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Springer 2006

Journal of Business Ethics (2007) 71:245260


DOI 10.1007/s10551-006-9137-y

I Need You Too! Corporate Identity


Attractiveness for Consumers and The
Role of Social Responsibility

ABSTRACT. The extent to which people identify with


an organization is dependent on the attractiveness of the
organizational identity, which helps individuals satisfy one
or more important self-definitional needs. However, little
is known about the antecedents of company identity
attractiveness (IA) in a consumercompany context.
Drawing on theories of social identity and organizational
identification, a model of the antecedents of IA is
developed and tested. The findings provide empirical
validation of the relationship between IA and corporate
associations perceived by consumers. Our results demonstrate that the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
contribution to company IA is much stronger than that of
Corporate Ability (CA). This may be linked to increasing
competition and of decreasing CA-based variation in the
marketplace.
KEY WORDS: consumer behavior, corporate social
responsibility, identification, identity attractiveness, relationship marketing

Introduction
While the customer-oriented literature on company
relationships has been growing (de Wulf et al., 2001;
Sheth and Parvatiyar, 1995), the consumers view of
these relationships remains unexplored (Barnes,
1997). The effective management of customer relationships requires a previous consideration of why
customers enter into relationships with firms. While
from the firms perspective it is fairly clear that
engaging in a positive relationship with its customers
would enhance their loyalty and retention, leading
to greater company profitability (Reichheld, 1993;
Stephens et al., 1996), customers motivation to
engage in a relationship with companies is not

Longinos Marin
Salvador Ruiz

always apparent. Companies, as organizations, constitute a social group (Dutton et al., 1994) and recent
literature has found that one component of customers motivation to engage in relationships with
companies is to help companies provide to consumers in order to satisfy one or more key selfdefinitional needs through identification (Ahearne
et al., 2005; Bhattacharya and Sen, 2003).
Originally developed in the areas of social psychology and organizational behavior, the concept of
identification satisfies the need for social identity and
self-definition, and in turn, has been demonstrated
to positively impact member loyalty (Mael and
Ashforth, 1992) as well as employees citizenship
behaviors (Bergami and Bagozzi, 2000). Through
organizational identification, organizations contribute to individuals social identity (Brewer, 1991;
Dutton et al., 1994), i.e., the internalization of a
group category as part of the self-concept and the
acceptance of the values and behavioral norms of the
collectivity.
Researchers and theorists have shown that the
extent to which people identify with an organization
is dependent on the attractiveness of the organizational identity (Dutton et al., 1994). Identity
attractiveness (IA) in the consumercompany context is likely to be a necessary condition for identification (Bhattacharya and Sen, 2003). Nonetheless,
despite the relevance of consumercompany identification in the marketplace, little is known about
the antecedents of company IA for consumers.
Furthermore, researchers (Maignan and Ferrell,
2004; Sen and Bhattacharya 2001) have suggested
that organizational identification theory may provide
a solid basis for understanding how positive corporate social responsibility (CSR) generates the active

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Longinos Marin and Salvador Ruiz

support of consumers. CSR associations reflect the


organizations status and activities related to its perceived societal obligations (Brown and Dacin, 1997).
In most cases, it is the customer who is courted and
who usually decides that a relationship is over, while
socially responsible corporate behaviors may trigger
consumer identification (Lichtenstein et al., 2004).
Building on this suggestion, it is of interest to analyze
how consumers corporate associations, both related
to corporate ability (CA) and CSR (Brown and
Dacin, 1997) contribute to generate company IA.
Based on the assumption that consumers will
reward firms for their support of social programs,
many organizations have adopted social causes
(Levy, 1999). CSR has emerged in recent years as
both an important academic construct and a pressing
corporate agenda item (Klein and Dawar, 2004;
Mele et al., 2006; Waddock and Smith, 2000),
although it reveals itself among large companies not
as a uniform concept but as a variety of conceptions
(Whitehouse, 2006).
Firms have been found to engage in socially
responsible behaviors not only to fulfill external
obligations such as regulatory compliance and
stakeholder demands, but also due to enlightenedself-interest considerations such as increased competitiveness and improved stock market performance
(Drumwright, 1994; Klein and Dawar, 2004;
Waddock and Smith, 2000). Consumers awareness
of CSR practices positively influence attitudes
toward the firm (Brown and Dacin, 1997; Creyer
and Ross, 1997), corporate reputation (Fombrun and
Shanley, 1990), and the evaluation of product
attributes (Bigne et al., 2005; Creyer and Ross,
1997). Consumers are demanding more out of
organizations than simply a product of quality at low
price (Handelman and Arnold, 1999), they expect
organizations to demonstrate congruence with some
social values as contribution to the community.
However, CSR is far from being the most dominant
criteria in consumers purchasing decisions
(Boulstridge and Carrigan, 2000), and traditional
criteria such as price, quality, and brand familiarity
seem to remain the most important choice criteria,
i.e., consumers continue buying for personal reasons
rather than societal ones (Beckmann et al., 2001).
These relatively contradictory results call for further
investigation about CSRs consequences in consumer perceptions.

The goal of this paper is to develop and test a


conceptual framework of the antecedents of IA for
consumers. Overall, our investigation contributes to
the growing research on consumercompany identification relationships in several ways. First, drawing
on literature on social identity (Tajfel and Turner,
1986), organizational identification (Dutton et al.,
1994; Mael and Ashforth, 1992; Whetten and
Godfrey, 1998), and member identification (Bhattacharya et al., 1995), we provide additional support
to the finding that consumers use not only products,
but also the organizations that produce those products, to satisfy their more important self-definitional
needs. Second, we provide empirical validation of
the relationship between IA and corporate associations (both CSR and CA) perceived by consumers.
Third, we explore a new perspective of relationship
marketing from the consumers point of view.
Finally, our model also demonstrates that CSR may
influence IA, a basic antecedent of consumercompany relationships, through multiple paths. In addition, our model recognizes an important distinction
between company attractiveness and company
evaluation (CE).
In the following sections, we present a conceptual
framework of IA. We draw on extant research in
marketing, organizational behavior, and psychology
to elaborate on the nature of social identity. We then
articulate our customer-level conceptual framework
that offers propositions regarding the key determinants for company IA in the marketplace. Next, we
present an empirical study where we test our model
and conclude with a discussion of the theoretical and
managerial implications of our findings.

Identity attractiveness: literature review


and research hypotheses
Research on identity indicates that individuals need
a relatively secure and stable sense of self-definition
of who they are within a given situation to function
effectively (Erez and Earley, 1993; Schwalbe and
Mason-Schrock, 1996). According to social identity
theory, self-definitions are an amalgam of the idiosyncratic attributes (e.g., assertive, ambitious) and
social identities (e.g., gender, occupation) that are
most relevant (Tajfel and Turner, 1986). Self-definitions are important because they help to situate

Corporate Identity Attractiveness for Consumers


individuals in the context and, thereby, suggest what
to do, think, and even feel (Ashforth, 1998). Individuals have a strong desire to view their self-definitions in positive terms and seek to enhance their
self-esteem through their social identities (Hogg and
Abrams, 1990; Tajfel and Turner, 1986).
Organizational identity has been combined with
social identity theory to shed light on the process
whereby individuals identify with organizations
(Pratt, 1998). Organization identity is an individualspecific perception and it derives from the (perceived) central, distinctive, and enduring attributes
of the organization (Albert and Whetten, 1985).
Research has shown perceived organizational identity to be a powerful mental picture that influences
the degree to which an organizational member
identifies with the organization (Bergami and
Bagozzi, 2000; Dutton et al., 1994). Organizational
identification can then be seen as essentially a subtype of social identification (Ashforth and Mael,
1989), or in other words, the degree to which a
member defines himself or herself by the same
attributes that he or she believes define the organization" (Dutton et al., 1994; p. 239). This strength
of members psychological link to the organization is
also related to the degree to which employees are
motivated to fulfill organizational needs and goals,
their willingness to display organizational citizenship
and other cooperative behaviors, and their tendency
to remain with the organization (Dutton et al.,
1994; Kramer, 1993; Mael and Ashforth, 1995).
Marketing research has shown that through brand
preference, choice and consumption, consumers
create meaning and try to define or strengthen their
identity (Belk, 1988; McCracken, 1986). The
strength of the customers identification with the
organization depends, therefore, on the extent to
which that company or brand is viewed by the
customer as a partner (Fournier, 1998) or as a reference group (Escalas and Bettman, 2005).
One of the components leading to a customers
identification with a company is the attractiveness of
that company identity. Similarity-Attraction Theory
(Berscheid and Walster, 1969; Byrne, 1971), Social
Identity Theory (Tajfel and Turner, 1979), and Selfcategorization Theory (Turner, 1985) combine to
argue that people are attracted to, prefer, and support
relationships with similar others, in order to reinforce their self-esteem and maintain balance of

247

congruity in self-identity. Interaction is easier and


less cognitively challenging with others who have
similar attitudes, values, activities, or experiences
(Kunda, 1999).
Identity attractiveness is the degree to which
subjects prefer, are attracted to and support relationships with a company given its enduring attributes (Ahearne et al., 2005). The attraction exerted
by a company depends on its capacity to satisfy at
least one of the three basic consumer self-definitional
needs (Bhattacharya and Sen, 2003): self-continuity
(the need to find the companys identity similar to
their own), self-distinctiveness (the need to distinguish themselves from others in social contexts
identifying with a company that has a distinctive
culture, strategy, structure, or some other configuration of distinctive characteristics), and selfenhancement (the need to feel associated with a
company that has an attractive perceived identity to
enhance their self-esteem through acquiring a more
positive evaluation of themselves).
The model depicting our proposed relationships is
shown in Figure 1. We predict that company IA is
primarily determined by corporate associations and
consumers support of CSR activities carried out by
the company. In addition to a direct effect of CRS
associations, which may be due to the positive social
image related to these associations, these effects are
mediated by CE and consumercompany congruence. How consumers value the company and how
similar to themselves they think it is constitute
essential elements required for consumers to prefer,
be attracted to and support relationships with that
company.

CORPORATE
SOCIAL
RESPONSIBILIY

H3

H2

CSR
SUPPORT
H6

COMPANYCONSUMER
CONGRUENCE

H1

IDENTITY
ATTRACTIVENESS

H5
H4

CORPORATE
ABILITY
R1

COMPANY
EVALUATION

Figure 1. Antecedents of identity attractiveness.

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Longinos Marin and Salvador Ruiz

Consumercompany congruence
Research on social cognition and memory has
established that people actively organize their perceptions of other persons in their memories, using
abstract personality trait categories such as honest or intelligent (Srull and Wyer, 1989). Such
abstract categories may also be used to classify corporate associations. Similar to perceptions of persons,
these categories may correspond to different personality traits (Davies et al., 2001).
In the context of organization attraction,
Schneiders (1987) Attraction-Selection-Attrition
model posits that applicants will be attracted to
organizations where they perceive similarity between their attributes and those of the organization.
Job seekers prefer organizations with whom they
perceive congruence between their and the organizations primary values (Chatman, 1991). Finally, in
the job search process, individuals tend to be more
attracted to organizations with which they perceive a
match (Judge and Bretz, 1992).
For consumers, consumercompany congruence
is the overlap they perceive between the companys
character and their own (Sen and Bhattacharya,
2001). Scholars have demonstrated that people
identify with organizations when they perceive an
overlap between organizational attributes and their
individual attributes (Ashforth and Mael, 1989;
Dutton et al., 1994; Tajfel and Turner, 1986).
Both classical identity consumption theory (e.g.,
Belk, 1988) as well as the more recent consumer
company identification model (Bhattacharya and
Sen, 2003) emphasizes the importance of identity
similarity and attractiveness in shaping consumer
attitudes, preferences, and choices. These two contributions are rooted in the similarity-attraction
paradigm, which suggests that individuals are attracted to other individuals and groups that are
similar to them (Berscheid and Walster, 1969).
People are attracted to, prefer, and support relationships with similar others in order to reinforce
their self-esteem and maintain balance of congruity
in self-identity (Byrne, 1971; Tesser et al., 1988).
Therefore, when there is a match between corporate and consumer identity (CC congruence),
the relationship with the company should enable
consumers to define more clearly and completely
who they are or where they belong. Consumers will

feel attracted to those companies they share common


traits with, which in turn provides for a sense of selfenhancement (Asforth, 1998). Thus, we propose the
following hypothesis:
H1:

The stronger the consumercompany congruence perception, the greater the companys
identity attractiveness for the consumer.

CSR associations
Over the last decade, a number of academic studies
have begun to look at the degree to which consumers are influenced by the associations they have
regarding a companys CA, on the one hand, and its
CSR, on the other (Berens et al., 2005; Brown and
Dacin, 1997). CSR associations reflect the organizations status and activities related to its perceived
societal obligations (Brown and Dacin, 1997). The
companys character revealed by its CSR actions is
not only fundamental and relatively enduring, but
also often more distinctive by virtue of its disparate
and idiosyncratic bases than other CA-based facets of
the company schema (Sen and Bhattacharya, 2001).
Consumers feel closer to some companies and
brands than to others (Fournier, 1998). When a
corporation behaves in a manner that is perceived as
socially responsible, consumers are likely to infer that
it has certain desirable traits that resonate with their
sense of self (Giacalone et al., 2005; Lichtenstein
et al., 2004; Maignan, 2001). Scott and Lane (2000)
point out that some organizations portray themselves
as exemplars of categories at higher levels of
abstraction (e.g., the Body Shop and animal rights
activism or Saturn and teamwork), inviting consumers to cooperate (co-produce) with them in a
specific social movement. These organizations seek
to reinforce their legitimacy and to embody qualities
they believe are particularly valued by stakeholders.
If CC congruence (CCC) is the overlap that consumers perceive between the companys character,
and their own, this CCC will be higher when a
company undertakes CSR initiatives, to the extent
that those initiatives signal to consumers that the
company has traits that overlap with their self-concept (i.e., civic minded, compassionate, and activist).
In other words, it is easier to find a major congruity

Corporate Identity Attractiveness for Consumers


in values for the companies considered as socially
responsible (Balazs, 1990). Therefore, we propose:
H2:

The greater the CSR associations perceived


by the consumer, the stronger the consumers
perception of consumercompany congruence.

One stream of extant research investigates organizational characteristics and their effects on attraction to the organization. Structural attributes, such as
decentralized decision-making (Turban and Keon,
1993) and reward systems (Bretz et al., 1989), are
shown to influence perceptions of attractiveness
(Backhaus et al., 2002). Organizations with positive
affirmative action programs are more successful in
attracting high-quality applicants (Wright et al.,
1995). For example, Turban and Greenings (1997)
study has found a positive relationship between
published ratings of firms CSR and participants
ratings of firms attractiveness. Since they found a
correlation between CSR and attractiveness, the
study concluded that organizational attractiveness
perceptions may be influenced by CSR. Similarly,
Albinger and Freeman (2000) have also showed that
CSR influences attractiveness ratings, but only for
those job seekers with high levels of job choice.
From a marketing perspective, the firms economic benefits from CSR have been documented in
the link to consumers positive product and brand
evaluations, brand choice, and brand recommendations (Brown and Dacin, 1997; Sen and Bhattacharya, 2001; Vitell, 2003). In addition, CSR
activities can affect consumers general sense of wellbeing, without such well-being necessarily translating to company-specific benefits (Bhattacharya and
Sen, 2004, p. 13). That well-being may be associated
to the corporate IA as identification with an organization engaged in do-good CSR actions can
contribute to consumers self-esteem (Sen and
Bhattacharya, 2001), as a result of a collaboration
(association) with an organization that is socially
responsible. In other words, even though the consumer may not perceived his/her character as
overlapping with that of the company, he/she may
aspire to participate in relationships with the com-

249

pany that undertake CSR activities, indicating a high


IA, as being associated with the company may result
in benefits to the consumer in terms of self-difference and self-enhancement. When a corporation
behaves in a manner that is perceived as socially
responsible, consumers are likely to infer that it has
certain desirable traits that resonate with their sense
of self (Lichtenstein et al., 2004, p. 17). We
therefore propose:
H3:

The greater the CSR associations perceived


by the consumer, the greater the companys
identity attractiveness for the consumer.

Company evaluation
Company evaluation refers to the degree of positiveness or negativeness of the subjects global
judgment of the company. This global judgment is
based on the companys central, distinctive, and
enduring characteristics, which are key components
leading to the prestige of the organizations identity
(Bhattacharya et al., 1995). It means that the organization is respected and admired by meaningful
referents (Bergami and Bagozzi, 2000; Dutton et al.,
1994).
By maintaining relationships with a company, the
consumer satisfies his/her needs of self-esteem and
security (Brewer, 1991; Kunda, 1999), one of the
three basic self-definitional needs, through the increase of his/her social prestige (Mael and Ashforth,
1992), access to particular social opportunities
(Smith and Mackie, 2000), or simply the perception
of him/herself as basking in reflected glory
(Cialdini et al., 1976). The more prestigious an
organization is, therefore, the better the opportunity
for a consumer to enhance self-esteem through
identification with the organization (Mael and
Ashforth, 1992). Taking into account that evaluation
leads to prestige (Bhattacharya et al., 1995) and that
identity prestige has been related to customers
identification with the company (Ahearne et al.,
2005; Albert and Whetten, 1985), a positive evaluation of the company will lead to high levels of that
companys IA. This leads us to formulate the following hypothesis:

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H4:

Longinos Marin and Salvador Ruiz


The more favorable the consumers evaluation
of the company, the greater the companys
identity attractiveness.

Research on organizational identification has


yielded evidence of the positive effects of person
organization congruence on organizational preferences, job satisfaction, organizational commitment,
and turnover intentions (Kristof, 1996). In the
consumption context, research on the evaluation of
brand extensions has generally found that parent
brand associations influence on customers evaluations of new products is stronger when customers
perceive a high fit between the product and the
brand (e.g., Aaker and Keller, 1990; Smith and Park,
1992). Perceived fit refers to the similarity between
the existing brand and the new product or service.
On the contrary, consumers who perceive an
incongruity have shown lower attitudes toward the
firm and its initiatives (Forehand and Grier, 2003;
Menon and Kahn, 2003).
CCC will have a positive effect on consumers
evaluations of a company because of consumers
greater commitment toward that company. As
suggested by Sen and Bhattacharya (2001), the
effect of CSR on consumers CEs is likely to be
mediated by CCC. Sen and Bhattacharya (2001)
proposed this relationship only for high CSRsupport consumers and tested it through regression
analysis. We propose that a more general (not only
for high CSR-support consumers) effect exists because CCC may be a consequence of overlapping
between consumer and company character traits
other than those specifically derived from CSR
associations (such as persistence in reaching some
goals or staying in a market). In addition to the
CSR consumer support, a higher CCC will generate an enhanced CE as the personorganization fit
always leads to a more positive global judgment of
the company (Tesser et al., 1988). Indirectly, it will
mean a more positive judgment of the consumer
him/herself, due to the overlapping of character
traits between him/her and the company. We then
propose:
H5:

The stronger the consumers perception of


consumercompany congruence, the more
favorable the consumer evaluations of the
company.

Marketing literature has also demonstrated that


consumers use both performance-related corporate
associations and perceived social responsibility when
forming an impression of a company (Winters,
1988). More specifically, a reputation based on a
companys abilities exerts a significant impact on
overall corporate evaluation (Brown and Dacin,
1997). Sen and Bhattacharya (2001) also showed this
effect through the quality of a new product launched
by the company (a variable that is a proxy for CA).
Therefore, in order to facilitate the comparison of
our model with those previously tested in the literature (e.g., Brown and Dacin, 1997; Sen and Bhattacharya, 2001), we include the following
relationship in the model:
R1:

The greater the CA associations, the more


favorable the consumers evaluation of the
company.

CSR support
The social side of the consumer leads him/her to
avoid buying products from companies that harm
society, and actively seek out products from companies that help society (Creyer and Ross, 1997).
According to Webster (1975), the socially conscious consumer takes into account the public consequences of his or her private consumption or who
attempts to use his or her purchasing power to bring
about social change (Webster, 1975, p. 188). When
buying, consumers take into account perceptions of
ethical or unethical activities carried out by businesses (Creyer and Ross, 1997). Consumers expect
businesses to behave ethically and are prepared to
punish those businesses when they see them falling
below the standards expected (Joyner and Payne,
2002; Vitell, 2003; Vitell and Muncy, 1992). The
effect of this social side of the consumer can be included in our model through consumers personal
support of the CSR domain (CSR support).
When the support of the companys CSR domain
is high, consumers will perceive greater congruence
between themselves and the company, either in
terms of common attributes or a shared prototype,
than will those whose support of that domain is low
(Sen and Bhattacharya, 2001). Consumers with high

Corporate Identity Attractiveness for Consumers


CSR support take into consideration the CSR
activities undertaken by the company. They will
check the companys character attributes other than
those strictly related to CA, which will lead them to
find attributes that overlap with their personality
traits in those companies that carry out CSR activities. The less the CSR support, the less aware will
be the consumer of the common attributes he/she
shares with the company. Based on this, we propose
that:
H6:

The greater the consumers CSR support, the


stronger the consumers perception of consumercompany congruence.

Methodology
Sample
The model is tested in the context of financial services relationships, defined as existing when there is
an ongoing series of interactions between parties
who know each other (Czepiel, 1990). The
respondents were customers of a large financial services provider. All respondents were responsible for
financial matters in their families and were clients of
the bank at the time of the interview. Compared to
other industries, financial services providers do have
relationship marketing advantages because many
consumers are willing to establish relationships. This
fact is evidenced by a growing literature on relationships between financial services providers and
customers (Colgate and Alexander, 1998; Jarvinen
and Lehtinen, 2003; Roman and Ruiz, 2005),
relationship marketing efforts being implemented by
financial services providers in markets around the
world (Johnson and Greyson, 2005; Keltner, 1995),
and by the high effort developed concerning CSR in
this sector (Decker, 2004; Harvey, 1995; Ogrizek,
2002). The banking industry in Spain has undertaken many CSR actions in the last years, spending
in these activities a total of 1300 million euros in
2005 (http://www.ceca.es).
Data was collected from personal interviews.
Twelve branches of a major retail bank in the region
were chosen at random. The interviews were carried
out in situ, at the main door of the branches, at

251

different times of the day over a two-week period.


One hundred and sixty-four consumers completed
the survey. Of the entire sample, 44% were female,
56% were male. Forty-two percent of the respondents were between 26 and 45 years old, and 45%
between 46 and 64 years old. Twenty-seven percent
had a college degree, and 21.5% were entrepreneurs.
Twenty-seven percent reported being customers of
the bank for at least two but less than six years, and
52.4% of respondents did business with three or
more banks.

Measures
Preliminary versions of the questionnaire were
administered to a convenience sample of 18 consumers, and pretest results were used to improve
measures and design an appropriate structure for the
questionnaire. The final measures and reliabilities are
provided in Table I.
Measures consisted of 11-point scales ranging
from 0 (totally disagree) to 10 (totally agree)1, except
for the CCC that was drawn from personorganization-fit research (Kristof, 1996) and measured as
the Euclidean distance between subjects perceived
personality profile of the company and of themselves. Personality profiles consisted of subjects ratings of the extent to which they believed each of a
set of personality trait adjectives described both them
and the company (0 = not at all, 10 = very
much). The 19 adjectives (one was deleted after a
pretest, as it was not well understood) were previously used in a consumption context by Sen and
Bhattacharya (2001).
We measured corporate associations using a fiveitem scale from Brown and Dacin (1997). CE was
measured using a six-item scale from Boulding and
Kirmani (1993). IA was measured using a four-item
scale adapted from Kim et al. (2001), following the
recommendations of Bhattacharya and Sen (2003).
Finally, we measured CSR support using a scale
from Mohr and Webb (2005).

Results
The models (CFA and SEM) described below were
run using LISREL 8.54 (Joreskog and Sorbom, 2001).

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Longinos Marin and Salvador Ruiz


TABLE I
Constructs and measures

Corporate Ability (CA)


X is a leader in the industry
X is an organization with strong technological innovation
X offers a high quality product
X offers a good customer service
X offers a wide range of products

ksc

t-value

0.75
0.74
0.72
0.78
0.73

10.9
10.69
10.36
11.39
10.52

Reliability
qe = 0.91, AVE = 0.66
Alfa = 0,9078

qe = 0.88, AVE = 0.60


Alfa = 0.8836

Corporate social responsibility (CSR)


X is highly concern for ...
Local communities
Environment
Corporate giving to worthy causes
Womens issues
Disabled minority issues

0.8
0.84
0.78
0.73
0.74

11.98
12.81
11.44
10.47
10.75
qe = 0.91, AVE = 0.71
Alfa = 0.9030

CSR support (SUP)


As a customer of X, you agree that it dedicates part of its activity to
Favor the integration of minorities and marginalized groups
Undertake actions to defend (protect) the environment
Make donations to causes of social justice
Support causes an organizations that defend culture and sports

0.79
0.92
0.87
0.8

11.91
15.07
13.76
12.10

Company evaluation (CE)


X is an organization with good reputation
X is an organization financially stable
X is an organization I trust
I think X is a company long run oriented
I think X is and organization well established
I think X will be in business in 5 years from now

0.87
0.75
0.88
0.72
0.86
0.77

13.94
10.88
14.03
10.52
13.51
11.40

Identity attractiveness (IA)


X is an organization very attractive
I like X because it is different from the rest of financial companies
When I deal with X I feel good because I see they understand me
Its identity is well recognized as prestigious

0.9
0.82
0.88
0.85

14.49
12.62
14.26
13.34

qe = 0.95, AVE = 0.74


Alfa = 8850

qe = 0.93 AVE = 0.76


Alfa = 9012

CC congruence (CCC): Personality traits


Activist The Best Capable Compassionate Conservative Cooperative
Democratic Honest Enlightened Expert Fair Considerate Efficient Innovative
A leader Progressive Risk-averse Sincere Sensitive
v2 (242) = 389.09 (p = 0.000), AGFI = 0.80, GFI = 0.83, CFI = 0.98, SRMR = 0.049, RMSEA = 0.061,
NNFI = 0.98

The multi-item scales were further evaluated through


confirmatory factor analysis using the maximum
likelihood procedure. The goodness-of-fit statistics
for the model were as follows: v2(242) = 389.09,
p  0.00,
RMSEA = 0.061,
SRMR = 0.049,
NNFI = 0.98, CFI = 0.98. Reliability of the

measures was confirmed with composite reliability


index higher than the recommended level of 0.6
(Bagozzi and Yi, 1988), as shown in Table I.
Following the procedures suggested by Fornell and
Larcker (1981), the scales showed acceptable
convergent and discriminant validity. Convergent

Corporate Identity Attractiveness for Consumers


validity was assessed by verifying the significance of
the t-values associated with the parameter estimates
(Table I). All t-values were positive and significant
(p < 0.01).
The U-matrix (correlations between constructs) is
provided in Table II. As a first test of discriminant
validity, we checked whether the correlations
among the latent constructs were significantly less
than one. Since none of the confidence intervals of
the U-values ( two standard errors) included the
value of one (Bagozzi and Yi, 1988), this test provides evidence of discriminant validity.
Second, for each pair of factors, we compared the
v2-value for a measurement model constraining their
correlation to equal one, to a baseline measurement
model without this constraint. A v2-difference test
was performed for each pair of factors (a total of 10
tests in all), and in every case resulted in a significant
difference, again suggesting that all of the measures
of constructs in the measurement model achieve
discriminant validity.
Third, we performed a test of discriminant
validity suggested by Fornell and Larcker (1981).
This test is supportive of discriminant validity if the

253

average variance extracted by the underlying construct is larger than the shared variance (i.e., the U2
value) with other latent constructs. This condition
was satisfied for all the cases (Table III).
In summary, internal consistency and discriminant
validity results enabled us to proceed to estimation of
the structural model.
Structural equations modeling (Joreskog and
Sorbom, 2001) was used to test the theoretical
model depicted in Table IV. Results show that
the model in Table IV fits the data well as evidenced
by the goodness-of-fit measures: v2 = 431.78
(p = 0.00), df = 266, RMSEA = 0.061, NNFI =
0.98, and CFI = 0.98).
All three determinants, CCC (H1; b = 0.23,
t = 3.51), CSR associations (H3; b = 0.36,
t = 4.78); and CE (H4; b = 0.38, t = 5.12), have
direct and positive effects on IA.
The relevance of CSR activities in the model is
highlighted both by its direct effect and by its indirect effect on company IA. Both consumercompany congruence and CE contribute to this indirect
effect mediating the relationship between CRS
associations and IA.

TABLE II
U-Matrix of latent constructs for full sample
SUP
CSR
CA
CE
IA

0.28
0.37
0.44
0.37

(0.08)
(0.07)
(0.07)
(0.07)

CSR

CA

CE

IA

1
0.70 (0.05)
0.64 (0.05)
0.71 (0.05)

1
0.75 (0.04)
0.73 (0.04)

1
0.74 (0.04)

Note: Standard errors in parentheses.


TABLE III
Test of discriminant validity (Fornell and Larcker, 1981)
PHI square

SUP
CSR
CA
CE
IA

SUP

CSR

1
0.0784
0.1369
0.1936
0.1369

1
0.4901
0.4096
0.5041

CA

1
0.5625
0.5329

AVE
CE

1
0.5476

IA

0.7187
0.6035
0.6618
0.7472
0.7602

Longinos Marin and Salvador Ruiz

254

Table IV also shows that both CSR activities and


customer support of those CSR activities contribute
to CCC. The introduction of these two linear
relationships in the model allows us to determine the
contribution of each of them to CCC. The model
specification supports the idea that both parts (the
company and the consumer) contribute to the
congruence between them, including the company
undertaking CSR activities and the consumer being
pleased by those initiatives.
For the paths leading to CE, we suggested that
CA has a positive and direct effect on CE (R1;
b = 0.62, t = 8.40), while the effect of CSR is
mediated by CCC. The results indicate support for
both hypotheses H2 (b = 0.43; t = 5.93) and H5
(b = 0.26, t = 4.23). Results also confirm H6
(b = 0.26, t = 4.23), demonstrating that consumers
perception of CCC is higher when consumers support the CSR activities undertaken by the company.
In addition to the direct effects, we further
examined corporate associations to determine how
they were related to IA and CE. More specifically,
the indirect relationship between CSR associations
and IA via both CCC and CE was tested. The
indirect relationship between CA and IA via CE was
also examined. These links help to explain total
effects in Table V. The total effect of CSR on
company IA (0.51) is higher than that of CA (0.24),
while the opposite happens for CE.

TABLE IV
Structural equation model results for hypothesis testing
Paths

Hip.

Std. Coefficient
(t-value)

CCC (+)-IA
H1
0.23 (3.51)***
0.43 (5.93)***
CSR (+)-CCC
H2
0.36 (4.78)***
CSR (+)-IA
H3
0.38 (5.12)***
CE (+)-IA
H4
0.26 (4.23)***
CCC (+)-CE
H5
SUP (+)-CCC
H6
0.33 (4.61)***
0.62 (8.40)***
CA (+)-CE
R1
v2 (266) = 431.78 (p = 0.002), v2/266 = 1.62,
AGFI = 0.78, GFI = 0.82, CFI = 0.98,
RMSEA = 0.061, NNFI = 0.98, PNFI = 0.85,
PGFI = 0.67
***p < 0.01.

TABLE V
Direct, indirect, and total effects
Direct
effect
CSR-IA
CA-IA
CSR-CE
CA-CE

0.36

0.62

Indirect
effect

Total
effect

CSR/CCC/IA: 0.099
CSR/CCC/CE/IA: 0.043
CA/CE/IA: 0.24
CSR/CCC/CE: 0.11

0.51
0.24
0.11
0.62

In summary, the conceptual model developed was


well supported. The model also explains much of the
variance for the endogenous variables, with R2 values of 0.61 for CE and 0.68 for IA.

Conclusions, implications, and directions


for future research
One of the components leading to identification
with a company is the attractiveness of that companys identity (Bhattacharya and Sen, 2003). Such
attractiveness offers a new perspective of relationship
marketing because the consumer will also be interested in the strengthening of his/her links with the
company, going therefore beyond the traditional
conception of relationship marketing in which only
the company is interested in strengthening the links.
In this paper, we demonstrate the influence of
corporate associations and consumer support of CSR
activities on company IA for consumers. Results
contribute to the understanding of consumercompany relationships, while providing marketers with
insight into factors that can add value in marketing
relationships. Consumers feel closer to some companies and brands than to others, speaking eloquently and passionately about those brands and
companies that have come to occupy a special place
in their lives (Fournier, 1998). Those organizations
and brands are used by consumers to satisfy personal
and social needs. Organizational affiliation creates a
positive social identity that increases the level of
overlap between how a member defines him- or
herself and the organization (Tajfel, 1988). This new
perspective is based on Social Exchange Theory, i.e.
relationships can be understood through the
exchange process (Lund, 1985). When rewards are

Corporate Identity Attractiveness for Consumers


greater than costs as compared to expectations,
relationship satisfaction results (Rusbult, 1983), and
the consumer is then interested in entering voluntarily into relationships with the company. One of
the main rewards is the satisfaction of self-definitional needs.
Our results show that CSR activities exert a direct
influence on company IA, confirming the results of
previous studies that have demonstrated the link
between social initiatives and positive affective,
cognitive, and behavioral consumers responses
(Brown and Dacin, 1997; Creyer and Ross, 1997;
Mohr and Webb, 2005; Sen and Bhattacharya,
2001). A positive affective component, which may
be of high relevance in the relationship between
CSR activities and IA, is a necessary characteristic of
close relationships without which those relationships
cannot exist (Barnes, 2003; Berscheid et al., 1989).
The CCC mediation effect is a good example of
the postulates of identity consumption theory: when
there is a true match between corporate and consumer identity, the purchase of the corporate brand
should enable consumers to define more clearly and
completely who they are or where they belong
(Czellar and Palazzo, 2004). Nowadays, when the
media are constantly showing us the relevance of the
well-being of society, it is likely that the consumer
feels closer to companies that dedicate part of their
activity to contribute to that well-being. Additionally, consumers interest in sharing with the company that engages in social actions, as a personality
trait, makes that company identity more attractive to
them. These results support previous findings that a
strong fit between the pattern of organizational
values and members values predicted members
intentions to stay (Chatman, 1991; OReilly and
Chatman, 1986). Our work is, therefore, an extension to consumers, based on and their interest in
being linked with the company (IA) through the
consumption of its products.
The two-step mediation effect through CE is
founded in the influence of corporate associations on
CE (Brown and Dacin, 1997) and the model of Sen
and Bhattacharya (2001), which demonstrated an
influence of CSR on CE mediated by CC congruency. This indirect effect shows, first, that other
forms of value, different from that related to the
main production activity of the company, such as
social support, may contribute to consumers emo-

255

tional rewards in addition to those obtained with the


product (also included in the model). CSR activities,
then, lead consumers to make more positive CEs.
The model specification supports the idea that
both parts (the company and the consumer) contribute to the congruence between them, including
the company undertaking CSR activities and the
consumer being pleased by those initiatives. A similar and significant contribution of both parts (0.43
the company through CSR activities, and 0.33 the
consumer through CSR support) seems to be necessary condition in order to generate a consumer
company congruence.
Our results also add to the discussion concerning
the contribution of corporate associations to the
consumercompany relationship. Over the last
decade, studies have generally found that both types
of associations influence CEs (Brown and Dacin,
1997), although CA associations have shown a
stronger effect than CSR associations (Berens et al.,
2005). Our results demonstrate that the CSR contribution to company IA is much stronger than that
of CA. This may be a consequence of the increasing
competition in the face of decreasing CA-based
variation in the marketplace. In this context, companies use CSR activities to increase their capacity to
compete in their markets, through the improvement
of links with consumers, which leads to higher
loyalty, positive word-of-mouth, etc. CA may have
become a base line below which companies face
great difficulties to stay in the market, and above
which companies benefit from competitive advantages in the form of associations obtained from the
undertaken CSR activities.
In summary, our contribution consists on the
development and testing of a model about the
antecedents of IA, drawing on theories of social
identity and organizational identification. The findings provide empirical validation of the relationship
between IA and corporate associations perceived by
consumers, demonstrating the stronger contribution
of CSR, compared to that of CA, which may be
linked to increasing competition and of decreasing
CA-based variation in the marketplace.
These conclusions have, therefore, direct implications for marketing managers. When communicating with their stakeholders, companies often
position themselves either as a company with an
excellent CA, or as a company with excellent CSR

256

Longinos Marin and Salvador Ruiz

(Berens et al., 2005). Highlighting the role of the


non-product aspects of the company, such as its
values and characteristics, its social responsibility
efforts, and the networking opportunities it provides, constitutes a key aspect in building the consumercompany bond (Bhattacharya and Sen, 2003).
Therefore, if the company wants to increase the
likelihood of long-term relationships with the consumer through identification, i.e., when IA is
deemed desirable, it must articulate and communicate its identity by providing information of both
CSR and CA actions, while simultaneously monitoring the consumer support of CSR actions. By
doing this, companies can identify more receptive
segments to which address this information in a
prompt and persuasive manner.
Companies should also take into account, however, consumers attributions about the motives behind CSR activities. Corporate social performance is
open to questions about impression management
and subjective bias (Tsoutsoura, 2004), and attributional inferences about CSR have been shown to
affect purchase intention (Ellen et al., 2006). If
consumers have preexisting beliefs that firms are
more interested in CSR activities for public relations
reasons than for reasons of integrity, communicating
CSR actions may lose its potential as a marketing
tool. This problem may be solved by taking into
account broader societal demands and expectations
when formulating policies and making decisions
(Vallentin, 2002). This broader perspective will reduce consumers skepticism, as not only consumers
but also public opinion will be aware of how companies respond to their social environment when
dealing with CSR issues.
While this study reports important findings, it is
not without limitations. First, we assessed peoples
associations regarding a single company, which implies that we must exercise caution in generalizing
the results of this study to situations where people
acquire similar products (financial services) from
different companies. Future research could corroborate the findings of this study through experimental
manipulations of corporate associations, balancing
CSR support, CCC, and consumers product quality
perceptions across different companies. Second, the
context tested here provided a view of a single
industry. Testing in additional industry settings is

necessary to fully understand whether and how the


role of IA varies across contexts. For example, it may
be possible that IA could be a state easier to achieve
in service provider contexts than in markets for
goods. Third, although we examined IA driven by
CSR initiatives, consumers also identify with corporations based on other factors such as the domain
(e.g., athletes and Nike, bikers and Harley Davidson). To date, the extent to which identification
created in one domain (e.g., athletics) can be leveraged in another (e.g., CSR) is unknown. Research
of this nature is likely to provide guidance not only
for CSR initiatives but also for other forms of collaborative marketing relationships.
In addition, it is interesting to note that CSR has
been measured by adapting Brown and Dacins
(1997) scale, therefore using a pre-defined conceptualization of corporate social responsibilities. This
procedure, followed by other researchers in marketing (Berens et al., 2005; Lichtenstein et al.,
2004), implies that consumers evaluations of CSR
when marking the items of the scale may not describe consumers own definition of these responsibilities (Maignan, 2001). Future research should then
carry out a preliminary study to analyze the types of
social responsibilities consumers consider when
evaluating a particular company or industry. With
that preliminary study, research findings will always
refer to corporate social responsibilities consistent
with those consumers use to evaluate that company
or industry.
Note
1

Questionnaire pretest showed that it was easier for


the respondents to position themselves on a 010 scale
than on a 17 scale.

Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank Domenech Mele, Carmen Valor, and two anonymous reviewers for many
helpful comments and suggestions. They also thank
Fundacion Cajamurcia for its generous support. This research was funded by a grant SEJ2005-09358/ECON
from the Spanish Ministry of Science & Technology
and FEDER.

Corporate Identity Attractiveness for Consumers


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Longinos Marin and Salvador Ruiz
University of Murcia,
Murcia, 30100,
Spain
E-mail: salvruiz@um.es