Corporate Reputation Review

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 263–280 | Cite as

CSR as a Selling of Indulgences: An Experimental Investigation of Customers’ Perceptions of CSR Activities Depending on Corporate Reputation

  • Anne-Kathrin UlkeEmail author
  • Laura Marie SchonsEmail author


Companies are increasingly investing in CSR whereby companies with a bad reputation are no exception. The study at hand empirically examines customers’ evaluations of corporate credibility as a reaction to companies’ CSR engagement contingent on the firms’ corporate reputation. Drawing from psychological theories on contrast and recency effects, a conceptual framework is derived which proposes that firms with a bad reputation will benefit more from engaging in CSR compared to those with a favorable reputation. The framework is put to test using a large (N = 1,717), cross-industry sample (including evaluations of 71 independent firms from varying industries), and a between-subjects experimental design (CSR info is given versus no CSR info is given). Results confirm that, indeed, whereas companies with a bad reputation significantly benefit from CSR in terms of an increase in corporate credibility, there is no positive effect of CSR for companies with a good reputation.


corporate social responsibility corporate credibility corporate reputation impression formation 


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd & Reputation Institute 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DortmundGermany
  2. 2.MannheimGermany

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