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RESEARCH BRIEF: Consumer choice and context influence effectiveness of cause-related marketing


Takeaway: Cause-related marketing that offers consumer choice generally has a positive influence on consumer response, but its effectiveness varies with the characteristics of the cause, the campaign and the audience. The culture where the campaign takes place (i.e. collectivist or non-collectivist), the connection of the cause to the core business, and how close the philanthropic campaign is to reaching its goal are all significant factors in the success of a cause-related marketing campaign.

Suggested Audience: Managers of cause-related marketing campaigns determining target audiences, and the corporate citizenship managers working with marketing departments in developing campaigns

In this study, researchers examined how letting consumers choose the cause their purchase will benefit influences consumer responses to cause marketing. They also looked at consumer and campaign characteristics that enhance or limit the effectiveness of cause marketing when consumers have a choice, examining consumer intention to purchase, consumers’ perceptions of their role in helping the cause, and consumers’ perceptions of the company.

Key findings:

  • When the company chooses the cause, consumer reactions are more positive when the fit between the causes and company is high (a strong connection to the firm’s core business).
  • Letting consumers (vs. the company) choose the cause increases the amount paid and the consumer’s purchase intentions for a company’s products.
  • Giving consumers the opportunity to choose the beneficiary enhances perceptions of their personal role in helping the cause and, as a result, their likelihood of purchasing products associated with such campaigns.
  • Offering choice to consumers regarding the cause is more effective when there is a low fit with the company (a weak connection to the company’s core business) or when the targeted consumer has a collectivist orientation (prioritizing the group over the individual). Collectivists are more likely to perceive a greater personal role in helping the cause when they choose the cause, which in turn enhances their likelihood of purchasing the product associated with the campaign. Offering choice to consumers regarding the cause to be supported through the cause-related marketing campaign may decrease purchase intentions when consumers are informed that a charity is far from achieving its intended goal.

If citing, please refer to the original article: “Choice of Cause in Cause-Related Marketing”, Journal of Marketing Vol. 76 (July 2012), 126 –139, Stefanie Rosen Robinson, Caglar Irmak and Satish Jayachandran

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