Choice of Cause in Cause-Related Marketing

Stefanie Rosen Robinson, Caglar Irmak, & Satish Jayachandran
Journal of Marketing
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Executive Summary
Spurred by consumer demand for companies to engage in corporate social responsibility initiatives, cause-related marketing (CM), in which fund raising for a cause is tied to purchase of a firm’s products, has become popular in recent years. The ubiquity of CM campaigns has led managers to design CM programs aimed to stand out from a multitude of similar ones to increase campaign effectiveness. As such, a new form of CM has recently emerged: CM with choice, in which companies let consumers determine which cause should receive support. The authors show that offering consumers choice of a cause increases their willingness to pay for products and purchase likelihood and improves consumer attitude toward the company. This attempt to differentiate CM campaigns by offering consumers choice of the cause works primarily because consumers derive value from their greater personal role in the contribution process. As a result, the influence of allowing consumer choice from a portfolio of causes in a CM campaign on consumer response to such campaigns varies according to consumer and campaign characteristics: collectivism, cause–brand fit, and goal proximity.

First, in countries in which the population is more collectivistic, CM campaigns with choice might be more effective. Even in countries in which the population at large is not collectivistic, firms may be able to assess the collectivism orientation of individual customers and specifically target CM campaigns with choice. Second, when choosing the cause for a CM campaign, managers may overlook the fit between the cause and the company or brand (i.e., the extent to which the cause or causes being supported in CM are in line with the domain of the company’s operations). By offering choice, the dampening effect of perceived low fit on consumers’ purchase intentions can be attenuated. Third, managers need to be careful about how they design CM campaigns that use goal proximity information to motivate consumer response (e.g., 80% [vs. 20%] of the necessary funds is already raised). Offering choice to consumers regarding the charity to be supported through the CM campaign may decrease purchase intentions when consumers are informed that charities are far from achieving their intended goal. Thus, in the beginning stages of a CM campaign, when causes are far from meeting their goals, companies may be better off not providing information on goal proximity. In summary, the authors show that CM campaigns that engage consumers by giving them a more significant role in the contribution process are likely to be more effective.

Stefanie Rosen Robinson is Assistant Professor of Marketing in the Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University. Her research investigates corporate social responsibility and consumer prosocial behavior. Her research has been published in Journal of Consumer Research. Professor Robinson received her PhD in Marketing at the University of South Carolina, where she taught courses in consumer behavior. She worked for several years with Fortune 500 companies to create a strategic framework to guide the development and growth of their brand(s).

Caglar Irmak received his PhD in Marketing at Baruch College, City University of New York, where he taught several courses including marketing strategy and new product development to undergraduates as well as executives in Baruch College’s international programs in Taiwan and Hong Kong. He currently teaches Consumer Behavior and Marketing Practicum, a project-based class, to undergraduate students in the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina.

Satish Jayachandran (PhD, Texas A&M University) is Francis M. Hipp Moore Distinguished Fellow and Professor of Marketing in the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. His research interests are in the area of marketing strategy. Currently, Professor Jayachandran is investigating issues related to customer relationship management and corporate social responsibility. His research has been published in Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, and Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. With his coauthors, Professor Jayachandran was a recipient of the 2001 Harold H. Maynard award from Journal of Marketing and the 2009 Tamer Cavusgil Award from Journal of International Marketing. He was nominated a young scholar by the Marketing Science Institute in 2003. He has taught graduate courses at Wirtschaftsuniversitat Wien in Vienna, Austria; Tecnologico de Monterrey, Campus Guadalajara, Mexico; and the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, India. He is a member of the editorial review boards of Journal of Marketing and Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.

Journal of Marketing, Volume 76, Number 4, July 2012
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Stefanie Rosen Robinson, Caglar Irmak, & Satish Jayachandran
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