Consumer Persuasion Through Cause-Related Advertising

Ida E. Berger, Queen’s University
Peggy H. Cunningham, Queen’s University
Robert V. Kozinets, Northwestern University
ABSTRACT - Despite the growth of cause-related marketing, little is known about how consumers process advertisements that contain cause-claims. Guided by information processing models, two experiments were conducted to trace the process by which attitudes toward causes influence brand attitudes and purchase intentions. The results indicate that the inclusion of a cause claim in brand advertisements has a very powerful influence on brand attitudes and purchase intentions across differing levels of readers’ initial involvement. Mediational analyses show that causes exert this influence through their effects on involvement and perceptions of brand argument quality.
[ to cite ]:
Ida E. Berger, Peggy H. Cunningham, and Robert V. Kozinets (1999) ,"Consumer Persuasion Through Cause-Related Advertising", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, eds. Eric J. Arnould and Linda M. Scott, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 491-497.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, 1999      Pages 491-497

CONSUMER PERSUASION THROUGH CAUSE-RELATED ADVERTISING

Ida E. Berger, Queen’s University

Peggy H. Cunningham, Queen’s University

Robert V. Kozinets, Northwestern University

[The authors wish to acknowledge the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. SSHRCC Grants #410-90-1431, #410-93-0347, and #752-94-1412 made much of this research possible.]

ABSTRACT -

Despite the growth of cause-related marketing, little is known about how consumers process advertisements that contain cause-claims. Guided by information processing models, two experiments were conducted to trace the process by which attitudes toward causes influence brand attitudes and purchase intentions. The results indicate that the inclusion of a cause claim in brand advertisements has a very powerful influence on brand attitudes and purchase intentions across differing levels of readers’ initial involvement. Mediational analyses show that causes exert this influence through their effects on involvement and perceptions of brand argument quality.

INTRODUCTION

Imagine an advertisement for beer. Instead of the typical party scene featuring rock music and attractive young people, envision an ad that features a promise to donate money to AIDS research each time a certain brand of beer is purchased. Does this ad attract more attention? Do people process more of the ad information? Would this ad persuade people to buy that brand of beer? Despite the fact that executives from Molson Breweries, Inc., called such a campaign "an unmitigated success," no one to date can answer all the above questions.

Cause-related marketing (CRM) is the term given to this type of marketing campaign. It is defined as "the process of formulating and implementing marketing activities that are characterized by an offer from the firm to contribute a specified amount to a designated cause when customers engage in revenue-providing exchanges that satisfy organizational and individual objectives" (Varadarajan and Menon 1988, p. 60). Cause-related advertising communicates any such charitable effort to the marketplace. Despite tremendous growth of the practice, CRM has received limited academic attention.

THE LITERATURE

The term, CRM, was coined in 1983 to describe American Express’s support of the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. In 1988, Varadarajan and Menon drew academic attention to the practice. While some empirical research followed this seminal piece, the literature provides a very incomplete picture of how CRM affects persuasion. Using standard recall tests, Cunningham and Cushing (1993) found that the inclusion of the cause claim significantly increased unaided recall of an advertisement. Ross, Patterson, and Stutts (1992), and Dahl and Lavack (1995) used theory on prosocial behavior to explain the success of CRM campaigns. Some researchers have compared the reactions of men versus women to CRM programs (Cunningham and Cushing, 1993; Ross, Patterson, and Stutts 1992) but results have been mixed. Ellen, Mohr, and Webb (1995), used an attribution theory framework and found that consumers favored programs perceived as genuinely altruistic. Behavorial decision theory guided Strahilevitz’s (1995) work. She found that CRM appeals can be most effective when coupled with "decadent" products and can be more effective than offering a cash rebate.

While the literature demonstrates that CRM may be associated with a range of positive social values and suggests the kinds of causeBproductBsponsor associations most likely to be effective, it provides no insight into how, or under what circumstances, CRM is likely to influence attitudes. No data exists about how consumers process cause-related information or how the product and the cause attributes interact to influence persuasion.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS

Gender And Prosocial Behavior

Since no clear picture of the prosocial gender effects arose from previous research, the first part of our investigation sought to re-examine this issue. Prosocial behavior is defined as "helping, sharing, and other seemingly intentional and voluntary positive behavior for which the motive is unspecified, unknown, or not altruistic" (Burnett and Wood 1988, p.14). The literature describing gender and helping behavior, although not conclusive, would support a genderBprosocial behavior link. Eagly and Crowley’s (1986) meta-analytic review of the social psychology literature on the topic found that females appeared to engage in helping behavior that is more nurturant and caring, and hus more prosocial. Males, on the other hand, engaged in a more heroic or individualistic form of helping behavior.

CRM may be viewed as a form of commercial purchase with connections to prosocial values. Donating to a charity is a prosocial act (Burnett and Wood 1988). Advertising that incorporates a cause claim may contain terms such as "helping," "caring," or "supporting." If females are positively predisposed toward prosocial behavior and advertising appeals with prosocial content, this would conceivably affect their involvement with brands that use such appeals. It might also upwardly bias their perception of the quality of a brand’s arguments, and influence their purchase intentions and brand attitudes. This leads to our first hypothesis:

H1:  Females will have more positive attitudes and higher purchase intentions for brands that use cause-related advertising than will men.

Information Processing Models of Advertising

Our study compared the explanatory power of three models with regard to the processing of print ads containing cause-claims. First, we used the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) (Petty, Cacioppo, and Schumann 1983) and the Heuristic Systematic Model (HSM) (Chaiken 1980). The ELM model postulates two distinct routes to attitude change. The centralBor systematicBroute occurs when a viewer who is highly involved with the product, diligently processes the product attribute information in the ad, and ignores other ad elements and peripheral cues. Peripheral processing, by contrast, occurs when the viewer exhibits low involvement with the product and experiences an attitude change, not from processing the product information in the ad, but as a result of associating the product with positive cues. Chaiken (1987) demonstrated that these associations may be based on simple affect transfer from the peripheral cue to the attitude object, or may be based on heuristics, "learned procedural knowledge structures" such as simple decision rules, or schemata (Chaiken 1987; Eagly and Chaiken 1993). The ELM and HSM suggest that a cause-claim could act as a peripheral cue or a heutistic that would only be processed under conditions of low product involvement.

MacInnis, Moorman, and Jaworski (1991) proposed an alternative advertising processing modelCthe Motivation, Opportunity and Ability (MOA) framework. The central thesis of the MOA framework is that executional elements may "enhance consumers’ motivation, opportunity and/or ability (MOA) to process information from an ad" (p. 32), and that executional elements play a mediational role between a viewer’s innate level of involvement and attitude change. Use of the MOA framework would suggest that a cause claim might be an executional element that itself influences viewers motivation to process information in an ad and their product/service involvement.

The MOA model was based on earlier work by MacInnis and Park (1991), who found that a peripheral cue, music, influenced both peripheral and central processing of both high and low involvement consumers. They concluded that "the commonly understood relationship between the level of involvement and processing . . . is overly simplistic" (p.171). In other words, motivation, or level of involvement, that leads to the processing of information in an ad may not be a static variable but may be a dynamic one, influenced by ad exposure. The authors note that little research has been directed at examining these executional cues and mediational processes. Furthermore, they note that there are measurement challenges when conceiving of involvement in this way. Hypotheses arising from the different informatin processing theories appear below:

H2:  Causes act as peripheral cues or heuristic cues when viewers experience low levels of product involvement.

H3:  Causes act as executional cues which enhance a viewer’s level of involvement in an advertisement and thereby increase information processing and persuasion.

To test these hypotheses, we designed two laboratory experiments in which we exposed subjects to print ad(s) containing cause-claims. In both experiments, we used a service, a fictional travel agency, as the advertised brand. We chose a service since it is inherently more ambiguous than a product offer. In both experiments, we monitored differences in responses by gender, and we traced the effects of variations in attitude toward the cause on service brand attitude and stated purchase intentions.

EXPERIMENT I

Subjects and Design. Our sample consisted of 196 students (97 males and 99 females) who were randomly assigned to treatments. Subjects were shown one of eight versions of a single ad in a completely crossed 2x2x2 between subjects design.

Manipulations. Three factors were manipulated (product involvement, cause strength, and argument quality) so we could test whether the traditional theories best explained the effect of cause-claims in an ad, or whether their affects on processing were best explicated by the MOA framework. Involvement was manipulated in the traditional manner, reflecting the methodology of other ELM tests (e.g., Petty, Cacioppo, and Schumann 1983). Subjects in the high involvement condition were told the new travel service was coming soon to their city; subjects in the low involvement condition were told the service would be offered in a distant town.

If causes are executional cues that can enhance processing, there should be a difference in processing when strong versus weak cause-claims are used. Since there was no academic literature on the specifics of cause-claim design, possible elements of cause strength were gleaned from the trade press. The search revealed that relevance of the cause to the subject was important as was the credibility of the charitable organization, and the size and impact of the donation. Pre-tests were conducted to further test variances in the strength of different cause claims for student audiences (n=58). They revealed that strong cause-claims for students were those with educational or environmental themes. Sports- and peace-related causes were of medium importance, while arts, cultural and religious causes were of low importance. For our sample, credibility, as witnessed by a successful history, was an attribute of strong cause claims. Strong causes also had to fulfil an important social need, and claims were viewed as stronger when the dollar amount to be donated was specified. Gender effects were also found during this pre-test. Women viewed all of the causes more positively. Based on the above results, the manipulation of a strong cause consisted of a student scholarship fund with a successful history, to which $1 was donated for every trip purchased from the travel agency. The manipulation for the weak cause consisted of support of the local arts organization with a vague history and no specified amount being donated. Pretests confirmed that the evaluations of the two claims were statistically different in terms of perceived cause strength.

The processing of advertising is also affected by the nature of the arguments associated with the advertised product (argument quality). Chaiken and Maheswaran (1994) utilized ambiguous and strong arguments in an advertising information processing scenario to illuminate the processing of heuristics. Ambiguous messages used a mix of imporant and unimportant attributes, while strong messages portrayed a product as superior on important attributes alone. Their evidence suggested that when information about brand attributes is ambiguous, advertising material containing positive heuristic elements can bias evaluations positively. To test whether causes might act as heuristic cues instead of executional cues, we chose to manipulate argument quality as strong and ambiguous.

A literature search was performed to uncover features of travel agencies that students would view as strong or ambiguous (see Persia and Gitelson 1993) and pre-tests were performed to determine the attributes that students would value in a travel service. Four features of a travel service were found to be important to students: low prices, convenient locations, friendly expert agents, and absence of sales pressure. Ambiguous benefits included decor and giveaways such as free travel bags, maps and coffee. Thus, our strong arguments described the target travel agency as offering guaranteed lowest prices, an on-campus location, and friendly, cheerful, qualified, salaried travel agents, but no giveaways. The more ambiguous, weaker arguments described an agency claiming competitive prices, located five miles from campus, offering free coffee, maps and travel bags, and staffed by qualified, eager, commissioned travel agents.

Procedures and Measures. After each subject received a test booklet, instructions were read aloud. Once it was clear that everyone understood the task, subjects were asked to view an advertisement, and then to respond to a series of questions. All constructs were measured with nine-point, bi-polar, semantic differential scales. We had two dependent variables: attitude toward the advertised service (brand attitude), and purchase intent. Our three independent constructs were cause attitude, perceived argument quality, and perceived involvement.

Results: Experiment I

Attitude Toward the Cause. The cause manipulation worked as expected. Respondents had more positive attitudes about the student scholarship cause (M=1.59) than the arts cause (M=.56). ANOVA with the dependent variable cause attitude indicated a statistically significant main effect for the cause manipulation (F=28.0, p<.001). A main effect was also apparent for sex (F=7.2, p<.01). Females consistently had higher and more favorable attitudes toward the cause, supporting hypothesis 1.

Perceived Argument Quality. As expected, respondents’ perceptions of the quality of the arguments associated with the travel agency were influenced by our manipulations: the stronger arguments were perceived to be stronger. Perceptions of argument quality were stronger for women than for men, and arguments were perceived as stronger when the brand was associated with the more positively evaluated cause (the student scholarship fund). ANOVA indicated significant main effects for manipulated argument quality (F=6.5, p<.01), for manipulated cause strength (F=4.8, p<.05), and for sex (F=8.7, p<.01). These results must be interpreted in light of two significant two-way interactions (involvement*cause F=5.1, p<.05, and argument*sex F=3.9, p<.05). The involvement*cause interaction revealed that the cause claim influenced argument quality only under the low manipulated involvement condition. The argument*sex interaction revealed that brand arguments influenced perceived argument quality more for men than for women. Thus, it appears that subjects in the low manipulated involvement conditions, especially women, used cause information to develop perceptions of argument quality which supported our Hypothesis 2 (causes as heuristics).

Perceived Involvement. Respondents’ level of processing involvement could have been a function of either the involvement manipulation or, as suggested by the MOA framework, a function of the executional cue, manipulated cause strength. ANOVA indicatedthat interest and involvement with the advertised brand increased significantly as a function of cause strength (F=4.8, p<.05) and sex (F=4.4, p<.05) supporting H3 (the MOA framework). There were no significant main effects for argument quality or manipulated involvement. The overall level of involvement across respondents was moderately high (on the 9-point scale from -4 to 4, mean involvement was .42, the median was 1.0, and the mode was 2.0).

The above findings are both interesting and problematic. They are interesting because they suggest that involvement is not simply a static, exogenous variable, but is in fact subject to executional influence. The results are problematic because they challenge the standard, a priori ANOVA methodology. The "independent variables" are confounded in that the cause manipulation influenced not only attitude toward the cause, but also involvement and perceptions of argument quality.

Brand Attitudes and Purchase Intentions. Our approach to this challenge was to proceed by using the post-exposure measure of perceived involvement as suggested by MacInnis, Moorman, and Jaworski (1991) and Lehmann (1995), rather than manipulated involvement in our subsequent ANOVA tests on brand attitudes and purchase intentions. That is, as a step toward understanding the dynamic nature of involvement and the influence of cause, we assigned respondents to high and low involvement groups, using a median split procedure based on subjects’ self-reported levels of interest and involvement in processing brand information. This dichotomized measured involvement variable then served as an independent variable in subsequent ANOVAs on attitude toward the brand and behavioral intention. Perceived involvement, (F=52.0, p<.001), manipulated cause strength (F=25, p<.001), manipulated argument quality (F=7.4, p<.01),) and respondent gender (F=5.8, p<.05) all exerted significant main effect influences on brand attitude. Attitudes towards the service were more positive under conditions of high perceived involvement, with a student scholarship fund, with strong brand arguments, for female respondents. These main effects were again qualified by two significant interactions. Cause was significantly more influential when perceived involvement was low (two-way cause*involvement interaction F=5.8, .05), and this was particularly so when the arguments describing the brand were more ambiguous (marginally significant three-way interaction, cause*argument strength*involvement F=3.3, p<.10).

This latter finding suggests that causes don’t just act as executional cues that increase involvement, but also work as biasing mechanisms as suggested by Chaiken and Maheswaran (1994). These authors argued that when information about brand attributes is ambiguousBin other words, when argument quality is ambivalent or weakBperipheral material (such as a cause claim) could favorably bias the viewer’s evaluation of brand arguments, and thereby increase attitude toward the brand. Our evidence suggests that this bias may be particularly likely to occur under conditions of moderate to low involvement.

Analyses of the effects of the independent variables on purchase intentions indicated a very similar pattern. Intentions to use the target travel agency were significantly influenced by respondents’ perceived involvement (F=24.3, p<.001), cause strength (F=6.6, p<.01) and sex (F=3.6, p<.10). Again, these main effects were qualified by two significant interactions. First, there was an interaction between argument quality and measured involvement (F=4.9, p<.05), such that brand arguments were only effective under conditions of high involvement. This, of course, is the classic dual processing mode finding. Secondly, there was a significant interaction between argument quality and gender (F=4.6, p<.05): again, men were more persuaded by brand arguments than were women.

Instead of being able to reject one advertising processing model in favor of another (i.e., H2 over H3), ANOVA analyses suggest that a cause has the following multiple and complex effects on advertising processing and communication effectiveness (1) the cause appears to influence viewers’ motivation to process advertising information, and (2) it appears to influence viewers’ perceptions of argument quality (brand superiority). Furthermore, (3) the cause seems to influence attitudes and behavioral intentions toward the brand, (4) this influence occurs particularly under conditions of moderate perceived involvement, (5) it occurs particularly with ambiguous service arguments, and (6) it occurs particularly for women.

A Mediated Process. The support for H3 (the MOA framework) also implies a process whereby the influence of cause perceptions on attitudes and intentions is mediated by felt involvement and perceptions of argument quality. To test this mediated process more rigorously, we utilized Baron and Kenny’s (1986) analytic framework. They argue that mediation exists when it can be shown that the demonstrated influence of an independent variable on a dependent variable is reduced (to non-significance, for complete mediation), once the effect of a mediating variable is accounted for. Figure 1 depicts this mediated model, and Table 1 reports the results of a series of hierarchical regression analyses exploring this mediated process.

The series of regression equations displayed in the table demonstrates that the influence of cause attitude on attitude toward the brand was partially mediated by measured involvement and argument quality. This can be seen by the reduced coefficient and reduced t-value on the cause attitude variable when moving from regression 3 to regression 4. Furthermore, the influence of cause attitude on usage intentions is totally mediated by these two variables: see regressions 5 and 6 and the non-significant effect of cause attitude in regression 6. As indicated in the table, the final models had significant explanatory power: adj. R-squared=.41 for attitude toward the brand, and adj. R-squared=.28 for perceived purchase intent.

FIGURE 1

A MEDIATED MODEL

TABLE 1

MEDIATIONAL ANALYSIS: EXPERIMENT I

EXPERIMENT II

Our goal in Experiment II was to examine the ability of cause claims to enhance processing given low levels of a priori involvement. Since we had not yet addressed the central question, "Is a cause-related ad more persuasive than a similar non-cause-related ad?" we also tested this question, using a comparative no-cause control cell. This led to our fourth hypothesis:

H4:  Cause-related advertising will create more positive brand attitudes than similar advertising which is not cause-related.

Finally, we hoped to gain an understanding of the particular aspects of cause claims that lead to persuasion. A review of our cause strength pretest results suggested two independent aspects of cause strength: one that carried more prosocial and associational properties, cause relevance and another that was primarily based upon argumentation, cause credibility. Cause relevance is a prosocial construct that might be influenced by individuals’ values, and might carry strong associations of a peripheral or heuristic nature. Cause credibility was perceived as a more argument-like aspect of the cause. As in the first experiment, we measured the effects of variations in attitude toward the cause on target brand attitude and stated purchase intentions, and continued to monitor the predicted gender differences.

Design and Stimuls Materials. To create a low involvement experimental situation, we exposed subjects to a realistic copy of a campus newspaper which contained highly involving articles plus 9 advertisementsC8 advertisements for actual local establishments familiar to our student subjects, plus the target ad for the fictitious travel agencyCBuena Vista Travel (we re- named the agency to avoid the possibility of any relevancy effects arising from the name Campus Wide Travel). The design of this experiment consisted of 6 cells in a completely crossed 3x2 design, plus a seventh control cell. The target advertisements involved three different levels of cause relevance and two levels of cause credibility. As determined by our pre-test, a local arts and culture foundation was utilized as the low relevance case, and a peace foundation was chosen for moderate relevance, and, as in Experiment I, the high relevance cause was student scholarships. The three ads in the low cause credibility condition made only a vague promise of "support" of the cause, without any stated contribution amount, and reported no past history of donation. The high cause credibility ads promised a $2.00 donation to a cause with each travel ticket purchase, mentioned the 15-year history of the foundation supporting the cause, and cited a $250,000 program of annual support to the cause. The seventh advertisement contained no cause association. The cause information was replaced with a 'price deal’. It served as a control cell.

Subjects. Our sample consisted of 210 students (104 males and 106 females) who were randomly assigned to treatments. Subjects were asked to read through their newspaper just as they would normally. The newspapers were then collected and subjects were instructed to open their test booklets and answer questions about three adsBthe target ad and two others.

Measures. The same measures were used for each of the three service brands. A don’t know response was associated with each question, since we expected that subjects would not remember all the ads in a low involvement condition. Attitude toward the brand, purchase intent, interest and involvement with the ad, and perceived argument quality were measured in the same way as they were in Experiment I. For our target ad, two questions were posed about subjects’ attitudes toward the cause. For the non-cause-related ads two alternate questions were posed that asked about subjects attitudes toward the deal.

Results: Experiment II

Attitude toward the cause. We began our exploration of CRM under low involvement by examining respondents’ stated evaluations of the causes associated with the Buena Vista Travel agency. Given our pre-test and Experiment I results with the same subject population, we expected respondents to evaluate the "student" cause most positively, the "peace" cause moderately positively and the "arts" cause least positively. In addition, to the extent that respondents were processing the cause arguments, we expected that respondents would feel more positive about credible offers of real dollars than about offers that made no explicit financial promise. The results did not support these expectations. In fact, ANOVA indicated no reliable differences in attitude toward the cause as a function of either cause manipulation. However, there was a significant effect of gender on cause attitude, with women evaluating all three causes more positively (M=2.52) than men (M=1.52, F=16.91, p<.001).

Two aspects of these results are noteworthy. First, it appears that under conditions of low involvement, cause credibility, the argument-based aspect of a cause claim is not influential. Readers simply do not process such statements under low involvement conditions. Second, attitudes toward the causes were more "idiosyncratic" than hypothesized. Attitudes varied systematically by gender only. Surprisingly, for instance, the peace cause was evaluated more positively by manystudents than a student scholarship fund. Clearly, judging the relevance of a cause to a target audience is a complex task and relevance of a cause may vary over time, even over relatively short periods of time.

Attitudes and Purchase Intentions. Although subjects did not react to the causes according to our a priori expectations, there was considerable variance in respondents’ attitudes toward the causes. Accordingly, we created a dichotomized cause attitude variable, in order to understand the influence of attitude toward the cause on brand attitude and intended usage. Using a median split procedure, we grouped subjects into high and low cause attitude groups. ANOVAs indicated that this dichotomized attitude toward the cause variable significantly influenced respondents’ interest and involvement with the brand (F=30.5, p<.001), perceptions of argument quality (F=25.5, p<.001), attitude toward the brand (F=18.4, p<.001), and intentions to use the Buena Vista Travel Agency (F=10.5, p<.001). Thus, more positively evaluated causes were associated with higher levels of involvement, perceptions of higher argument quality, more positive brand attitudes and higher usage intentions. MANOVA on these four dependent variables confirmed a significant cause effect (Wilks’ Lambda F=5.99, p<.001).

Testing the Mediated Process. The results of Experiment II provide a further opportunity to examine the mediation of cause perceptions by involvement and argument quality. Once again, Baron and Kenny’s mediational analysis (see Table 2) supported the proposition that variations in attitudes toward a cause included in an advertisement influence both attitudes toward the brand and purchase intentions, by influencing involvement with the advertisement and perceptions of brand argument quality.

The Relative Effectiveness of Cause-Based Advertisements: Hypothesis 4. To gain insight into the value of including information about an advertiser’s "cause" activities, we compared the perceptions, attitudes and intentions of respondents exposed to the 6 CRM ads with those of a control group of 30 subjects exposed to an ad for the Buena Vista travel agency that included only amplified service arguments and travel-related visual cues. Those exposed to CRM ads expressed higher levels of involvement, perceptions of stronger brand arguments, higher overall attitudes and higher usage intentions, relative to those exposed to the other ad. However, since none of these differences were statistically significant at commonly accepted levels (all t’s <1, all p>.60), hypothesis 4 was not supported. It is interesting to note, however, that respondents’ evaluations of the cause associated with the Buena Vista Travel Agency (M=2.1) were significantly higher than control respondents’ evaluations of the deal associated with the brand (M=1.06, t=2.6, p<.01).

We compared our findings from the cause ads with those from the other advertised services offering a deal, as a final test to see whether cause claims are distinct executional elements in advertisements. The Baron and Kenney test of mediation revealed that while attitude toward the 'deal’ had a direct influence on purchase intent, its effects were not mediated by measured involvement and argument quality. This finding suggests that causes persuade differently, compared to more traditional promotions.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS

Two experiments were conducted with the purpose of exploring how cause claims affect persuasion in print advertisements. The work was guided by theories arising from the traditional dual processing models of persuasion (e.g., Petty and Cacioppo 1981), and the newer executional cue framework of MacInnis, Moorman and Jaworski (1991). These models provided the basis for hypotheses that a cause claim could act as a peripheral cue or a heuristic, or could increase a viewer’s motivaton to process the information in the ad. Rather than merely supporting or refuting our hypotheses, however, the results of Experiments I and II suggest that cause claims not only strongly affect persuasion, they do so in complex, interrelated and multi-faceted ways. Our findings show that cause-claims have a differential effect on females versus male viewers. Females tend to generally have more positive attitudes towards cause-claims and the products associated with them.

TABLE 2

MEDIATIONAL ANALYSIS: EXPERIMENT II

While there is partial support for the ELM-based hypothesis that causes are particularly influential in low involvement situations, the implicit assumption underlying the ELM model that the two routes to persuasion are mutually exclusive is not supported. Our findings demonstrate that cause claims serve as executional cues that enhance attention to and interest in the advertisement, as suggested by the MOA framework of MacInnis, Moorman and Jaworski (1991), Furthermore, they bias perceptions of argument quality as suggested by the concurrent processing theory of Chaiken and Maheswaran (1994). It is through this complex process that they augment brand attitude and perceived purchase intentions.

Our finding that cause claims perform the role of executional cues that enhance involvement led to the development and testing of a mediational model of the effects of cause attitude on brand attitude and purchase intent. The Baron and Kenny (1986) test for mediation supported the contention that the effects of a cause claim on brand attitude and purchase intention are mediated by measured involvement and perceived argument quality. While our findings support the power of strong, relevant cause claims to increase persuasion in print advertisements, they also point to the need for advertising researchers to think more carefully about involvement as a dynamic rather than a static construct.

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