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To present the concept of Ethical Consumption it needs to be acknowledging what is ethics and consumption. Ethic is a set of norms, principles or values that guide people’s behaviour (Sherwin 1993), and what is ethical or unethical is based on individual perception of right and wrong in other side consumption can be define as the process of buying or using goods that materialises when the consumer processes the product or service information, as a logical thinker (Holbrook et al. 1982: 132). Ethical consumption takes place when individuals purchasing goods are considering values of caring for other people, concerns for fairness and/or for the environment.
The phenomenon of Ethical Consumption started to rise in the last fifteen to twenty years. This concept is directly related to the conscious and deliberate choice to make certain consumption options due to personal and moral beliefs (Carrigan et al., 2004:401). The ethical consumer strives to enhance their wellbeing through purchasing behaviour that avoids harming or exploiting humans, animals and the environment (Harrison et al. 2005: 4), and these represents the positive choices; additionally in this ample concept it can be included actions as recycling behaviour and philanthropy  .
Consumption can be perceived as an instrument to achieve satisfaction on the material level; this consumer pattern is also moulded by groups and societal values: consideration for others and also for our eco system, leading to the concept of Ethical consumption, that can be identify as a tool to social change. Citizens and consumers are social actors that are recognizing more sustainable forms of consumption by optimising environmental, social and economic consequences in order to reduce ecological damage and “demand” labour rights to be respected. All consumers are “forced” to consider the increasing consequences of their habits, and existence (Harrison et al., 2005:3). We are now living in the world of disposability, of instant convenience where everything is disposable, however society is waking up and starting to reject these ways. There is a reform to the basic, to old values (Arnold 2009:4).
Ethical consumption can be seen as an integration process, between producers and consumers, ethically minded consumers feel accountable towards the environment and the society, and they strive to express their values through their shopping habits. Ethical branding strategies are designed to support ethical business and ethical claims, these strategies are accomplished through all phases of a brand products lifecycle  ; leading to consumers perceptions and attitudes towards ethical purchasing (Tustin et al., 2008:24). Brands that are perceived as “good citizenship  ” hold a good reputation on the consumer eyes, accentuating the responsibility of companies and consumers, producing/ purchasing products and services that pursue to minimise the social and environmental damage.
It is quite clear exactly what is feeding this concept to grow, and Rob Harrison (2005) proposed seven factors inciting the growth of ethical behaviour: the globalisation of markets leading to the debilitation of national governments; this action drives to a rise of transnational corporations and brands; the growth of campaigning pressure groups which occurs as a result of the previous processes; the social and environmental consequence of technology; a shift in market power towards consumers; the effectiveness of market campaigning and also the enlargement of corporate social responsibility  (Harrison et al., 2005:3). However the main sources of the rapid progress of ethical awareness in the consumer shopping behaviour are the communication channels driven by the easy access of information, from websites as “Ethical consumer guide” and “Keep it ethical”; increasingly ethical awareness of issues related to products and brands leaded by the most effective channel the internet.
1.2 Study focus
Although Ethical consumption seems like an ideal conception of consuming habits, there are issues stopping this idea to fully succeed. One of the strongest issue is price sensitivity, consumers are willing to pay extra pennies for ethical products, not small fortunes; another point is personal experience considering that some consumers cannot identify ethical products from non-ethical; ethical obligations as another issue where people feel difficult to consume certain products only based on the ethical claims; one critical point is the lack of information, where consumers feel that they are not fully informed in order to make the right purchasing choices; quality perception as other concept, sometimes people perceived that ethical products do not hold quality or flavour for example, as mainstream  products; cynicism considering that a high number of companies exploit for example the concept of environmental friendly, without any care for the environment which is named as green wash, leading to the lack of confidence to ethical products and finally the sense of guilt to support these exploited groups (Bray et al., 2010:5). Although other authors like Show et al., (2004) and Carrigan et al. (2001) defend, that ethical consumers are confused by: the lack of information, or too much information, restrict product choices and their availability, they also add that the lack of commitment plays an important role, additionally these authors go further believing that ethical consumers trust that their purchase choice does not make a significant difference amongst the others. Different authors point different issues as critical for this concept to flourished has it should. However all authors agree that communication, consumer’s education and the lack of trust is a significant concept for the shortcoming of ethical consumption.
1.3 Dissertation structure
What is proposed in this study is to analyse in depth one successful ethical corporation “Unicorn Manchester Cooperative Groceries”, to understand how they show, educate and encourage consumers to follow their brand message through their ethical products; additionally how “Unicorn” procedures leads customers to trust them, finally it will be investigated their internal communication strategy. At this investigation it will be analysed trust, brand loyalty, brand message and internal branding, furthermore it will be acknowledge what their customers feel about their communication strategies and if they fully understand the meaning behind their purchases, what the company stands for and if the strategies used, drive customers to trust and became loyal to this business . To access this knowledge and to understand the communication strategy it will be made an interview to one of the cooperative members, which is accountable for the marketing and communication, education and advertisement of this business, with the purpose to gain an insight of strategies adopted by this company. As a following step is needed to be acknowledge if customers are actually receptive to all these techniques adopted by the company by doing a small survey that only mention the communication strategies placed on the shop floor; to hundred and thirty customers.
1.4 Aims and objectives
The outcome of this case study is to acknowledge and understands the ethical communication strategies adopted by this specific company and understand their effectiveness.
Understand the Ethical Communication strategies used by Unicorn Cooperative
Appreciate the channels used in order to build trust guiding to brand loyalty
Acknowledge if customers fully understand the meaning behind their purchases
Recognize the importance of Internal branding in ethical businesses
How is possible to transfer this knowledge to other cases, business, institutions and so on.
How does “Unicorn- Cooperative” develop consumer trust into their ethical brand?
1. Trust is a key concept for the development of Brand loyalty
2. When brand message is communicated effectively, consumer tend to develop trust
3. Internal Branding high levelled the trust
2. Literature Review
2.1 Ethical Consumption
Nowadays consumption can be perceived as a way to achieve social equality and a better environment. Ethical Consumption can include the purchasing behaviour that respects workers treatment, fair trade food, non-genetically modified food, environmental concerns, human rights, racial or gender prejudice, (Szimigin et al. 2006: 608). An increasing number of consumers are conducting changes in social conditions and business practices and they are progressively committed on these changes, this factor is what distinguish political consumer from ordinary consumer (Sandicki et al. 2008: 3).
People are encountering more sustainable forms of consumption, and acknowledging individual and collective level of benefits, in order to meet the needs of current and future generations (Lunchs et al. 2011:2), affecting business and retailers to respond to this growing demand. At the same time individuals acquire a relation with ethical consumption that tend to be driven by a larger context, enforcing some kind of reflection which can be influenced by social groups (Barr et al. 2011: 715).
Ethical consumption embraces two major groups positive buying is what was mention previously and in the opposite spectrum is the negative buying which can include boycotts and avoidance of certain brands on a permanent basis, considering their association with some political issue that the consumer opposes (Sandicki et al. 2008: 2). Furthermore these movements in great majority accomplish their objective, by changing business conventions to a more eco and social friendly practices. Consumption as an increasingly important purpose in contemporary society, these movements materialise ideologies of consumption  (Kozinets et al. 2004:692). Consequently, businesses are trying to blend ethical consumerism into their practices, as a result of pressure from consumers, considering that their perception is also linked to their consumerism (Tustin et al. 2008:25).
Characteristics that run through all these consumption manifestations:
Organisation, consumers envisage to organise a coherent set of activities informed by the actions of different organisations, including consumer bodies
A desire for change, consumption as a tool of its own transformation
Rights, consumers have rights that have to be fought
Collectively, by working in groups, individuals hold a strengthen power for change
Values, consumption as an exchange of moral messages, consuming can be good or bad
Implications, consuming has effects, on other people and society or on the environment.
(Harrison et al., 2004:40)
Thankfully to the growing number and easily accessible information enhanced by the media interest of political issues (Harrison et al. 2004:69), consumers are more aware of ways to minimise environmental damage and change social issues.
Some authors defend that there are more “hidden” reasons to purchase ethically, other dimension that evocates the individuality of each of us, they see ethical consumption as a integrative process, where the consumer tries to achieve: distinction, by distinguishing themselves in a proactively way through their actions; hedonism action that produces pleasure, the consumer feel good about himself purchasing ethically; love which demonstrates compassion to others and personal values and aesthetic appreciation, considering that ethical products tend to be classified as premium  brands, meaning more expensive which some individuals identify with them for their classification (Szimigin et al. 2006:610), and these are some of the extra aspects that the marketer needs to acknowledge when suggesting these products. However the most persuasive reason for people to consume more ethically is the power of social change, by “forcing” brands and companies to adopt more ethical strategies for their business practices.
This seems the ideal consumption concept, however as many concepts in business has their faults to fully succeed, as mention previously the: personal experience; ethical obligation; lack of information; quality perception, cynicism and sense of guilt. The deprivation of effective information is a major barrier for this concept to accomplish their objectives. If consumers are not informed or even educated of these practices and strategies in some respects ethical consumption is failing in delivering a proficient communication. There is a high number of literature and case studies where consumers for example are willing to purchase eco-friendly brands, however they witness a very difficult task to identify these products, proving that these consumers are not very aware of ethical communication strategies (Picket- Baker et al. 2008: 290). Adequate communication prevail a disregard link between some companies to the mass consumer. This matter deviates the idea of ethical consumption; since all consumers are possible ethical consumers (Harrison et al. 2005: 69).
2.2 Marketing Communications/ Communication Strategies
Communication strategies is a core concept for this investigation, as it will be study the ethical communication strategies of one particular company and acknowledge how these support the business reaching trust amongst the customer. However to reach that picture it needs to comprehend in general the notion of marketing communication.
All organisations to survive needs to exchange information to their stakeholders, Marketing Communications is the design, implementation and control to reach organisational objectives, through the consumer market point of view, marketing strategies is a method that will increase consumers positive thoughts and attitudes towards a brand or product, (Peter et al. 2010:25) basically is a management process through which an organisation engages with its various audience (Fill 2005:7), only strategically distributed can help organisations to lead a competitive position (Holm 2003: 23), by understanding the audiences, organisations explore actual messages that would be appropriate for their stakeholders. Following the previous sentence, marketing communication is a concept that bridges information between customers and potential customers to the business foundations, remind the stakeholders about the business essence, also reassure the distinctive aspects for other competitors additionally provide information about products and brands values, persuade the target audience to change attitude (Dahlen 2010:43). The Marketing Communication mix embraces every type of messages such in advertising, public relations, promotions and personal selling simultaneously direct response advertising, personal communication, public relations exhibitions and online exhibitions. All these different methods can work independently or ideally blended to accomplished communication goals.
Research and Evaluation
Figure 1_ the system of Marketing Communications (Fill 2005:28)
This concept promotes and maintain a dialogue with their audiences to create a Brand Equity, brand associations, brand dominance and brand prospects (Dahlen 2010:14), this it will influence conception of value in comparison with the benefits and costs, being the ideal situation to raise the benefits and decrease the costs (Holm 2006:23). Marketing communication can be perceived as: management and control of all communication strategies; also ensures brand personality, positioning and messages that should be distributed consistently throughout all components of communication and additional strategic analyses, implementation and control of the choices of marketing strategy (Smith et al. 1999:4).
Communication is the act of sending a message to others in a way that these can interpret and decode the message, communications is essential to build trust on others(Anderson 2005: 169).Communication strategies can be defined as a constant pursuit to verbalize and decode the messages, in situation where these messages have not been decipher (Toronoe 1981: 287). A favourable communication is based around a committed, articulated brand idea as a foundation to sustain and build relations with customers (Dahlen 2010:2). The main target of Marketing Communication is to influence the judgment of value through communication, this process materialises when individuals share meaning, by developing a dialogue, where participants are capable to decipher the meaning of the messages and simultaneously being able to respond, and this exchange is possible through knowledge and understanding of the communication process.
In overall process for organisations to be successful in their communications strategies, it is fundamental for them to understand their customers, the way they absorbs information, how they develop attitudes and how they react to marketing communications stimuli . However it necessary to identify, select and develop which communication tool it will be used to apply the most suitable brand communication to reach their target audience (Schultz et al. 1999: 309).
The cognitive position perceives the consumer as the problem solver, using the various process to reasoning, forming ideas and gaining knowledge in their own individual way of decoding information (Fill 2005: 117). The previous judgment makes essential for organisations to build a strong Brand Narrative, based on a “story” that frames cultural codes, cultural expectations and stereotypes, essentially needs to create a “story” that reflects our times (Dahlen 2010: 13). The brand narrative is intrinsically consistent dialogue, which connects people, events and experiences which can lead to Brand Equity  . Brand attitude is an imperative characteristic of brand equity, which is intended to influence consumers to purchase the brand, through consumers’ attitude is possible to measure the brand success (Peter et al. 2010:232).
Brand and customer equity
Marketing communication mix
Traditional and non-traditional media
Image and Brand management
Figure 2_ Brand Narrative components (Dahlen 2010:6)
Until certain extend brand equity, brand narrative develop a marketing stimuli directed to their target choice, guiding them in the way they behave, think and how they feel (Peter et al. 2010:25) and individuals express themselves, or aspire to be through brands, somehow consumers employ marketing communications to chase personal meaning through their consumption (Dahlen 2010:07). Meaning that by elaborating a brand narrative business is essential to have a deep knowledge about their target market.
Customers are seem as problem solvers, through communication strategy perspective, their capability to message decode is affected by their level of elaboration and advertising is the conducive way of channel information to consumers, who then has the opportunity to appreciate the message according to their experiences (Fill 2005:197).
2.2.1Brand message- Communication Effectiveness
Brand message is essential for this study, taking in consideration that it needs to be apprehended the communication effectiveness of “Unicorn” strategy, not measuring but understanding the effectiveness of their brand message, how this business is being so successful in communicating their values, when others in ethical trade are failing, essentially understand how “Unicorn” engage customers through their brand.
Communication is an important means for organisations to reach their customers and potential customers (Bendixen 1993: 19), and this can be achieved through advertisement. Many advertisement models were tailored with foundation on Lavidge and Steiner hierarchy of effects model, this model defends that the customer purchasing process starts from awareness, to knowledge, then liking, moving to preference than conviction and finally purchase. The next model has foundation on Lavidge and Steiner effects structure, where Bendixen applied some changes:
Forces of Communication
Impact Specificness Credibility Relevance
Forgetfulness Incompreheension Hotility Aphaty
Barriers of Communication
Figure 3 _ Brand loyalty the 5 stages of Communication (Bendixen 1993: 21)
All components of the promotion mix hold diverse magnitudes to communicate. The effectiveness of each communication channel can be chased from the state of unawareness to all the other stages until purchase (Fill 2002: 18).
2.2.2 Brand message and trust
The effect of the brand message also has an impact on trust and relationship commitment (Sharma 1999: 152), some studies suggest the critical role of effective communication plays an impact on the perceptions of quality, trust and relationship commitment, it involves the formal and informal channels between customers and the organisations, is meant to give real expectations and educate customers (Sharma 1999: 163). The effectiveness of cause related marketing may have an imperative influence in customer choice (Pracejus et al. 2004: 639).
Communication effectiveness/ Brand message
Functional quality Technical quality
Figure 4_ Conceptual model of determinants of relationship commitment (Sharma 1999: 156)
Effectiveness is an important derivative of communication strategy taking in consideration that for these to have a positive outcome into the target audience, it needs to achieve what was meant to achieve, the audience must decode in the way that the marketer thought that they would decode and if the audience can acknowledge the full meaning and understand the overall brand message, this process was successful, also has impact in which different communication channels to adopt and how it will affect particular consumer responses (Grace et al. 2005: 114), this might be through advertising or any other avenue. If customers acknowledge the brand message and this is something that they aspire or goes according to their values, consumer will tend develop trust with the brand through their messages.
Consumer brand knowledge could relate all descriptive and evaluative brand information. In this spectrum, different levels of knowledge as attributes, benefits, thoughts, feelings, that are linked between them (Ghodeswar 2008: 4) would form a reaction to the brand message, and this reaction should be as expected by the brand in this way they accomplish their communication goals. Understanding brand message has an effect to future purchases, through brand relationship that also involve brand satisfaction, brand trust and brand attachment (Esch et al. 2006: 103), brand message need to be clear and adopt the most appropriate channels in order to achieve their target audience. By using their communication strategies effectively will lead to consumer relationship, trust that eventually will turn into brand loyalty.
2.3 Brand Trust
Trust develops when one actor has positive assurance with a trading partner (Zboja 2006: 382), as a process that meets their customer expectations and probably overcome these ones. Brand trust is built over the acceptance that brand value can be design and improved in order to overcome consumer satisfaction concerning the product attributes. Brand qualities might also add value to an existing relationship between customers and brands, being trust one of the most critical elements of this relation. Trust is a feeling based on security and in this context trust has foundation in brand reliability and brand intentions; brand reliability is the capacity of brand to correspond to customers’ needs, in this dimension is necessary to accomplished what the customer is expecting from the brand; and brand intention has emotional roots, which accredits that customers are in an vulnerability situation when making purchasing decisions (Delgado- Ballester 2001: 1242).
Consumer trust and satisfaction about a specific brand and the retailer will drive to repurchasing behaviour; trust is a significant element that bridges satisfaction, individual connection towards a brand as shown on figure five.
Trust in the Brand
Trust in the Retailer
Reseller Repurchase Intentions
Satisfaction with the Brand
Satisfaction with the retailer
Figure 5_ Conceptual model of the relationship between consumer perceptions of brands and retailers ( Zboja et al. 2006: 382)
Relationship formation is balanced by customer, product and brand attitude. A brand with very distinctive attributes that adjust to customers’ values and behaviour tend to develop relationship based on the products categories (Hess et al. 2005:316). Trust is involved in brand credibility, and this creates brand loyalty as an element of brand equity and a key concept in customer relationship, and this might be the strongest connection in the marketing tools (Reast 2005:5).
Credibility based trust correlates
Performance- satisfaction based
Figure 6_ Two component model of brand trust correlates (Reast 2005: 5)
The left column represents what a brand should provide and the right column is what customers will perceive if content.
Credibility demonstrates the honesty and values of the brand where it can be delivered through advertising, packaging to personal interaction (Reast 2005: 9). Brand trust is establish through personal experience with the specific brand, consequently this experience it will guide consumers evaluation of any direct and indirect contact, being the consumption experience the most important as a foundation of trust. Brand trust offers some kind of security, considering that the brand will meet consumption expectations that will have an influence on commitment. (Delgado- Ballister 2001: 1254).
Brand properties are vital to ultimate if customer decides to trust it or not. Consumers tend to judge a brand before forming a relationship with it, Lau believes that individuals develop brand trust according to reputation, predictability and proficiency (Lau et al 2009: 344);furthermore trust can be perceived as an ingredient that contrast relationships from transactions.
Trust and satisfaction are crucial elements in building personal relationships that eventually will lead to brand loyalty; which has been conceptualised as a repetitive purchasing behaviour of a brand (Lau et al. 2001: 351).
2.3.1 Trust and Brand Loyalty
Within the marketing discipline concepts as trust and brand loyalty are linked together, considering that is through trust that brands achieve loyalty from their customers. The consideration of trust in brand is supported by: the relationship between brand and consumer, that implies that the brand hold some characteristics that goes further than a simple product or service; in other spectrum brand trust is also associated to brand value, which is much more than consumer satisfaction, other characteristics can add value to the existing relationship between a brand and a consumer, being trust the most significant property of this relation. (Delgado- Ballester 2001: 1241).
Trust in a brand is positively associated to brand loyalty which brings many benefits to the organisation. The brand properties are crucial to determine if the consumer will trust or not this business if the reaction is positive and the customers is repurchasing over again it will be achieved brand loyalty.
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16 October 2012
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Manchester Metropolitan University
MARKETING, COMMUNICATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT
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