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Consideration of ethical attributes along the consumer decision-making journey

Abstract

Information about ethical strengths and weaknesses of individual products (e.g., cause-related marketing, corporate social responsibility records) is increasingly available in the marketplace. However, market shares of ethical brands are still low, even though prior research indicates that ethical attributes influence brand choice. This research broadens the perspective of prior research by investigating the role of ethical attributes during earlier stages of the decision funnel, namely, consideration set formation. Four empirical studies demonstrate that brands’ ethical strengths exert less impact on the consideration than on the choice stage. Specifically, brands that are not otherwise part of consideration sets benefit less from ethical strengths in larger assortments where consideration set formation plays a more important role. By investigating the screening rules that consumers apply, this study determines that while ethical strengths are subordinate, ethical weaknesses evoke asymmetric effects, such that misconduct exerts a stronger effect during screening processes than benefits do. To increase effects of ethical strengths on screening, firms can enhance the emotional intensity of ethical attributes and make them more salient and subjectively important.

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Notes

  1. For this and all subsequent studies we have collected no other experimental conditions or dependent variables or omitted subjects other than reported.

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Schamp, C., Heitmann, M. & Katzenstein, R. Consideration of ethical attributes along the consumer decision-making journey. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. 47, 328–348 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-019-00629-x

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Keywords

  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Cause-related marketing
  • Ethical values
  • Consideration set formation
  • Decision funnel
  • Non-compensatory decision heuristics