciled as a consequence. The aim of the thesis is to critically investigate the impact of eWOM on hotel branding, with the pivotal elements of focus being: brand identity, brand image, online reviews and social media. More specifically, the study aims to compare hotel brand identity and brand image in the context of social media.

The thesis is guided by a pragmatic interpretivist approach with a qualitative mixed methods design. The data was first collected from 14 semi-structured interviews followed by content analysis of 1,395 online reviews collected from social media. The research was divided into two phases. The brand identity facet developed in the qualitative stage in Phase 1, helped to develop the brand image facet in Phase 2 thereby allowing for comparison.

The findings of this thesis confirm the applicability of the Kapferer (1997) brand identity prism in the hotel sector and offers a re-conceptualised brand identity model that is relevant to the sector. Concurrently, results of the study further provide a brand image model that is also relevant to the hotel sector. Among the six brand identity facets found in the Kapferer (1997) brand identity prism, the thesis found evidence of weakness in one. The rest of the identity facets were found to be consistent between what was communicated by hotel brands and what was perceived by guests. The findings also revealed that there was a difference in prioritisation among the uses of social media and highlighted the hotel sector’s limited appreciation of social media.

The findings of the thesis illustrate the complexity of branding in the technological era. In particular, the findings illuminate hotel branding during a period of disruption via the growth of social media and online reviews. Given due regard, the re-conceptualised hotel brand identity and brand image models can be used to inform future branding practice in the hotel sector.
Date of Award2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
SupervisorJohn Lennon (Supervisor) & Noreen Siddiqui (Supervisor)

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