Special Session Summary Understanding Consumer Responses to Cause-Related Marketing


Ida E. Berger and M. Peggy Cunningham (1996) ,"Special Session Summary Understanding Consumer Responses to Cause-Related Marketing", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23, eds. Kim P. Corfman and John G. Lynch Jr., Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 91.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23, 1996      Page 91



Ida E. Berger, Queen's University

M. Peggy Cunningham, Queen's University

Cause-related marketing (CRM) involves the affiliation of corporate 'for-profit' marketing activities with the fund raising requirements of 'not-for-profit' organizations. Typically cause-related marketing campaigns try to induce the consumer to buy a specific good or service by promising, in return, to donate to a specific cause. However, many variations of this basic format have been derived. For example, money is not the only form of donation. Firms have provided business expertise and seconded corporate personnel to help run a charity or fund raising event.

Although the growth of CRM campaigns has been phenomenal, little is known about how consumers respond to or assess these marketing tactics or how different campaign characteristics influence these assessments. Even a cursory examination of current practice raises a number of questions. In particular, is cause-related marketing a new type of marketing or just another promotional technique? What features characterize strong versus weak cause claims in the eyes of consumers? What attributions do consumers make about CRM appeals? Do consumers view these marketing practices as a form of charity and a manifestation of corporate social responsibility or only as exploitive techniques for increasing business profits? What types of product/cause pairings work together most effectively. How do CRM campaigns affect attitudes and purchase intentions? More generally, how do consumers process the information in CRM appeals and what theories can be brought to bear to address these questions?

The goal of this special topic session was to address these questions. Increasing knowledge of consumer responses to CRM appeals is important for marketers designing persuasive campaigns as well as for causes seeking to maximize their fund raising potential. The session was designed to help researchers share their learning as well as to see different methodologies and theoretical bases applied to related research questions.

Following a brief introduction to the topic by Peggy Cunningham, Pam Ellen presented an overview of a program of research in which she and colleagues Lois Mohr and Deborah Webb are exploring the effects of type of offer and degree of consumer/corporate participation in giving on consumer evaluations. They use an attribution theory framework to understand why certain types of offers, or certain types of consumer/corporate relationships are preferred. Their results show that more positive evaluations are related to attributions of genuine altruism and that donations of products, particularly products unrelated to a marketers business, are preferred to cash.

Next, Michal Strahilevitz described a series of experiments in which she examined the interaction between type of charitable contribution, the nature of the product and the magnitude of the contribution to determine the effectiveness of CRM campaigns. She reported that cause claims are more effective when paired with 'decadent luxuries' explaining that cause associations offset the guilt associated with consuming decadent products.

Peggy Cunningham and Ida Berger presented the results of a study (conducted with Robert Kozinets) in which they treated "cause strength" as an independent variable. Contrasting dual process models (e.g. ELM) with a motivation, opportunity and ability framework (McInnis, Moorman and Jaworski 1991) they traced how consumers process CRM appeals. Their experiment manipulated cause strength, brand involvement and brand argument strength in order to examine the extent to which causes act as peripheral cues, processing motivators, arguments or biasing mechanisms. They reported that cause executions increase processing motivation and thereby persuasion, raising issues regarding the dynamic nature of involvement.

Minette Drumwright, the discussion leader for the session, raised important questions for future consideration including: (1) whether or not the phenomenon needed reconceptualization, (2) how many consumers would respond to cause claims, (3) whether or not the effects of causes were due to their novelty and whether this effect would wear-out, (4) do cause claims affect stakeholders other than a firm's customers, (5) what strategies are appropriate for cause-product alliances, (6) will cause claims have deleterious effects on either the firm or society, and (7) what motivates managers to utilize CRM programs?

The session generated provocative discussion and raised other issues including the possibility that "altruism" might be an individual difference variable suitable for segmenting markets.



Ida E. Berger, Queen's University
M. Peggy Cunningham, Queen's University


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23 | 1996

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