How Brands Communicate Sustainability Messages in Emerging Markets: A Content Analysis Based on Corporate Websites and Social Media

How Brands Communicate Sustainability Messages in Emerging Markets: A Content Analysis Based on Corporate Websites and Social Media

Aysu Göçer (Izmir University of Economics, Turkey) and Tuğba Örten Tuğrul (Izmir University of Economics, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6635-1.ch004


Sustainability is becoming a key concept of competitiveness for brands around the globe. Brands incorporate sustainability into their strategic plans and communicate messages with an aim to attract consumers. In this context, Web and social media are important communication platforms to access to a large number of target consumers. It is now considered to be critical to understand the extent to which brands use such platforms to communicate their sustainability messages, especially in emerging markets where world trade is expanding towards. In this chapter, sustainability-focused communication strategies and messages of the top 100 Turkish and 100 global brands on websites and social media platforms, namely Facebook and Twitter accounts in Turkish language, are examined by content analysis. Their approaches in delivering messages and publicizing practices about different sustainability dimensions in different platforms are also compared. The results indicate important implications for brands to highlight their sustainability messages online.
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Sustainable development is becoming one of the central objectives in today’s global market. An increasing number of consumers evaluate brands on a recently introduced sustainability dimension, and make their purchasing decisions accordingly (Holt, Quelch, & Taylor, 2004; Kotler, 2011). Thus, brands around the globe have started to incorporate the concept of sustainability into their long term strategic plans and daily operations to develop a competitive advantage. The advent of the Internet and related networking and communication technologies enable companies to communicate their sustainability practices and messages more accurately, rapidly and widely. In this context, marketers have become increasingly aware of the strategic importance of web and social media communications. In terms of social and environmental information, and reporting disclosure, corporate web sites are one of the most commonly used communication channels by the world’s largest companies (Esrock & Leichty, 1998; Jose & Lee, 2007; Kim, Nam, & Kang, 2010; Maignan & Ralston, 2002). Social media is also becoming as an integral part of organizational communication strategies, given its popularity and accessibility to target consumers (Mangold & Faulds, 2009). Hence it seems critical to examine the extent to which brands use such platforms as corporate websites, Facebook and Twitter in a sustainability communication context.

This study is aimed at understanding the sustainability-focused communication strategies and messages of the most valuable global and local brands operating in an emerging market in the context of web and social media sites. After investigation of how brands use their corporate web sites and social media platforms as a way of communicating their sustainability messages, we analyze the difference, if any, between these two communication tools in delivering messages and publicizing practices about sustainability dimensions. Finally, global and local brands are compared based on their sustainability communication strategies and message disseminations in an emerging market. In this regard, the content of Turkish corporate web sites, Facebook and Twitter accounts of the 200 most valuable Turkish and global brands are analyzed in terms of sustainability message disclosures.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social media: The online means of communication and sharing among interconnected networks of people, communities and organizations including several channels and specific vehicles within each channel, such as social communities (i.e., social networking sites, forums and Wikis) and social publishing channels (i.e., blogs, microblogging and media sharing sites).

Content Analysis: A research method that systemically and objectively identifies specified characteristics within text to make valid inferences.

Integrated Marketing Communication: Integrating and coordinating various marketing communication channels to send a unified customer-focused message.

Emerging Markets: Developing countries with rapid economic growth, increasing trade, fast developing infrastructure, improving technological competitiveness, increasing middle class and customer purchasing power.

Triple-Bottom-Line: Sustainability achieved through the integration of environmental, social and economic performances.

Sustainable Marketing: A responsible marketing approach concerned with sustainable development.

Sustainability: Meeting the needs of the present without compromising from the resources of the future.

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