Section 6: Impacting the consumers

Section 6: Impacting the consumers

“Introduction … Who are the responsible consumers? … Do consumers care about CSR? … Which barriers to responsible consumption? … Which drivers for responsible consumption? … Consumers’ collective actions … Conclusion”
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Summaries

  • 6. Impacting the consumers > Who are the responsible consumers? > Expert' opinions
  • 6. Impacting the consumers > Who are the responsible consumers? > What to keep in mind?
  • 6. Impacting the consumers > Do consumers care about CSR? > Experts' opinions
  • 6. Impacting the consumers > Do consumers care about CSR? > The Nestlé case
  • 6. Impacting the consumers > Which barriers to responsible consumption? > Some barriers
  • 6. Impacting the consumers > Which barriers to responsible consumption? > What to keep in mind?
  • 6. Impacting the consumers > Which drivers for responsible consumption? > The 3U Model
  • 6. Impacting the consumers > Which drivers for responsible consumption? > Some drivers for responsible consumption

6. Impacting the consumers > Who are the responsible consumers? > Expert’ opinions

  • Before we describe the CSR oriented consumer, it’s crucial to acknowledge an important fact: The consumer who claims to be concerned about CSR may not be the same as the one who actually purchases products with CSR attributes.
  • If we now focus on consumers who actually buy CSR products, we find several determinants.
  • Gender seems to be an important factor: Compared with men, women find CSR to be a more important buying criterion, and women tend to buy more green products, fair-trade products, and products with labels that guarantee animal welfare.
  • Consumers who purchase products with CSR attributes usually score particularly high on values like universalism, self-direction, and collectivism.
  • In one of my papers, my coauthors and I looked at how consumers perceive products with CSR attributes.
  • In particular, we investigated whether adding a CSR attribute to a product would cause a shift in whether consumers perceived the product as more masculine or more feminine.
  • We already knew that women were more likely than men to care about CSR and to purchase products with CSR attributes.
  • The results were pretty consistent with what we expected: Adding the CSR attribute to the product made it seem more feminine and less masculine.
  • Even more interesting, only men perceived this gender shift as a result of adding the CSR attribute: Guys were particularly prone to see CSR as a symbol of femininity instead of masculinity! We also replicated this finding by analyzing whether a person who expresses a preference for CSR products seems more feminine and masculine than others.
  • Again we found that men, but not women, perceived the person as more feminine and less masculine when that person consumed CSR products.
  • More specifically, we looked at the association between CSR product attributes and sex.
  • Therefore we used theories from evolutionary psychology and we predicted that associating CSR product attributes with sex would be detrimental for male consumers.
  • So it was a safe bet to predict that sex and CSR would be a bad fit and lead men to shun these CSR products.

6. Impacting the consumers > Who are the responsible consumers? > What to keep in mind?

  • In this approach, responsible consumers are a specialist niche, with particular motivations that make them stand out from all other customers, and they seemingly behave differently.
  • They are treated as a separate, distinct category of consumers, who can also be segmented by gender, social class, education, occupation, values, and so on.
  • Happy-Go-Lucky consumers: typically aged eighteen to thirty four years, these buyers believe their role is to buy products they think are socially and environmentally responsible, as long as it’s convenient, and doing so makes them feel good.
  • Bleeding Hearts are women between eighteen and thirty four years of age, who think their role is to seek responsible options proactively and as often as possible, to save the world.
  • Ringleaders, who are older than thirty five years and purchase responsibly every time they shop, also encourage others to do the same, because they strongly believe that individual consumers can have a significant impact on societal issues.
  • This Global Consumer Responsibility Segmentation shines a light on how global consumers see their own role in addressing social and environmental issues.
  • The more interesting question is, “In what circumstances, for what reasons, and in response to which offerings might different types of consumers adopt more socially responsible consumption behaviors and lifestyles?” The challenge for marketers is finding the right levers to use to motivate every consumer to adopt more socially responsible consumption behaviors.

6. Impacting the consumers > Do consumers care about CSR? > Experts’ opinions

  • Well this isn’t, the notion of whether consumers, clients would take into account CSR initiatives is a very intereting question because our own research on this particular topic is that consumers indeed claim, pretend that they pay attention and that they… CSR and the values and the reputation of a company in CSR is an important element when they make a purchasing decision.
  • For most consumers, CSR actions are not fundamental to the choice among different product alternatives -at least when the CSR attribute is not negative.
  • If a company engages in actions that imply really negative outcomes for the environment or employees, then CSR can have a strong negative effect on consumers’ willingness to buy a product from that particular company.
  • For most consumers, it’s more of a “nice-to-have” option.
  • In marketing terms, CSR is a type of “product augmentation,” rather than the core product and its central benefits.
  • Only after these criteria are met do most consumers begin to think about additional attributes, like the environmental or social conditions in which the chocolate was manufactured.
  • At Proximus, we similarly include CSR criteria in our tendering processes and a CSR clause in each contract.
  • Well, you have a generation of consumers that are very alert about the society they live in and that have strong concerns about how every of their single decision of a product can contribute to a wider sustainability movement accross the globe.
  • What I think today is still missing very much, although we are living in a society of information and communication, is the lack of awareness that we have as consumers.
  • If I take this cup of coffee or if I take this fruit, it’s still very difficult… That first of course, it needs to taste very well for me to buy it but what is the story, what is the story of men and women behind this cup of coffee or behind this fruit? And that is still quite difficult for the consumer that has on average not even 3 seconds to make a decision for what it will buy or not.
  • I would request a lot of imagination and creativity and try to say “ok, if I bite in this apple, if I drink this cup of coffee or if I drive this car, or take any service or product, try to figure out the chain of men and women that have been engaged, responsibly or not, through the full value chain that has made it possible for me to buy this apple or to buy this coffee”.
  • You can see that you do not necessarily need to be rich to buy organic for instance, Or you, consumers expect a lot from companies.
  • Now there is also a conception that you should… “produce what the consumer wants” The consumer is the king and so that all they want are driven by the price.
  • All I now need to do is to change the reflex and the purchase behaviours of my consumers”.
  • So it is of their responsibility to also bring that information and the accurate products to the consumers.

6. Impacting the consumers > Do consumers care about CSR? > The Nestlé case

  • Do you think consumers and customers today are interested by what you are doing in terms of CSV? This is a very interesting question, a very difficult one.
  • We thought about, ok how could we communicate that to the consumers, because it should interest the consumers that we are building 40 schools in Africa years and years and that we help farmers to increase their yields.
  • Then we asked the consumers “What do you to think about that?”.
  • The consumers said before they have seen anything yet “yeah, it’s good if you take care for the society”.
  • It’s not a selling argument today, what I would say, it doesn’t help us to sell more products today but we do creating share value.
  • So they understand it, but they face the same challenge that consumers today, for the consumer today, it’s not a key motivation to buy.
  • There might be a small part of the population, but the vast majority of the consumers, more want to see “ok, what’s in for me, what’s the benefit for me if I buy this product”.

6. Impacting the consumers > Which barriers to responsible consumption? > Some barriers

  • We buy most of the products we “need” without thinking a lot about them.
  • What are they made of? Where do they come from? And-do I really need them? The perception also exists that responsible products are more expensive and less effective.
  • When you ask consumers why they don’t buy CSR products, the top reasons that they mention are higher perceived prices and a lack of availability.
  • It’s interesting that consumers see CSR alternatives as more expensive.
  • Consumers are skeptical of a company’s motivations or the actual environmental or social efficiency of its products.
  • Some consumers think that buying CSR-related products is just such a small action that it doesn’t actually make any difference for improving environmental conservation or workers’ living conditions.
  • In addition to these obvious barriers to responsible consumption, social psychology research suggests some other challenges.
  • Adding a CSR attribute to a product actually can cause consumers to perceive decreased quality, especially when they want the product to be strong.
  • If the company mentions that it has used biodegradable materials to manufacture the detergent, a lot of consumers assume that the product is more gentle, which they associate with being less efficient or less effective.
  • Companies that engage in nonprofit activities such as CSR are often regarded as “warmer” but also less competent than companies that don’t.
  • Common sense predicts that “if we wish to protect the environment, to feed the hungry, to discourage unfair labor practices, and so on, then we will likely be drawn to products that reflect these goals.
  • ” Since the 1990s, survey results and consumer polls repeatedly have indicated that CSR and social, environmental, or ethical attributes in products enhance consumers’ purchase intentions.
  • When we look at actual sales numbers, we find that CSR continues to have, at best, minor impacts on consumers’ purchases.
  • This is what really is at stake when we talk about the attitude-behavior gap.
  • The question many researchers continue asking is thus, “If CSR can lead to a better world, and most consumers say they are likely to purchase socially responsible products, why doesn’t CSR sell well?” Many factors might provide the explanations.
  • Consumers’ personal concern for CSR-related issues, their perceptions of what is or is not socially responsible, their price sensitivity, and their quality perceptions are some such factors.
  • Many consumers believe that some socially responsible products, such as fair-trade products, are poorer in quality than traditional versions.
  • Skepticism and cynicism also influence how people perceive and judge socially responsible products.
  • Peer groups-that is, what family members and friends believe and do-and institutions, including governments and nonprofits, all might influence consumers’ intentions to behave in socially responsible ways.
  • Other factors make consumers think that, even if they wanted to, they could not buy truly socially responsible products.
  • Many consumers mention in interviews that they don’t have enough information to learn about the CSR activities of companies or the responsible dimensions of the products they buy.
  • Others claim that socially responsible products simply are not available to them.
  • They also might question the extent to which their purchase decisions make any difference for the social cause.
  • Even when consumers go to the store with the intention to buy socially responsible products, contextual elements can interfere.
  • It may be the physical and social surroundings at the point of purchase such as product placement, price promotions, store crowding, interactions with salespeople, or the presence of a shopping companion.
  • It also might be factors related to the consumer, such as his or her mood.
  • Although all of those factors can contribute to the attitude-behavior gap, my coauthor Joëlle Vanhamme and I argue that these factors are only the tip of the iceberg.
  • Other, more psychologically driven elements might explain this attitude-behavior gap, as well as the poor sales of CSR-related products.
  • A social psychology perspective might consider bystander apathy effects.
  • That is, a person’s likelihood of helping others decreases in the presence of passive bystanders, and this effect happens mostly under the radar of the person’s conscious awareness.
  • Such bystander apathy may result from a sense of diluted responsibility-by which I mean that people’s sense of responsibility decreases when multiple others are present.
  • Each person assumes that someone else will act appropriately.
  • If we extend this reasoning, it might be that consumers are less likely to purchase products that benefit society or the greater good when a lot of strangers are present in the purchase setting than when just a few other consumers are around.
  • We actually propose four theoretical lenses to explain why, even though buying socially responsible products appears to be the right thing to do, consumers don’t.
  • The social psychology lens I just mentioned; A clinical psychology lens; An evolutionary psychology lens and; An economic and economic psychology lens.
  • With these four unique theoretical perspectives, we highlight some important contributors to the attitude-behavior gap.
  • Consumers might be less likely to buy CSR products when they do not involve any public display but instead are purchased anonymously.
  • Or they might be more likely to buy CSR products if the disadvantages of not buying for consumers and society get emphasized, rather than when the benefits of buying them is emphazised.

6. Impacting the consumers > Which barriers to responsible consumption? > What to keep in mind?

  • Public concern for social, environmental, and ethical issues may be increasing overall, but on an individual basis, each modern consumer also demonstrates an aversion to specific remedies that require behavioral changes on their own part-especially those involving personal impacts or consequences for their lifestyles.
  • The well-known attributes and benefits that exist for all products -such as costs, convenience, and quality-compete for importance with CSR-related attributes and benefits.
  • Consumers generally will not trade off CSR against quality and other critical benefits.
  • The challenge for companies is to guide consumers through the entire purchase decision-making process, alleviating each type of perceived risk in each stage by providing accurate, appropriate information and support.
  • Consumers have to trust the company’s claims, which is difficult in a context where cynicism and mistrust of business continues to grow.
  • Such mistrust will remain until companies provide consistency, honesty, and sincerity in their messages and their actions.
  • That is, a consumer might think, “I will purchase responsibly, but only if other consumers are, if the company demonstrates that it is really acting responsibly, if competing companies do the same, if government actively supports such changes,” and so on.
  • For consumers who would be willing to change their behaviors, some conditions have to be met: They need reasons to change, they have to have the necessary means to change, and they need the desire and opportunity to try the new behavior and adopt it over time.
  • To increase their desire to adopt these new behaviors, the new behaviors should be presented as trendy and cool, showing that other consumers before them have already gotten on board.

6. Impacting the consumers > Which drivers for responsible consumption? > The 3U Model

  • Understanding refers to how consumers interpret CSR activities, in light of what they already know about the company.
  • Research and opinion polls repeatedly show that consumer awareness remains generally low; in many cases, consumers do not know that a company is engaged in CSR at all.
  • Few consumers actively seek information about companies’ CSR activities either.
  • In this attribution stage, they develop perceptions about the company’s motivations for engaging in CSR. Previous research shows that consumers respond more positively to CSR activities if they perceive both intrinsic, selfless motives and extrinsic, selfish motives.
  • Finally, consumers assess the perceived social value created by the company, or its efficacy, by asking, “Are these CSR efforts really effective in benefiting society?” CSR programs that are perceived as highly effective often trigger more favorable consumer responses.
  • Understanding CSR activities is not enough to alter consumers’ behaviors or relations with companies.
  • Consumers want to know “what’s in it for me?”-that is, the value that CSR adds for them.
  • Three categories of benefits are pertinent for consumers: First, functional benefits; they are tangible and directly related to the features of the product or service.
  • To ensure the usefulness of their CSR, managers have to recognize consumers’ needs, then work to leverage the right benefits.
  • They need to highlight traditional consumer benefits too, like the quality and symbolic value of the product or how it can be used to differentiate the consumer, provide experiential pleasure, or signal concern for others.
  • If the company is successful in showing that it is genuinely concerned with issues that are important to consumers and that it can fully, fulfill sorry, some of their needs, then those consumers likely regard the company as aligned with things that are important to them, which creates unity.
  • Unity is the extent to which CSR activities lead consumers to form strong and enduring bonds with the company, reflecting their overall appraisal of the quality of their relationship with that company.
  • Consumers may develop a sense that the company’s values-as expressed through its CSR activities- overlap with their own, such that they identify with that company.
  • This 3U model is a useful framework for understanding how stakeholders view, interpret, and respond to CSR programs and their communication.

6. Impacting the consumers > Which drivers for responsible consumption? > Some drivers for responsible consumption

  • Because adding a CSR attribute to a product makes it look more feminine and less masculine, men might avoid these products in general.
  • Marketers should also highlight the masculine attributes of their products, such as their strength, technology savvy, and so on.
  • A few years ago, following the popular idea that “sex sells,” there was an Oxfam Fatale campaign where a nude actress was touting Oxfam products.
  • Engaged companies have to pursue their efforts to conceive great products with less impact, and then communicate well about them.
  • Public authorities need to be more demanding about social and environmental labels for products.
  • Finally, the general public should be responsible for thinking twice before buying a product! This paper sparked a lot of media attention and was quoted by researchers in various disciplines.
  • The reason for its success was largely its simple message: Consuming CSR products can enhance your status.
  • Acting altruistically can provide some benefits too, so for example, when you buy a CSR product, you show others that you are caring and someone that other people can trust.
  • So you’re sending a double message: I’m nice, and I’m rich! Because these characteristics are often associated with leadership and status, consuming CSR products ultimately can lead to a higher social status.
  • Second, it’s very concrete and has clear implications for firms engaging in CSR and trying to sell products with CSR attributes It tells companies that they should make sure their CSR product is both visible to others and more expensive than other alternatives.
  • If a CSR product isn’t more expensive, it is hard to create that association with higher status.
  • For companies engaging in CSR activities, it’s also crucial to communicating about the positive consequences of their actions, for the here and now, rather than for tomorrow.

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