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Un/ethical Company and Brand Perceptions: Conceptualising and Operationalising Consumer Meanings

Listed author(s):
  • Katja Brunk


Based on three empirical studies, this research sets out to conceptualise and subsequently operationalise the construct of consumer perceived ethicality (CPE) of a company or brand. Study 1 investigates consumer meanings of the term ethical and reveals that, contrary to philosophical scholars’ exclusively consequentialist or nonconsequentialist positions, consumers’ ethical judgments are a function of both these evaluation principles, illustrating that not any one scholarly definition of ethics alone is capable of capturing the content domain. The resulting conceptualisation identifies six key themes explicating the construct. Building upon these findings, studies 2 and 3 were conducted to operationalise CPE. Such operationalisation is an essential prerequisite for future explorations and theory development given the absence of a suitable tool to capture and quantify the strength and direction of CPE. The key focus was on developing a valid and reliable multi-item measurement tool that is practical, parsimonious and easy to administer. The scale’s general applicability allows deployment in academic and business contexts as well as different research areas and doing thus facilitates the much-needed theory building in this new research area. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

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Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Business Ethics.

Volume (Year): 111 (2012)
Issue (Month): 4 (December)
Pages: 551-565

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Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:111:y:2012:i:4:p:551-565
DOI: 10.1007/s10551-012-1339-x
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  1. Spiggle, Susan, 1994. " Analysis and Interpretation of Qualitative Data in Consumer Research," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(3), pages 491-503, December.
  2. Clement, Ronald W., 2006. "Just how unethical is American business?," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 313-327.
  3. Lee Cronbach, 1951. "Coefficient alpha and the internal structure of tests," Psychometrika, Springer;The Psychometric Society, vol. 16(3), pages 297-334, September.
  4. Roberts, James A., 1996. "Will the real socially responsible consumer please step forward?," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 79-83.
  5. Cohn, Deborah Y., 2010. "Commentary essay on "exploring origins of ethical company/brand perceptions -- A consumer perspective of corporate ethics"," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 63(12), pages 1267-1268, December.
  6. Henry Kaiser, 1974. "An index of factorial simplicity," Psychometrika, Springer;The Psychometric Society, vol. 39(1), pages 31-36, March.
  7. Brunk, Katja H. & Blümelhuber, Christian, 2011. "One strike and you're out: Qualitative insights into the formation of consumers' ethical company or brand perceptions," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 134-141, February.
  8. Becker-Olsen, Karen L. & Cudmore, B. Andrew & Hill, Ronald Paul, 2006. "The impact of perceived corporate social responsibility on consumer behavior," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 46-53, January.
  9. Michael Bendixen & Russell Abratt, 2007. "Corporate Identity, Ethics and Reputation in Supplier–Buyer Relationships," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 76(1), pages 69-82, November.
  10. Huber, Frank & Vollhardt, Kai & Matthes, Isabel & Vogel, Johannes, 2010. "Brand misconduct: Consequences on consumer-brand relationships," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 63(11), pages 1113-1120, November.
  11. Shea, Linda J., 2010. "Using consumer perceived ethicality as a guideline for corporate social responsibility strategy: A commentary essay," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 263-264, March.
  12. Muncy, James A. & Vitell, Scott J., 1992. "Consumer ethics: An investigation of the ethical beliefs of the final consumer," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 297-311, June.
  13. Brunk, Katja H., 2010. "Exploring origins of ethical company/brand perceptions -- A consumer perspective of corporate ethics," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 255-262, March.
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