The Customer Attitude to Airline's Color Image -Focused on the Color Image of Airline Cabin Crew's Uniforms-

  • Received : 2019.01.11
  • Accepted : 2019.02.05
  • Published : 2019.02.28


Purpose - This study was intended to provide implications for the importance of color to airlines where the image customers feel about the business is paramount. The importance of colors shown by the airline crew, an important human resource for airlines as contact workers, was investigated. We wanted to present suggestions by investigating and comparing the difference in customer attitude regarding the color of uniforms of the airline crew. Research design, data, and methodology - A survey was conducted to examine differences in perception of airline uniform color, with the research that suggests that the customer's attitude to uniform color will vary. The difference in the perception of passengers according to the colors of the airline uniforms was determined by conducting an empirical analysis. Results - Customers have a different attitude about the color of the uniform of airline's flight attendants' uniform. Full service airlines (FSC) generally have a bright, calm, neat, and heavy-handed feeling, while low-cost carriers (LCC) have a distinctive, dynamic, energetic, and cheerful feeling. Conclusions - An empirical analysis of the study found that customers' attitudes vary by uniform color for each airline. It has also been revealed that Airline's uniform color can communicate the company's goals it wants to convey.


1. Introduction

The tourism and air travel industry has become a core strategic industry for all countries in the world as international tourists continue to grow in the international tourism market(Jou, Lam, Hensher, Chen, & Kou, 2008).

In the aviation industry, which provides consumers with intangible goods such as services, rather than selling tangible products, positive emotional images and affectionate formation are the most important competitiveness of companies. This is a crucial factor in distinguishing airlines among competing airlines, and also(Namgung & Lee, 2016) plays an important role as an efficient marketing tool, among other aircraft that are not significantly different from each other in terms of scheduling convenience and price competitiveness(Reynolds, William, & Martin, 1974).

The global aviation industry is suffering from a variety of negative factors that have caused the tourism industry to stagnate, such as the ever-increasing global economic crisis, high oil prices and geopolitical risks. Under an infinite competitive system, each airline should enhance its differentiated competitiveness by establishing its own unique brand color image to consumers as well as price competition as a means to overcome this crisis. Color plays an important role as the ultimate communication tool to help consumers connect to a brand in order to establish an effective and planned brand color image(Lee, 2009).

As one of the core marketing strategies of many airlines, they are working to improve the convenience of passengers, including building a differentiated brand image and developing a more convenient in-flight interior through the full brand renewal process. The services that passengers provide for a more enjoyable and safe flight are an important factor in determining the airline's image. Among these processes, it is the flight attendant who has the longest face-to-face time with passengers and performs various tasks and their uniforms play an important role in directly related to the airline's image. The airline's uniform is a very effective means of establishing and communicating the national cultural identity as well as the company's(Dick & Basu, 1994). Color is the preferred important measure for the emotional image and affection of passengers to the airline, and serves as effective communication in situations where it is difficult to express directly and concrete language by delivering images with stronger persuasion than form. In addition, color is a visual language that provides the best visual information among human senses, so the use of color is very important in the aviation industry, where brand image has to be built around the world(Na, Kim, & Kook, 2016).

In this research, the ultimate goal is to present business and practical implications sensuous factor, and it has a powerful force to instantly change our emotional state. As such, color is an important element of design and has an effect to enhance the functional and aesthetic characteristics of the design(Burgoon, Birk, & Prau, 1990). Our previous experiences are entered into the cerebrum, the last step in sensations. These emotional reactions, which are drawn according to the characteristics of color, vary in images that are mental in us.

2. Literature Review

2.1. Importance of Uniform

Since uniform provides a sense of unity within certain groups and acts as an identity that distinguishes it from other brands outside, there is an even-rate nature of uniform: 'simultaneous‘ and 'separation'. Uniforms are used to distinguish individuals or groups from other people or organizations, externally to characterize an organization or to convey an organization's image(Weon & Kim, 2001). It also has certain forms or distinctions depending on its purpose, makes the wearer feel a sense of belonging, and requires the viewer to expect actions that suit its role.

In order to maximize the effectiveness of the uniforms, they must be made in consideration of the symbolism of the group, functional in terms of the activity, and aesthetics are required at the same time.

In modern society, uniforms have a strong influence on the image formation of companies, which is an external variable of global competition(Jou et al., 2008). From an image perspective, uniforms are 'the face of a company' and 'the moving symbol.' This is because uniforms that are worn when meeting customers are directly responsible for conveying images of businesses and making decisions. Due to the nature of airlines that sell intangible services rather than any specific product, customers will feel the corporate image depending on their uniforms, etc(Zeithaml, Bhtter, & Gremler, 1996).

In this way, asking some airlines to design uniforms to world-famous fashion designers is the first, in strategic terms, a publicity stunt that is naturally gained in the media's attention generated by hiring high-profile designers. Second, the enhancement of functionality and aesthetics gained through fashion experts. Third, it is aimed at maximizing the effect of a labor force increase in proportion to the pride of employees wearing designer uniforms. In the case of airline uniforms, once made, it should be chosen carefully because it is worn for long-term reasons, for economic reasons, and the company's ideology and image should be well reflected.

2.2. The link between Color and Image

Color is a very sensuous factor, and it has a powerful force to instantly change our emotional state. As such, color is an important element of design and has the effect of enhancing the functional and aesthetic characteristics of the design. Our previous experiences are entered into the cerebrum, the final process of color perception, which gives us a unique image and a diverse feeling. This emotional reaction, which is drawn according to the characteristics of color, is represented by images drawn inside of us(Yang & Peterson, 2004).

Therefore, the most important thing in the design of uniforms for the flight attendants, an important contact person for the airline, is color. The colors of the airline's flight attendants' uniforms are becoming a powerful marketing weapon to represent businesses. That's because colors are perceived faster than brand names and slogans. Humans instinctively remember color more strongly than form or language, especially when using color that is superior to that of today's consumers, color naturally helps the memory of the idea(Lee & Kim 1995).

Kim(2001) describes the influence of pointing out that human judgment on design and form is rational, but emotional. In other words, they are easy to remember because they are strong in impression as they are appealing to the reason. Also, color is very important in that about 90% of human behavior is caused by emotion and 10% by reason. As the use of colors appeals to the senses more than words such as letters and forms, color can be easily recognized by consumers. Therefore, color has a strong influence on the company's profit-seeking, brand image rise, and corporate image enhancement.

Color images are mainly used by I.R.I Color Research Institute. These image scales show the emotional effects of colors in relation to language and each color.

Color images are mainly used by Shigenobu Kobayashi and I.R.I. Color Research Institute. These image scales show the emotional effects of colors in relation to language and each color, and Kobayashi has developed image scales of monochromatic and tricolor colors, classifying and organizing colors into linguistic expressions for the delivery of color images and the similarity and difference(Lee & Kim, 1995). The color image scale of Kobayashi is based on the language image scale and is located in four smooth, hard, warm, and cold axes, each of which is easy to identify because the colors of similar images are arranged among each other.

The color image scale of Kobayashi was used as an analysis tool for research purposes such as Kim No Reference (2016), Park and Lee (2016) and Pranay and Sanjeev(2017). Meanwhile, the I.R.I. Color Institute presented a color that corresponds to the image based on 14 representative adjectives. In other words, the images to express were arranged and based on the three colors. We also set the four axes of soft, hard, dynamic, and static, and each color scheme was placed within the image scale to identify the feeling. The I.R.I. color image scale was used as analysis tools in studies such as Weon and Kim(2001), Park and Lee(2016), Kim et al. (2016), and Pranay and Sanjeev(2017).

2.3. Color and Airline's Image Association

Image association refers to everything associated with a brand's memory and affects consumers to simply and clearly remember the information needed in the decision-making process for the brand. The brand image consists of a combination of perceptions embedded in the consumer's memory, reflected by the brand's association, and the stronger, more friendly and unique of these years, the more brand assets can be built. It affects the attitude of customers to the brand(Kim, 2007).

To create a brand image, customers must have positive, strong, and unique associations inside. In addition, such brand associations can only create a brand image if they come up with an immediate, unique, and differentiated brand relationship. This formed brand image plays a major role in the customer's decision to purchase and provides the potential to positively evaluate and bias the brand. A brand with a favorable and positive association means that it has a high level of brand assets and can even improve its willingness to pay premium prices by increasing customer preference for that brand(Zhang, 2014). The brand association can be linked to the brand personality in relation to the customer attitude. Color's visual positioning has a powerful effect on the brand's relationship with a short memory. In a service industry that provides intangible services such as airlines, efforts should be made to build brand assets by creating customer attitudes through strong brand relationships(Lee, 2009).

Airline is seeking strategic management to create an intangible tangible asset into a realistic image and to have a favorable corporate image(Cash & Henry, 1995) through various communication strategies, along with the customer's individuality. Customers choose Airline with images formed on the basis of visual elements such as advertising, logos, colors, uniforms, and aircraft without objective facts or direct purchase experience(Beerlin & Martin, 2004). Along with a number of excellent human and physical services, desirable airline image development has a direct impact on airline marketing. It should strengthen its competitiveness through a differentiated brand image by establishing an image that will change customer attitude amid ever-increasing competition. This requires a study of the visual factors that affect the attitude of the customer to Airline(Gabott & Hong, 2000). In this study, we will study the customer attitude about the color of the uniforms of the airline crew during the customer attitude towards the airline.

3. Methodology

3.1. Setting Up the Research Topics

In this study, we will contribute to establishing a colorimage for eight domestic airlines by exploring customer attitudes about color among the visual elements that make up an airline image. This is intended to provide both managerial and practical implications for avoiding the general marketing of airlines. Based on the forementioned prior studies and theoretical foundations, the following research questions were derived for the purposes of the study

Research Question 1: What is the customer's age for the airline crew's uniform color?

Research Question 2: Does the color images of airlines differ from one another?

3.2. Setting Up the Research Topics

In order to carry out the research, the sample targetspassengers of adults living in Korea who have used domestic airlines within the last year. The survey period was held from January 1, 2018 to October 5, 2018. The survey method was conducted in person-to-person interviews at In-Cheon International Airport and Kimpo Airport using structured questionnaires. Out of the 380 collected, the collected questionnaires with poor or non-response were excluded from the analysis and 350 were analyzed.

The subjects of this study were selected by eight airlines, including two existing large airlines operating in Korea (Korea Airlines, Asiana Airlines) and six low-cost airlines (T’way, Jeju Air, Air Busan, Eastar Jet, Jin Air, and Air Seoul), and based on the results of the color metric analysis that is shown in the visual identity elements of the airline's image, the results of the analysis were used to extract color adjectives needed for the study. Based on the image scale of the adjectives developed by the I.R.I. Color Institute with the support of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy, the color images of 15 color experts were presented according to the colors of the eight rules of the airline, and only non-objective adjectives representing their unique characteristics were extracted

The final selected adjectives are as shown in [Table 1].

Table 1: The Final Selection of Color Image Adjectives

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Note: IRI Color Institute(2011), Color Combination, Seoul, IRI Design Institute Inc.

3.3. General characteristics of a sample

Prior to the hypothesis testing of this study, the demographic characteristics of a total of 350 people used in the empirical analysis were shown in [Table 2].

Table 2: Demographic Characteristics

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Women account for more gender distribution with 213 women (60.9%) and 137 men (39.1%), and women in their 40s (40.0%), 117 in their 30s (33.4%), 54 in their 20s (15.4%), and 39 in their 50s or older (11.1%). Some 179 workers (21.1%), 60 housewives (17.1%), other 45 (12.9%), 33 students (9.4%), and 33 self-employed people (9.4%), and 261 (74.6%), 83 companies (23.7%), and six others (1.7%). Meanwhile, the number of domestic flights was 45 (12.9%), 41 (11.7%), 27 (77.7%), and 18 (5.1%), followed by 5~6 30 (8.6%), 20 (5.7%) and 9~8 (2.6%)

3.3.1. Preference for Color Image

Preference for the colour image of the airline's uniform is shown in [Table 3]. Korean Air had the highest affinity for uniforms with an average of 4.22, followed by Asiana Airline 3.51, Jeju Air 3.47, Air Busan 3.17, Eastar Jet 3.13, Air Seoul 3.11, T’way Air 3.09, and Jin Air 2.89.

Table 3: Preference for the Color Image of Airline's Uniforms

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3.3.2. Korean Air

The color image of Korean Air is shown in [Table 4]. The highest level of "clear" was 22.3 percent, followed by "bright" with 12.3 percent, "neat" with 11.4 percent, "soft" with 7.1 percent, and "noble" with 6.0 percent. [Figure 1] shows the color image of Korean Air on the color image scale of IRI Color Institute.

Table 4: An Analysis of the Adjective Expression of Color Image in Korean Air

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Figure 1: Color Image of Korean Air Flight Crew Uniform Positioned in IRI Color Scale

Note: Using color image scale from IRI Color Institute(2011).

3.3.3. Asiana Airline

The color image that customers think about Asiana Airlines is as shown in [Table 5]. The "calm" feeling was the highest at 15.7 percent, followed by "noble" feeling 14.8 percent, "Heavy-handed" feeling 11.6 percent, "soft" feeling 9.7 percent, and "static" feeling 9.3 percent. [Figure 2] shows the color image of Asiana Airline on the color image scale of IRI Color Institute.

Table 5: An Analysis of the Adjective Expression of Color Image in Asiana Airline

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Figure 2: Color Image of Asiana Airline Flight Crew Uniform Positioned in IRI Color Scale

Note: Using color image scale from IRI Color Institute(2011).

3.3.4. T’way

Image adjectives that customers associate with the color of T’way Airlines appear as shown in [Table 6]. The highest number of "individual" feelings was 13.4 percent, followed by "strong" feelings 12.3 percent, "dynamic" feelings 10.3 percent, "energetic" feelings 8.0 percent, and "cheerful" 7.7 percent. [Figure 3] shows the color image of T-Way on the color image scale of IRI Color Institute.

Table 6: An Analysis of the Adjective Expression of Color Image in T’way

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Figure 3: Color Image of T’Way Airline Crew Uniform Positioned in IRI Color Scale

Note: Using color image scale from IRI Color Institute(2011).

3.3.5. Jeju Air

Image adjectives that customers associate with the color of Jeju Air appear as shown in [Table 7]. The highest number of "neat" feelings was 11.1 percent, followed by "cute" feelings 11.0 percent, "bright" feelings 10.8 percent, "light" feelings 7.1 percent, and "clear" feelings 7.0 percent. [Figure 4] shows the color image of Jeju Air on the color image scale of IRI Color Institute.

Table 7: An Analysis of the Adjective Expression of Color Image in Jeju Air

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Figure 4: Color Image of Jeju Flight Crew Uniform Positioned in IRI Color Scale

Note: Using color image scale from IRI Color Institute(2011).

3.3.6. Air Busan

The color image that customers think about Air Busan is as shown in [Table 8]. The highest number of "light" feelings was 11.7 percent, followed by "sporty" feelings 9.7 percent, "cheerful" feelings 7.7 percent, "individual" feelings 6.9 percent, and "conspicuous" feelings 6.3 percent.

Table 8: An Analysis of the Adjective Expression of Color Image in Air Busan

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[Figure 5] shows the color image of Air Busan on the color image scale of IRI Color Institute.

OTGHB7_2019_v17n2_43_f0004.png 이미지

Figure 5: Color Image of Air Busan Flight Crew Uniform Positioned in IRI Color Scale

Note: Using color image scale from IRI Color Institute(2011).

3.3.7. Eastar Jet

Image adjectives that customers associate with the color of Eastar Jet appear as shown in [Table 9]. The highest level of 'noble' feeling was 13.1 percent, followed by 'individual' feeling of with 13.0 percent, 'calm' feeling 10.6 percent, 'conspicuous' feeling 8.9 percent, and 'heavyhanded' feeling 8.9 percent.

[Figure 6] shows the color image of Eastar Jet on the color image scale of IRI Color Institute.

Table 9: An Analysis of the Adjective Expression of Color Image in Eastar Jet

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Figure 6: Color Image of Eastar Jet Flight Crew Uniform Positioned in IRI Color Scale

Note: Using color image scale from IRI Color Institute(2011).

3.3.8. Jin Air

The color image that customers think about Jin Air is as shown in [Table 10]. The highest number of people with the highest sense of 'individual' was 17.9%, followed by 'sporty' feeling of 'dynamic' feeling of 10.3%, 'joyful' feeling of 9.1%, and 'active' feeling of 8.6%. [Figure 7] shows the color image of Jin Air on the color image scale of IRI Color Institute.

Table 10: An Analysis of the Adjective Expression of Color Image in Jin Air

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Figure 7: Color Image of Jin Air Flight Crew Uniform Positioned in IRI Color Scale

Note: Using color image scale from IRI Color Institute(2011).

3.3.9. Air Seoul

Image adjectives that customers associate with the color of Air Seoul appear as shown in [Table 11]. The highest level of 'individual' feeling was 18.8 percent, followed by 'sporty' feeling with 11.1 percent, 'light' feeling with 9.1 percent, 'cute' feeling with 7.3 percent. [Figure 8] shows the color image of Air Seoul on the color image scale of IRI Color Institute.

Table 11: An Analysis of the Adjective Expression of Color Image in Air Seoul

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Figure 8: Color Image of Air Seoul Flight Crew Uniform Positioned in IRI Color Scale

Note: Using color image scale from IRI Color Institute(2011).

4. Conclusion

Currently, all eight domestic airlines have designated color identity and are applying color images consistent with airline uniforms. In case of Korean Air, the blue and ivory colors are used for Korean Air, and in case of Asiana Airlines, the national identity is expressed as well as the national identity of the airline.

Also, in case of low-cost airlines, color images showing local characteristics and the identity of the company are used for uniforms. Jeju Air, for example, uses orange as a motif for its uniforms.

During the past year, a survey on the color images of airline uniforms was conducted on passengers who had experience using domestic airlines more than once on international and domestic flights, and an empirical analysis was conducted on how the use of domestic airline color images was related to the association of consumers' branding and the consistency of airline image. The results are as follows:

First, Korean Air had the highest level of satisfaction with the color image of the airline uniforms, followed by Asiana Airlines, Jeju Air and Air Busan. This is similar to the favour of the Airline brand image in the preceding study, and the color image of the airline crew's uniform was found to match the formation of the Airline brand image. It also indicates that exposure of color images to large airlines is higher than low-cost carriers, and that preference for color image association is also high for consumers.

Second, the analysis of the color images used in the uniforms of flight attendants at domestic airlines as perceived by passengers is as follows. The brand image association with the uniform color of the airline crew applied to the visual identity is represented by the following adjectives. In the case of Korean Air, it was followed by 'clear', 'neat' and 'bright'. Asiana Airlines was ranked in the order of 'static', 'noble', and 'heavy-handed'. Jeju Air was ranked "clean," "cute," and "bright," T’way followed by "individual," "strong" and "dynamic." Air Busan was in order of 'bright', 'sporty' and 'individual', while Eastar Jet came in 'noble', 'individual' and 'calm'. Jin air was in the order of 'individual', 'sporty' and 'individual'. In the case of Air seoul, it was followed by 'individual', 'sporty' and 'bright'. For LCC(Low Cost Carrier), many color adjectives such as 'individual', 'sporty' and 'bright' are shown to play a positive role in airline crew uniform color images for the brands sought by the airline. This means that the colour image of the airline uniform plays an effective role in establishing the airline brand image.

Third, color, which acts as visual communication, is the fastest and most effective function for communicating messages to and from passengers. In airline marketing, the choice of uniform color of the crew plays a crucial role in establishing brand identity, playing a positive role in the company's brand association. In particular, airlines that are forced to compete soon with the unique nature of the aviation service industry providing intangible services can survive the fierce competition only if they strive to establish a brand image that is more competitive than other industries. The significance of this research is that domestic airlines have revealed that the use of color images by companies is very important in order to become global competitors. Color is a very important element in the formation of a brand image for airlines. The significance of this study can be found in the analysis of the airline brand image through color

This study on the color images of domestic airline crew uniforms has the following limitations: First, it was not possible to analyze various color images of international airlines by selecting only domestic airlines for investigation. Second, extensive research on aircraft, logos, marks, etc. has not been carried out on only the colors of the flight attendants' uniform among the airline's color images.

So far, studies of airline brands have been conducted not only in too broad an image study, but also in most cases the study of tangible elements such as service quality and price and aircraft, which are intangible elements that are invisible. In this study, the uniform color image of the airline's crew, a component of brand image of eight airlines in Korea, is analyzed and proposed to continue the study of new airline brands in the future by showing that the use of colors with the role of visual communication has a significant effect on the airline branding of passengers.


This was Supported by the Hanseo University, Korea.


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