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Sincerity or ploy? An investigation of corporate social responsibility campaigns

Michelle Childs (Department of Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA)
Hongjoo Woo (Department of Clothing and Textiles, Yonsei University, Seoul, Republic of Korea)
Seeun Kim (Department of Consumer and Design Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 1 March 2019

Issue publication date: 17 July 2019




Corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaigns have become increasingly popular among fashion apparel brands to reduce environmental impacts of their operations and position themselves as sustainable. In light of attribution theory, this paper aims to investigate how aspects of a CSR campaign affect consumers’ perceptions of brand authenticity, brand attitudes and CSR attitudes.


This research is based on a 2 (brand image: sustainable vs disposable brand) × 2 (message source: brand website vs news article) between-subjects experimental design with random assignment to conditions and manipulation checks.


When exposed to messages about CSR campaigns, consumers have more favorable perceptions of brand authenticity, brand attitudes and CSR attitudes for a sustainable brand than for a disposable brand, particularly when consumers view information about a CSR campaign on the brand’s website. However, this is not true for disposable brands when CSR campaigns are promoted through a news source.

Practical implications

Sustainable brands can derive benefits by strategically partnering with causes through CSR campaigns, particularly when their campaigns are promoted through their brand’s website (vs news source). However, brands that offer disposable products (e.g. fast fashion brands) should exercise caution when implementing these campaigns; CSR campaigns may confuse customers as they do not align with the everyday practices of disposable brands.


As the apparel industry faces increased scrutiny for negative impacts on the environment, this study helps to understand whether customers perceive CSR campaigns as trustworthy and authentic, or as ploys aimed at creating more positive brand images.



Childs, M., Woo, H. and Kim, S. (2019), "Sincerity or ploy? An investigation of corporate social responsibility campaigns", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 489-501.



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