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Hypocrisy, skepticism, and reputation: the mediating role of corporate social responsibility

Denni Arli (Labovitz School of Business and Economics, University of Minnesota Duluth, Duluth, Minnesota, USA)
Patrick van Esch (Department of Marketing, AUT Business School, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Gavin Northey (Department of Marketing, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)
Michael S.W. Lee (University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)
Radu Dimitriu (Trinity Business School, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland)

Marketing Intelligence & Planning

ISSN: 0263-4503

Article publication date: 25 July 2019

Issue publication date: 14 August 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the effect of corporate hypocrisy and consumer skepticism on perceived corporate reputation. In addition, the effect of perceived corporate social responsibility (CSR) in mediating the relationship between corporate hypocrisy and consumer skepticism toward perceived corporate reputation.

Design/methodology/approach

An experimental design was employed to test the effects of corporate hypocrisy and consumer skepticism on consumers’ perception of a firm’s corporate reputation, as well as the role of perceived CSR as a causal mechanism. Analysis involved structural equation modeling (AMOS) to test hypotheses. A convenience sample (n=837) was recruited from the USA and Australia to allow for any national biases or brand familiarity effects and to ensure the results were robust and generalizable.

Findings

Corporate hypocrisy and consumers’ skepticism significantly influences perceived CSR and corporate reputation. Furthermore, a consumer’s level of perceived CSR acts as a causal mechanism, mediating the relationship between corporate hypocrisy and skepticism on perceived corporate reputation.

Practical implications

The importance of being transparent and honest toward consumers. When companies are inconsistent in their CSR activities, it increases consumers’ skepticism toward the brand. Nonetheless, CSR has a positive influence on the consumers’ perception of corporate reputation and this, in turn, will positively influences consumers’ support for the firm.

Originality/value

The first empirical evidence that companies producing vices (such as beer) generate lower expectations in the minds of the consumers, meaning there is less impact on brand reputation when consumers feel the CSR does not fit with the brand image.

Keywords

Citation

Arli, D., van Esch, P., Northey, G., Lee, M.S.W. and Dimitriu, R. (2019), "Hypocrisy, skepticism, and reputation: the mediating role of corporate social responsibility", Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 37 No. 6, pp. 706-720. https://doi.org/10.1108/MIP-10-2018-0434

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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