Brand Associations: The Value of Ability Versus Social Responsibility Depends on Consumer Goals

11 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2018 Last revised: 12 Sep 2018

See all articles by Zachary Johnson

Zachary Johnson

Adelphi University - School of Business

Yun Jung Lee

Adelphi University

Minoo Ashoori

College of Business, Purdue University Northwest

Date Written: September 2017

Abstract

Prior research establishes that brand value is built through the development of brand associations, broadly categorized based on ability and social responsibility associations. Of the two associations, ability associations are generally considered more valuable; they provide direct evidence of product qualities, while social responsibility associations are not thought to. We argue that consumers’ consumption goals (attribute- vs. experience-related) can moderate the influence of ability versus social responsibility communications on consumers’ product appraisals. This effect occurs because ability and social responsibility associations, respectively, allude to person-to-person perceptions of competence and warmth, thereby altering the fit between brand associations and consumers’ consumption goals. Specifically, in person-to-person perceptions, competence aligns to capabilities and expertise while warmth aligns with social traits including kindness and helpfulness, which foster social cohesion—characteristics that, respectively, align more closely to product attributes versus experiences. Results from an experimental study (coffee was the context) indicated that consumers valued ability over social responsibility when considering product attributes, but valued social responsibility more than ability when considering consumption experiences. Hence, this research demonstrates a reversal of the dominant findings within the literature.

Keywords: Corporate associations, CSR, Social responsibility, Warmth, Competence

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Zachary and Lee, Yun Jung and Ashoori, Minoo, Brand Associations: The Value of Ability Versus Social Responsibility Depends on Consumer Goals (September 2017). Journal of Brand Management, Vol. 25, Issue 1, 2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3160727 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/s41262-017-0070-4

Zachary Johnson (Contact Author)

Adelphi University - School of Business

Garden City, NY 11530
United States

Yun Jung Lee

Adelphi University ( email )

1 South Ave
Garden City, NY 11530
United States

Minoo Ashoori

College of Business, Purdue University Northwest ( email )

Hammond, IN 46323
United States

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