THE IMPLICATIONS OF MARKETING GOOD CAUSES TO STUDENT GEN-YERS: EXAMINING PERCEPTIONS OF CAUSE MARKETING
Annie Paul (Maureen Mathison)
Department of Marketing
University of Utah
Today many companies are increasingly engaging in corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts with the goal of creating a more positive reputation in consumers’ minds while increasing sales and revenues. Many of these companies implement CSR initiatives by partnering with a charity or another cause championed by a nonprofit. These corporations often seek to promote their commitment to said cause(s) through cause marketing (CM). By linking a firm’s cause-beneficial fund-raising activities to the purchase of its products/services, CM achieves two objectives: (1) to help worthy causes and (2) to improve a company’s performance. Although the literature shows CM to be gaining ground, little is known about student perceptions, and more specifically, about those of Business students. Nevertheless, some studies show that Millenials (those born between 1980 and 2000), also known as “Gen Y-ers,” pay more attention to CM campaigns and are more likely to buy a product if it supports a social issue with which they are sympathetic. Since this is the case, would “tomorrow’s business managers,” i.e. business students, also share this increasing consciousness with other students? This study examines the CM perspectives of Millenial students through the lens of their personal and professional identities, specifically comparing Business majors’ views with those of other undergraduates at a large public university. Results show that from a personal identity perspective, Business students were less likely to support CM compared to other students. However, from a professional identity perspective, all students reported having mixed views regarding companies’ partnerships with good causes. Business students saw these affiliations as expenses rather than as benefits to companies, and few students overall recognized these relationships’ benefits to consumers. More needs to be done to address the gap between firms’ goals with CM and Millenials’, particularly Business students’, perceptions of these partnerships.
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