Defining Primary Brand Associations for the Strategic Positioning of Certified Organic Products

Defining Primary Brand Associations for the Strategic Positioning of Certified Organic Products

Narcis-Alexandru Bozga (The Bucharest University of Economic Studies, Bucharest, Romania) and Adina Cristea (The Bucharest University of Economic Studies, Bucharest, Romania)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/IJSEM.2016070103


Defining a coherent brand positioning strategy requires conceptualizing, communicating and managing brand associations that are strong, unique and favorable. Defining primary brand associations is especially difficult for certified organic products due to the apparent lack of a theoretical framework that thorougly analyses consumer perceptions and behavior towards organic products. The purpose of this article is to identify primary brand associations specific to certified organic products that can serve as brand positioning bases. The authors identify how these elicited primary brand associations are correlated to consumers' attitude towards organic products and to specific socio-demographic variables. Based on these correlations, authors develop a strategic framework useful for selecting relevant brand associations in the positioning of certified organic products. The research was conducted on a sample of 763 respondents and is nationally representative for Romanian urban residents.
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Although organic production has been developing in a regulated framework for less than three decades, thus being a relatively new field, consumer interest in organic products has increased significantly. According to the latest report published by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (Willer & Lernoud, 2015), world sales of organic products have experienced a healthy growth, reaching a total value of 72 billion dollars in 2013. Thus, the value of organic sales is almost 5 times higher than at the end of last century (2000). However, the market share of organic products is still low, even on the developed markets of USA or Germany. Therefore, the organic market still has significant development prospects.

Even though there are numerous studies on consumers of organic products, most are focused on consumers’ buying intentions and behaviors. A small number of studies have focused on identifying and analyzing the factors which influence consumer attitudes regarding organic products. Most of these studies have an exploratory character, using small samples (Chinnici et al., 2002; Hjelmar, 2011; Zander & Hamm, 2010; Zanoli & Naspetti, 2002).

Lee and Yun (2015) believe that, in order to react appropriately to the continuous market growth, manufacturers should identify those attributes that offer organic products an advantage over conventional products. In addition, companies need to understand the mechanisms through which consumers form their buying intentions. Lee & Yun highlight the lack of a theoretical framework that analyzes consumers’ underlying motivations for buying organic products. They propose a theoretical model based on the main product associations which influence consumers' attitudes towards organic products, as resulting from their research: nutritional value, sensory qualities and ecological welfare.

There are several viewpoints regarding the factors that influence consumers’ motivation for purchasing organic products. The most common benefits perceived by consumers are related to health (Olbrich et al., 2015; Stolz and Schmidt, 2008; Zanoli & Naspetti, 2002), lack of chemicals (Cranfield et al., 2009; Stolz et al., 2009; Tsakiridou et al. 2008) superior quality (Zander & Hamm, 2010; Zanoli & Naspetti, 2012) and environmental concerns (Padel & Foster, 2005; Zagat, 2012). Therefore, using such product associations in positioning organic brands can prove extremely useful.

Consumers’ attitudes and behaviors towards organic products are influenced by their perceived positioning of the organic product category and of the specific organic brand. The positioning process involves conceiving and communicating a brand’s image, so that it occupies a distinct place in the minds of the target public (Kotler & Keller, 2012). Brand image is composed of all the mental associations consumers have about the brand. For successful brand positioning, marketers should create unique, strong and favorable associations regarding their branded products (Keller, 2013). The end result of positioning is a customer-focused value proposition, which explains how the brand satisfies consumer needs in a significant manner (Schiffman & Kanuk, 2007).

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