Brand Trust in Offline and Online Environments: Lessons for Social Media

Brand Trust in Offline and Online Environments: Lessons for Social Media

Gordon Bowen (Regent's University London, UK) and Richard Bowen (Facebook Inc., UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6595-8.ch003
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Abstract

Social media operates in the online environment, and the challenge is to enhance the end-user experience. The chapter asserts that the consumer experience and behaviour in the online (e.g. e-commerce) and offline environments have some commonality with social media. Building a successful brand online is a prerequisite for success, but fundamental to trusting brand beliefs is the ability to create trust and by extension commitment. The trust-commitment relationship is fundamental to brand building and to influence end-user intentional behaviour. This relationship is enhanced by physical means (website design [aesthetics], website functionality [privacy and security]); although these are important factors alone, they do not guarantee a pleasant online experience. Online firms like social media need to create social interaction on the website to communicate affective involvement. Online effectiveness leads to positive behavioural intention and continual repeat usage via attitudinal formation.
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Introduction

When environmental conditions are uncertain the impact on the brand is unpredictable. This is even more important for strong brands, however, they are also used as a defence mechanism in challenging environments to reduce the competitive threat and maintain profitability. Brands embody the consumers’ identity due to the cultural nature of modern-day consumers (Da Silva & Alwi, 2008; Elliot & Wattanasuwan, 1998). To overcome uncertainty in brand activities (offline and online) including brand strategies organisations need to approach branding strategically. Consequently, organisations need to understand the uniqueness of the brand and how it distinguishes from the competitors. When products are similar consumers are more interested in the brand and simply defining and telling is not sufficient and the organisation must consider the environmental dimension and increasing competition (Carbonara & Caiazza, 2010; Gray, 1995). Product closeness intrigues the consumers about the organisations’ brands and is a power opportunity for the organisations to develop a compelling story (leading to a competitive advantage) now that consumers’ interest is aroused. Understanding the nature of the environment and the competitive threat are approaches to deal with challenging markets, but do online brands behave in a similar manner? Brands reflect the organisations and are culturally embedded in the values and beliefs of the organisation. Suggesting that brand orientation is part of the organisational management (Clatworthy, 2012; Simoes & Dibb, 2001). Are online brands embedded in the organisation or is a different approach required for them? This paper applies established brand trust models and concepts for the offline and online environments to social media. Morgan and Hunt (1994) developed a brand trust model for the offline environment, Mukherjee and Nath (2007) adapted the model for the online environment. However, they did not examine the social media environment. The gap identified is the focus of this paper, which is an area of growing importance.

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