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Exploring conspicuous compassion as a brand management strategy

Michelle Childs (Department of Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA)
Seeun Kim (Department of Consumer and Design Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 23 May 2019

Issue publication date: 17 July 2019




Cause-related marketing (CR-M) – promising to donate to a charity when consumers purchase specific products – is a popular brand strategy, particularly in the social media context. In light of Veblen’s theory of conspicuous consumption, the purpose of this experimental study is to test the impact of a brand’s level and the conspicuousness of a brand’s CR-M campaign on consumers’ brand-related responses. Results reveal a novel mechanism underlying the effects by showing that pride and guilt mediate results.


This research is based on two studies that used a 2 (brand level: high-end vs low-end) × 2 (conspicuous of CR-M campaign: conspicuous vs non-conspicuous) between-subjects experimental design with random assignment to conditions and manipulation checks.


Results reveal that consumers respond more favorably when high-end brands participate in CR-M, particularly when the CR-M promotion is conspicuous. That is, when a high-end brand partners with a charity, especially under conspicuous conditions, it significantly improves consumers’ brand attitudes and intent to share with others. Moreover, pride and guilt are important mediators in effects.

Practical implications

The results of this study offer strong implications for brand managers seeking to partner with charities in CR-M campaigns. Results suggest that implementing CR-M campaigns may be fruitful for brands, particularly high-end brands when they enhance the conspicuousness of their CR-M campaign.


Results empirically extend the notion of conspicuous consumption by demonstrating that social status can be achieved by displaying not only acquired goods but also benevolence.



Childs, M. and Kim, S. (2019), "Exploring conspicuous compassion as a brand management strategy", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 540-554.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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