Do corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives lead to positive outcomes for companies? Although it is commonly accepted that CSR is a necessary component of modern marketing communication, the empirical evidence shows that that is not always the case. If CSR is sometimes not conducive to better marketing, it behooves firms to determine the right conditions that foster more effective CSR. It is in that vein that this study aims to add to the growing body of marketing and CSR literature through a series of experiments that examines the dynamics between prior attitude toward the company, the fit between the company and the CSR cause, and consumers’ accessible thoughts.
This study finds that the prior corporate reputation has an impact on how consumers evaluate the CSR activities of companies. Moreover, we show that the degree of accessible thoughts and their valence can change the moderating effect of the fit between the company and the CSR cause. This is because negative information is perceived as being more diagnostic than positive information in an evaluation situation. We demonstrate that companies that have lower prior public reputations can improve the evaluation of their CSR activities in two major ways: (1) by finding CSR causes that have a lower fit with their business, or (2) by providing information that allow consumers to access more positive thoughts about the CSR activity.

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