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How customers respond to socially responsible business marketing

Ike Silver is a Wharton doctoral candidate in marketing and psychology who studies prosocial consumer behavior, moral and political marketing, and word-of-mouth, and explores how consumers react to the order in which companies launch social impact initiatives.

Ike Silver standing against a brick wall.
Ike Silver, doctoral candidate in marketing and psychology at the Wharton School.

“In almost every market, there are first movers, who pioneer new products, policies, and programs, and there are followers, who try to emulate and outmaneuver them. And there are well-known costs and benefits to being in each position,” he explains.

“Entry order matters—a new ‘first mover advantage’—specific to greater good marketing activities (like cause marketing, corporate philanthropy, social activism, etc.) The first brands to do good are often thought to really care about the causes they support, while later entrants seem more calculating and disingenuous.”

However, says Silver, there is a cost to being a prosocial follower. “Copying another brand’s greater good initiative—for example, by offering a similar cause marketing program or donating to a similar cause—leads consumers to wonder whether a brand has ulterior motives for doing good. This is because followers seem more opportunistic than first movers, like they are considering the risks and benefits in a more calculating, self-interested, and possibly inauthentic way.”

Read more at Wharton Stories.