Cause-related marketing : consumer evaluation of fit between joint nonprofit-forprofit products

2017-02-22T04:17:58Z (GMT) by Ringer, Allison Catharina
This dissertation addresses the perception of fit in the context of Cause-related marketing (referred to as CRM). The research seeks to develop an understanding of the perception of fit and investigates the role it plays in the evaluation and support for CRM campaigns. This research aims to address the overarching research problem: How does the congruence of nonprofit-forprofit pairings influence consumers' perceptions of fit and consequently their evaluation and support for CRM campaign alliances? To assist in addressing this research problem, a number of focal theories are integrated in a CRM conceptual framework including congruity theory, social alliance principles, co-branding, attribution theory, message framing and message claim vividness and the transfer (spill-over effect). These theories assist in addressing the key research questions: • What is the role of the perception of fit in a CRM context? • How do consumer perceptions of fit between the nonprofit-forprofit pairings affect consumers' evaluation and intent to support a joint CRM campaign? • How do the different information cues and attributes embedded in CRM advertising stimuli affect the perception of the participating organisations and the evaluation of a joint CRM alliance? • Does perceived fit in isolation or in combination with other factors play a significant role in consumers' attitude toward a joint CRM campaign? The nonprofit sector in Australia faces major challenges -the lack of government and philanthropic funding to support the charitable organisations and the increasing demand for nonprofit services in the wider community. The sector must diversify its revenue stream to avoid becoming over-reliant on government funding. This is to ensure sustainability into the future and to continue to provide social value to the community. One strategy increasingly used is cross-sector alliances between forprofit and nonprofit organisations. Despite CRM campaigns becoming quite prominent in the retail landscape, it is still predominantly the domain of high profile charitable organisations such as breast cancer, children's hospitals, and cancer research. The focus on prominent social issues is also prevalent in the CRM and co-branding literature. As such, this research seeks to determine whether a congruent CRM campaign aligned with a less marketable social issue (such as obesity) is perceived as a better fit than an incongruent campaign aligned with a social issue (such as environment preservation). It is clear from the exploratory research the perception of fit does not operate in isolation. After a review of the literature (congruity theory, attribution theory, message framing and message claim vividness), a number of factors are identified that have the potential to influence the perception of fit and the consumer's evaluation of, and intent to support, a CRM campaign. These factors include the role of the product type and charity type and the perception of the forprofit and nonprofit organisations engaging in CRM campaigns. In addition message persuasiveness is assessed based on the provision of supporting evidence. The supporting evidence consists of either statistical evidence, or a narrative, or a combination of both, or a neutral message (no evidence provided). The message structure is important in a CRM context as there may be instances when the consumer has limited knowledge about the cause or brand or the reasoning behind the formation of the social alliance, for which they may seek further clarification. Therefore, it is essential to determine whether specific message structures are more effective under different congruent and incongruent conditions. As a precursor to the conclusive stage of the research, Study 1 was an exploratory phase. This phase included a literature review, commercial CRM campaign assessment and a newspaper content analysis. This allowed a deeper insight into the social phenomena at hand. The conclusive stage of the research adopted a positivist research paradigm through a scenario-based experiment using a sample of935 respondents. The results of the study were quite mixed. It was clear the initial perception of obesity as a social issue was quite negative but when aligned with either a hedonic restaurant or utilitarian cafe, the perception of fit was perceived as better than the incongruent counterpart of the hospitality organisations aligned with environment preservation. A key contributor to this perception was the importance of conveying a similar philosophical mission across the CRM partners (such as a hospitality outlet promoting and delivering healthy eating options). However, from a CRM campaign evaluation and support perspective, the results indicate that a favourable perception of fit transfers to a positive evaluation of the respective CRM promotion when the campaign has a similar mission but does not transfer to the overall support. A mediation analysis confirmed this finding, suggesting CRM campaigns conveying a similar philosophical underpinning enhance consumers' perceptions of fit and result in a positive evaluation of this type of CRM campaign. The findings also demonstrate the role of the advertising message. The message plays a role in the favourable evaluation of the perception of fit especially when the message contains statistical evidence and focusses on the mission of the campaign. It is also evident that when the organisational missions are not aligned, the CRM campaigns are less effective. This also holds true for campaigns that provide no information pertaining to the services the charity provides to the community (neutral claim). In relation to forprofit and nonprofit organisations. the CRM campaign message using statistical evidence or vivid message claims (statistical evidence in combination with a narrative), by highlighting a similar mission, significantly enhanced the attributions of the nonprofit organisation. On the other hand, the perceived motive of the forprofit organisation for participating in the CRM campaign had no effect. In terms of the perceptions of the forprofit and nonprofit organisations' motivations transferring to the evaluation and support for the CRM campaign, the findings showed no such effects. In summary, individuals recognise the perception of fit is greater when the campaign clearly articulates mission similarity using statistical and narrative supporting evidence, which transfers to a positive evaluation of the CRM campaign. The message tends to be more in favour of the role of the nonprofit organisation than the forprofit organisation. However, this does not persuade individuals to purchase the CRM product to assist the charitable organisation. Given the prevalence and longevity of CRMs in the marketplace, the importance of understanding the cues and attributes which influence consumers' perceptions and evaluations of fit and subsequent evaluations and support of the CRM campaign, is paramount. This is particularly so when lesser-known or less marketable charities are involved. Overall, this research contributes to the field of CRM as it provides a better understanding of the factors influencing consumer perception of fit. The findings assist decision-makers in the development of effective message frames that clearly communicate the objectives of the campaign to potential target consumers. This better elucidates the process through which consumers respond to CRMs thus helping strategic partners meet their societal goals and objectives.