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Consumer reactions to different forms of CSR communication

Written by Ivana Buden, Louise Connett

Paper category

Master Thesis


Business Administration>General




Master Thesis: Corporate Social Responsibility As already discussed, the definition of corporate social responsibility is not universally agreed. It has been the source of academic controversy over the past few decades. In Dahlsrud's (2008) analysis of 37 definitions of corporate social responsibility released between 1980 and 2003, he identified five recurring dimensions; voluntary, stakeholder, social, environmental, and economic responsibility. In this article, using the definition of the International Organization for Standardization (2010), social responsibility is defined as “an organization’s responsibility for the impact of its decisions and activities on society and the environment through transparent and ethical behavior” (page 3). 2.2. CSR communication CSR communication has evolved from the field of stakeholder management and communication. Within the scope of this article, CSR communication is narrowly defined as information provided by organizations in an effort to reassure consumers of their commitment to social and environmental issues (adapted from Tench et al., 2014). The author of this article acknowledges that this definition has two potential discussion points. First, the definition of CSR communication usually includes other stakeholder groups, such as investors, and consumers as the objects of CSR communication (eg Podnar, 2008; Cornelissen, 2011). Due to the informative nature of the advertising literature in this area, consumer stakeholder groups have always received attention, which is mainly concentrated on consumers. Therefore, this article will focus on B2C companies that directly meet consumer needs. Secondly, literally, the term "communication" refers to the two-way interaction between the sender and the receiver. However, in the articles reviewed in this research, the term "communication" is used to refer to one-way and two-way information transmission. Due to the focus on the different strategies that organizations can adopt, this research focuses on how consumers respond to one-way information transmission. More specifically, this research focuses on consumers’ reactions to textual information about products, which can be found on the company’s website or any other digital or printed media. Using text messages, rather than images or videos, allows you to better control other factors that may cause changes in consumer response, rather than communication strategies. 2.3. Linear communication model In order to understand how CSR communication is explained, we can look at the linear communication model. Due to the one-way definition of communication used in this study, a linear model can provide information in this case. 2.4.1. CSR communication strategy for rational thinking When organizations and companies want to promote their products, services or projects, they want to ensure that the target consumer group is provided with the appropriate amount of information to induce the desired behavior (such as buying Product or service). So (2004) defines rational thinking strategy as the degree of dissemination of attention to “consumers’ actual, functional or utilitarian needs for products” (p. 49). For example, compared to alternatives, reasonable content might include information about the cost and performance of the product. The purely rational content in CSR-related advertisements is consistent with researchers such as Bögel (2015) and Morsing and Schultz (2006), who advocate that rational thinking is more important than emotional response. After conducting research on the German market, Bögel (2015) pointed out that CSR communication strategies should not follow typical advertising concepts and focus mainly on emotional communication because it has proven to be inefficient. She further elaborated by explaining how all stakeholders of any company expect and demand facts as a prerequisite for trusting the company. Morsing and Schultz (2006) conducted research in three Scandinavian countries and emphasized the importance of sharing information with consumers in the form of facts and statistics. 2.4.2. CSR communication strategies for emotions In contrast, emotional appeals focus on the emotional and experience aspects of consumption. Affective strategies can be defined as efforts aimed at “establishing the emotional or subjective impression of the intangible aspects of the product” (Holbrook & O'Shaughnessy, 1984, cited in So, 2004, p. 49). It is important to understand the different types of emotions and their classifications that have been used for scientific and practical purposes. The author of this article uses Plutchik's (1980) sentiment classification because it is popular and widely used among researchers (eg Richins, 1997, Marin, Pizzanatto, and Giuliani, 2014). In his book, Plutchik (1980) lists eight basic human emotions. According to Plutchik (1980), the basic emotions are: fear, anger, joy, sadness, acceptance, disgust, expectation and surprise. Contrary to the above research, other researchers in the field emphasize the importance of locating emotional cues through CSR communication. Reisch (2006) advocates the use of positive emotion and entertainment factors to be more effective than traditional fact-centric CSR communication. Read Less