The Moral Discount: Can Being Socially Responsible Hurt Your Brand?

Stefanie Rosen, University of South Carolina, USA
Stacy Wood, University of South Carolina, USA
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is increasingly used by firms as a branding strategy. However, a discrepancy between consumers’ commendation of firms that engage in CSR and their satisfaction with the actual products these firms produce has been observed. We term this “the moral discount;” a bias by which consumers perceive that socially-responsible products are less effective than regular products. Two studies show the bias depends on brand strength and CSR attribute centrality. While strong brands benefit from extrinsic CSR attributes (e.g., charity donations) and intrinsic CSR attributes (e.g., earth-friendly ingredients), the use of extrinsic attributes can decrease consumers’ ratings of unfamiliar/weak brands.
[ to cite ]:
Stefanie Rosen and Stacy Wood (2010) ,"The Moral Discount: Can Being Socially Responsible Hurt Your Brand?", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 37, eds. Margaret C. Campbell, Jeff Inman, and Rik Pieters, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 704-705 .