Doing Good when Times are Bad: The Impact of CSR on Brand Value During Recessions

Abhi Bhattacharya, Valerie Good, Hanieh Sardashti

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Purpose
This paper aims to determine what the brand performance consequences of corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities would be during times of recession for well-known brands.

Design/methodology/approach
Based on signaling theory, this paper investigates if CSR activities serve to signal higher brand value for consumers via perceptions of better quality and greater differentiation, specifically during recessions. This study incorporates a representative longitudinal sample of known US firms for the analyses, which is accomplished through generalized method of moments estimations.

Findings
The findings empirically demonstrate that CSR initiatives during recessions are actually associated with increased perceptions of brand value. More specifically, during recessions, CSR initiatives such as charitable contributions provide a signal to customers of higher brand quality.

Research limitations/implications
This study did not control for the costs of doing specific CSR activities that may be less visible to consumers.

Practical implications
While individual firms or managers may not be able to prevent recessions from happening, they can limit the negative impact of recessions on their performance by engaging in CSR activities (or refrain from cutting back) during these times.

Social implications
Because CSR initiatives during recessions result in more favorable consumer perceptions of the brand, engaging in CSR aligns both social and managerial interests, owing to the economic gains from CSR investments.

Originality/value
During times of recession, some critics indicate that CSR may be an unaffordable luxury. On the contrary, this research shows that managers may want to consider CSR activities as a means of increasing the value of their brands, especially during economic recessions.

Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)2049-2077
Aantal pagina's29
TijdschriftEuropean Journal of Marketing
Volume54
Nummer van het tijdschrift9
DOI's
StatusPublished - 2020

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