Saturday, 4 August 2012

Exploring the Impact of Cause - Related Marketing on Consumer Attitude to the Brand Purchase Intention

Executive Summary
Global business is exponentially growing and so is the competition in these markets, businesses today is continually adopting the path of innovation and growth through strategies and business process implementation. One of the most rapidly evolving areas of international business today is the area of international marketing practices and concepts businesses today are introducing and applying innovative and creative techniques and communication channels to best reach their target customers. Businesses today through the use and application of the branding as a marketing tool are making efforts to make them distinct and different from competitors, ensuring they maximise on competitive advantage. Marketing today has revolutionised its global outlook towards business objectives and emerged from a traditional marketing practice to relationship building by means of relationship marketing.

This concept over the years have attained much attention from researchers, owing to the fact that this concept is believed to be a relatively new concept, and have classified this marketing strategy as one that has orientation towards the businesses marketing communication and thus by many is considered and classified as a marketing mix marketing strategy.

Although American Express initiated the use of this new cause related marketing strategy around 25 years ago, it is still considered by many scholars, researchers and practitioners to be a relative new concept, and have shown great amount of interest in this marketing communication strategy. The research at this point identifies that even with much interest and studies conducted in this research area, there is a possible gap in the existing literature the research primarily identifies this gap to be as the “lack of literature that is available on cause-related marketing especially from the consumer perspective”, the research proposes to identify and make efforts to fill the gap. This is also the field of interest for this dissertation and in particular how does cause-relates marketing strategy shape consumer attitude, perception and buying behaviour? In order to find out the answer of this question the research has relied on different theories and in addition we conducted a questionnaire among international students. The results, even though restricted trough the sample, showed that there is a connection between the cause-related marketing and buying behaviour and attitude. Consumers are more likely to support companies which are engaged in cause campaigns and tend to develop positive attitude toward this company and its products.

Business today is getting very competitive and challenging, with business managers continually thinking of taking new initiatives in the field of marketing, strategic thinking and other business initiatives to generate business and deliver to the maximum. Every business enterprise today wants to capitalise on the opportunities and thus attain a large part of market share and position them in a strategically sound position, from where the business can confidently forecast and foresee the future of the business with great certainty and high degree of confidence.
One of the more recently surfaced marketing concept and application is the cause related marketing concept, where business approach business marketing practices by means of associating themselves with non-profit making businesses; it is believed that this marketing concept was first introduced by American Express about 25 years back, principally as per the cause related marketing concept, the business declares to spend a defined amount of money for a special cause, thus driving sales even further, like in the case of American Express the business declared that for every new card issues the business would donate one cent for the recovery of the statue of Liberty.

As mentioned by Patterson and Stutts (2000) businesses today are increasing entering into commercial partnerships with non-profit organisations to achieve the desired business objectives. As mentioned by Marín and Ruiz (2007), businesses in today’s business environment are increasingly finding it difficult to differentiate their brands from that of its competitors by employing traditional attributes of brand measurement which very broadly include elements like price, quality, the primary reason for this being that globalisation has transformed the market into a competitive, platform of economic exchange. Furthering this literature Bhattacharya and Sen (2003) mention that in order to ensure business success it is very vital that the business proposes products or services that successfully form meaningful objectives in the mindset of the customers; this can be established by associating the product with symbolic value such as “altruism” and “civic mindedness”. They further this marketing literature with complete support from Maignan & Ralston, (2002) and mention that the process of building meaningful and stable relationship adds value and is believed to be beneficial to both the related parties, many corporations have even discovered the relevance of strategic social alliances, have given way to Corporate Social Responsibities initiatives, which has now become a part of the businesses overall objective,. A Cause-Related marketing strategy as mentioned by Tsai (2009), has today managed to attain specific market interest, he furthers his research by mentioning that

“CRM has gain ever-growing popularity among brand marketers, who believe this approach helps to enhance both-brand attitude and purchase intention”.

Among the other elements of communication marketing the area that has reported the highest marketing spend is the investments that the businesses today are making on establishing meaningful and efficient communication with the customers. As reported by IEG sponsorship report, 2009, this marketing spend as reported in the US showed an increase by 5.5 % in the year 2008, which was reported to have risen from $1.44 million to $1.52 billion in the year 2008. These facts and figures are reflective of the fact that businesses today are becoming increasing customer-centric. Endacott (2004) mentions that are a win-win undertaking for all the associated parties like the business, non-profit organisation and the customers themselves. CRM today has evolved as one of the most effective and efficient management tool today through which businesses successfully drive sales, at the same time grow their publicity and market reputation, the other parties involved benefits as well, the non-profit organisation gain both on publicity and profitability while the third party involved the most significant one the customer gains by having a feel of making a contribution to a noble cause at the same time purchasing a product that is up to the expected quality and serves the needs of the customer to great satisfaction Polonsky & Wood, (2001)

As mentioned in the work done by Hou et al (2008), the partnership between the business organisation and non-profit making organisation is identified and defined by the cause that is desired to be best served by the business, he further adds to the literature by mentioning that “how a corporation chooses a cause depends on different variables that are deemed or perceived important by the consumers of this corporation.” Gupta and Pirsch add to this by commenting that the business should always look to associate itself with a cause that best fits its own corporate integration and the consumers it aims to target. Gupta and Pirsch (2006) then conclude my mentioning that relationship between organisations, cause and the customer is defined and identified on “how the fit level between these three groups influences consumer response by generating a positive attitude toward the corporation-cause alliance and purchase intention for the sponsored product. They found that the higher fit level, the better the result the corporations obtain”.
Through this research, the researcher aims to investigate into the concept of Cause- related marketing practice and principle, with an objective to explore the available literature, with a critical evaluation inclination. The proposed research would aim to establish the relationship between Cause-related marketing and the buying behaviour and attitude reflected by customers. As final outcome the through findings of this research would establish that customers would prefer and support companies that are associated with cause-related campaigns and thus have a tendency to form a positive attitude towards the business concerned.

1.1 Research question
The research trough initial survey of literature has already established that although cause –related marketing concept is a relatively new concept in the field of international marketing. Numerous research literatures have reflected the existence of the presence of relationship between Cause-related marketing and consumer attitude and behaviour.
Businesses today are taking innovative marketing initiatives to fulfil business objectives, it is very important that these initiatives are in line and parallel to the businesses own objective of existence, keeping this in mind the research proposes to investigate and evaluate the objectives of CRM and how they form parallels with Business objectives and proposes to answer the following two questions

“How can the objectives of caused related marketing be described”?
“How can the strategic approach used by companies involved in cause related marketing be described”?

The researcher strongly believes that the answers to these research questions would clear the understanding of Cause-related marketing concept and marketing, enhancing and enriching the existing literature available on this newly emerged marketing initiative gaining popularity at a rapid pace in the world of international marketing.

1.2 Aims and objectives
The researcher through this research aims to uplift the understanding of a fairly new marketing concept, Cause-Related marketing, this concept of marketing is believed to have established on the dynamics of communication mix thus the researcher would through this research aim to explore marketing mix in greater depth. The primary aim of this research would be establishing and exploring the relationship between Case-Related marketing strategy and the attitude and behaviour of the customer, eventually leading them to taking a favourable decision of purchase in the interest of the business.

Objectives of the research can be identified as below:
• Developing an in-depth understanding of Cause-Related marketing strategy.
• Exploring the communication mix the business in context to Cause-Related marketing strategy.
• Critically analysing the dynamics of the drivers of the customer attitude and behaviour, defining and addressing them a Cause –Related marketing strategy perspective.

2. Literature Review

2.1 Introduction to the concept of marketing communication
As mentioned by Westberg (2004) marketing communication can be identified and defined as the communications that takes place between an organisation and its customers, the primary objective of the communication being a highlight of the uniqueness and element of differentiation of a particular brand with the intension of purchase reflected by the customer. Schultz et al (1994) further adds to the literature by mentioning that communication is an integral part of marketing and the current market evolution and the revolutionization of marketing concepts and practice have today made them inseparable and irrelevant without each other.
Although misunderstood marketing communication is very much different from the promotion activities undertaken by a business, the primary difference being a communication is a bi-directional exchange, while a promotion is just a representation of business offering, introduced to attract more customers, while retaining the existing customer base.

Marketing communications objectives are derived from an organization's overall marketing objective. So the objectives are viewed in different ways, but tend to have similar characteristic (Westberg, 2004). Several researches have revealed that the objectives are related to creating a certain brand image and stimulate purchase intention (Shimp, 2003; Rossiter & Pecy, 1998).

Kotier and Keller (2009) have studied how marketing communication achieves these objectives. With the marketing communication, marketers can tell or show how and why a product is used, by what kind of person, and where and when. They can also link their brand to other people, place, event, brand, experience, feeling, and thing. Meanwhile, the consumer can learn about who makes the product and what the company and brand stands for. After that the consumer establishes the brand in his memory and creates a brand image, followed by intention to buy the product.

Therefore, the role of marketing communication is to move the customer along a hierarchy of effects including awareness, knowledge, preference, conviction and ultimately the purchase of product (Belch, 1998).

2.2 Exploring Cause-Related marketing as a marketing strategy
As defined by Varadarajan and Menon (1988, p. 60 cited in Gupta & Pirsch, 2006) caused related marketing can be very clearly defined as a marketing initiative undertaken as a process where the organisation that is engaged in marketing activities aims to associate itself with a cause that has social significance and at the same time contributes towards the welfare of the society it operates in, this marketing strategy is predominantly associated with the marketing communication mix, that is applied as one of the marketing strategies of the business. Peters et al (2007) mentions that since the time of inception cause related marketing has a deep impact on business performance, and the generation of the overall corporate image.

2.3 Benefits and risks of Cause-Related marketing
Causes with a non-controversial nature are proven to have a greater success than ones with a controversial nature. A controversial nature cause may even harm the company’s image. However, proponents and practitioners agree that cause-related marketing campaigns are very useful. The amount of money directed in such strategy proves this as well. Berglind and Nakata (2005) describe “reasons for engaging in CRM. They start with that it helps the bottom line, as its primary scope is the financial benefit”. Further on it builds the brand and enhances the corporate reputation. Selecting the right cause and associating the company with it, help to improve the company’s image and translate it into brand memorability by the customers. Other benefits from the CRM strategy are generating goodwill and improving of the employees’ morale and retention. In times of crisis, goodwill may be crucial by preventing long term damages to the company, whereas employees’ morale improvements are important in the human-resource building facet.

“Other parties which benefit from CRM are the NPOs. CRM increases their fundraising, as their primary reason for getting into such kind of relationship with a profit organization is that it heightens their exposures and message efficacy”. All these features supporting a good CRM strategy can turn around and lead to the opposite effect. Weak links between company and a cause can be harmful. It could happen that consumer perceives the whole as a “cashing in” on other people’s misfortune. Short term promotions are not good for supporting the fit between the brand and the cause for consumers and this fails to build the brand in the desired way (King, 2001).

2.4 CRM as a form of marketing communication
Kotler and Kelier (2009, p. 512) state that “the marketing communication mix consists of eight major modes of communication. These are advertising, events and experiences, pubic relation, direct marketing, interactive marketing, and sale promotion.” Westberg (2004) states that cause-related marketing is a unique marketing communication strategy, which is differing from sale promotion. Bronn and Vrioni (2001, p. 214) suggested that this is a “practice of advocating corporate social responsibility in marketing communication activities.”

2.5 Relevance of the literature to the research
The literature briefly reviewed in this research proposal reflects that Caused related marketing, in the world of marketing has evolved as one of the most vital marketing communication tool, where businesses today are conveying and communicating to their customers by means of establishing a positive influence on the customers, tilting their purchase decision in a positive direction. The research proposal has also reflected the importance of CRM study on the fact that cause related marketing today is rapidly evolving as a marketing strategy that businesses are employing to win consumer trust and liability thus attaining competitive advantage over increasing competition. In order to establish the theoretical framework the research proposal has first established the meaning and concept of cause related marketing, and then has gradually moved strongly identifying CRM as a strategy employed by any business to attain a strategically sound position in the present and future market.

3. Research methods and design

3.1 Overview
One of the key aspects of the research that establishes the outcome of the research is the employed research methodology, which would include data collection techniques and applied qualitative or quantitative research approach to answer the set research question and thus attain the research objectives. The methodology of the research to a great extend is determined and driven by the literature review and the findings from the applied methodology not only uplifts this existing review but in congestion the results attain validity. Further to this it is the research design that defines the data collection and technique framework reflecting the research technique adopted by the research Saunders et al (2007).

3.2 Research Philosophy
As mentioned by Saunders et al (2007) every research is driven by a research philosophy which is nothing but the different methods that are employed for the research methodology determining the nature and cause behind the research, over the years three primary research philosophies have surfaced in the literature available on research methodology namely, Positivism, Interpretivism or realistic research philosophies. The researcher for this research adopts the positivism research approach, where the researcher would aim to re-establish the facts and significance of CSR in developing customer and attitude towards a brand or organisation.

3.3 Data Sources
Primary sources:
As mentioned by Veal (2006) primary data may be classified as data that is collected directly from the source, employing numerous data collection techniques like face to face interviews, survey, questionnaires, unstructured interviews and focus groups. As reflected in the work done by Saunders et al (2007) there are significant numbers of advantages are associated with the primary data collection techniques which include relevant and specific information collection collected directly from the key players and participants in the research area, exchange of opinions and views and most significantly a real life understanding of the area of the proposed research.
The researcher in this research proposes to use structured interview as primary collection tool for collecting primary data. Sample size: the sample size employed the researcher would be at least 6 interviews for this research. Sample population: The sample population for this research would be general populations with random sampling technique, the reason being the researcher wants to best gauge the customers attitude and orientation towards a brand that follows Cause-Related marketing strategy.

Secondary sources:
Secondary sources play a very vital role in forming the theoretical framework for a research, which in turns forms and shape the direction of the research, including identifying the research questions and the methodology of the research. A rich source for secondary data for the researcher would be the university portal available for a student that forms an electronic library for students for easy access and review.

3.4 Research Approach
Saunders et al (2007) has indicated the presence of either inductive or deductive research approaches determined by the nature and needs of the research, the researcher for this research proposes to employ the deductive research approach, which is also referred to as the funnel research approach, the research keeping the qualitative research approach which is characteristic to deductive research approach would be through a questionnaire approach, where the customer perception about a brand is measured in regards to its association with a cause.

3.5 Research ethics
Research ethics are very significant to the validity of the entire research (Saunders et al, 2007), it is very important that proper research ethics in terms of data collection and methodology are applied to ensure the success of the research. The researcher for this proposed research would be ensuring that all research ethics are kept into consideration during the course of the research, which would include interaction with other human sources of information during the process of interviews and questionnaires, the researcher would ensure that no information is either attained for used in false pretence and would only be used in conjunction with the research aims and objectives.

3.6 Validity and credibility of the research
With any qualitative or quantitative research, there is the issue of validity. This can be tested by ‘whether the interpretations of the data are fair to the data’ (Mason, 1996, p. 24). In order to best reach and fulfil this criterion, the interpretation of the data will be made accessible to the respondents and based on their approval and feedback changes have been made in the analysis. Furthermore, the reliability and the validity of this research are meaningful by the references it makes to previous theories and researches. Also, it is known that when observations are presented stripped of information about how it was collected, there are no meaningful interpretation that others can place on it. Therefore, this section of the research aims to eradicate such issues and increase the objectivity of the research (where objectivity is composed of reliability and validity according to Kirk & Miller, 1986).

The secondary research initiated with the regular search of data in the University library keeping aside all the relevant literature and data information about and around the subject area of study, these secondary sources that were generally in the form of academic journals and other relevant social articles were all grouped together as a rich source of secondary data and were filed for further future reference.

The academic electronic source of secondary information formed very rich state of the art academic information that was reliable and was available in big quantity and ranged over many academic and professional writers. Thus bringing to true likeness to what Bryman and bell (2007) commented upon journals being dependable sources of current information on managerial and electronic commerce issues.

3.7 Data collection technique
The researcher for this research would be employing both the primary and secondary sources of data collection, the secondary information would be collected with an objective of forming the theoretical framework for this research, it would include customer satisfaction, loyalty and marketing models and theories. This theoretical framework would help the researcher to structure and frame the research question locating any possible gaps in the existing literature. The primary source of secondary information would be through academically recognised sources like books, journals etc that can be obtained from university library and ethos e-source that is readily available to students.
The researcher would also look to collected primary information; this information as proposed by the researcher would be collected by conducting customer attitude survey with an attempt to evaluate how CRM influences their purchase decision. The researcher proposes a sample size of 15 surveys, with general population as target population, located in different locations in London.

3.8 Why qualitative research?
The primary objective of the researcher for this research is to establish a theories and findings that already exist and are proved over a period of time, the researcher does not intend to prove any hypothesis, or even evaluate statistical data, prove a mathematical relation or even establish a financial or non-financial value. Keeping this into consideration and a complete theoretical approach to the research, the researcher for this research has decided to make a qualitative research approach and analysis. The researcher in this research in this research would aim to look at theoretical aspect of CRM and they influence the attitude of a customer towards a favourable purchase intention.

3.10 Data Analysis
The researcher would be conducted data analysis employing a qualitative research approach, the researcher for this research would be critically evaluating the secondary information collected from various sources, addressing theoretical models, literature and previous researcher on customer attitude towards CRM. The researcher then through the primary research finding would establish a link between the reviewed theory and findings, thus enriching and adding validity to the research findings.
The researchers approach would be purely qualitative, where the researcher would establish the research questions and achieve the objectives defined by the researcher, through valid and reliable links between theory and primarily findings.

4. Conclusion
Caused related marketing is significantly gaining momentum in the recently surfaced marketing literature and has successfully managed to gain the attention of marketing practitioners and researchers across the length and breadth of the globe. This concept in marketing strategy is believed to be relatively new and still reflects areas of concern and gap in the existing literature, the researcher through this research would aim to form a theoretical framework on the basis of critically analysis of the existing literature and then further the research with quantitative research methodology, the findings of which would add validity and support to the existing literature thus adding more value to the research aim and objectives.
The researcher would approach this research with a perspective of analysing a customer’s attitude and behaviour towards a brand or organisation that associates itself to a cause that represents it as a positive player in the market, at the same time gives the customer a feeling of satisfaction and content of being associated with the cause. This research proposal also reflects that there is a lot of scope of further understanding the Cause-Related marketing strategy, which is exponentially gaining significance in the practical world of marketing.

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