Endorsement of Global Product Brands by Global Corporate Brands--A Consumer Perspective Across Nations.

Date01 Agosto 2021
AuthorSwoboda, Bernhard

1 Introduction

Multinational corporations (MNCs) applying an endorsed branding strategy, i.e., the use of a distinct global corporate brand as a visual endorsement of global product brands, can experience demand benefits (Hsu et al., 2016). Therefore, MNCs place their corporate brand name/logo on products with the product brand still more prominently positioned (Keller, 2012, p. 302). Based on the endorser, consumers can identify a product with an MNC, which attracts them in making product purchase decisions (Khojastehpour & Johns, 2015). Although many MNCs, such as Danone, L'Oreal, Tyson, or Nestle, change product or corporate dominant strategies, i.e., branded house or house of brands, towards an endorsed branding (Brexendorf & Keller, 2017, versus sub-branding), their strategies' effects are not equal across nations. For example, Kellogg's has long used its global corporate brand to support its global product brands (e.g., Smacks, Frosties) to profit from positive image transfers in terms of consumer behavior. However, since 2019, Kellogg's has adjusted its strategy for Europe by accounting for cultural differences (Kellogg's, 2019). Additionally, other MNCs, such as Unilever, have had to adjust their branding strategy, for example, in emerging countries (after losing market share in China, Indonesia, and India, Gupta & Wright, 2019). Hence, these MNCs need to consider endorsed branding across nations. Therefore, this study examines the direct effect of global corporate brand image, i.e., the endorser itself, and the indirect effect through global product brand image, i.e., the endorsed product brand, on product purchase intention across nations. This initial analysis provides new insights across nations and may validate the only nationally known effects (e.g., Samiee, 2019). We study the degree of country development and national culture as important national context factors.

Scholars recognize the importance of image transfers (see Table 1). Studies on horizontal image transfers analyze the links between product evaluations (e.g., in developed or emerging countries, Bian & Moutinho, 2011 or Essoussi & Merunka, 2007, or comparing countries, Davvetas & Diamantopoulos, 2018) or horizontal brand extensions (new products under a brand, e.g., Ahn et al., 2018; Boisvert & Ashill, 2018; Chang et al., 2011). Studies on vertical image transfers often consider celebrity endorsement or vertical brand extensions (e.g., Allman et al., 2016, 2019; Chen & Wyer Jr, 2020; Derdenger, 2018) but seldom corporate and product brands. When the latter are included, the focus is only on corporateproduct evaluation-links but not effects (e.g., Biehal & Sheinin, 2007; Abosag & Farah, 2014; in two countries, Heinberg et al., 2018; Souiden et al., 2006). Few scholars study the effects of corporate and product brands on purchase intentions or intentional loyalty (with differences in emerging versus developed countries, Fatma et al., 2016; Wang et al., 2008, versus Cretu & Brodie, 2007; Suh & Youjae, 2006). Jakubanecs and Supphellen (2012) is the only study analyzing corporate-product brand-links in more countries (six); however, it does not consider their effects. Consequently, studies on the effects of important global endorsed branding on consumer behavior across nations are missing, and studies have not sufficiently considered contradictory effects in emerging versus developed countries (e.g., for horizontal image transfers, Ozsomer, 2012; Strizhakova & Coulter, 2015). Moreover, vertical image transfers seem to vary due to national culture (especially for collectivism, Jakubanecs & Supphellen, 2012). However, the general brand research provides contradictory assumptions on culture: Van der Lans et al. (2016) show a moderation of culture for the effects of brands on purchase intention; Steenkamp (2019a) questions the link between culture and brand attitude. Thus, important national contextual factors must be studied for global corporations' endorsement of global product brands (consumer factors such as ethnocentrism dominate, Roy et al., 2019).

In summary, scholars have not considered the role of global corporate brands in supporting global product brands and their effects on purchase intentions across nations. There have been calls for such studies to generalize and validate nationally known effects globally (Brexendorf & Keller, 2017; Samiee, 2019). More importantly, insights on important boundary conditions, i.e., degree of country development and national culture, for global endorsed branding are missing (Heinberg et al., 2018). Respective knowledge is important for those managers responsible for endorsed branding at headquarters as they learn whether this strategy is beneficial across nations from the target group perspective. Predominant boundary conditions in branding research allow country-specific portfolios to be generated as a basis for decisions on where to rely on or strengthen endorser strategy effects and where not.

We aim to address these research gaps by analyzing the following research questions. First, how can MNCs benefit from an image transfer of global corporate to product brands in terms of product purchase intention across nations? Second, do the degrees of country development and national culture moderate the indirect and direct effects of global corporate brand image, and if so, how strong? We thereby offer two important contributions to theory and practice.

First, analyzing the relationship between corporate and product brands across nations provides novel insights into the global application of the endorsed branding strategy. Studies on vertical image transfers investigate endorsed branding holistically (comparing branding strategies, e.g., Hsu et al., 2016, or corporate-productlinks only, e.g., Jakubanecs & Supphellen, 2012). Our focus on global brand effects across nations extends the very few international studies. We clarify how global endorsers and endorsed brands contribute to consumers' product brand purchase intentions. Moreover, whereas studies on image transfers refer to categorization, associative network or signaling theory, we aim to contribute to the application of schema theory as a promising new rationale for endorsed branding and moderation effects across nations. Corporate and product brand images represent consumers' brand knowledge stored in respective brand schemata (Halkias, 2015). In product purchase situations, consumers activate dominant product brand schemata and can also activate the corporate brand schema (transmitting it to product brands, Meyers-Levy & Tybout, 1989).

Second, we contribute to the research by examining the degree of country development and national culture as moderators (following calls, Wang et al., 2017). Schema theory suggests that such environmental and cultural differences shape consumers' brand schema structure and activation in memory by determining their brand schematicity (e.g., Davvetas & Diamantopoulos, 2016; Halkias, 2015; Puligadda et al., 2012). By referring to this theory, we add to studies analyzing vertical image transfers in emerging or developed countries (e.g., Abosag & Farah, 2014; Biehal & Sheinin, 2007). Certain emerging markets become important for MNCs as they report strong economic growth (Heinberg et al., 2017). Revealing differences in emerging versus developed markets also enables MNCs to exploit the growth potential of an endorser strategy (He & Wang, 2017). Analyzing national culture contributes to understanding inconsistent results and accounts for how culture affects endorsed branding. Corresponding to the most often viewed Hofstede's cultural dimensions, collectivism, in the brand research (e.g., Gupta et al., 2018; Jakubanecs & Supphellen, 2012), the embeddedness dimension of Schwartz (1994) is referenced here. Compared to Hofstede, Schwartz's model is more theoretically profound, considers guidance of behavior, and reports high empirically explained variances (e.g., De Mooij, 2017; Swoboda & Batton, 2019). Moreover, embeddedness is theoretically and empirically the most important cultural dimension in global brand perceptions (e.g., Swoboda & Sinning, 2020). Finally, we use multilevel mediation structural equation modeling (MSEM) with cross-level interactions and conditional effects (Hox et al., 2018, pp. 4-5; Spiller et al., 2013) to study the leverage effects of the moderators in a country portfolio (including conclusions beyond the countries analyzed).

The remainder of this study proceeds as follows. Drawing from theory, we derive and test hypotheses based on 7660 consumer evaluations of global brands across 35 nations. After presenting the results, we provide implications and directions for further research.

2 Conceptual Framework and Hypothesis

To address our research aims, we build on schema theory and empirical studies.

Scholars differentiate four branding strategies: house of brands reflects a purely product strategy, and branded house reflects a purely corporate strategy (e.g., Gillette of P&G and Nike); sub-branding and endorsed branding are categorized within those extremes. Sub-branding applies equally to corporate and product brands, e.g., Sony PlayStation, VW Golf (as in national studies, e.g., He et al., 2016; Hsu et al., 2016). In contrast, endorsed branding links corporate and product brands to a lesser extent, e.g., the corporate brand name appears on the product package, not as part of the product brand name (Brexendorf & Keller, 2017).[1] As mentioned, it is particularly interesting globally, as leading MNCs use global corporate and global product brands to attract consumers (Davvetas & Diamantopoulos, 2016; Swoboda & Sinning, 2020). However, for endorsed branding, the indirect and direct effects of MNCs' global corporate brand image via global product brand image on consumers' product brand purchase intention must be studied initially (i.e., the likelihood that consumers will buy a product...

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