Corporate Social Responsibility Can Backfire

This research started from
this observation that companies from all over the world
and all over the spectrum of industries are engaging
corporate social responsibility or CSR, as we call it. And its from the understanding that doing this is not
only the right thing, but also facilitates
connecting with consumers. Initially we took some
well known, luxury brands. We turn to brands that tend to be what we call
self enhancing brands. So, brands that kind of allow
you to raise above others in your status; communicate
to others that you are of a higher status. So, we identified a few familiar
luxury brands such as Rolex or BMW that people
are very familiar with and then we presented
people with information about these brands suggesting that these brands were
also prosocial brands. The brand was communicating
to their audiences that they were engaging in
socially responsible actions. And then we asked people
to evaluate these messages, you know, seeing these
brands doing these things, compared to a controlled
condition in which just the brand would
communicate what they typically do which is self enhancement
and status appeals. And what we found is that definitely people evaluated
more negatively the brands when they were communicating
this prosocial agenda compared to controlled conditions in
which they were not doing this. This negative reaction that
people seem to experience seems to be driven by this
subjective experience of what we call this fluency or what researchers
call this fluency. This notion that there is
something that is not right. It doesn’t feel right for
this brand to be doing this. I cannot easily pinpoint. In many contexts, you know,
when we process messages– marketing messages–
its not like we are kind of thinking carefully
about them. Where sometimes, you
know, just watching t.v., we see a commercial
and we say, you know, “I don’t like it,”
or “I like it.” Its not like I pay too much
attention to the commercial. So, because these things are
more automatic in nature, they tend to occur
spontaneously. People are not paying
too much attention to why they’re experiencing
this and because of that they just get
the negative reaction. If you’re a luxury
brand and you’re trying to communicate your prosocial
actions, you have to be careful. You have to put people in a
mindset to think carefully about the message
and to be prepared to reconcile the information;
to in a way be presented with something that
is unexpected. And if you communicate that, actually you don’t get
the negative reaction. But if you are a manager from
a brand that is not associated with self enhancement,
then you are fine. Communicating your prosocial
actions shouldn’t backfire. If anything, it might have
some positive consequences because some people
are going to find this that you’re doing
the right thing. [chime]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *