During the in-depth interviews, several research techniques were employed:
1. Free Association
The word association cloud shows that a large proportion of students associate the brand with its product offerings (bread, kaya, eggs, toast, coffee, butter). Hence, it is clear that the younger generation know YKKT only on a superficial level. They are disconnected from the brand and do not know YKKT’s traditional brand meaning because the brand does not resonate with them on a deeper level. The youth are not educated about the history of the brand and thus can only know YKKT by its face value, which are its functional attributes. One reason for this could be that in this contemporary time, the many snack-time alternatives, new competitors and westernization of local youth have diluted YKKT’s brand meaning and image.
We can also infer that the youth see YKKT as an “old” brand and associates YKKT with “grandparents, auntie(s), Chinese and cheena”, and some even label the brand as “uncool”. This reinforces the disconnection of the younger generation from the brand, which is most likely caused by the westernization of the former.
The most common association that PMEBs have of YKKT is that the brand is “convenient”. This is likely due to the fact that there are many YKKT outlets located in malls and office buildings in close proximity to many PMEBs, making it easy for these PMEBs to visit YKKT. Additionally, YKKT offers takeaway services and this is extremely important for the PMEBs who have fast-paced and hectic schedules. There are only a few negative associations listed in the above association cloud, probably because PMEBs are less concerned about the image of the brand as they value convenience (near, convenient, takeaway) and efficiency and quality of service (quick, fast, consistent) on a higher plane. Hence, we can infer that the type of relationship that PMEBs have with YKKT can be typified as a marriage of convenience as they generally visit the store to purchase snacks on workdays, provided it is convenient for them to do so.
Apart from the standard associations with YKKT’s product offerings, the associations that this group listed show that YKKT’s brand meaning resonate with them on a deeper level. They view YKKT as a place for “family gatherings and catch-ups”, and associate the brand with positive elements like “laughter and fun”. They have comparatively stronger emotional attachment to the brand as the brand not only satiates their lower level needs such as physiological (food) and safety needs (consistent quality), but meets their higher level needs like their belongingness needs as well. The “memories” that this group has attached to the brand further contributes to the significant meaning behind YKKT.
Furthermore, they cherish the originality and “homemade” factor that YKKT incorporates into their products and operations. To them, this brand has stood the test of time and thus is able to resonate with them on a much deeper level. For this group, having a meal at YKKT with their family members is more than just that, it has become a ritual. They do not patronize YKKT for the quality or taste of the food or convenience of their outlets, but to bond with one another over a traditional meal that brings back fond memories of their past.
2. Brand Personality & Value Research
Under this section, we told respondents to assign human personality traits and characteristics to YKKT. These characteristics signify how the different groups perceive the brand’s behavior to be like.
From the aforementioned brand personalities, we see that the three groups generally have a similar image of YKKT – that of an old man. However, it appears that the level of understanding of the brand as well as the levels of knowledge regarding the story behind the brand varies among the three groups.
Evidently, the Students group still displays a more cursory understanding and is disconnected from YKKT. They were unable to describe YKKT beyond a superficial level and even portray the brand to be outdated, which further reinforces the fact that the brand does not resonate with them This old-fashioned association could potentially have an adverse effect on modern consumers who might start associating the brand with being passé and uncool. The “hardworking” image of a humble elderly person that the PMEBs have of YKKT enables them to connect with the brand on an emotional level. Hence, the PMEBs connect with the brand and view the brand in a more positive light than the Students but still fail to meet the level of emotional attachment that the Families group displays. The Families group shows a strong emotional attachment and deep understanding of the brand. They understand that YKKT takes pride in its authenticity and heritage as they see the brand as “sincere”. In addition, a large majority of this group describes the brand’s offerings as “unpretentious”, revealing that they recognize that the brand has stayed true to it’s traditional roots despite it’s commercialization and franchising.
3. Laddering Technique
We implemented the laddering technique in the last section of our qualitative research to uncover the underlying motivations and values consumers have when purchasing or intending to purchase products from YKKT.
The first question we asked our participants was why they patronized YKKT outlets. After further laddering, the participants in the Students group showed that they visited YKKT primarily to fulfill their physiological needs of hunger and thirst. Also, to some, YKKT proved to be a cheaper option, relative to other food options in shopping centers.
PMEBs also displayed a connection with the brand on a physiological plane. They patronize YKKT mainly because they meet their safety needs of convenience, quality and efficiency very strongly. Moreover, YKKT meets their physiological needs of hunger and thirst as well.
After digging deeper into the motives of the participants in the Families group, it was clear that it was the unconscious desire to relive the simpler times. YKKT places a heavy emphasis on their deep-rooted heritage in their entire marketing mix – starting from the layout of their stores, to the designs of their furniture and cutlery and their simple product offerings. The deep-rooted heritage of YKKT presents this group of consumers with the opportunity to relive and also preserve their familial roots. Hence, YKKT undoubtedly goes beyond fulfilling this group’s physiological needs of a quick bite or a light meal. YKKT successfully manages to fulfill their higher level emotional needs such as their belongingness needs as well – and although the participants are unaware of this, it is clear that this is what resonates with them most strongly, and keeps them going back.