THE MODERATING EFFECTS FOR THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN GREEN CUSTOMER VALUE, GREEN BRAND EQUITY AND BEHAVIORAL INTENTION.

Author:Ho, Thuy Ngoc
 
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INTRODUCTION

In the late 1960s and the 1970s, the Western people started to recognize that natural resources had been exhausted and inhabitants were coming to a serious deprivation. Against horrible environmental disasters, consumer's behaviors change toward an increasingly aware of the environmental concerns and wishes of environmental protection (Chen, 2008a; Hartmann & Apaolaza-Ibanez, 2012; Matthes et al., 2014; McIntosh, 1991). In the late 1980s, the conception of "green market" has emerged and gradually swept all over the world over the few decade, after the idea of "green marketing" also occurred accordingly has transformed through several stages from the late 1980s, in recent year, because of a vast amount of environmental pollution which obviously linked to industrial manufacturing in the world, the society recognized that the environmental issues have being increased steadily (Chen, 2008a) to integrate every. Consequently, the Kyoto Protocol was adapted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11th December, 1997, which is an international agreement associated with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is also an international treaty that to reduce emissions of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) by framing binding obligations on industrialized countries, as well as which commits its parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets. Subsequent to Kyoto Protocol, public awareness of "carbon offset" and "carbon neutrality" has attracted people's attention. Carbon offsetting becomes a popular topic in public. To reduce GHG emissions elsewhere via paying someone else, the aim of buying carbon offsets is to compensates for or "offset" their own emission. Companies purchase large antiquities of carbon offsets to "neutralize" their carbon footprint or that of their products for their so called "eliminate neutrality", while individuals look for offset their travel emissions (Kollmuss et al., 2008). That is to say, "carbon offset" and "carbon neutrality" are the kind the transformed "green marketing' strategies. Environmental considerations into all aspects of traditional marketing. Subjected to green marketing, environmental issues should be balanced with primary customer needs (Ottman, 2008: 2011).

The first and primary purpose of this study is to propose and investigate the moderating effects of green marketing on the relationship between customer value and brand equity. In fact, the relationship between customer value and brand equity is generally proved to be significantly positive (Faircloth et al., 2001; Hoeffler & Keller, 2002). However, the emergence of green marketing certainly implied a lot of changes arising from the relationship in it, when the environmental aspects are taken into account. The concept of customer value will be changed, its influences on the brand equity cannot be exactly the same as before and of course the moderating effects of green marketing on this relationship are in need of further investigations.

Customer value, the difference of what you get from what you give in buying and consuming a good and service, is now developed toward the "green" aspects. The value used for measurement by customer should take into account the environmental issues no matter what the value's dimensions: emotional, social and or functional (Sweeney & Soutar, 2001). The influences of customer value on brand equity which is defined as the value of having a prominently good brand name will therefore be moderated differently. The green marketing which is considered as the moderator of the above relationship is now included two more factors: the green promotion (offsetting and neutralizing contamination) and green marketing awareness (better recognition and understanding of environment friendly products). All of those changes are taken into account within this study analytical framework.

Another moderator is brand loyalty. Previous studies asserted that brand loyalty is an important factor to create long-term benefits for the organization (Chi et al., 2009; Shirazi & Karimi, 2013). Several previous studies have confirmed the moderating effect of brand loyalty in facilitating the relationship between brand equity and service quality (Ha, 2009). Brand loyalty is enhanced by the trust and commitment toward certain brand. However, there is still a shortage of research discussing brand loyalty as a moderator, especially the brand loyalty in a green market. Thus, this study takes an effort to propose that green brand loyalty should reinforce the relationship between customer value and brand equity. This is in nature another analysis of an old relationship under a new circumstance of environmental factors.

To get a more comprehensive viewpoint of brand equity in a green market, the study extends its analysis to the influences from brand equity on customer behavioral intentions which are represented by purchase intentions and word of mouth intentions. This relationship is actually investigated by a few studies before (Chen & Chang, 2008; Moradi & Zarei, 2011). Thus besides reconfirmation, this study also aims to investigate related moderators of the relationship. Self-expressive benefits and brand social responsibility are taken into account as two major moderators of the relationship between brand equity and customer intentions. Baek et al. (2010) indicted that consumers tend to focus on brand when they purchase high self-expressive products rather than low self-expressive products. Thus, in the case of green purchase, self-expressive benefits could be significant moderating variables. In addition, a company's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can affect customer's intention to purchase (Sen & Bhattacharya, 2001). This study takes on step further to evaluate the moderating effects if brand social responsibility for the influence of brand equity on behavioral intention.

It expected that the study results can provide some managerial implications for the companies to conduct their green marketing strategy. It is not just the issue of making profit but also sustaining the profitability through practically applying CSR in their operations.

In summary, based on the above research motivations, this study is centered on the four interacted researched issues:

  1. To investigate the relationship between customer values and brand equity

  2. To investigate the relationship between brand equity and customer behavioral intentions.

  3. To examine the moderating effects of green marketing and green brand loyalty on the effect of customer values and on brand equity.

  4. To examine the moderating effects of self-expressive benefits and brand social responsibility for effect of brand equity and on customer behavioral intentions.

LITERATURE REVIEW AND HYPOTHESIS DEVELOPMENT

Definition of Research Constructs

Customer value

Brand image includes the perceptions of a brand as reflected by the brand associations run in customer memory (Aaker, 1991; Dobni & Zinkhan, 1990; Farquhar, 1989; Keller, 1993; Richardson et al., 1994) and represented the brand concept is functional, symbolic and experiential (Park et al., 1986). Furthermore, brand image performs a key role in the markets where it is difficult to distinguish product and service in tangible quality features (Mudambi et al., 1997). Moreover, green brand image as a set of perceptions of a brand in consumer's mind that linked to environmental commitments and environmental concerns, and the customers are willing to pay more money for purchasing green products (Chen, 2010).

Perceived quality can be identified a product's overall excellence or superiority through the consumer's judgment (Zeithaml, 1988), and also can be defined as the customer's perception of the overall quality, or superiority or excellence of a product or service regarding its intended purpose, compared to alternatives (Aaker, 1991), and it influences customer's purchasing decision process (Garretson & Clow, 1999). Furthermore, perceived quality is a higher level abstraction instead of a specific attribute of a product (Zeithaml, 1988). Based on the former discussion above, perceived quality is also one of consumers' comprehensive perceived values of the product or service, by extension, so is green perceived quality. According to the definition of customer perceived value by Sweeney & Soutar (2001), green perceived quality is categorized as functional value for this study.

Altruism can be defined as helping others via changing the agent's individual behavior (Haltiwanger & Waldman, 1993), while Altruism model argued social norm is the social behavior standard which is expected by social group, when the social norm has been accepted; individual behavior would be affected by social norm accordingly, and furthermore, the social norm becomes individual norm (Hopper & Nielsen, 1991). In addition, personal environmental behavior and attitude are affected by the norm of social groups; for instance family and friends e.g. (Granzin & Olsen, 1991; Jackson et al., 1993; Oskamp et al., 1991). Moreover, Kotchen (2009), Lee & Wang (2009) demonstrated the influence of altruism on Taiwan people's attitudes toward green consumption. We can say that altruistic value is also one of consumers' comprehensive perceived values of the product or service, and it is grouped as social value for this study, in light of the definition of customer perceived value by Sweeney & Soutar (2001).

Smith & Brynjolfsson (2001) asserted that brand is an important attribute affecting consumers' selection, and brands assist customers to choose a given service or product from a vendor. Brand relationship theory proposes that brand acts as a bridge between suppliers and consumers both (Chang & Chieng, 2006; Davis et al., 2000). Choi et al. (2011) found that brand prestige has been affected directly by brand experience and brand personality, which leads to influence attitudinal brand loyalty and brand relationship quality

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