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Overcoming skepticism toward cause-related marketing claims: the role of consumers’ attributions and a temporary state of skepticism

Mikyeung Bae (School of Media and Strategic Communications, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 19 March 2018




This paper aims to clarify a situational factor that might interfere with the intended outcome of a cause-related marketing (CRM) ad on social network sites (SNSs): statements about the motivation of the sponsoring company for supporting a social cause. This study also aims to explore how highly skeptical consumers and consumers with lower levels of skepticism differ in their responses to CRM ads.


In Study 1, a total of 409 college students took part in an online experiment through Qualtrics. The online experiment followed a 2 (statement of motivations: both of firm and public benefits vs public benefit only) × 2 (skepticism: high vs low) between-subjects design. Skepticism was determined post hoc as a two-category variable to analyze its effect on the relationship between the statement of motivations and attribution. In Study 2, a total of 533 adults took part in an online experiment. Multigroup analysis was used to test the hypotheses.


This study found that firm’s acknowledgments of firm-serving motivation, as well as of public-serving motivation, could be an effective marketing strategy to reduce consumer skepticism about the firm’s motives. The procedure by which a consumer perceived and evaluated the motives of a company determined the effectiveness of the company’s CRM ads. Temporary state of skepticism induced by an attributional thinking process is found to play a significant role in diminishing perceived corporate credibility. Finally, a consumer’s perception of a company’s credibility has a great impact on their intention to join that company’s brand page.

Research limitations/implications

This study advances theories about consumers’ defensive mechanisms that can help predict their favorable responses to the brand pages featuring CRM on SNSs.


This study extends previous literature by directing academic attention to consumers’ perceived attribution as a theoretical mechanism that can help predict consumers’ favorable responses to brand pages featuring CRM on SNSs. This study also extends previous research on skepticism by showing that consumer skepticism can be either an enduring trait or a temporary state. The findings suggest that marketers may be able to inhibit the development of consumer skepticism by publicly stating the potential firm-serving benefits of its actions.



Bae, M. (2018), "Overcoming skepticism toward cause-related marketing claims: the role of consumers’ attributions and a temporary state of skepticism", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 35 No. 2, pp. 194-207.



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