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Corporate social responsibility or cause‐related marketing? The role of cause specificity of CSR

Sana‐ur‐Rehman Sheikh (Institute of Management Sciences, University of Balochistan, Quetta, Pakistan)
Rian Beise‐Zee (School of Management, Asian Institute of Technology, Pathumthani, Thailand)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 25 January 2011




As cause‐related marketing (CRM) is usually subsumed under corporate social responsibility (CSR), in practice CSR and CRM can serve as different public relations tools. This study aims to compare the effect of CRS and CRM on customer attitude.


In order to overcome various measurement problems, an experiment is conducted in a country characterized by a significant diversity of attitudes towards a cause.


The result indicates that both CSR and CRM have similar positive effects on customers' attitudes. However, while CRM might be more cost‐efficient, its positive effect is limited to customers with high cause affinity. In contrast, CRM has a negative effect on customers with low cause affinity, or who oppose the cause. A major finding is that CRM can compensate for negative CSR to a high degree in the cause affinity segment of the market. Therefore, a high degree of cause specificity of CSR might only be preferable if the market is characterized by broad cause affinity, or if a firm is facing negative public sentiment caused, for instance, by a product harm crisis.


The paper conceptualizes the difference between the cause‐unspecific and cause‐specific dimension of CSR and highlights the importance of cause affinity in cause‐specific CSR.



Sheikh, S. and Beise‐Zee, R. (2011), "Corporate social responsibility or cause‐related marketing? The role of cause specificity of CSR", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 27-39.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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