An empirical assessment of the impact of brand trust violations in the Chinese dairy industry on consumers’ repurchasing intentions: A brand/consumer relationship perspective

Shijie Zhang (Essex Business School, Southend campus, Southend on Sea, UK)

Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies

ISSN: 2053-4604

Article publication date: 2 March 2015



Zhang, S. (2015), "An empirical assessment of the impact of brand trust violations in the Chinese dairy industry on consumers’ repurchasing intentions: A brand/consumer relationship perspective", Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies, Vol. 7 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

An empirical assessment of the impact of brand trust violations in the Chinese dairy industry on consumers’ repurchasing intentions: A brand/consumer relationship perspective

Article Type: PhD thesis abstract From: Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies, Volume 7, Issue 1

Author: Shijie Zhang

Supervisors: Dr Sena Ozdemir (Lecturer in Marketing)

                   Dr Konstantinos Poulis (Senior Lecturer in Marketing)

Award of degree: Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration

Year of award: 2014 Award institution: University of Essex


The Chinese national dairy industry has experienced a series of scandals owing to dairy firms’ aggressive pursuit of profits and neglect of product quality guarantees since the 2008 melamine case. The consumer confidence in food has been seriously and repeatedly dented. This perceived violation of trust has affected consumer perceptions of and behaviours towards the national dairy brand, which may best be resolved by facing up to the issues, enhancing the brand and building consumer relationships to regain brand trust and establish resilience against the impact of crises. Therefore, understanding how brand and consumer relationships affect Chinese consumers’ brand trust and further influence their beliefs and intentions following a violation of trust is a key consideration for Chinese dairy firms.

This research addresses a number of gaps in the literature. First, although the importance of brand trust has been theoretically deliberated in the branding literature, and a large number of research studies on trust have been conducted in the context of interpersonal relationships, business-to-business, service industries and online business, fewer empirical works have addressed brand trust. Second, most studies have treated brand trust as a unidimensional concept, whereas few have considered it to be a multidimensional concept. Moreover, few empirical works in the literature have explored the antecedents of consumer trust in brand in the context of brand/consumer relationships. In particular, very few studies have tested the antecedents of the two facets of consumer trust in brand – cognitive and affective – in a single study to establish which antecedents are more relevant to these two types of trust. Furthermore, there is a lasting debate on whether or not violation of trust will lead to negative consequences. For example, some studies which have examined issues related to the consequences of trust violations indicate that such violations may lead to negative behaviour, while others suggest it may not. Next, various previous studies have emphasised either the antecedents or the marketing-related consequences of trust, but few have integrated these two aspects into a single model in the marketing context, and very few have examined the consequences directly related to marketing success, such as consumers’ (re)purchasing intentions. Finally, very few empirical studies investigate the trust concept from the consumer behaviour perspective in Chinese context.

Using Fournier’s (1998) brand relationship quality model (BRQ) and Fishbein and Ajzen’s (1980) theory of reasoned action (TRA), this dissertation investigates the impact of the constructs of brand/consumer relationships on consumers’ trust in brand by metaphorically transferring facets of the BRQ, and how this trust influences consumer beliefs and repurchase intentions following a violation of trust. It seeks to fill the gaps in the literature by undertaking a large-scale, face-to-face survey (400 respondents), using a structured questionnaire to gather data from children’s parks, hospitals and kindergartens in first-tier Chinese cities. The data are analysed using structural equation modelling techniques to investigate causal relationships between the different latent variables. More specifically, descriptive analysis, exploratory factor analysis , conventional reliability (e.g. Cronbach’s α) and multi-collinearity tests using SPSS are undertaken. The composite reliability and construct validity of the scales are tested using confirmatory factor analysis, and the hypotheses are tested using a structural model in MPLUS.

This research has achieved a number of important results and expands the knowledge of trust and trust violation from the context of interpersonal trust to brand trust. Firstly, the results indicate that only increases in brand similarity, competence and liking have a significantly positive influence on consumers’ cognitive trust in brand, while only a brand’s frequency of communications directly affects affective trust in brand following a significant violation of trust. Secondly, contrary to expectations, affect-based trust in brand does influence post-violation trust beliefs. However, cognition-based trust in brand plays a more dominant role in influencing post-violation trust beliefs in the national dairy brand in China. It implies that cognition-based trust is found to be more effective than affect-based trust in nurturing trust in brand. Thirdly, the results also indicate that consumers’ trust in brand is positively associated with their post-violation beliefs and leads to positive repurchasing behaviour. This confirms the applicability of the TRA in the context of brand trust. Finally, this study also finds that the relatives' support will not have an interactive effect on the Chinese consumers' repurchase intention.

The results have important implications for Chinese domestic firms. Relying on stronger bi-directional and quality brand communications and brand experience may not generate high trust in brand compared with developing brand similarity, competence and frequency of communications. In addition, managers must realise that, following a serious violation of trust, cognition-based trust will have a greater effect than affect-based trust in influencing consumer behaviour.

This research investigates the effect of the trust violation resulting from the 2008 melamine incident only from the consumer perspective, with little reference to the company perspective. With regard to research methods, the sample framework may not accurately represent the whole population of Chinese female consumers of the national dairy brand, especially those in the north-west and south-west regions of China.

Future research might extend this study by exploring the role of conflict, brand reputation and other factors as antecedents of brand trust, as well as focusing on male consumers’ trust in brand. Meanwhile, this research has not provided a direct solution to how to deal with a brand trust violation. Some researchers have suggested that firms should offer an apology, denial or compensation to rebuild trust, but few empirical studies in the brand context have researched particularly how to recover affect-based trust in brand.


Ajzen, I. and Fishbein, M. (1980), Understanding Attitude and Predicting Social Behaviour: Attributes, Intention, and Perceived Behavioral Control, Prentice Hall, Englewood Clffs, NJ.

Fournier, S. (1998), “Consumers and their brands: developing relationship theory in consumer research”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 24 No. 4, pp. 343-373.

Related articles