December 2017 (Vol. 57, Issue 4)
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY MESSAGING
What Do We Know about Corporate Social Responsibility Messaging?
Editor-in-Chief John B. Ford summarizes the featured articles in this issue’s theme section on CSR messaging. “Enterprises all over the world are realizing that being good community citizens not only is a profitable strategy but also a necessity,” he notes. “Dealing with the ways in which companies communicate these initiatives is an important topic in advertising.” Ford also unveils the new editorial structure for the JAR, naming nine Associate Editors who will help him manage peer review of new submissions.
Rethinking the Profession Formerly Known as Advertising:
How Data Science Is Disrupting the Work of Agencies
For most of the 20th century, advertising agencies played a number of roles addressing the communication problems of brand marketers, and as information technology (IT) evolved, professionals in that field took care of the IT area in client firms. Now, John Deighton, the Harold M. Brierley Professor Emeritus of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, observes: “The two kinds of problems are converging, because marketing problems increasingly are addressed by IT solutions.” He asks, “What is the effect of this convergence? Which professional values get to dominate?” And, “in more practical terms, because values live in institutions, which institutions will dominate?” Deighton lists the contenders:
- Advertising holding companies (WPP—the world’s largest ad agency— he notes, has invested more than $1 billion in response to the competitive data technology environment; less than half of its revenues come from advertising);
- The present and future “walled gardens” that pursue integration from different directions, g. Google, Facebook, and Amazon;
- IT consultants and software vendors
- What is left of the open web—a community of independent ad agencies, newer IT ventures, and brokers of third-party data.
“For the moment, as long as the data are open to question, agencies are needed as referees” in the area of media decision making. “The future of marketing will be played out on a small set of dominant design platforms, kept honest by the efforts of the open web to displace them,” Deighton concludes.
Measuring the Effectiveness of Branded Content across Television and Digital Platforms:
How to Align with Traditional Marketing Metrics While Capturing What Makes Branded Content Unique
There are so many different types of branded content being executed for different marketing goals and functions, and, for the most part, marketers don’t really have a good sense of how to measure their effectiveness, comScore columnists Gian M. Fulgoni, chairman emeritus, and Andrew Lipsman, SVP marketing and insights, write, with Raymond Pettit, VP analytics. The categories include product placements, sponsorship exposure, custom-created content, native advertising, and sponsored content. “The increasing prominence of branded content in the marketing mix creates an imperative around measurement that aligns it with traditional marketing metrics,” the authors observe. But metrics also must “capture the value of (branded content’s) uniquely engaging context”:
- Television and digital each “allow instances to be translated into standard metrics such as reach, frequency, and demographics.”
- “Deeper metrics of engagement, social amplification, or brand- and behavioral-effectiveness measurement also can assist in the proper valuation of these impressions, where context matters greatly,” the authors assert.
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY MESSAGING
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Marketing Performance:
The Moderating Role of Advertising Intensity
There has been quite a bit of research connecting CSR initiatives with company performance, but not much on the link between CSR and marketing performance. And— as assistant professors of marketing Mahabubur Rahman (Rennes School of Business) and M. Ángeles Rodríguez-Serrano (University of Seville), and Mary Lambkin, a professor of marketing at University College Dublin, have found—making these important connections depends on advertising intensity. Their study investigated the relationship between CSR initiatives “that have been found to be valued most—community and environmental activities (Fagerstrom, Stratton, and Foxall, 2015)—and marketing performance measured by market share.” It also examined “the extent to which this relationship is influenced by advertising intensity, measured by spending.” Among the practical takeaways after they examined the CSR programs of 264 S&P 500 companies:
- “The greater the advertising expenditure was, the stronger was the relationship between CSR activities and marketing performance.”
- Advertising can bridge the gap to customers and makes them aware of not just the products but the CSR activities of the firm.
- “Companies do not have to advertise their environmental and community CSR activities. Even if they just advertise their products, the advertisements will create awareness about the company itself, which will encourage consumers to seek out more information about the company’s other activities, including CSR.”
What Sells Better in Green Communications: Fear or Hope?
It Depends on Whether the Issue is Global or Local
Issues that are relevant when green-marketing advertisements are being created depend on the type of appeal in use and the type of framing. In the case of this study, three researchers at Taiwan’s National Sun Yat-sen University— Yu-Kang Lee, professor of political economy, Chun-Tuan Chang, professor of business management, and Pei-Chi Chen, a Ph.D. candidate in the department of business management—examined fear and hope appeals framed in local or global contexts. They found that “when the environmental issue was framed as global, a fear appeal garnered more attention from the viewer, leading to
- a more favorable attitude toward the green issue,
- a stronger behavioral intention, and
- more money being donated.
“When the environmental issue was framed as local, a hope appeal was more effective than a fear appeal, in terms of received attention, attitude, behavioral intention, and donation amount,” the authors note.
Improving the Effectiveness and Credibility of Corporate Social Responsibility Messaging:
An Austrian Model Identifies Influential CSR Content and Communication Channels
CSR initiatives can enhance connections that consumers develop with brands. These kinds of bonds with brands are vital to keep a product or service top of mind for the consumer, but there are still questions about which particular types of CSR media and content can be communicated most effectively. A global group of authors analyzed the types of CSR-related media and content that were communicated more effectively than others. They surveyed Austrian consumers for their preferences and compared the CSR communication methods used by international brands. Among the findings, by Verena Gruber (now an adjunct professor at HEC Montreal—she coauthored the research while at Vienna University of Economics and Business [WU Vienna]); Magdalena Kaliauer (senior marketing consultant at GfK Austria), and Bodo B. Schlegelmilch (chair of the Institute for International Marketing Management at WU Vienna and distinguished research professor at Sun Yatsen University, China):
- “Consumers find specific information about the impact of CSR more credible than broad references. An ‘amount-of-CO2-saved’ attribution is preferable over a ‘protects-the-environment’ claim.
- “Consumers attach greater credibility to information originating outside the focal company.
- “Awards for CSR efforts have a stronger impact on consumers than messages delivered through social media and/or internal channels.
- “Future research is needed to assess the effectiveness of different social-media strategies for disseminating information about CSR.”
Communicating Corporate Responsibility to Fit Consumer Perceptions:
How Sincerity Drives Event and Sponsor Outcomes
Event sponsorship has been used widely as a means to communication CSR. Angeline Close Scheinbaum (associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s Stan Richards School of Advertising), Russell Lacey (associate professor at Xavier University’s School of Communication, Writing and the Arts in Cincinnati), and Ming-Ching Liang (assistant professor at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, MN) drew from attribution theory and congruity theory as a basis of their study about sincerity and event sponsorship. “Attribution theory explains consumers’ inferences regarding another’s motivation for a given behavior. As such,” the authors write, “the event attendees infer why the brand sponsors the event; they infer the sponsoring brand’s motivations.” The authors also brought in the concept of “event social responsibility (ESR): an attendee’s perception about the event’s contribution to local and sports communities.” ESR is built on congruity theory, which in the case of event sponsorship has to do with the extent to which the event is a good fit for the (consumers’) perceived values of the sponsor. The researchers conducted a field study at a sponsored sporting event. Their results showed that:
- “Sponsors that are perceived as sincere in their sponsorship will achieve superior responses to their sponsorship, compared with sponsors that are viewed as insincere.
- “Sincerity may be at risk if the sponsor leverages, or publicity highlights, its commercial objectives.
- “Consumers also may attribute sincerity to the sponsor’s motives when they learn about its support of prosocial activities through a neutral source, rather than directly from the sponsor.
- “Events that hold strong social responsibility associations play a pivotal role in generating greater enthusiasm for the event and its sponsors.”
How Do Self-Values Play a Role in Consumers’ Perception of CSR Advertising?
The Moderated Mediation Effect of Self-Referencing
Can the degree to which a person relates to CSR advertising motivate him or her to purchase the product represented? Yoon-Joo Lee (assistant professor in the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University) saw a gap in the literature on self-referencing in the context of CSR advertising. “Understanding in which self-values encourage consumers to self-reference CSR advertising could provide important insights to advertisers who want to utilize CSR initiatives to engage with their consumers,” he writes. When people relate to a CSR ad, it’s not necessarily about the product but rather the social values they attach to the ad. So, the author examined
- “the underlying motivational factors, status motive, and value placed on business’s role in society that govern consumers’ purchase intention; and
- “how self-referencing can mediate the relationships between the interaction of different types of motives and behavioral intention with respect to consumers’ varying levels of issue involvement.”
Lee found that “congruent values between self-motive and perception of CSR initiatives can increase self-referencing, which can result in increased purchase intention.” What this implies is that “consumers are able to utilize their own self-concept in processing [CSR] advertisements.” The findings reflect that “consumers practice self-referencing when perceiving CSR advertising.” Among the study’s strategic takeaways:
- “Advertisers should pay attention to consumers’ self-perceptions in order to create relevant messages.
- “If people respond that business should help society in an effort to obtain social approval, advertisers might want to employ a social norm strategy.
- “Marketers should find ways to appeal to both status consumption motives and consumers’ perceptions of a business’s societal role.”
Corporate Social Responsibility Communication Effects:
A Comparison between Investor-Owned Banks and Member-Owned Banks
“Do some companies benefit more from CSR communication than others, depending on their governance?” That was the question posed by University of Lyon assistant marketing professor Charlotte Lecuyer, with marketing professors Sonia Capelli, and William Sabadie, who drew on a large, nationally representative sample in France to test the effect of CSR communication on consumers’ purchase intentions. They found that a difference in the effect of CSR communications depends on whether the businesses involved are member owned as opposed to investor owned. Among their takeaways:
- When an industry has both member-owned and investor-owned businesses competing with each other, “investor-owned businesses should avoid CSR messages, because member-owned businesses possess an existing competitive advantage on this distinction, derived from their reputation for proximal CSR initiatives.”
- Since the nature of member-owned organizations more easily fits with the whole orientation toward localized social issues, they “should highlight their corporate governance in their communications [both CSR and non-CSR] to generate better attitudes toward the advertisement.”
- Investor-owned businesses “should choose a quality-based claim or global CSR initiative.” So, they should aim at social initiatives on a global scale, where the member-owned businesses do not have the automatic perceptual advantage.
- “In the banking field, European law increasingly imposes pricing and offer-alignment restrictions on competitors, so CSR may be a good alternative that can make the difference in consumers’ minds.”
OTHER FEATURE ARTICLES
How Brands Can Make Smarter Decisions in Mobile Marketing:
Strategies for Improved Media-Mix Effectiveness and Questions for Future Research
In 2014, the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) began examining ways brands might improve mobile-marketing strategies. So far, they have completed 11 case studies for companies such as Walmart, Unilever, AT&T, and Coca-Cola in four different countries. Each case study measures the “effectiveness of a real cross-marketing campaign against its own marketing goals and media approach, the authors,” the authors—Vasillis Bakopoulos, MMA head of industry research, partnered with Rex Briggs, CEO and founder of Marketing Evolution, Inc.—explain. A third coauthor John Baronello, director of marketing analytics at Allstate Insurance Co., added his expertise for the 2017 Allstate case study. Their research questions explored issues around path to purchase; size, depth, repetition of messaging on a mobile platform; and targeting: the value of different data signals—digital or physical—for improving targeting in mobile. The study validated that “Marketers can maximize the impact of their advertising when they align creative concept, format, advertising unit, data, and delivery to communicate a brand message that is relevant in the specific moment in the customer journey.” Additionally, “Most of the data-targeting approaches assessed more than justified their premium (cost) and significantly improved the impact of mobile advertising per dollar spent.” The most striking results came from a national quick service-restaurant (QSR; i.e. fast-food) chain. That case study, completed in 2017, estimated an optimal allocation to mobile for that campaign at 33 percent of the total media mix—the highest allocation recommended in this research program. Among the practical findings:
- From the Allstate study: “At the top of the funnel (influencing consumers’ perceptions and driving consideration for brand), the richer mobile formats (audio and video) resulted in greater ROI…. At the bottom of the funnel (driving sales), targeted mobile banner units (delivered to consumers already in the market for auto insurance) emerged as more efficient.”
- Generally speaking, “Mobile’s smaller screen offers the opportunity for more purposeful engagement, so repurposing creative content from other platforms misses the opportunity to fully leverage context and customize accordingly.”
- Furthermore, “As data-analysis and measurement technology continue to evolve, the issue becomes marketers’ and agency orientation toward agility. This research, therefore, has implications for how a marketer organizes teams and agencies around continuous optimization, as opposed to an annual planning cycle.”
How Effective Are Emojis in Surveys Taken on Mobile Devices?
Data-Quality Implications and the Potential to Improve Mobile-Survey Engagement and Experience
Keeping users of mobile devices engaged long enough to complete surveys is a challenge for researchers. In 2017, nearly a third of all consumers use their smartphones to respond to online surveys, and industry leaders believe that usage will grow to one in two users by 2022, reports Chris Bacon EVP global research quality and innovation at the ARF, with coauthors at GfK North America—Frances M. Barlas, VP and senior research scientist in statistical methods, and Randall K. Thomas, SVP and chief survey methodologist—and Zoe Dowling, lead research strategist at FocusVision. Yet despite that growth, many mobile respondents don’t complete the survey, because “traditional online response scales can take up a lot of screen real estate and, therefore, are not suitable for mobile devices.” The researchers conducted experiments in two studies that explored the effectiveness of symbols (emojis) “as alternatives to more traditional, semantically labeled response scales.” Among their findings:
- “Break-off rates for respondents should be equal across the response formats across all devices, or emojis should have lower break-off rates than semantic response formats.
- “There should be comparable means and order of means for both semantic and emoji response formats.”
- Both Study 1 (asking questions about consumption behaviors, e.g. drank coffee, attended a religious service) and Study 2 (questions about food: recent consumption liking, satisfaction likelihood to consumer in the future, and health perceptions) “demonstrated that using emojis in the response scale, when combined with shorter survey lengths, reduced respondent drop-off rates, improved respondent satisfaction, and provided comparable data.”
Bacon and team acknowledge their work’s limitations: “Future research should explore the reliability of visuals for evaluating satisfaction with a product or service, given the pattern of higher satisfaction ratings for different foods observed in Study 2.” And, “thumbs-up/thumbs-down visuals were reliable for binomial liking ratings, but might be limited for more varying degrees of intensity ratings.”
Coming in March 2018:
What We Know about Celebrity Endorsement in Advertising
John B. Ford examines historic research on celebrity endorsement published in this journal as he looks ahead to the March 2018 issue’s special section on this topic.