18 Jun 2021

When cause-related marketing backfires

When cause-related marketing backfires: Understanding the differential effects of one-for-one promotions for hedonic and utilitarian experiences.
A remarkable cause-marketing (CM) strategy has emerged in the marketplace: businesses promise to donate an identical product for each product sold (i.e., a “one-for-one” promotion). Yet despite prosocial tendencies, consumers hesitate when uncertain about others’ preferences, which poses the question of whether one-forone promotions are perceived to meet recipients’ preferences. Five experiments (one field experiment and four laboratory experiments) reveal that the efficacy of in-kind, one-for-one promotions varies as a function of product type. Specifically, one-for-one promotions enhance purchase intentions for utilitarian products but undermine purchase intentions for hedonic products. Moreover, this difference is due to certainty regarding recipients’ utilitarian preferences and uncertainty regarding recipients’ hedonic preferences. Importantly, hedonic products’ backfiring effects are attenuated when recipients’ preferences are perceived as homogeneous or the recipient is familiar to the donor. Collectively, these findings emphasize the importance of consumer inferences regarding recipients’ preferences in determining the efficacy of CM promotions that leverage in-kind benefits while elucidating the role of product type in the effectiveness of these promotions.

Keywords Cause-marketing; Charitable giving; Hedonic; Persuasion; Utilitarian

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