Creating parental trust in children's toy brands : the antecedents and dimensions of trustworthy behaviour of toy companies
Based around a case study of the traditional toy industry, the research examines how companies create trust with parents, the main toy purchasers, and the importance of ethical behaviour in trust development when a vulnerable community is involved. Previous literature has revealed that trust leads to mutually beneficial company-consumer relationships but scholars have failed to agree on its definition, dimensions or measurement due to its complexity, diversity and intangibility. Few have distinguished between 'trustworthiness' as a moral quality of organisations and 'trust', which is a consumer judgement about companies and brands, made as part of their purchase deliberations. A review of the literature led to the development of a framework of trustworthy behaviour identifying five sets of antecedents (organisational, individual, control, relational and branding factors) and four key dimensions with related variables - 'Integrity' and 'Benevolence', relating to ethical constructs and 'Commitment' and 'Satisfaction', relating to organisational constructs. The model was then substantiated through qualitative research with a sample of senior managers in 12 leading toy companies and other stakeholders including industry body representatives, retailers and parents. The findings revealed that in a challenging economic climate, trust in toy companies is being driven principally by the marketing offer and by external influencers such as legislators, retailers, licensors, and the media. Examples of good ethical practices were identified, although often unnoticed by consumers, and the worthier companies, for whom trustworthiness was important, appeared to be faring less well economically than companies selling third party brands. Consumers' trust was significant in the preschool market but diminished in importance as children matured when their influence overrode parents' more rational purchase considerations. The research revealed a paradox that parents as well as children are vulnerable consumers who are often bypassed in the marketing process. Whatever children's consumer rights, there will always be a lack of trust in the industry whilst young children rather than parents are so blatantly targeted.