Sustainability as a new dimension of brand management - An investigation with regard to affective and cognitive dimensions of profiling

Master's Thesis, 2012

83 Pages, Grade: 1.3


Table of content

Table of figures

Table of tables

Table of abbreviations

1 Introduction
1.1 The increased attractiveness of sustainability branding in times of uncertainty, globalization and crisis
1.2 Definition of relevant terminology
1.3 Objectives and structure of the work

2 Fundamentals of corporate brand management and corporate sustainability branding
2.1 Characteristics and objectives of corporate brand management
2.2 Building a brand - The concept of identity oriented brand management and corporate brand profiling
2.3 Reasons for the integration of corporate sustainability branding and relevance for the different stakeholder groups
2.4 Integration of sustainability in the corporate brand identity and in the corporate brand profiling
2.4.1 Integration of sustainability in the corporate brand identity
2.4.2 Integration of sustainability in the corporate brand profiling
2.5 Main challenges and risks

3 The use of affective and cognitive elements of communication for the profiling of corporate sustainability brands
3.1 The influence of affective and cognitive communication measures on the recipient
3.2 Relevance of affective and cognitive measures for corporate sustainability branding and profiling
3.3 Affective and cognitive instruments and persuasion strategies of
sustainability profiling
3.4 Investigation of the effect of affective versus cognitive stimuli on the profiling of corporate sustainability
3.4.1 Hypotheses and research questions
3.4.2 Method
3.4.3 Results

4 Conclusion and implications
4.1 Conclusion and acknowledgment of empirical results
4.2 Implication for practice
4.3 Outlook and further research


Reference list

Table of figures

Figure 1: Cognitive and affective benefits of corporate brands

Figure 2: Brand identity, brand profiling and brand image

Figure 3: Brand identity components as communication vehicle for cognitive and

affective benefits

Figure 4: Benefits and effects of sustainability orientation

Figure 5: The integration of sustainability within the corporation

Figure 6: Criteria of diverse sustainability rankings and awards

Figure 7: Profiling options of corporate sustainability profiling

Figure 8: Sustainability brand profiling process

Figure 9: Corporate sustainability branding and greenwashing

Figure 10: Affective and cognitive persuasion strategies of advertisements

Figure 11: Affective and cognitive elements used in recent print advertisements

Figure 12: Research model

Figure 13: Experimental design

Figure 14: Perceptual map

Table of tables

Table 1: Descriptive statistics of Image and Credibility variables

Table 2: Results of One-Way-ANOVA analysis

Table 3: Student-Newman-Keuls test

Table 4: Pearson Correlation

Table of abbreviations

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

1 Introduction

1.1 The increased attractiveness of sustainability branding in times of uncertainty, globalization and crisis

The concept of sustainability has been introduced to the sphere of marketing management several years ago and has its origin in the areas of ecological marketing and environmental management, which were prominent concepts during the seventies and eighties (Meffert, Rauch, & Lepp 2010, pp. 28 f.; Godemann, & Michelsen 2007, p. 25). Whereas these concepts have become gradually less important, the ideas and the ideology have been adopted by the more holistic concept of sustainability, considering not only the ecological but also the economical and the social perspective.

Since the UN conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro and the conventions in Kyoto during the nineties, sustainable development has not only become a central topic for politics, but also a dominant mission statement of the whole economy of the 21st century (Daub 2008, p. 18; Lichtl 1999, p. 15). Global crises like the financial crisis in 2008, economic scandals like the one of Enron in 2001 or ecological catastrophes caused by globally operating corporations like BP in 2010 are particularly reducing the credibility of corporations, but also the one of global economy in general (Edelman 2011, p. 16). Globalization with its combined fear of climate change and the uncertainty about dwindling resources lead to a rethinking throughout society and thereby to the wish for a more sustainable world (Kreeb, Schulz, Schwender, & Lichtl 2009a, p. 41).

Although these developments are affecting everybody, only few are willing to claim responsibility in order to tackle the problem (Allianz 2010, pp. 12 ff.). Although the majority sees the powerlessness of governments and the international society in the responsibility to engage with this global issue, more and more people demand especially corporations to take on this role (Middlemiss 2003, p. 353; Trumann, & Herhausen 2008, p. 23). Today it has become nearly impossible for large organizations to neglect the request of its stakeholders for a more sustainable

development (Schaltegger 2004, p. 2679). Simultaneously, it is the utmost concern of corporations to integrate sustainability objectives into their business, since stable markets are preferred and corporations try to prevent social or ecological problems (Lichtl 1999, p. 15). Corporations are faced on the one hand with the challenge to handle scarce resources or climate change and on the other hand to deal with better informed, more sensible and critical stakeholders (Schrader, Halbes, & Hansen 2005). At the same time, increased environmental protection requirements and stricter laws as well as a reorientation from the shareholder value to the stakeholder value approach are fostering corporations to integrate sustainability aspects into the core of the corporation (Meffert et al. 2010, p. 29; Schrader et al. 2005, p. 7).

Thereby, the systematically positioning towards sustainability and its integration into management as well as marketing strategies and processes can lead to further advantages for an organization (Daub 2008, p. 19). Various studies show a positive relation between sustainability orientation and financial performance (Miles, & Colin 2000), while others see it as an effective measure to enhance corporations’ reputation and credibility, to increase customer loyalty and not at least to differentiate from competition (Schrader et al. 2005, p. 19). However, incredible or excessive claims or the attempt to manipulate the stakeholders can lead to immense and often irreversible damages for the organization (Schaltegger 2004, p. 2679).

A carefully planned and intelligent management and communication of sustainability is therefore the prerequisite to benefit from a corporate sustainability orientation. Thereby corporate branding plays a crucial role, since it is the interface between the identity of a corporation and its stakeholders, mediating its promises (Behrens 2005, p. 7; Kitchin 2003, p. 312). Corporate sustainability branding has gained importance due to the insight that the perception of a company and its role in society can affect the brand’s strength and equity (Hoeffler, & Keller 2002, p. 78). In the focus of the current trend of sustainability brand management the questions arise how sustainability is best integrated into the brand management concept and how it is most effectively and credibly communicated to the stakeholders (Meffert et al. 2010, p. 28).

In this context the question whether sustainability advertisements should rely on more functional (cognitive) or more emotional (affective) elements in order to create an effective and credible brand image is prevalent and is in line with current trends in general advertising.

Eventually, this topic also has a more general relevance since brands have the ability to influence people and to enable them to act more sustainably in their private lives (Brand Strategy 2006, p. 44). In this context the following statement of Hilton (2003, p. 370) has a particular relevance: “If you want to change the world, do it through business. If you want to help your business, help to change the world.”.

1.2 Definition of relevant terminology

In the process of this work, the author will highlight the relevance of sustainability as a new dimension of brand management and differentiation opportunity for corporations. Furthermore, he will investigate the usability of affective and cognitive communication elements as stylistic means for a successful sustainability branding. In order to create a common basis of understanding, this section defines all relevant terms and concepts, which are necessary for the further process of the paper at the hand. Oriented towards the topic of this work, the terms sustainability, brand, corporate brand, brand management, profiling as well as affection and cognition will be defined and explained.

A common understanding of the first term respectively of the concept of ‘sustainability’ is probably most important for this work. Although the relevance of this topic is undisputed in practice as well as in science, a clear definition is often difficult to derive. The opacity, especially in the business context, can be seen as the result of conceptual similarity to related terms such as business ethic, corporate social responsibility, sustainable development or corporate citizenship (Hermann 2005, p. 3). It becomes clear that all terms approach a sense of responsibility and an orientation towards values, norms and common interests of the society and the environment (Fan 2005, p. 346). Most authors agree that sustainability stands for the sustainable use of natural resources as well as the demand for a durable security of living- and developing conditions for all human beings (a.o. Belz, & Bilharz 2005, p. 5 f.; Kitchin 2003, p. 313; Lichtl 1999, p. 27). Thereby, the model of sustainability was significantly characterized by the definition of the ‘World Commission on Environment and Development’, who already defined sustainability in the prominent Brundtland-Report, in 1987, as: “the kind of sustainable development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987). In the subsequent years the definition has been extended through the so called ‘Triple-Bottom-Line’ concept, which was developed by the Enquete-Commission and aimed to operationalize the prior definition (Behrens 2005, p. 11). This dominating model differentiates between ecological, economical and social pillars of sustainability as three inter-dependent dimensions and points out that the functionality of each system has to be guaranteed (Piorkowsky 2001, p. 52; Querschnittsgruppe Arbeit und Ökologie 2000). The contexts of the three pillars are explained in the following:

Ecological sustainability contains a.o. aspects concerning the improvement of environmental quality, reduction of resource- and energy consumption or riskreduction for human and animals.

Economical sustainability refers a.o. to aspects like securing the function of the economic system, full employment, social protection, stability of the economy or an intergenerational balance.

Social sustainability focuses on topics like equality of opportunities in education and employment, social improvements or a sustainable satisfaction of humans’ basic needs (Querschnittsgruppe Arbeit und Ökologie 2000; Behrens 2005, p. 12).

Within the context of this work, sustainability should refer to the philosophy of the Burndtland-Report in combination with the Triple-Bottom-Line concept. Therefore, the term includes all economical, ecological and social contributions of a corporation in an inter-generational context that go beyond the law and standard regulations, and are thus voluntarily performed by the organization itself.

The terms brand, corporate brand, brand management and profiling are less vague and do not demand an equally detailed explanation since they will be taken up and explained in the specific context in the course of this work. A brand can be seen as the interface between the company and its stakeholders (Fan 2005, p. 342) or following the definition of ‘The American Marketing Association’ (2012) as: “a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers”. A successful brand embodies specific attributes that are perceived by the customer as relevant and unique, and represent an added value that is sustained in the face of competition. Thereby, a brand serves as preference- and orientation function for its users, who connect specific attitudes and associations with the brand respectively with the product or service behind it (de Chernatony, & McDonald 2003, p. 25; Hermann 2005, p. 32).

In the case of a corporate brand, the company itself becomes the brand. The brand is then related to the attitudes and unique associations that wide stakeholder groups have of the company and its behavior (Larkin 2003; de Chernatony, & McDonald 2003; Goodyear 1996).

Brand management concentrates on the holistic planning, coordination and controlling of a brand by using target-oriented marketing plans and -strategies (The American Marketing Association 2012). The main objectives are to build unique and desired associations in the psyche of the stakeholders and to differentiate the company from competition. The process of building this distinctive image in the mind of the stakeholders in order to differentiate the brand from competition is also known as profiling (Esch 2001, pp. 235 f.).

Finally, the terms affection and cognition have to be introduced. Both terms are originated in the fields of psychology and are important elements for the mental attitude or knowledge building process of humans (Batra, & Ray 1986, p. 235;

Gardner 1985). Whereas affection is associated with emotions, feelings and sentiments as elements for the knowledge building process, cognition includes reasoning, rationality and perception (Batra, & Ray 1986, p. 235; Ekman, Friesen, & Elsworth 1982). Within marketing both constructs are of great importance, since it is believed that the targeted use of affective or cognitive elements has a different impact on consumer behavior and on the establishment of brand associations (Mallhotra 2005; Burke, & Edell 1989; Batra, & Ray 1986).

1.3 Objectives and structure of the work

As part of the current challenges of corporate brand management, the need for a holistic conceptualization of corporate sustainability brand management has been recognized. In this context the question of how sustainability is most effectively communicated and anchored in the psyche of the stakeholders is seen as relevant for practice and science. Against this background and based on the concepts and definitions in this introductory chapter, the present work aims to contribute to the understanding of effective corporate sustainability brand management. Thus, the objective is to derive valuable conceptual and practical insights for top- and brand managers as well as to serve the research community with relevant results regarding sustainability branding.

The first part of the present work concentrates on the question of how sustainability branding can be integrated in the existing concepts of brand management. Therefore, the second chapter starts with an introduction to general ideas of brand management and focuses especially on the identity-oriented brand management approach. In the process of the chapter special characteristics of sustainability, in general and as attribute of brands, are explained and later integrated in the prior outlined concept of brand management. The first part of this work ends with an elaboration of potential risks and main challenges of sustainability branding.

The second and empirical part (chapter 3) of the work at the hand contributes to the question whether affective or cognitive elements in advertisements are best suited to create a credible corporate sustainability brand image. Based on an experimental collection of primary data the author examines three purposedesigned advertisements on their impact on the perceived brand image and credibility of a fictitious, sustainability oriented corporation.

The fourth and last chapter finally serves as a conclusion and acknowledgement of the research results. After a comprehensive overview of the main insights, several implications for practice are mentioned. The chapter ends with a future outlook and recommendations for further research.

2 Fundamentals of corporate brand management and corporate sustainability branding

2.1 Characteristics and objectives of corporate brand management

The importance of brands and brand management for the success of products, services or corporations is not a matter of dispute in practice and science and has evolved as a key topic of market oriented management for a long time (Meffert, Burmann, & Koers 2002a, p. 4; Esch, & Wicke 2001, p. 5). Reason for this can be found on the side of the stakeholders as well as on the side of the corporation itself. In times of growing complexity and a state of information overflow, a brand has a preference building as well as an orientation function for the (potential) user (Hermann 2005, p. 32). Consequently, the resulting effect on e.g. customers’ choice and purchase decision, transforms the brand into a valuable asset for the corporation (Meffert et al. 2002a, p. 5). In the last decades this relationship was especially contextualized and confined to product branding, while corporate branding has been overlooked (Fan 2005, p. 344).

Nevertheless, it is widely accepted that a brand, regardless whether a product brand or a corporate brand, cannot be separated from the organizational context so that the mode of action is principally similar, when comparing product and corporate brands (Hermann 2005, p. 38). Whereby the main objective of a product brand is to especially boost sales and profitability, the primary purpose of corporate brands is to embody the value system of the company and to enhance its corporate reputation (Fan 2005, p. 345). Being the first face of the corporation, a corporate brand communicates to a larger audience than a classical product brand. The target group does not only include the market (customer or retail) or the financial community (a.o. shareholder, investors), but also the current employees, the labor market or the whole supply chain. Furthermore, indirect stakeholder groups such as the media, the government, related associations or the society in general have to be integrated and considered in the brand policy (Kranz 2004, p. 22; Hermann 2005, p. 39). According to the variety of stakeholders, a corporate brand policy can help to achieve different corporate objectives as well as embody diverse benefits for the stakeholders themselves.

From a company’s point of view, a successful corporate brand can deliver a sustainable competitive advantage, resulting in a superior profitability and market performance (de Chernatory, & McDonald 2003, p. 17). It is the intrinsic objective of every branding strategy to create a unique and a favorable image in the mind of its users in order to increase and control brand awareness, -image, -trust, -loyalty, -sympathy and -preference (Hermann 2005, p. 32). Thereby the brand should help the organization to achieve a sustainable differentiation and protection from competition and enable the realization of extra revenue streams through a better flexibility in pricing (Fan 2005, p. 343). Through the combination of intangible values and emotions a corporate brand can further transform an organization from being a faceless bureaucracy to become an attractive partner of choice, influencing the overall reputation, quality and value perception as well as the overall corporate image (de Chernatony, & McDonald 2003, pp. 9 ff.).

From a stakeholder’s perspective, a brand has to deliver additional benefits. Thereby, the individual evaluates the totality of perceived attributes of a brand and matches them to his or her personal needs (Burmann, Meffert, & Feddersen 2012, p. 10). The degree to which the perceived attributes fulfill the needs of the stakeholder, can be summarized as brand benefits (Diller 1992; Perry 1998). Some authors (a.o. Meffert 2002a et al., p. 11) are especially highlighting the orientation-, trust-, prestige-, security- and identification function of a brand, as main benefits. A further development of these brand functions occurred through a systematic categorization. Whereas the MCM/ McKinsey approach (Fischer, Kranz, & Hieronimus 2002, pp. 18 f.; Hermann 2005, p. 34) differentiates between direct and indirect benefits, Burmann, Meffert and Feddersen (2012, pp. 10 f.), following Vershofen (1940) and Keller (1993), categorize the benefits as affective- (emotional) and cognitive (functional) benefits (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Cognitive and affective benefits of corporate brands. (Source: Own illustration following Hermann (2005), p. 34)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Cognitive benefits comprise objective and rational benefits of the brand and can be further divided into physical-functional benefits, information benefits and risk reduction benefits (Nitschke 2006, p. 102; Burmann, & Schallehn 2008, p. 10). All three dimensions support the stakeholder to make a rational decision for or against ‘using’ a brand.

Physical-functional benefits are classical performance aspects of the product or service behind the brand, which can easily be evaluated and compared to substitutes. Information benefits are supporting the individual in the information collecting phase and have therefore a kind of relief function (Kroeber-Riel, & Weinberg 2003). They reduce the perceived complexity of the decision process, helping to recognize and interpret the brand more easily (Burmann et al. 2012, p. 10). At the same time a brand can reduce the perceived risk of its brand users. Due to the continuity, trust and security given by an established brand, risks like quality risk (e.g. defect product), financial risk or social risk (e.g. insufficient acceptance of friends) can be reduced (Burmann et al. 2012, p. 10).

Affective benefits exceed the scope of cognitive benefits and can be seen as additional advantages (Nitschke 2006). Today, affective respectively emotional functions of a brand are becoming more important in the field of brand research (cf. Richter 2003; Brandmeyer 2002; Freundt 2006). Besides intrinsic benefits, such as identification or self-actualization, they also include extrinsic benefits, like aspects of demonstration (e.g. prestige, demonstration of own values) or of social needs like recognition or acceptance (Burmann et al. 2012, pp. 10 f.).

Both affective and cognitive benefits are influencing the stakeholder’s individual association of a brand (Burmann et al. 2012, p. 9). Nevertheless, each brand attribute can be beneficial for an individual and/ or for a collective group of stakeholders. Individual benefits are at least satisfying the needs of one target group (e.g. customer), whereas collective benefits are simultaneously addressing the needs of more than one stakeholder party (Hermann 2005, pp. 34 f.). With regard to sustainability as a new dimension of branding this further differentiation is especially useful, since sustainability is a social and political attribute which addresses a collective objective of a broader scope of stakeholders in an inter- generational context.

2.2 Building a brand - The concept of identity oriented brand management and corporate brand profiling

Building a brand takes time and requires a prolonged interaction between the band user and the corporation. Thereby, mutual validations of brand promises and actual behavior of the corporation are shaping the association of a brand in the mind of the stakeholders, and are finally the prerequisite for their trust, loyalty and awareness (Burmann et al. 2012, p. 11). Whereas the understanding of brand management has gone through different phases since the middle of the 19th century, today the identity oriented or so called ‘inside-out and outside-in' approach is dominating (Meffert et al. 2002a, p. 19; Aaker 1996; Upshaw 1995). The main idea behind this concept is the reciprocity of brand identity and brand image as well as the brand profiling as a mediating factor (Meffert et al. 2002a, p. 29). In contrast to the brand identity which refers to the expected self-image that the corporation aims to convey to its stakeholders (Aaker 2001, pp. 97 ff.), the brand image is the current, from the stakeholder perceived, position or association of the brand, which is anchored in their mind (Birkigt, & Stadler 2002, p. 23; Meffert, & Burmann 2002; Aaker, & Keller 1990). Between brand identity and brand image, brand profiling summarizes the activities of a corporation that are performed in order to anchor the preferred brand image in the psyche of the stakeholder (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Brand identity, brand profiling and brand image. (Source: Own illustration, following Hermann (2005), p. 57)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The prevailing perspective on brand management is no longer regarded as a tactical tool, confined to one element of the marketing mix, but rather as a strategic act of integrating the marketing program across the complete marketing mix as well as combining a long-term orientation towards both the market- and the resource-orientation of the company (Aaker 1996, p. 113; de Chernatony, & McDonald 2003, p. 22; Meffert 1998, pp. 709 ff.).

Brand identity is the start of the branding process and can be interpreted as a special form of group identity, which is characterized by values, emotions or beliefs that are shared within a group and identifies the group as a stable social system (Kroeber-Riel, & Weinberg 2003, p. 444; Werthmöller 1995, p. 39). In the context of a corporate brand, group identity is similar to corporate identity of an organization. The corporate identity itself is created through the interaction of the core values, the strategy, the culture and the vision of a corporation (Birkigt, & Stadler 2002). The promises and attributes that are connected with and communicated through the brand must therefore be first lived within the organization (inside-out perspective) (Burmann, Blinda, & Nitschke 2003, p. 5). In a second step, corporate identity implicates the corporate brand identity, which can be seen as the original capital on which differentiation is based (Burmann et al. 2012, p. 12). The potentials of differentiation are based on the components of the brand identity (Burmann et al. 2012, pp. 5 ff.):

Brand origin: Describes the foundation of a brand, which is built on the companies’ appearance from the past, and can be changed in the medium- or long-run. It is a suitable vehicle to emphasize credibility and authenticity. Brand vision:Summarizes the long-term objectives of the brand that serve as an orientation for the internal organization as well as point of differentiation from competition.

Brand values:Are similar to the corporate vision and are serving emotional needs of brand users. Values are especially relevant for delivering authenticity.

Brand competence:Expresses how the brand wants to fulfill the needs of its stakeholder groups and how it differentiates from competition. Brand personality:Defines how the brand intends to appear to its stakeholders in its verbal- and non-verbal communication.

Brand offering:Defines what the brand offers (e.g. product, service, promises etc.) according to its functional and emotional benefits and the brand identity.

According to the definitions above, each identity component can be a distinct vehicle to communicate cognitive respectively affective benefits of a brand. Whereas brand vision and values are very suitable to transfer affective associations, performance and origin are more useful in reflecting cognitive elements (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Brand identity components as communication vehicle for cognitive and affective benefits. (Source: Own illustration)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

How strong each identity component finally influences the corporate brand identity depends on overall conditions, like the character of used brand attributes, the brand architecture (e.g. independence of product brands) or external factors such as the industry or the competition (Burmann et al. 2012, p. 9).

Brand image is seen as a multi-dimensional construct of preferences that develops and anchors the association of the brand in the mind of an individual (Trommsdorff 2004; Kroeber-Riel, & Weinberg 2003). A brand image can vary between different stakeholder groups and between individual persons, since it is the result of an individual preference formation process that depends on individual objectives as well as on overall conditions like the image of the competition or the industry (Esch 2003, pp. 87 f.; Hermann 2005, pp. 55 f.). Prerequisite for the successful creation of a brand image is the awareness of the brand itself as well as of its brand attributes (Vershofen 1940; Keller 1993). The totality of perceived brand attributes and associations are first evaluated and compared to the personal needs and then filtered to perceived cognitive or affective benefits of an individual (Vershofen 1940; Keller 1993).

Brand profiling is the bottom-line characteristic of branding and the link between brand identity and brand image. It conceptualizes and implements the corporate behavior, corporate design and corporate communication, using favorable brand attributes, in order to establish a unique image in the mind and in the heart of the stakeholders (Aaker 1996, p. 114; Esch 2001, pp. 235 ff.; de Chernatony, & McDonald 2003, p. 15). The anchoring of the brand in the psyche of the stakeholders as well as the differentiation from competition with the overall objective of preference formation can therefore be seen as the main purpose of brand profiling (Meffert 2000, p. 851; Hermann 2005, p. 54). The formation of stakeholders’ preferences towards a specific brand can lead to a competitive advantage for the corporation. A brand is preferred over other brands, if the proposed cognitive and affective benefits fulfill the objectives respectively the needs of a stakeholder in a superior manner when compared to competition (cf. Höser 1998, pp. 38 ff.; Hermann 2005, p. 53).

In the context of profiling strategies, one can differentiate between reactive profiling - here the profiling is oriented towards articulated needs of the stakeholders - and active profiling, where important attributes are covered, which have not been seen as relevant for the stakeholders yet, but may become important in the future (Hermann 2005, p. 55).

Since a brand can be easily destroyed, an organization has to care for its corporate brand from the moment it starts to establish it in the psyche of its users.

How serious organizations take the protection of the brand image can be seen by various court proceedings and attempts of companies to hush up things in order to deal with negative publicity and to prevent negative effects on the brand image and reputation (Da Silva, & Alwi 2006, p. 304). For this reason, companies should follow certain rules regarding building and maintaining a holistic brand profile (Esch 2001, pp. 235 ff., 254; Hermann 2005, p. 57). According to Esch (2001) and Hermann (2005) a clear brand profiling should: originate from the corporate identity and strengths of the corporation, address specific individual or collective needs of the stakeholder groups, be relevant for the majority of stakeholders and should not harm others, be quickly accessible and perceivable by the relevant stakeholders, differentiate from the competition, follow a long-term strategy, be expressed by corporate communication, -behavior and -design.

Often, brand marketers are stereotyped and limit the choices of brand attributes to industry standards. Others are choosing the brand dimensions too fast and use short-term or spontaneous changes of consumer’s needs as basis for positioning. At the end, only a prudently and long-term oriented profiling can be successful and credible (Esch 2001, p. 251).

In the context of corporate brands, companies have to take additional parameters into account when trying to set apart from competition and in order to create an unique brand image in the mind of the stakeholders. Compared to product brands, corporate brands address more stakeholder groups whose interests have to be reflected in the brand identity, the brand attributes and in the communication (Meffert, & Burmann 2002, pp. 94 f.; Hermann 2005, pp. 57 ff.).

Moreover, the brand architecture, as well as the relation between the corporate brand and subordinated company brands or product brands have to be considered (Keller 1998, p. 410; Meffert, Bierwirth, & Burmann 2002b, p. 171). In the case of heterogeneous and more independent subordinated brands, the corporate brand is not able to highlight brand attributes, which are in contrast with the brand image of related brands. In these cases the corporate brand should focus on more general attributes, like competence or trust, in order to foster a cross-brand identity (Hermann 2005, p. 59).

2.3 Reasons for the integration of corporate sustainability branding and relevance for the different stakeholder groups

Everywhere around the world the concept of sustainability is intensely discussed by politicians, society, media and not at least by business (KPMG International 2011, p. 3; Matthes, Duerand, Gerth, & Rees 2009; Lichtl 1999, p. 15). The conscious pursuance of sustainability by corporations is an additional shift away from a confined view on profit maximization to an increasing consideration of broader stakeholder needs. The times when corporations were a target of ridicule when including eco- or green aspects into their marketing strategies, seem to be over. Today, more and more companies are considering all dimensions of the Triple-Bottom-Line in their corporate strategies in order to procure chances of differentiation (KPMG International 2011, pp. 3 f.; Schaltegger 2004, p. 2679).

Reasons for the increased reflection of sustainability in the marketing- and brand strategies of corporations can be led back to changes of the role of brands as well as to new requirements of the stakeholders.

Nowadays, brands are prevalent in every aspect of human life, whether it is consumption, food, clothing, personality or lifestyle (Fan 2005, p. 341). Branding no longer concentrates on promoting only functional benefits of products or services; it rather includes the representation of lifestyles and culture by using emotional measures (de Cherantony, & McDonald 2003, p. 30; Aaker 1996, p. 112). Thereby, brands are aiming to win shares of the individuals’ inner lives, values and beliefs (Roberts 2008, p. 15; Fan 2005, p. 341). Through this approach brand marketers hope to build emotional relationships and to stand out in times of information overload and commoditization of products and services (Herbst 2007, p. 123). In this context sustainability is a well-suited dimension to emotionalize brands, since it is seen as socially desirable, embodying the values and collective objectives of a broad audience (Otto Group 2009, p. 75; Lichtl 1999, pp.19 ff.).

At the same time, corporations are recognizing an increased demand from their stakeholders to act in a more sustainable manner (KPMG AG 2011). In particular very successful corporations and/ or organizations from suspicious industries feel the pressure to act and behave in a more responsible way (Statista 2007; Fan 2005, p. 343). A study from Nestlé (2011) highlights the importance of an intergenerational- as well as long-term orientation, a responsible behavior, a rational use of natural resources, the adherence to principles and finally the environmental protection as the main driver of a sustainable behavior of corporations. This momentousness and the pressure from stakeholders on corporations are further strengthened through (Hermann 2005, pp. 82 ff.):

A lack of mutual trust:The financial crisis or reoccurring scandals, like the one of Enron or BP, have damaged the reputation not only of the involved corporations but also of the global economic system (Edelman 2012). At the same time, corporations are perennially faced with ethical reproaches like the exploitation of employees or the irresponsible use of scare resources. Edited by the media and perceived by a more educated audience these critics are constantly reducing the trust in multi-national corporations (Hermann 2005, p. 82). That is why a credible communication of sustainable behavior is today seen as the main challenge of PR departments (EHI Retail Institute 2011, p. 18).

Socio-political relevance:The concept of sustainability has rapidly developed to a powerful topic in science, politics and practice (KPMG International 2001, p.3). It is heavily discussed in media and an increasing number of independent interest groups (e.g. Greenpeace, CorpWatch) are committed to scent misbehaviors and cover-ups of corporations (Rushton 2002, p. 137; Greenpeace 2011; CorpWatch 2012a). Furthermore, stricter governmental regulations are fostering a more sustainable behavior. A proactive integration of sustainability can therefore help to maneuver the corporation out of the area of critics.


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Sustainability as a new dimension of brand management - An investigation with regard to affective and cognitive dimensions of profiling
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Sustainability, Brand Management, Identity Oriented Brand Management, Corporate Sustainability Branding, Green Marketing, Sustainability Marketing, Marketing, Branding, Affective, Cognitive, Nachhaltigkeit, Nachhaltigkeitsmanagement, Affektive Werbemaßnahmen, Kognitive Werbemaßnahmen, Nachhaltige Markenführung, Öko-Marketing
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Tobias Rappers (Author), 2012, Sustainability as a new dimension of brand management - An investigation with regard to affective and cognitive dimensions of profiling, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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