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Corporate signals, such as corporate image and corporate reputation, are potentially effective tools to alleviate consumer uncertainty about brands in emerging markets and may therefore enhance product brand equity. However, most studies targeting the effects of corporate signals are set in developed countries and also fail to compare different emerging markets to explore possible moderators to these relationships. We argue that the perceived uncertainty towards brands differs between emerging markets and that this difference is shaped by the institutional background in the country. This, in turn, influences the effectiveness of corporate signals. Using structural equation modelling, the study analyses large consumer samples from China and India. We discover that corporate image is a more effective signal in China than in India. Moreover, we find that corporate reputation mediates the corporate image – product brand equity relationship in emerging markets. Notably, the importance of the mediation depends on the country setting.
6. Discussion and implications
This study examines the following research question: “How and why do consumers in China and India differ in terms of utilizing corporate signals (CI/CR) when they make product related decisions (PBE)?” Pursuing this research question provides several theoretical contributions related to signalling theory. First, it shows that in emerging markets, consumers utilize corporate signals such as CI and CR when making product decisions. This is a significant contribution since corporate signalling research to this point has mainly ignored how emerging markets consumers value signals like corporate image or reputation for guidance in their purchasing decisions. Second, the study contributes to theory by explaining how and why these differences exist. Our findings indicate that the reason for dissimilar effects of corporate signals (CI/CR) between countries is not cultural differences (as argued by previous studies) but institutional context related differences. Third, we contribute by explaining why CR mediates CI and PBE differently in China and India. Our findings indicate that source diversity explains these differences and may also help explain some of the previous findings in the literature (e.g., Souiden et al., 2006). Key managerial implications of this study are that companies should rely on both CR and CI, but should adjust their dose according to the institutional setting in each country. We discuss these contributions in the following paragraphs.