The problem for business is business

University essay from Lunds universitet/Företagsekonomiska institutionen

Abstract: The purpose of this thesis is to gain an understanding of the credibility gap between consumers and marketing strategies that aims at gaining moral legitimacy by taking a stand, since it is becoming increasingly important for companies to gain moral legitimacy. By triangulating theories within consumer culture theory, corporate social responsibility and organizational legitimacy and conducting a qualitative empirical study on consumer perception of the research phenomenon, we identify how consumers legitimize these communicational activities. Our findings show that consumers generally welcome companies to take moral and political stands as long as they align their brand communication with company operations. Consumers pragmatically legitimize the strategy due to dissatisfaction with political progressivity and ascribe the strategy moral legitimacy because they perceive promotion of good moral values to be better than mere pragmatic argumentation. Lastly they cognitively de-legitimized the strategy due to the assumed “money making motive” of business. Contemporary consumers are well equipped to judge moral statements and easily see through insincere persuasive argumentation that aims at engineering moral legitimacy. Dimensions affecting the credibility gap are consumer awareness, perceived size of company, distance to cause, congruency between saying and doing, degrees of freedom, likeability of company and moral/political stand, and organizational context. For companies who wish to gain moral legitimacy through such a marketing strategy, actions are needed and transparency through access to “the backstage of business” needs to be granted, in order to cope with the loss of cognitive and pragmatic legitimacy that business is facing today.

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