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Do consumers really care about corporate reputation when it comes to purchasing decisions? This study tests that hypothesis by comparing consumers' perceptions of companies to the consumer equity of brands owned by those companies, using international studies of brand equity and corporate reputation. The results show that poor corporate reputation makes building strong brands difficult, but a good reputation is no guarantee of success. The elements of corporate reputation that seem to matter most to consumers in practice are perceptions of fairness toward consumers, and perceptions of corporate success and leadership, rather than public responsibility. Consumers want good business practice but when it comes to brand strength and purchasing, more personally relevant factors take precedence. So pushing a corporate social responsibility agenda to consumers may not reap the strongest rewards. But “ethical” brands that bring no penalty in cost or quality are likely to be more successful.
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