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:
“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”:
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:
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
“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):
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:
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
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.