Powerful or powerless customers: the influence of gratitude on engagement with CSR

Anna S. Mattila (School of Hospitality Management, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)
Laurie Wu (School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
Choongbeom Choi (William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Publication date: 8 August 2016



The purpose of this study is to examine how gratitude appeals and consumers’ sense of power jointly influence customer engagement in a service firm’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Based on previous literature, the authors propose that power moderates the effect of gratitude expression on consumers’ attitudes and behavioral intention to engage in matching donations.


A 2 (power: powerful vs powerless) × 2 (gratitude expression: included in the request vs none) between-subjects experiment was conducted to test the proposed hypotheses. Participants were asked to imagine that they recently saw a donation request while dining at a local restaurant and they then complete scales that measured their attitude and donation intention to engage in a restaurant’s CSR practice.


The findings of this study indicate that an expression of gratitude enhanced powerless but not powerful customers’ intention to engage in CSR practices. In addition, moderated mediation tests revealed social worth concerns as the underlying mechanism between gratitude expression and customer engagement for powerless consumers. However, such mediation effects were not observed for powerful consumers.


The current study identifies sense of power as a new psychological state that can influence donation behaviors in the context of CSR. In addition, the current study shows that the serial mediating role of social worth between gratitude expression and prosocial behaviors only holds true for individuals with a low sense of power.



This research was supported by the Marriott Foundation.


Mattila, A.S., Wu, L. and Choi, C. (2016), "Powerful or powerless customers: the influence of gratitude on engagement with CSR", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 30 No. 5, pp. 519-528. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSM-07-2014-0233

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