The importance of values for brand purchase
Consumers currently place increasing importance on the values that companies represent. Modern values such as transparency, benevolence to society, sustainability and fairness are becoming more relevant, as noted by many major consulting firms among which are Nielsen (2013), the World Federation of Advertisers (2013) and the Boston Consultancy Group (2013). Modern values are grounded in social, political and economic developments and represent the new values of this era. As a consequence, a company’s value to consumers no longer has to lie solely in its products and services. This new, broader scope of value may include the entire business process and organizational culture, ranging from the management’s integrity to values being found in the company’s contributions to society. Although the role of values in human behaviour has been extensively discussed in the psychology literature since the beginning of the 1900s (e.g. Feather 1995; Hofstede 1980; Olson and Maio 2003; Rokeach 1973; Schwartz 2012), limited attention has been dedicated to values in marketing literature. This was the conclusion of a systematic literature review that we conducted on this subject (Voorn et al. 2016). As a follow-up, we organized an online survey (n = 1109) to empirically investigate the role of values in the brand selection process. In this paper, we report on the relationship between values and brand purchase intentions through the concept of value congruence and in relation to several product categories representing services, durables and consumables. Overall, the results confirm the relevance of value congruence as a predictor of brand purchase, in particular in services and durables. Our study shows that companies can benefit from incorporating values into their marketing strategies, especially those values that are congruent with (higher-order) personal goals, rather than more (instrumental) category-specific values. This offers new marketing perspectives, especially for brands. Brands are – by definition – more than just one product or service, which means they can serve as an umbrella for the incorporation and propagation of new values. However, an important question remains for the brand manager: the extent to which values have an advantage over brand personality traits and functional attributes, since investing in values is not only about communication – it means that an organization needs to embody them in the very fibre of its being; otherwise it may be perceived as ‘green washing’, which can undermine brand trust.