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The sustainable brand equity: a retail study measuring sustainable brand equity
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stockholm Business School.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stockholm Business School.
2018 (English)In: Global marketing conference proceedings, 2018Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Aim Research in the Swedish retail sector 2017, shows that 37% of the public in Sweden has attitudes and behavior that make them part of the Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability group (Lohas). Lohas is a method (see Lohas.se) to measure sustainable living in a global context (Swedish Sustainability Ranking 2017). This make Sweden in the forefront. Furthermore, the Swedish government has issued a new law (entered into force in 2017) that demands Swedish companies with more than 250 employees or a certain turnover to annually report their sustainability efforts and how it connects to their business model. This is the background for our study investigating different industry sectors in Sweden. In this environment, retailers such as IKEA, Apoteket, Max Burger, Clas Ohlson, and H&M, followed by others, have gained recognition regarding their strong brands as well as good practice within sustainability. Sustainability has recently become more relevant to study. In Sweden repeated surveys, (2004-2017), have shown that Swedish retailers are perceived as the most reputable and sustainable of all companies. What is the background that makes retailers so trusted and sustainable among the general public and customers in Sweden? The purpose of this paper is to present and analyze the underlying factors which give retailers in Sweden such a high sustainability scores over time i.e. what factors are important to achieve sustainable brand equity in the Swedish retail sector. A detailed comparison will be made of two large surveys carried out in 2016 and 2017.

Design/methodology/approach This paper explores the branding framework Customer-Based Brand Equity as well as Points of Difference (POD) and Points of Parity (POP) in a projective retailer sustainability perspective, Keller, Apéria and Georgson (2012). The overall customer brand equity framework is developed by Keller (1993). PODs is defined as unique associations, strong and favorable, linked to a brand. POPs are associations that can be shared with other brands, Keller, Sternthal, and Tybout (2002). Ailawadi and Keller (2004) discuss the importance of measuring retailer brand equity. According to the researchers brand equity has been one of the most challenging and important issues for both academics and managers. The chosen framework and the analysis for the study is the corporate brand level. A sustainability index, developed by Apéria, has been developed and tested during the period 2015-2017. The sustainability index measures four dimensions of sustainability: environment/climate, society/ethics, longterm/future perspective, and openness (see figure 1). The index is inspired by the Triple bottom line approach. The data comes from the Swedish Sustainability Ranking, the largest survey on sustainability in Sweden. More than 18,000 online surveys were carried out in 2016 and 25,000 surveys carried out in 2017. The panelists participating in the survey were recruited in order to be representative of the Swedish general public, age 18-74 years. 190 well-known and visible consumer companies were measured in 2016 and 200 companies and organizations in 2017. These companies were selected because they are well-known, salient and represent important categories from a consumer point of view. Our view of salience is based on Ehrenberg, Barnard and Scriven (1997). A pre-study was carried out in 2015 in order to understand consumer criterias for choice of retailer. In 2016, 32 retailers where measured in a specific retailer frame of reference. 4,225 surveys where carried out among general public who participated in the study. In the 2017 survey, 35 retailers were measured and 3,416 surveys were carried out, also in a retailer frame of reference targeting the general public. All respondents taking part in the study initially ranked companies with product, brand, and sustainability attributes. The respondents ranked these retailers with approximately 35 brand- attitude questions (Likert scale from 1-7). In the second part of the interview each respondent also indirectly, through a projective approach, described the retailer. The perspective of reputation and sustainability metrics has traditionally been used in a strict rational point of view. One example of reputation metrics is the RepTrak model described by Fombrun, Ponzi, and Newburry (2015), and van Riel (2012). Chun and Davies (2004) and J. Aaker (1997) have also discussed corporate character and brand personality from a rational point of view. Ailawadi and Keller (2004) have pointed out that brand personality as an area deserves greater attention from research. The authors of this article argue that a complementary perspective is needed to fully understand how consumers evaluate corporate brands and sustainability and the complexity behind this process. The authors propose to add emotional components in the evaluation, as a complement to the traditional rational view. The proposed way to understand the emotional side of a corporate brand is to use projective techniques (Apéria 2001, Apéria and Back 2004, Keller, Apéria and Georgson 2012). An advantage of projective techniques is that they may elicit responses that respondents may be unwilling or unable to give by traditional interview methods. In this retailer study we used projective techniques in order to explore the more emotional aspects of the retailers.

Findings The results from the analyze presents Swedish retailers as representing the most sustainable of all company categories in Sweden. During a period between 2004-2017 the retail category have been in top positions of the Swedish reputation and sustainability ranking, measured in a longitudinal study. Apoteket, The Body Shop and Clas Ohlson have been ranked as number one, one time each. While IKEA has been number one eleven times during the period. During the last two years, 2016 and 2017 IKEA was ranked as number one, based on the sustainability index. The analyze has shown that the highly sustainable retailers operating in the Swedish market primarily are characterized by strong brands as well as strong perceptions of sustainability. An interesting example is the local Swedish fast-food company Max Burgers that strongly outperforms McDonald´s both as a brand as well on sustainability. Successful retailers have different personalities, and archetypes compared with other corporate categories. The analysis reveals that the strongest retailers with a high sustainability index are characterized by having strong brand personalities. Furthermore, the analysis also reveals that the archetypes characterizing these retailers are we-oriented archetypes such as: ordinary/familiar, stable/down to earth, but also the ego-oriented archetype focused/specialist. Examples of retailers with a strong brand personality are IKEA, The Body Shop, Stadium, ICA, Zara and H&M. When we compare the data from the study 2016 with 2017 we see the same results. Our results from both studies indicate that local retailers are more positively evaluated than international. We-orientated brands score higher than ego-orientated. Some retail categories are perceived better than others are. Examples of strong retail categories are pharmacies, furniture, food, and sport stores and weak retailer categories are hamburger restaurants, consumer electronics and telecom stores. However, there is always an opportunity for a retailer to be stronger than the category they represent. One example, earlier mentioned is the local hamburger chain Max Burgers that strongly outperforms international competitors such as Burger King and McDonald´s, when we compare their sustainability indexes. The results indicate that both rational and emotional factors constitute an important part of the Sustainable Brand Equity Model. This new model (see figure 2) has been developed and tested during surveys 2015-2017 by one of the authors as a part of the Swedish Sustainability Ranking. Central components of the model are sustainability indexes, corporate brand personality, brand associations meeting need segments which lead to brand loyalty and trust capital. Finally, our survey shows that retailers needs to be strong in both brand and sustainability. It´s not enough to only excel in sustainability.

Research limitations/implications The Sustainability survey was carried out both in 2016 and 2017 in a retailer frame of reference including different retailers from different sectors. The authors recognize that Swedes rank retailers as the most reputable and sustainable category of companies every year. In different countries the general public has different opinions about which companies they found most reputable (Apéria, Simcic Brønn, and Schultz, 2004).

Originality/value The authors compares the chosen 32 retailers studied in 2016 with 35 retailers studied in 2017 with the same method. In both surveys we used both rational questions and emotional projective questions in order to understand the retailers in-depth. In both surveys a sustainability index was used in order to rank the retailers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018.
Keywords [en]
Sustainable Brand Equity Model, Retail Brand Equity, Sustainability index, Corporate Brand Personality, and Retailer Points of Parity (POP) and Points of Difference (POD)
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-163333DOI: 10.15444/GMC2018.10.05.02OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-163333DiVA, id: diva2:1273624
Conference
2018 Global Marketing Conference, Tokyo, Japan, July 26-29, 2018
Available from: 2018-12-21 Created: 2018-12-21 Last updated: 2019-01-03Bibliographically approved

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