The integration of sustainabilityas brand value of mainstream brands: an explorative investigation of the natural skin care market in Germany

Pia Voigt

Student thesis: Master thesis


The topic of a responsible and sustainable dealing with environmental resources not only interests governments and eco-conscious consumers anymore, but rather reached the brand management level of almost every corporation. As the consumers’ demand for sustainable products experiences a continuous growth, mainstream brands respond to these market developments. Not only by integrating sustainable values in their branding strategies, but also by expanding their brands into sustainable niche segments offering attractive market potentials. By this, clear lines between the sustainable brand promises of niche and mainstream brands blur. Hence, this master thesis investigates how mainstream skin care brands can compete with niche brands in terms of brand credibility and brand appeal. Based on an explorative, qualitative research approach, nine individual interviews and two focus groups were conducted. The group of investigation consisted of 17 female, German consumers between the age of 21 and 27. Market of examination was the natural skin care market in Germany. The findings indicate that sustainable brand values of mainstream brands operating in the natural skin care market are not able to compete with natural niche brands in terms of their altruistic motives. Notwithstanding, they can compete in regard of their brand credibility and brand appeal. In order to be perceived as credible, two brand dimensions are crucial: The brand image of the parent brand (in case of a line extension) and the extent of the promised sustainable brand values. Consumers show lower sustainable expectations towards mainstream brands. Hence, the establishment of credibility can occur, if the brand values are congruent with sustainability dimensions associated with the brand image of the parent brand. Furthermore, the extent of the brand value promises and the brand’s possibility to respond with respective activities is decisive for a brand’s credibility ascription. In terms of brand appeal, the study participants’ often perceived mainstream brands as more appealing than the natural niche brands. Whereas the latter are associated with brand personality attributes such as “traditional” or even “outdated”, mainstream brands manage to appear as “modern” or “hip”. This can be ascribed to different brand personality dimensions, such as the brand’s physique, reflection, or relationship. In the context of the investigated group, mainstream brands within the natural skin care segment can be interpreted as welcomed market diversion. The higher appeal can be explained in the context of reference groups, self-extension and self-expression and is caused by the evaluated fit between the brand’s personality and the individual’s own value system.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages122