To Win Customers, Ensure Your CSR Fits Your Image

To Win Customers, Ensure Your CSR Fits Your Image

The right corporate social responsibility initiatives can improve your brand equity, while inappropriate or ill-timed CSR tactics can hurt you.
Pam Laughland December 6, 2010
What is the influence on consumers of the fit, motivation and timing of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives? The authors of this study used familiar companies, including The Home Depot and Toys "R" Us, to analyze consumers’ thoughts and feelings after reading about a firms' CSR initiatives. When consumers viewed CSR as a poor fit or profit-motivated, their attitudes and purchase intentions were low. But when CSR initiatives were perceived as being proactive, consumers were more likely to want to buy from the company.

Factors that Influence Consumers

Numerous factors can influence whether consumers reward firms for their CSR. In this study, the authors provided participants with different information about well-known companies and their social initiatives, and then evaluated consumers’ reactions. The authors varied the firm’s motivation (profit or social good), the timing of initiatives (proactive or reactive), and the fit with the firm’s product, brand and market (high or low).


Implications for Managers

Implications for Researchers

Future research should examine firm-specific factors and test consumer behaviour in marketplace settings to better evaluate the relationship between real initiatives and buying behaviour. Extending this research to other industries and initiatives (e.g., environmental programs) would also increase the generalizability of the study.


The authors conducted two studies—one examining reactions to fit and motivation behind social initiatives and another examining reactions to timing. In the first study, the authors paired two companies (The Home Depot and Revlon) with social initiatives (homelessness and domestic violence). The 108 participants read an article in which researchers varied fit, motivation, and timing of CSR: for example, “Home Depot hopes this and other new programs will boost sales” or “Home Depot hopes this and other programs will help those at risk.” In the second study, the authors used the Home Depot, Ford Motor Company, and Toys R Us, and the issues of homelessness, vehicle safety and missing children. The authors presented the firm’s initiatives as being either proactive or reactive.
Becker-Olsen, Karen L., Andrew Cudmore and Ronald Paul Hill. (2006) The Impact of perceived corporate social responsibility on consumer behavior. Journal of Business Research. Volume 59(1), p46-53.

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