Holistic view of brand equity and sustainability activities : A qualitative study in the transport sector
Abstract: Purpose - The purpose of the study is to explore how sustainability activities are perceived as a part of a company’s brand equity and brand reputation in a B2B context within the transport sector. This is studied from the perspectives of the supplier as well as of its customers. Methodology - The research purpose was of an exploratory nature and had an qualitative approach, where data was collected through in-depth, semi-structured interviews. The research strategy is in the form of a case study based on a Swedish truck company, more specifically tanker trucks. The respondents consisted of current customers and employees at the forwarding company. Results - The findings of the study showed that transport companies in the specific industry do not have a direct need to conduct marketing communication or focus as much on the brand reputation as the theory says. However, in terms of sustainability, marketing is still relevant, but not for creation of brand equity. Sustainability activities are therefore not a requirement for brand equity in the transport industry. Customers who do not have sustainability activities as a requirement for suppliers see sustainability as an add-on service, and since sustainability is not an expressed need for these customers, satisfaction is positively affected, although satisfaction does not say anything about the customer’s degree of fulfillment of sustainability. Implications - This study helps to fill the gap in the research area of sustainability activities and brand equity, both by studying the subject in the transport sector but also by providing a holistic view of the impact of sustainability on brand equity and brand reputation. The findings of the study also contribute to practitioners, by giving forwarding companies in a B2B market insights to prioritize their marketing efforts through obtained findings in terms of sustainability, brand equity, and brand reputation. Further findings show that B2B customers have a hard time fulfilling the emotional route in customer-based brand equity, instead, they fulfill the rational route. Sustainability is thus a complement to strengthening brand equity. However, it is not enough as an individual aspect when it comes to creating brand equity in the transport industry. The thesis shows that customers have the greatest interest in the environmental sustainability dimensions in terms of responsibility in the transport sector. Communicating sustainability and its value creation further in the value chain to customers can result in interest and commitment to sustainability.
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