Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 10 credits / 15 HE credits
Companies around the world are making sizeable investments into CSR
initiatives, but ensuring appropriate returns on these investments remains
challenging. Therefore, it is of value to study the communication of corporate
CSR efforts. The purpose of this study is to investigate how consumers react to
rational versus emotional message strategies in CSR communication. Two
categories of consumer reactions were considered: trust and purchase intention.
Qualitative research with four focus groups was conducted. Participants
discussed three texts regarding a CSR project, utilising a rational, emotional and
a hybrid rational-emotional message strategy respectively. The conversations
focused on trust towards the communication and purchase intention.
Trust - All of the respondents viewed the rational text over the emotional text as
more trustworthy, but they most positively reacted to the combined strategy.
Rational information was viewed as more reliable by many participants, with
emotional cues adding value by better holding their attention.
Purchase intention – Participants more positively reacted to the rational CSR
communication strategy, compared to an emotional strategy. For approximately
half of respondents, the hybrid strategy targeting both rational and emotional
cues was the most successful in terms of purchase intention. Upon further
analysis, it was identified that this division in respondents’ opinions may reflect a
gender difference, where men portrayed the more task oriented and women the
socially sensitive consumers.
The findings support previous research championing the use of rational strategies
over emotional strategies in CSR communication. A number of managerial
implications that can be used by companies in order to better communicate their
CSR activities and increase returns on CSR-related investments are provided.
Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Social Responsibility communication, corporate communication, trust, purchase intention