Endorsement is a popular marketing communications tool that has been used by marketers for many years. However, traditional methods of marketing are now being surpassed as sophisticated consumers become more cynical and seek out unofficial, noncommercial information about brands. Due to the advent of technology, consumers are able to communicate independently via the internet in order to seek out, and provide, their own endorsements for products and brands. This study differentiates between different forms of dependent (paid-for) endorsements and independent (non-paid-for) endorsements; namely regular consumer endorsements, expert endorsements and association endorsements, and investigates their relative effects on brand trust. In addition, this study introduces a new form of endorsement, namely implied independent association endorsement, and tests its effect on brand trust. First, a conceptual framework of the structure of the relationship between endorsements and brand trust was compiled from relative endorsement literature. The study then investigated these relationships amongst South African nutritional supplement users who make use of the Internet to gather product information. The study made use of an Internetbased experimental research design. The study divided subjects into two experimental groups and one control group. The effect of each form of endorsement on brand trust was tested comparatively between the groups. The measurement instrument used to measure brand trust was an adapted version of the brand trust scale (BTS) designed by Delgado-Ballester (2004:573-592). Three one-way between-groups ANOVAs were conducted to compare the variability of brand trust scores between the different experimental groups. The covariate brand familiarity was included to account for previous experience with the brand used in the experiment. One-way between-groups ANCOVA’s were used to control the potential confounding that the covariate brand familiarity had on each dependent variable. The results indicate that neither dependent nor independent regular consumer endorsements have an affect on brand trust scores. However, whilst independent expert and independent association endorsements do significantly influence brand trust scores, dependent expert and dependent (implied independent) association endorsements do not. Finally, it was found that independent endorsements have a greater affect on brand trust scores than dependent (implied independent) endorsements in the association endorsement category. The first implication for managers is that different forms of endorsement influence brand trust differently, therefore, managers should be able to distinguish between different forms of endorsement available to them to use in their marketing communications mix. Secondly, managers should start investigating methods of monitoring or influencing independent expert and association endorsements to benefit from their positive influence on brand trust, which in turn has a positive affect on brand equity, consumer loyalty, brand extension acceptance and retailer re-purchases decisions. Copyright
Dissertation (MCom)--University of Pretoria, 2010.