Do Customer Perceptions of Corporate Services Brand Ethicality Improve Brand Equity? Considering the Roles of Brand Heritage, Brand Image, and Recognition Benefits

Journal of Business Ethics 154 (2):441-459 (2019)
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In order to be competitive in an era of ethical consumerism, brands are facing an ever-increasing pressure to integrate ethical values into their identities and to display their ethical commitment at a corporate level. Nevertheless, studies that relate business ethics to corporate brands are either theoretical or have predominantly been developed empirically in goods contexts. This is surprising, because corporate brands are more relevant in services settings, given the nature of services, and the fact that services settings comprise a greater number of customer–brand interactions and touch points than goods contexts. Accordingly, the purpose of this article is to empirically examine the effects of customer perceived ethicality of corporate brands that operate in the services sector. Based on data collected for eight service categories using a panel of 2179 customers, the hypothesized structural model is tested using path analysis. The generalizability theory is applied to test for measurement equivalence between these categories. The results of the hypothesized model show that, in addition to a direct impact, customer perceived ethicality has a positive and indirect impact on brand equity, through the mediators of recognition benefits and brand image. Moreover, brand heritage negatively influences the impact of customer perceived ethicality on brand image. The main implication is that managers need to be aware of the need to reinforce brand image and recognition benefits, as this can facilitate the translation of customer perceived ethicality into brand equity.



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