Consumenten reageren niet altijd positief op berichtgeving over ‘corporate social responsibility’. De communicatie hierover dient aan te sluiten bij de mindset en het kennisniveau ten aanzien van de merken. Dit blijkt uit een nieuwe studie van de Journal of Consumer Research. ‘Open en conservatieve merken’ komen er vaker weg mee in tegenstelling tot ‘zelfingenomen‘ merken.

“Certain brand concepts may be roadblocks for firms aiming to benefit from corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs,” write authors Carlos J. Torelli (University of Minnesota), Alokparna (Sonia) Basu Monga (University of South Carolina), and Andrew M. Kaikati (University of Georgia). The authors examined how consumers react to certain brand concepts and companies’ social responsibility missions. “For instance, a luxury brand such at Rolex may be primarily associated with an abstract concept of self-enhancement (dominance over people and resources), whereas Aunt Jemima may be primarily associated with a conservation concept (tradition and protection of the status quo),” the authors explain. “Similarly, Apple iTunes may be characterized by an openness concept (exciting and free-spirited).” Even when consumers are not conscious of it, these brands activate related motivations in consumers.

The authors believe that messages of social responsibility that come from luxury brands associated with a “self-enhancement concept” cause consumers to feel that something is “not right,” which means their opinion of the brand declines. On the other hand, brands associated with openness or conservation do not have the same “motivational conflict” with social responsibility. By testing participants’ reactions to real and hypothetical brands, the authors also found that people who had an abstract (vs. concrete) mindset were more likely to experience “disfluency” when brand information conflicted with social responsibility messages.

“Given that billions of dollars are being poured into CSR activities, knowing which brands are more or less likely to succeed is highly consequential,” the authors write. “CSR activities can backfire for luxury brands associated with a self-enhancement concept, but not for brands associated with openness or conservation concepts, unless steps are taken to avoid these negative consequences.”

Journal Reference:

Carlos J. Torelli, Alokparna Basu Monga and Andrew M. Kaikati. Doing Poorly by Doing Good: Corporate Social Responsibility and Brand Concepts. Journal of Consumer Research, February 2012