Running Head: CONSUMER BRANDS’ USE OF CSR ADVERTISING STRATEGIES
Some profits go to charity!: Consumer Brands’ Use of Corporate Social Responsibility
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 2
Previous studies about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) advertising have failed to address
the composition and messages within the advertisements. Although there have been studies on
CSR social media marketing, little research has been conducted on CSR print advertisements.
There is also a lack of information on the different types of CSR advertising strategies. The
purpose of this research was to analyze the use of different CSR advertising strategies and the
messages they communicate. This also looked at how the CSR strategies align with brand image.
A content analysis was conducted of 55 CSR magazine advertisements from 2014-2015. Results
suggest that direct to charity for societal cause advertisements are used more than any of the
other CSR strategies. Overall alignment of CSR communication with brand image is high. CSR
magazine print advertisements are likely to be found in women’s magazines. The data also
indicates that messages in the advertisements vary for different CSR strategies. Further research
is needed to explore other CSR communication platforms such as website landing pages and the
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 3
Large soda brand Coca-Cola recently teamed up with World Wild Life to encourage
Coca-Cola drinkers to donate to protect the polar bears of the Arctic. The campaign is called
“Arctic Home” and so far has had over three million dollars donated by consumers. Coca-Cola
created its own Arctic Home website which provides information about the cause, profiles of
actual polar bears, education about the Arctic, and ways to donate (Coca-Cola Arctic Home,
n.d.). The campaign consists of their use of white cans and bottle labels to create awareness,
guerilla marketing tactics including large plastic molds of polar bears put in busy places like
shopping malls, and other outlets such as social media.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)-related advertising has maintained a presence in
North America since the 1980’s. The history of Corporate Social Responsibility in the United
States dates back to the cause related marketing (CRM) plan created by American Express in
1983. American Express donated one cent toward the Statue of Liberty every time someone used
his or her charge card. They found cause related marketing to be successful, showing 45%
growth of new cardholders, and an increase of card usage by 28% (Cause-related Marketing,
n.d.). The headline to the famous print advertisement for American Express stated, “In addition
to all the logical reasons for using the American Express Card, there is now one that is
unabashedly sentimental” (Jones, 2009, p. 1). Jeff Atlas was the lead creative in this campaign.
American Express’ use of this advertising tactic showed there was a future in CSR advertising.
Large and small brands use CSR advertising to link to their brand image. This term refers
to the impression of a brand held by consumers. TOMS is a popular shoe brand that relies
heavily on CSR advertising to promote their brand. They use a one for one model where they
give away one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold. They have given away over
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 4
thirty five million pairs of shoes and have restored sight to over two hundred fifty thousand
children with their TOMS eyewear line (TOMS: One for One, n.d.). Although TOMS uses cause
related marketing as a part of their brand image, other brands use it as a temporary marketing
tactic. Ford, Target, and other major brands have temporary CRM campaigns to drive business
Sara Pendleton, Assistant Account Director at 451 Marketing explained that there are two
different types of CSR models that brands use. One of the models is the one for one model. Sara
Pendleton (personal communication, December 4, 2014) had the opportunity to work with
TOMS, who uses this model. The other model is ‘direct to charity’ where a brand partners with a
cause/non-profit and donates a portion of their profits to that charity. The importance of
advertising CSR tactics is to allow the consumers to know that their favorite brands are
contributing to charitable works. According to Epstein-Reeves (2012), CSR is a way for brands
to be profitable while also benefiting society.
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Brand Image through CSR
CSR tactics in global and local markets. Studies have examined how CSR strategies
are used in global and local markets. Popoli (2011) proposed how a CSR response should differ
in a local versus global contexts, and how it affects a brand’s image with the consumer.
According to Keller (as cited in Bigne-Alcaniz, Curras-Perez, Ruiz-Mafe & Sanz-Blaz, 2012),
brand image refers to the set of “brand perceptions reflected as associations in the consumer’s
memory” (p. 267). CSR strategies change depending on if it is a local or global brand. Grau &
Folse (2007) studied to see if consumers were more likely to donate to a local or national cause.
They suggested that advertising firms should focus campaign angles around local causes, instead
of a national angle for a campaign. Local causes mentioned in CSR advertising will resonate
more with the consumers.
Brands need to develop comprehensive CSR tactics when working in a global market.
The brand has to make sure their CSR strategies are consistent through the different countries in
which it operates. According to Popoli (2011), “for a global firm, adopting many different local
CSR strategies that differ from country to country can bring about a fragmented and incoherent
comprehensive strategy that tends to be limited to the minimum CSR standards required by a
single local context” (p. 430). Coherent and fluid CSR strategies across the board can lead to a
high level of CSR standards. Popoli (2011) discovered that having a global CSR strategy,
integrated and valid for all the countries in which the brand is present, could bring about the
‘harmonizing toward the top’ phenomenon of CSR standards (p. 430). His study also explained
that there are new CSR expectations for brands. Older CSR expectations include: “don’t damage
the environment, communicate financial information honestly, treat employees equally, make
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profit, pay taxes, communicate social and environmental commitments with honesty, use raw
materials responsibly and good quality/low price” (Popoli, 2011, p. 424).
As consumers’ values change, so do the CSR expectations for brands. The brands are
expected to go deeper with their interaction with the community. Villagra and Lopez (2013)
discussed that to achieve positive benefits from incorporating CSR into the brand image, it is
important to align values and identity with organizational behavior. It should also line up with
the brand and be communicated appropriately (Villagra & Lopez 2013). If communicated
properly, brands can benefit from using CSR to identify with consumers with great impact. CSR
expectations for brands now include: “improve the conditions of the environment, apply elevated
universal standard, reduce human rights abuses, improve community instruction, reduce poverty,
orient economic stability, sustain non-profit associations, and help resolve social problems”
(Popoli, 2011, p. 424). These topics are of interest to the modern day consumer.
Companies are expected to make a noticeably positive impact on the community. This is
important because consumers look at the general social behavior of the firm and not just at its
local context. For example, if a brand was holding a CSR event in a targeted area, but globally
does not do much CSR, the consumers’ views will not be affected by its local CSR efforts.
However, a brand’s “globality” could turn into worldwide success and contribute to the approval
of a wide marketplace audience (Dimofte, Johnanson & Ronkainen, 2008). Their study looked at
how the “glocal” approach does not work, which is the differentiated approach amongst
CSR strategy enhances brand image. Brand image is important for a brand to reach its
consumers. There have been studies about how consumers react to bad news coverage about
brands and how CSR can act as a buffer. Cho and Kim (2011) looked at how CSR activities and
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corporation nationality can play a big role on individuals’ willingness to take an action against
the local brand. It is important for global and local brands to react quickly to crises. Cho and Kim
(2011) discussed that if not managed quickly and timely; even minor negative news about a local
brand can be amplified to become the beginning to a major crisis. This can result in a poor view
by the consumers on the brand’s image.
There is a system in which CSR affects brand image: CSR demand–CSR response–Brand
image. According to Popoli (2011), the CSR demand–CSR response–Brand image sequence
works effectively when used by a brand operating in a local market. Verboven (2011) looked at
how the chemical industry communicates CSR and business identity. The study explored how
chemical brands use mission slogans to communicate corporate image strategies to connect with
consumers. His study looked at how certain phrases and words can resonate with the consumer,
representing the brand as socially responsible or irresponsible.
BASF, a chemical brand, uses the slogan “The Chemical Company,” to put emphasis on
their elite position in the industry. However, the word ‘chemical’ has a negative connotation to
the public, as it is a word associated with pollution. They launched a CSR advertising campaign
to offset their slogan that has negative connotations. The campaign stated, “We don’t make a lot
of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better” (Verboven, 2011, p.
428). This is at the start to a trend in CSR communication through mission slogans.
Align CSR activities and consumers. Studies have looked at the alignment of CSR
activities and a brand’s values. A brand’s values refer to what the brand sees as important in
creating brand image. CSR activities refer to the efforts a brand makes to be socially responsible
in the community that the brand occupies. According to Morsing (as cited in Verboven 2011),
there is a “CSR information package” that should address: promise, proposition, evidence and
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 8
results. The promise should show the brand’s concern for CSR and the proposition should link
CSR to the core of the business. The evidence should then demonstrate how the brand supports
its CSR efforts. The objectives of the campaign should be stated to communicate that there is an
end result goal. This detailed CSR communication approached is important for brands when
considering their CSR advertising.
Successful brands have a common thread between CSR activities, brand image and key
consumers. According to Popoli (2011), using an integrated and unique CSR strategy that
reaches past the expectations of local market creates the perception that the brand has used all of
its resources to be social responsible. Reassuring key consumers about the brand is beneficial to
the brand image. For example, the Arctic Home campaign by Coca-Cola achieved success by
linking to a global cause that also relates to their own brand, their polar bear mascot.
According to a study by Villagra and Lopez (2013), responsible brands use a low profile
communication tactic to reach stakeholders. They also use carefully planned and specific
communication actions. This shows that consumers respond better to low-key tactics when
communicating CSR values. Consumers keep brands in business, therefore it is important to
communicate with them effectively and allow them to identify with the brand in a positive way.
Villagra and Lopez (2013) discussed how the brand identity could be considered the element that
unifies the organization and provides a reference to the consumers. If used correctly, a brand’s
CSR can be the greatest way consumers identify with the brand.
Because of increased competition, there has been a high demand in society to know how
brands do business (Villagra & Lopez, 2013). Consumers want to know more about a brand’s
products and services. They also want to know more about the values of the brand and if they are
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 9
doing well for the community in which they operate. The study from Villagra and Lopez (2013)
The brand is not placed in the center of its world seeing the rest of the social reality as its
environment, the brand is placed at the heart of a network of relationships in which it is
incorporated and decide what kind of relationship to establish with the network because
the value and wealth creation depend on those relationships. (p. 201)
When brands incorporate CSR into the brand image, consumers may value the responsible brand
more than competitors because consumers are attracted to brands that are ethical. Incorporating
CSR into a business strategy is both beneficial for the brand and the consumers.
Brands can benefit from using social or environmental causes that relate to the brand in
an important way. They should address social or environmental issues that they have expertise in
or if the cause aligns with the brand image (Verboven, 2011). For example, Nestlé made sure
that there was a constant supply of coffee for their brand Nespresso. Nestle helped better the
work environment of the farmers who cultivated their coffee beans. This has strengthened their
brand by creating a more competitive landscape for their market and creating good relationships
in third world countries to expand the brand.
Cause RelatedMarketing (CRM) and Corporate Social Responsibility Advertising
Brand and cause alignment. CSR is used internally as well as externally. Internally,
CSR is used to get the employees involved in charitable work. Externally, it is used to generate a
positive brand image and to help the community by channeling the consumer. CSR advertising is
an example of CRM. American Express coined the term CRM after the aforementioned Statue of
Liberty campaign. Brands communicate their CSR activities through advertising to enhance
brand image. Bigne-Alcaniz et al. (2012) did a study that looked at brands’ use of CRM/CSR
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 10
advertising and brand attitude in Spain. CRM is used to create brand positioning and used to set a
brand apart from its competitors. CRM, if used correctly, can generate brand image.
It is important to align the brand with the appropriate CRM campaign to drive profits and
to benefit the cause (Grau & Folse, 2007). CRM involves contributing to nonprofit organizations
while also increasing business for the brand. Brands and the causes they partner with need to
understand the factors that will trigger the consumer to participate because they are responsible
for the sales and how they are perceived by the public. The more relevant a cause is to the
consumer, the more likely they are going to contribute. An example of a CRM campaign that
was successful due to correct alignment with consumers is the Yoplait Lids for Life campaign.
The campaign aligned with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research Association because
Yoplait knew that the foundation would identify with their target audience, which is women.
Another example is Home Depot’s support for Habitat for Humanity because it aligns with their
consumers and products they sell (Grau & Folse, 2007). Their study looked to see if the less
involved consumer or more involved consumer would be likely to donate.
It is important to make sure that the CSR advertising is not just a marketing tool, but also
an actual part of the brand for it to be a part of the full brand image. According to Villagra and
Lopez (2013), brands need to make their CSR about their overall vision. The brand needs to fully
believe in the CSR and be “immersed” in it in order to work CSR advertising efforts. Loyal
consumers will be able to see through CRM if it is not aligned with the brand completely and the
brand is not immersed in it completely. In this case, CRM does not contribute to brand image.
CSR advertising as a marketing communication tactic. The main goal of a CSR
advertisement is to promote a brand’s commitment to bettering a cause or help with
environmental concerns, rather than promoting a brand. CSR advertising requires three things:
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 11
“consistency, integration and commitment” (Jahdi & Acikdilli, 2009, p. 110). Advertisements are
informative of how the brand wants to be viewed by society (Farache & Perks, 2010). CSR
advertising is used promote a friendly and responsible brand. An example of consistency in a
CSR campaign is the aforementioned Yoplait and Home Depot campaigns. Source credibility
and reliability are required for CSR advertisements to actually be successful. If not, the
advertisements will make consumers skeptical (Jahdi & Acikdilli, 2009). This means that there
must be transparency in what the brand is advertising. If the brand is using a one for one strategy,
it needs to communicate where their product is being distributed on the charitable side. An
example would be TOMS communicating which countries or communities receive their donated
shoes. Without this transparency, the consumer base will grow to be skeptics of the brand’s CSR.
Large and small brands are resorting to CSR advertising as a marketing communication
strategy. A study by Mogele and Tropp (2010) looked into CSR advertising in Germany.
Between the years of 2002 and 2007, CSR print advertisements increased 390%. This shows how
brands are resorting to CSR advertising as a new marketing tactic. Since 2002, brands in
Germany have been looking for ways to incorporate CSR into their advertising in credible,
meaningful ways. This has resulted in relevant CSR advertisements linking to brands in a
powerful manner (Mogele & Tropp, 2010). According to Rossiter and Bellman (as cited in
Pomering & Johnson 2009), 70% of United States brands use corporate image advertising. This
shows a trend in advertising in general and that promoting CSR is a successful way to advertise.
CSR advertising and brand legitimacy. A study done by Farache and Perks (2010)
looked at the brand Chevron to see how they use CSR advertisements to legitimize their ethical
positions and how they better the community. Chevron is a multinational energy brand that is
based in the United States. The findings of the study show that there are different strategies when
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 12
advertising CSR. There are a few different ways brands use CSR advertising to reach the
consumer. One way is by appealing to consumer rationality. Another way is to use CSR to play
with consumer emotions. Both of these ways are very effective in triggering a response from the
consumer. For print advertisements, incorporating complex data to ensure a responsible company
is effective to connect with consumer rationality. Using minimal text and having a big visual
component to the advertisement is effective for getting an emotional response out of the
consumer (Farache & Perks, 2010).
One of the main reasons CSR advertisements are in marketing plans is to legitimize their
CSR efforts. According to the Legitimacy Theory, “Organizations can only secure their existence
if they are perceived as operating within the values and norms of the society” (Gray et al. as cited
in Farache & Perks, 2010, p. 236). Advertising allows brands to reach a large group of
consumers at once. This is why it is one of the main outlet for brands to communicate their CSR
and to maintain the standards of being a responsible brand. Because CSR advertising is a recent
trend, many brands take to digital strategies rather than print.
CSR and social media marketing. A study done by Curley and Noormohamed (2014)
looked at social media marketing effects on CSR. Social media is an effective way for brands to
advertise because it is interactive. According to Alison DaSilva, executive VP at Cone
Communication (a large marketing firm that has experience in CRM and CSR), claims that
social media gives brands “multiple touch points” for engaging customers (Curley &
Noormohamed, 2014, p. 63). An example of a brand that successfully used a social media
campaign to communicate their CSR is Procter & Gamble. They created a Facebook campaign
called “Future Friendly Challenge” to help consumers save energy and conserve water for
Children’s Safe Drinking Water. In just a few months, this social media campaign had more than
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 13
20,000 followers take the challenge and commit to saving and conserving for 90 days. This
resulted in over 20,000 days of clean drinking water donated by the Facebook fans of the brand
(Curley & Noormohamed, 2014). Social media is also a successful marketing tool for
communicating CSR because it is easily shareable with friends of the consumer, which makes it
easier for the message to be spread. According to Yong Seok, Jin and Sung-Hack (2012), CSR
advertising is strengthened when the advertisement provides an explanatory link. An explanatory
link is a way of communicating how the CSR objectives relate to the brand. It improves the fit
between the brand and the cause. This is important to consider when advertising on social media
platforms. Because of the frequent use of social media today, it is also a good way to call people
to action and participate in a simpler fashion.
Consumer Response to Brand Communication of CSR
CRM creates positive consumer response. Previous research has been conducted on
how consumers respond to CRM campaigns. Nan and Heo’s (2007) study looked at how
consumers respond to a CRM campaign versus and non-CRM campaign. Ailwadi, Neslin, Luan,
and Taylor (2013) looked at how CSR affects consumers’ brand behavioral loyalty. Multiple
studies stated that CRM and CSR advertising have a positive effect on the consumer.
Nan and Heo (2007) explained how consumers react positively to CRM advertisements.
This positive reaction goes further than just the advertisement. The study measured attitude
toward the company, attitude toward the brand and attitude toward the advertisement in regards
to CRM campaigns. The results showed that CRM campaigns affect the consumers’ attitude
toward the entire company rather than just the advertisement or brand. Nan and Heo also
explained that consumers have a more positive attitude of companies with CRM campaigns
compared to companies that do not have CRM campaigns. According to Demetriou et al. (2009),
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 14
“Contributing to the communities in which businesses operate can give them a competitive
advantage” (p. 268). This shows the importance for advertising CSR and how it can leverage a
brand to have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Consumers generally remember CRM campaigns. A study done in the United Kingdom
and the United States showed that 98% of the people tested were able to name at least one CRM
campaign (Demetriou, Papamasolomou & Vrontis, 2009). CRM campaigns rely heavily on brand
awareness. This study highlighted the major benefits of CRM including: “enhancement of
corporate/brand reputation, demonstration of corporate or brand values, raising of brand
awareness, development of customer loyalty, differentiation of products and services, increase in
sales volume, building of relationships with stakeholders, providing differentiation, and making
CSR and corporate community investment visible” (Demetriou et al., 2009, p. 270). According
to the 2006 Cone Millennial Case Study, 74 percent of Millennials said that they are likely or
very likely to switch brands to another brand if the other brand is associated with a cause (price
and quality being equal). A similar study that was conducted in Australia by survey found that
over a third of consumers were influenced to buy a brand’s products in the time span of a year
because of its association with a charitable or community cause (Demetriou et al., 2009).
It also is important to generate a positive image for a brand, especially after a crisis.
When a brand links to an environmental or non-profit cause, not only does it generate positive
consumer behavior to the brand, it generates positive consumer behavior to the cause as well
(Bigne-Alcaniz et al., 2012). Non-profits or any other societal causes a brand links to will greatly
benefit as well and gain awareness. It is equally beneficial for both parties involved in CRM.
When it comes to different type of consumers, Grau and Folse’s (2007) study, research explained
that the less involved consumer is more influenced by the positivity and local impact
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 15
communicated by CRM campaigns. The less involved consumer is compared to the consumer
that is already a fan of the brand and purchases regularly. Although many advertising campaigns
put focus on the more involved consumer, CRM campaigns have potential to reach the less
involved consumer when framing the message appropriately (Grau & Folse, 2007).
Consumers and brand loyalty. A study by Ailwadi et al. (2011) explored the topic of
CSR and brand loyalty. They discovered that consumers have more favorable attitudes and show
loyalty to socially responsible brands. Although it has not been proven that advertising CSR
leads to a major raise in profits, it has shown to contribute to brand loyalty by the consumer,
which pays off in the long run. The data from the sample of consumers from Ailwadi et al.’s
(2011) study showed that there are still consumers that respond negatively to CSR because they
believe that CSR activities limit the company’s ability to fully serve customers effectively. This
showed to be true for wealthy consumers who are price sensitive and who place great value on
“assortment and location convenience” (p. 165). One of the reasons why CSR advertising does
not automatically lead to greater profits is because regardless of the positive brand image brought
upon a brand by CSR, consumers are still not willing to trade off for the price of the product.
According to Ailiwadi et al. (2011), “Dimensions of CSR that only contribute to broad
social good and that are less integrated with a retailer's core offering (e.g., those related to the
environment or community) should have a less positive effect on consumer loyalty” (p. 157).
This shows how important it is to execute CSR advertising to reach the consumers. Brands need
to pay close attention to their current brand image to link to the cause that will fit best with their
campaign to be effective amongst consumers. CSR connected to a popular non-profit may not
identify with the consumer if it does not have a strong relation to the brand image.
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Previous studies have looked at CSR as whole, benefits of CRM/CSR advertising and
consumer response to CSR communications. It has been shown that CSR itself enforces brand
values, and brand image (Popoli, 2011). CRM is a way to solidify brand values through
communication. The CSR activities brands use and communicate through CRM contribute to the
consumers’ view on what the brand values. The environmental or social cause the brand is
dedicating its CSR activities to attributes to the brand image. It is also important to communicate
CSR activities in the correct manner.
Advertising seems to be one of the best ways to communicate CSR for a brand. Studies
have shown the importance of linking to a non-profit, social or environmental cause can identify
with the brand image (Popoli, 2011). If the link between the brand and the associated cause does
not identify easily with the consumer, the campaign will not reach full potential. Advertising
CSR efforts can cause consumers to become advocates for the brand and remain loyal
(Demetriou et al., 2009). It can also allow for consumers to choose the brand that advertises its
CSR efforts effectively over a brand that does not (Ailwadi et al., 2011). This shows how CSR
can impact a consumer’s perception of a brand.
Gaps in the literature. Because CSR advertising has not been around for a long period
of time, it remains a topic that has not been fully explored. Studies on the topic of CSR and CRM
focus on consumer brands. One area that has not been thoroughly examined is the type of brands
that would benefit from CSR the most. Studies have been looked into CSR advertising with
chemical companies (BASF), credit card companies (American Express), apparel companies
(TOMS) and food companies (Yoplait). It is unclear what types of consumer brand would benefit
from CSR more than others. Also, there has not been research on whether or not consumer
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 17
brands benefit more from the one for one or direct to charity model. Although TOMS uses the
one for one model and Yoplait uses the direct to charity model, it is unclear which type of
consumer brands benefits the most from either model.
Another area of study that has not been explored is what type of magazine genre has the
most CSR advertisements and how the advertisements are displayed. Studies have not been
conducted to see if advertisements communicate their CSR objectives visually or if they are
communicated strictly through text. Besides social media marketing mentioned in Curley and
Noormohamed’s study (2014), it is unclear what other platforms can be utilized to communicate
CSR. There are not many studies that look strictly at magazine CSR print advertisements.
ResearchQuestions. Given the previous research on CSR, CRM/CSR advertising and
the consumer response, this project will seek to answer the following research questions:
RQ1: Are consumer brands more likely to advertise the one for one strategy or the direct to
RQ2: What messages do consumer brands communicate when using one for one as its Corporate
Social Responsibility advertising strategy?
RQ3: What messages do consumer brands communicate when using direct to charity as its
Corporate Social Responsibility advertising strategy?
RQ4: How does consumer brands’ Corporate Social Responsibility strategy align with its brand
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 18
The method used to collect the data for this study was content analysis. Advertisements
were collected from an assortment of print magazines from different genres. All magazines used
in this study were published in 2014-2015. Because not all advertisements incorporate a CSR
component, it was important not to limit the amount of magazines used to find the data. Content
analysis was chosen because it revealed the most information about these advertisements.
Looking at the messages communicated uncovered valuable information about CSR advertising
rather than if survey or interview was used. According to Berger (2011), one of the advantages to
using content analysis is its ability to be used for topics of current interest. Diving into how the
advertisement communicates its message through text, image, and tone gave a deep
understanding of CSR advertising trends. This gave a better understanding of what type of
brands use one for one or direct to charity models and why.
Brands are now realizing the importance of communicating how they are socially
responsible. Mogele and Tropp (2010) successfully used content analysis to look at German CSR
advertisements and the emergence of CSR as an advertising topic. Consequently, there has been
a trend for brands communicating their CSR on different platforms. In fact, according to Mogele
and Tropp (2010), CSR advertisements are on the rise in the last decade. As a result, this study
analyzed advertisements appearing in magazines published within the last year. Because there is
no database to directly search for CSR print advertisements, it was crucial not to limit the
amount of magazines sampled.
The magazines were obtained from public libraries and bookstores. Any print
advertisement that communicated that the brand was socially responsible was used for the data
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 19
sample. This appeared in many different ways including logos of partnered charities, body copy
or in the mission statement of the brand. There was an identified trend in CSR advertisements
appearing in women’s interest magazines. This narrowed down the search, focusing on finding
women’s interest magazines to complete the data sample. Taking pictures of the advertisements
made a digital database for the researcher to use for coding. The genre of the magazine was
recorded in a separate document for personal record. Each CSR advertisement found was
analyzed unless it was a duplicate.
To ensure intercoder reliability, the second coder coded an example advertisement with
the first coder to make sure operational definitions were clear. The coder went through each
variable one by one and placed their findings in the codesheet. One of the difficulties of content
analysis is getting reliability in coding (Berger, 2011). The intercoder reliability was calculated
to show an agreement with the operational definitions between the two coders. There was a high
intercoder reliability of 93%, which supports the assumption that there were relatively clear
operational definitions and instructions in the codebook.
For RQ1, the goal was to find out whether the advertisement used one for one CSR
strategy or direct to charity CSR strategy. As shown in the codebook (see appendix A), Variable
2 was calculated to see how often one for one and direct to charity advertisements appeared.
Variable 1 was calculated to see what genres of magazine the one for one and direct to charity
advertisements appeared in. After analyzing variable 1 and 2, it was possible to establish a trend
in what genres one for one and direct to charity advertisements appeared in.
Both RQ2 and RQ3 asked to measure the message types used in the different CSR
advertisements. Three coding categories were designed to measure the different types of
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 20
messages. The first one was message layout (variable 5) that looked to see if there was a trend in
CSR advertisements being text heavy, image based or a balance of both. The second one was
message appeal (variable 7) that measured whether the advertisement used the central or
peripheral route. The third one was educational message that looked to understand how much
information about the brand’s CSR effort was communicated in the advertisement.
Variable 6 asked how the CSR strategy aligns with the brand image and variable 9 asked
to see how much the brand relied on communicating descriptive information about the CSR to
align with brand image. Variable 8 asked what type of charity the brand used to communicate the
CSR message. This was to understand if brands generated brand image from their in-house
charity or if they partnered with a charity. Variable 1 and 3 acted as a demographic question and
provide basic information about where the advertisement came from.
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 21
The majority of the CSR advertisements coded were direct to charity for societal cause
(53%, n= 29). Thirty six percent (n=20) of advertisements fell into the ‘other’ category. The
advertisements in the ‘other’ category were not related to a specific cause. Only 5% (n=3) of
advertisements found communicated the direct to charity environmental strategy. The majority of
the advertisements found were in women’s magazines (76%, n=42). While only 11% (n=6) were
found in men’s magazines.
To address RQ1 (Are consumer brands more likely to advertise the one for one strategy
or the direct to charity strategy?), table 1 represents what genre of magazine the advertisements
appeared in. Seventy six percent (n=22) of direct to charity advertisements for societal cause
were found in women’s magazines. One hundred percent (n=3) of direct to charity
advertisements for environmental cause and one for one societal cause were found in women’s
magazines. Half (n=1) of one for one environmental cause were found in women’s magazines
and the other half were found in yoga magazines. Seventy five percent (n=15) of CSR
advertisements in the ‘other’ category were found in women’s magazines (see Table 1).
Table 1. Cross tabulation between magazine genre and type of CSR (N=55).
Direct to Charity
One for One
One for One
Food 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0) 5% (n=1)
Health 7% (n=2) 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0)
Men's 7% (n=2) 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0) 20% (n=4)
N/A 3% (n=1) 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0)
Travel 3% (n=1) 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0)
Women's 76% (n=22) 100% (n=3) 100% (n=1) 50% (n=1)
Yoga 3% (n=1) 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0) 50% (n=1) 0% (n=0)
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 22
To address RQ2 and RQ3, a cross tabulation analysis was done to compare message
route and CSR strategies. As indicated in Table 2, the majority of direct to charity for societal
advertisements used the central route (66%, n=19). All (n=3) direct to charity environmental
advertisements found used the central route. One for one societal advertisements coded (n=1)
used the peripheral route. Also, all (n=2) one for one environmental advertisements used the
central route. Sixty five percent (n=13) advertisements in the ‘other’ category used the central
Table 2. Cross Tabulation between route and type of CSR (N=55).
Direct to Charity
One for One
One for One
Central 66% (n=19) 100% (n=3) 0% (n=0) 100% (n=2)
Peripheral 34% (n=10) 0% (n=0) 100% (n=1) 0% (n=0)
Table 3 addresses RQ2 and RQ3. Table 3 represents the type of advertisement and its
composition. Fifty five percent (n=16) of direct to charity societal advertisements were a balance
between text and images. Sixty seven percent (n=2) of direct to charity environmental
advertisements were a balance between text and images. All (n=1) one for one societal
advertisements found were image based. Half (n=1) of one for one environmental advertisements
found were text heavy and the rest were balanced. Sixty percent (n=12) of ‘other’ were balanced
(see Table 3).
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 23
Table 3. Cross tabulation between composition and type of CSR (N=55).
Direct to Charity
One for One
One for One
Text Heavy 21% (n=6) 33% (n=1) 0% (n=0) 50% (n=1)
Image Based 24% (n=7) 0% (n=0) 100% (n=1) 0% (n=0)
Balanced 55% (n=16) 67% (n=2) 0% (n=0) 50% (n=1)
Table 4 is a cross tabulation between CSR information and brand image alignment. Forty
percent (n=2) of advertisements that had low alignment with brand image had information about
the CSR. Another 40% (n=2) had information and an educational link to it directly on the
advertisement. Fifty percent (n=9) of advertisements that had medium alignment did not have
any information about the CSR in the advertisement. Only 38% (n=12) of advertisements with
high alignment had information and an educational link (see Table 4).
Table 4. Cross tabulation between CSR information and brand image alignment (N=55).
CSR Information Low Medium High
Yes 40% (n=2) 17% (n=3) 22% (n=7)
No 20% (n=1) 50% (n=9) 13% (n=4)
Link 0% (n=0) 22% (n=4) 28% (n=9)
Yes and Link 40% (n=2) 11% (n=2) 38% (n=12)
Table 5 represents the information that is displayed in the advertisement and if the brand
uses an in-house or a partnered cause. Thirty two percent (n=8) of brands that used an in-house
cause used an educational link in their advertisements. Thirty three percent (n=10) of brands that
partnered with a cause did not have information about the CSR component in the advertisement
(see Table 5).
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 24
Table 5. Cross tabulation between CSR information and cause (N=55).
Cause In-house Partnered
Yes 24% (n=6) 20% (n=6)
No 16% (n=4) 33% (n=10)
Link 32% (n=8) 17% (n=5)
Yes and Link 28% (n=7) 30% (n=9)
To address RQ 4 (How does consumer brand’s CSR strategy align with its brand
image?), table 6 represents the relationship between type of advertisement and brand image
alignment. Fifty nine percent (n=17) of direct to charity societal advertisements had high
alignment with brand image. Sixty seven (n=2) percent direct to charity environmental had high
alignment with brand image. One hundred percent (n=2) of one for one environmental
advertisements had medium alignment and one for one societal had 100% (n=1) medium
alignment. Sixty percent (n=12) of ‘other’ advertisements had high alignment (see Table 6).
Table 6. Cross tabulation between brand image alignment and type of CSR (N=55).
Direct to Charity
One for One
Low 10% (n=3) 33% (n=1) 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0)
Medium 31% (n=9) 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0) 100% (n=2)
High 59% (n=17) 67% (n=2) 100% (n=1) 0% (n=0)
Table 7 represents the relationship between the central/peripheral route and the
composition of the advertisements. The majority of the advertisements used the central route
(67%, n=37). The remaining of the 33% (n=18) used the peripheral route. Sixty nine percent
(n=9) of text heavy advertisements used the central route. Only 31% (n=4) used peripheral route.
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 25
Fifty five percent (n=6) of image-based advertisements used the central route. Forty five percent
(n=5) used the peripheral route. Seventy one (n=22) percent of balanced advertisements used the
central route while 29% (n=9) used the peripheral route (see Table 7).
Table 7. Cross tabulation between route and composition (N=55).
Route Text Heavy Image Based Balanced
Central 69% (n=9) 55% (n=6) 71% (n=22)
Peripheral 31% (n=4) 45% (n=5) 29% (n=9)
Table 8 represents the type of advertisement and the products being advertised. A total of
47% (n=26) of products being advertised were food or beverages. One hundred percent (n=1) of
direct to charity for societal advertisements were for food or beverages. Forty one percent (n=12)
of direct to charity for environmental cause were for food or beverages. Sixty seven percent
(n=7) of one for one societal advertisements fell into the ‘other’ category. Half (n=1) of one for
one environmental were for shoe or apparel and the other half (n=1) were in the ‘other’ category.
Sixty percent (n=12) of advertisements in the ‘other’ category were for food or beverages (see
Table 8. Cross tabulation between product and type of CSR (N=55).
Direct to Charity
One for One
Food/Beverage 100% (n=1) 41% (n=12) 33% (n=1) 0% (n=0)
Shoe/Apparel 0% (n=0) 7% (n=2) 0% (n=0) 50% (n=1) 5% (n=1)
Service 0% (n=0) 14% (n=4) 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0) 0% (n=0)
Other 0% (n=0) 38% (n=11) 67% (n=2) 50% (n=1) 35% (n=7)
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 26
A Trend in Societal Impact Campaigns
After cross tabulating multiple variables, the data shows valuable information about CSR
advertising. First of all, the answer to RQ1 (Are consumer brands more likely to advertise the
one for one strategy or the direct to charity strategy?) is that brands are more likely to
communicate the direct to charity advertising strategy than the one for one strategy. The majority
of the CSR advertisements communicated the direct to charity for societal cause strategy. This
shows the popularity of societal impact campaigns in the last year in regards to CSR advertising.
The second highest amount fell into the ‘other’ category. Many advertisements that were in this
category were societal campaigns but did not have a charitable cause associated with it. For
example, STIHL has a campaign that focuses on their efforts to create jobs in America, which is
societal but cannot be put in to the direct to charity for societal cause category.
‘Direct to Charity’ Used Over ‘One for One’
The one for one strategy was not used much at all in the 55 advertisements analyzed.
Only a total of 3 one for one advertisements were found. This shows the rarity of this strategy,
which could be because of its unorthodox business model. TOMS shoes is notorious for using
the one for one strategy but there were not any advertisements from TOMS analyzed. This study
suggests that direct to charity advertisements were more common than one for one
advertisements by a landslide. TOMS is one of the exceptions when it comes to consumer brands
using the one for one strategy. There is not enough information to answer RQ2 efficiently due to
the lack of one for one advertisements found.
A good amount of advertisements fell into the ‘other’ category, which consisted of
recycling products, creating jobs and using sustainable materials to make their products. This
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 27
type of CSR appeared a lot during this study, which suggests that brands can communicate that
they are socially responsible without using a charity to donate to. Brands used this strategy in
favor of one for one and take CSR into their own hands instead of using the donation system.
The messages in these advertisements were communicating that the brand bases their business
ethics around being socially responsible rather than communicating that they partner with a
nonprofit or were actively helping the community. This relates to Verboven’s (2011) study on
mission slogans, which highlights another way to communicate CSR besides advertising.
CSR Advertising Trend in Women’s Interest Magazines
Roughly 300 magazines were reviewed to find these advertisements. After noticing a
trend of CSR advertisements in women’s magazines, it was clear that CSR advertisements were
more likely to target the female market than the male market. Interestingly, a drastic 76% (n=42)
of the direct to charity for societal advertisements were found in women’s magazines. In
response to RQ3, direct to charity advertisements communicate social CSR campaigns more than
environmental. This shows a trend in target audience and message for CSR campaigns. In this
study, CSR advertisements were likely to be societal based and were targeted at women.
Central Route Preferred Over Peripheral
When it comes to using the central or peripheral route to communicate the CSR message,
more brands used the central route. This shows that CSR print advertisements were likely to
communicate their message through thoughtful consideration of arguments rather than other cues
that differ from the strength of the argument. This shows that communicating CSR in a
thoughtful, fact based way will motivate the consumer to participate. Also, advertisements that
use the central route were primarily text heavy. This shows the reliance on words to
communicate an argument that motivates the audience in a factual way. Direct to charity
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 28
advertisements relied heavily on central route. Only 5 of the advertisements that used the
peripheral route were image based. Farache and Perks’ (2010) stated that using minimal text and
having a big visual component to the advertisement is effective for getting an emotional response
out of the consumer. Interestingly, this strategy was rarely used in the CSR advertisements that
were sampled. This means that CSR advertising uses other tactics with less visuals to
communicate the advertisement’s message.
Food and Beverage Brands Use of CSR Advertising
All of the direct to charity for societal advertisements were for food and beverages.
This shows a trend in the food/beverage industry in which promoting CSR is important for their
brand image. Many of the products being advertised fell into the ‘other’ category, which shows
the diverse amount of industries that find it important to communicate CSR.
CSR Advertising and Brand Alignment
Fifty eight percent (n=32) of all of the advertisements in this study had high brand image
alignment and 38% (n=18) had medium alignment. The answer to RQ4 is that brands’ CSR
strategies align relatively high with the brand image. Almost all of the advertisements that had
low alignment with brand image had information about the CSR. This supports Yong Seok, Jin
and Sung-Hack (2012) when they explain importance to communicate CSR efforts with an
‘explanatory link,’ especially when it might not necessarily align with the brand image. Half of
the brands with CSR that had medium alignment with brand image did not have any CSR
information at all. This could be because the brands concluded that the cause was closely enough
aligned with brand image that it did not have to communicate its CSR efforts through text. Most
of the direct to charity for societal advertisements had high brand image alignment. The majority
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 29
of the direct to charity for environmental cause had high alignment as well. This shows that
direct to charity CSR strategy works well when trying to align CSR with brand image.
Brands Using CSR Advertising
After finding only 55 print advertisements out of hundreds of magazines in a 4 week time
span, it seems that CSR advertising is not used often in magazines. In few circumstances were
there campaigns that had more than one CSR advertisement for a brand. Also, there were some
brands that base their whole brand image off of CSR. For example, multiple Newman’s Own
advertisements were coded because they give 100% of the after-tax profits from the sale of its
products to Newman's Own Foundation. All the advertisements found for this study were
acquired from public libraries and bookstores.
One of the biggest limitations to this study was the lack of advertisements coded.
Because this study was only looking at advertisements from the last year, it was difficult to find a
bigger sample size. Also, there were not many one for one advertisements found, which made it
difficult to answer some of the research questions, but also gives light to the fact one for one is
not used as a CSR strategy often. Another limitation to this study was the lack of resources to
find back issues of magazines. The public libraries did not have a wide variety of magazines to
look through. Also, this study only looks at advertisements from the year 2014-2015 and does
not provide information of CSR magazine advertisements outside of this time frame.
The second coder was confused with some of the operational definitions. He was unclear
with the composition variable and was not sure if it was regarding the whole advertisement or
just the CSR component of the advertisement. There was also some confusion with the
central/peripheral route variable. The definitions for the two terms could have been explained
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 30
with more depth. For the variable regarding the type of product being advertised, many of the
products fell into the ‘other’ category, which limits knowing what type of products they were and
if there was a type of product not listed that used CSR frequently. The codebook should have had
a more extensive list of products in the coding categories.
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 31
CSR advertising is still a topic that has not been deeply explored by scholars. This study
suggests that brands are more likely to use and advertise the direct to charity strategy rather than
one for one strategy. Advertisers are more likely to target women with their CSR campaigns than
men. This could imply that advertisers believe that women are more socially responsible or are
more likely to react positively to CSR advertising. Also, women are more likely to make
household purchases, which may be another reason why most CSR advertisements appeared in
this genre of magazine.
Within women’s magazines, food and beverage products were more likely to advertise
CSR than other types of brands. This gives insight to the food/beverage industries and the value
they place on communicating their brand’s CSR. Messages in the advertisements relied more on
facts than other cues to communicate CSR. This shows how brands communicate CSR to the
general public. Backing up strategies with a factual argument is important to CSR advertisers.
Ultimately, brands do a good job of aligning CSR strategies with brand image. When
done right, CSR advertising campaigns can enhance brand image with cohesive brand-CSR
alignment. Further research can be done by using interview or survey to look at how consumers
view CSR and if they are more likely to buy a product based on whether the brand choses to
advertise their CSR.
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 32
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ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 36
Coodbook and Operational Definitions
Coding Categories Operational Definition Instructions
1 . Name genre of
1. car, cooking, sports, men’s, women’s, music etc.
2. If the advertisement is not from a magazine
Check to see
what type of
appeared in. If it
is not in a
Type of Ad
1. Direct to charity
for societal cause
2. Direct to charity
3. One for one for
4. One for one for
1.Brand that communicates that they donate
their profit (not their service or product) to
societal cause: cancer research, providing
food/clothes, LGBTQ awareness, military
veteran causes, etc.
2. Brand that communicates that they donate
their profit (not their service or product) to
environmental cause: saving endangered
species, efforts to stop global warming, animal
3. Brand that communicates that for every product
the brand sells it makes another product to donate
to a cause to help society Ex. TOMS
4. Brand that communicates that for every product
the brand sells it makes another product to donate
to a cause to help the environment. Ex: planting
tree for every product sold
5. Other: a cause that does not relate to any of
the four options above. Ex: creating jobs in
Code to see if the
direct to charity
or one for one
check to see if the
cause benefits the
environment. If it
does not fit into
choose option 5.
Year of the
1. If the advertisement is from the last year
2. If the advertisement was from a date earlier
3. If there is no date associated
Check the date of
and see what year
it was published
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 37
1. Food/ Beverage: Any product that can be
consumed by human being or animal
2. Shoe/Apparel: This includes accessories, bags,
watches, jewelry, clothes and footwear, etc.
4. Service: This includes anything that is not a
Code to see if the
for food (ex:
1. Text-heavy: The idea of the CSR is expressed
mainly through text, ad copy.
2. Image-based: The idea of the CSR is
expressed through images.
Code to see if
relies on text,
image or a
balance of both to
1. Low- little to none. There is not a clear
relationship to the brand image and the CSR
strategy (CSR has nothing to apparent brand
image) Ex: Esurance and environmental cause
2. Medium- target market. There is somewhat of
an alignment between the brand and it’s CSR
strategy. Ex: Coca Cola and World Wild Life
(instead of doing something to help end thirst)
3. High- visibly. The CSR strategy is well
aligned with the brand image. Ex: TOMS and
giving shoes to less fortunate
Code to see if
falls into the
low, medium or
1. Central: consists of thoughtful
consideration of the arguments (ideas,
content) of the message. (facts)
2. Peripheral: occurs when the listener decides
whether to agree with the message based on
other cues besides the strength of the
arguments or ideas in the message
Code to see if
or uses an
1. In-house cause: the brand has set up their
own cause or charity (McDonald’s
Ronald McDonald House Charity)
2. Partnered cause: uses an established non-
profit to work with (Yoplait and Susan G.
Code to see
if the brand
or donates to
4. Yes and
1. The advertisement provides detailed
background information about its CSR
efforts instead of just acknowledging if
they are using one for one or direct to
Code to see
if there is
ADVERTISING CSR AND CONSUMER BRANDS 38
2. The advertisement does not provide
detailed information about it’s CSR efforts
3. There is a link on the advertisement that
4. The advertisement provides detailed
background information and a link
CSR, if there
is a link to it