Normative expectations and internalized values – brands as ethical constructs
by Jan Rommerskirchen & Anne-Kathrin Woll (Hochschule Fresenius, Köln)
In the field of corporate communication, confidence in brands is considered the essential link between sympathy and loyalty. A qualitative survey suggests the categories competence, benevolence and integrity as potential dimensions of what makes a brand trustworthy, with integrity consisting of the subcategories sincerity, transparency and ethical business practices. The relevance of these components as dimensions of trustworthiness was then confirmed in a follow-up quantitative analysis. This study, however, suggested that the relevance and importance that is attributed to the individual components is highly related to the specific brand in question. Moreover, the dimension ‘ethical trade’, which is a subcategory of integrity, contains an important interpersonal factor: For people who are strongly norm-oriented, the extent to which a brand and its company accepts its social and environmental responsibilities is a relevant factor for their confidence, whereas this is less important for people who show a rather utility-oriented attitude. The study also revealed a significant moderator effect for brands which have been perceived as particularly sustainable.
Keywords: corporate communication, brand trust, homo sociologicus, homo economicus, sustainability
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