Building corporate associations: Consumer attributions for corporate socially responsible programs

Research paper by Pam Scholder Ellen, Deborah J. Webb, Lois A. Mohr

Indexed on: 01 Mar '06Published on: 01 Mar '06Published in: Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is often used as a key criterion in gauging corporate reputation. This research examined the influence of consumers’ attributions on corporate outcomes in response to CSR. Researchers and managers have considered consumers’ beliefs about CSR initiatives to be simplistic, serving either economic ends or reflecting sincere social concerns. The results of two studies established that consumers’ attributions were more complex than traditionally viewed, mirroring many of the motives ascribed to companies by managers and researchers. Rather than viewing corporate efforts along a self- or other-centered continuum, consumers differentiated four types of motives: self-centered motives that are strategic and egoistic and other-centered motives that are values driven and stakeholder driven. Consumers responded most positively to CSR efforts they judged as values driven and strategic while responding negatively to efforts perceived as stakeholder driven or egoistic. Attributions were shown to affect purchase intent as well as mediate the structure of an offer.