This is the first in a series of articles by Professor Michal Ann Strahilevitz of Golden Gate University on the practical application of academic research on cause marketing:
We all know that cause-related marketing campaigns can help drive purchases, build brand image, and strengthen the emotional connections that customers feel for a brand. However, not all cause-marketing campaigns will be equally successful, and there are several factors that might lead one campaign to be more successful than another.
My dissertation research demonstrated that the success of a cause-marketing campaign was greatly influenced by the nature of the product being promoted. More specifically, charity incentives work significantly better with pleasure-oriented products that are perceived as frivolous (e.g., a chocolate sundae or a cruise) than with task-oriented products that are perceived as practical (e.g., garbage bags or a washing machine).
The results of follow-up research suggest that the warm glow that consumers get from buying a brand that is linked to a good cause is greater when products being purchased are ones that generate joy and/or guilt (e.g., expensive wine or premium ice cream). This is because the emotions of joy and guilt both complement the emotions generated from charitable giving behavior.
In a second series of studies, my research demonstrated that for hedonic, pleasure-oriented products that are perceived as “frivolous”, consumers are willing to forgo a substantial price discount in order to choose a charity-linked brand. In contrast, consumers are more attracted to discounts than donations for utilitarian task-oriented products that are perceived as “practical”. This is particularly true when the discount and competing donation are of a high magnitude.
In other words, consumers are not only more likely to prefer a cause-related brand when they are purchasing a hedonic product, but are also far more willing to pay a substantial price premium in order to do so.
For more details on the research described above, see the following publications:
“Using Donations to Charity as Purchase Incentives: How Well They Work May Depend on What You Are Trying to Sell,” Michal Strahilevitz and John Meyers, Journal of Consumer Research, March (1998), 434-446.
“The Effects of Product Type and Donation Magnitude on Willingness to Pay More for a Charity- Linked Brand,” Michal Strahilevitz, Journal of Consumer Psychology, March (1999), 215-241.
For further information or a copy of the article that appeared in the Journal of Consumer Research, contact Professor Strahilevitz at firstname.lastname@example.org