Cause-Related Marketing in International Business: What Works and What Doesn’t?
Special issue call for papers from International Marketing Review
The call for new insights
It is highly likely that international businesses would encounter management myopia, unless the contemporary social and cultural changes and trends affecting consumer (and other international stakeholder) behaviour, competitive market forces and overall market dynamics around the globe are proactively reflected on different international business policies and strategies (Bonetto, 2015). Today, “individuals, and especially those within the millennial generation, are more socially aware than ever, and thus, the ‘ethical consumer’ has come about” (Laroche, 2017, p. 3). The term “ethical consumer” is defined as the consumers who are socially responsible, and value the ethical perspectives in their buying decisions, which is related to the “feel good factor” (Bonetto, 2015), so that consumers feel better about their purchase decisions, as well as about themselves because of the ethical significance of their decision (Laroche, 2017) that contributes to any socio-economic cause at least to some extent. Because of this “feel good factor”, “consumers around the world have placed increasing value on corporate social responsibility (CSR)” (Choi et al., 2016, p. 82). This has led to a purified scope for CSR, as a business management functional area to enable international businesses to compete in the cross-border markets, focusing on the cause-related international marketing campaigns.
As a consequence, in practice, CSR has received considerable attention in recent years (Chen and Huang 2016), particularly from the context of cause-related business campaign, as a cause-related marketing (CRM) strategy. CRM stimulates businesses to fund charities that encourage health and human services support, environmental protection, and other causes by donating part of business profits (Grolleau et al. 2016). Thus, in everyday shopping decisions, consumers are increasingly confronted with “cause-related” products (Krishna, 2011), as esteem need of consumers, related to the “feel good factor”, in order to contribute to the social and environmental causes. From this context, a purchase of a cause-related product, service or idea by consumers triggers a donation by the company to a socially- or environmentally-concerned cause (Grolleau et al. 2016).
In order to exploit such CRM-led CSR scopes, today, corporate spending on charitable sponsorships reaches $18 billion (Andrews et al. 2014) and is implemented by global brands, which suggests that such campaigns are effective (Krishna 2011; Robinson et al. 2012; Grolleau et al. 2016), in terms of the return on investment, related to such donations from a part of business profits. Examples of such CRM initiatives include the Product (RED) campaign, in which companies such as Gap and Apple contributed up to 50% of profits from designated brands to provide antiretroviral medicine to AIDS patients in Africa (Koschate-Fischer et al., 2016), and eBay’s CRM campaign, Giving Works, which raised more than $500 million contribution for charities. In practice, such international CRM efforts have raised significant funds for non-profit organizations and increased bottom-line profits for businesses (Koschate-Fischer et al., 2012; Grolleau et al., 2016). Thus, CRM is today, a strategy adopted by hundreds of companies and is used to enhance loyalty and sales performance for thousands of products from coffee to cars (Krishna 2011; Grolleau et al. 2016), as a valuable marketing tool (Koschate-Fischer et al., 2012; Grolleau et al., 2016).
In practice, CRM as an effective CSR strategy, however, has advanced to some extent; apart from some exceptions (e.g. Torres et al. 2012; Hadjikhani et al., 2016), academic research has not paid adequate attention so far to extensively and proactively exploit the opportunities of CRM, in order to explore the CRM’s broader relationships to the wider CSR scope not only from the local business perspectives, but also from the cross-border international business perspectives. Furthermore, CSR is however an established research-stream; “there is still considerable disagreement on rather fundamental questions, such as when, exactly, is a particular course of action ethical or unethical, and what are the limits of CSR?” (Schlegelmilch, 2016, p. 195). From the context of international business, Eteokleous et al. (2016) argue that “although corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been an issue of major concern for marketers for more than half a century, less attention has been paid to its international marketing dimensions” (p. 580).
In CRM-led CSR many issues have implications for local, regional and global businesses; however, we have limited understanding on such issues, which includes, but not limited to cross-cultural issues in cross-border markets, different consumer demographics across diverse international markets, market competitions of MNCs with the local rivals, particularly in the emerging markets and so forth. For example, “research has shown that men and women respond differently to cause-related marketing (CRM) appeals with fictitious brands; however, few studies examine how CRM works for existing brands or measure long-term effects” (Nelson and Vilela, 2017, p. 1). Exploring contemporary insights in international markets from the context of MNCs and local rivals would generally have significant implications for CRM strategies to proactively compete in the international markets. However, “literature has not paid adequate attention to the competitive dynamics between MNCs and local rivals and the consequent co-evolution of these organizations” (Kumar et al., 2017, np). Furthermore, consumers and other stakeholders in different international markets would have dissimilar perceptions about a particular CRM initiative, because of varied learning experience and behaviour among different cultures (Littrell et al., 1993). Therefore, cultural differences play a crucial role in international business as international markets have culturally broadened horizons (Bent et al, 2007), which signifies that “these (CSR/CRM) efforts may not be effective for all consumers or in all countries” (Choi et al., 2016, p. 82). However, there is very little research to “comparing and contrasting…socially responsible campaigns and how their strategies differ depending on the culture. It is important for companies dedicated to maintaining socially responsible practices to understand these differences and be aware of the nuanced phasing, appeals, and target markets” (Laroche, 2017, p. 5).
The discussion thus far demonstrates that scholarly research on the relationship between CRM-led CSR and international business is scarce, and several major topics on this thematic area remain un-explored that scholars should focus on to contributing to the inexorable progress of international business research from the diversified contexts of CRM issues. Therefore, this special issue aims to bring together empirical and theoretical advancements connecting to this research gap, in order to develop insights on what works and what doesn’t in international business from the context of CRM, so that the current deficient in international CRM literature can be remedied.
The thematic area and the topics of study
Centred on the discussed research gap, and accompanied by grounded theoretical basis and empirical insights with practical implications, the submitted papers should focus on how we could leverage different extant and emergent variables and constructs of international CRM, in order to ensure significant contribution to this under-researched area. Innovative empirical (both quantitative and qualitative) and theoretical studies that span conceptual frontiers and disciplines to develop new insights on international CRM are welcomed to be submitted. The following might be relevant, but not exhaustive topics:
- the intersection at the international CRM and stakeholder relationships management in cross-border markets;
- the impact of international CRM on competitive advantage for sustained international business;
- international CRM in emerging markets;
- the impact of international CRM on international entrepreneurship and business innovation management;
- international CRM, digital era and e-commerce;
- international CRM in the conflict regions;
- international CRM at the pre- and post-internationalisation stages;
- international CRM for global, multinational and international businesses;
- international CRM and standardisation and adaptation strategies in international marketing;
- the impact of CRM in cross-cultural promotional strategies;
- the design and implementation of CRM campaigns in multicultural contexts;
- the impact of CRM in international marketing mix;
- the nature and scope of CRM initiatives used by global brands;
- the use of CRM as a market entry strategy;
- the CRM best practices in different international markets;
- differences and similarities of CRM policies and strategies across countries;
- consumers', organisations', NPOs', and employees' attitudes and beliefs of CRM activities across countries and its impact on lucrative international CRM strategies;
- political, economic, socio-cultural, legal, environmental and technological influences on CRM strategies in different countries;
- the interplay between religion and CRM strategies across the globe;
- future research propositions on the role of CRM in international markets.
For this special issue, our goal is to attract rigorous research from scholars around the world that will contribute to the evolution of international CRM research. The focus of the manuscripts should be on cutting-edge theoretical developments and phenomena including best practices. Alongside the open submissions, selected papers from the 11th EuroMed Academy of Business Annual Conference (September 2018) will be considered for this special issue.
Manuscript submission deadline: October 31, 2018 (however, earlier submission is highly encouraged);
First comments (initial acceptance/rejection) on manuscripts: February 28, 2019;
Revision due: April 30, 2019;
Special issue will be published in 2019.
Author guidelines, submission and review process
All papers submitted to the International Marketing Review will undergo a double-blind peer review process. The manuscripts should be structured in line with the guidelines, available at http://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/products/journals/author_guidelines.htm?id=imr. Please submit your manuscript through this web link https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/imrev , and select this special issue from the drop-down menu for your submission. Informal enquiries are valued, and can be directed to the guest editors.
Professor Demetris Vrontis
University of Nicosia, Cyprus
Dr. Riad Shams
Australian Institute of Business, Australia
Dr. Michalis Christofi*
University of Gloucestershire, UK
*Administering guest editor
Professor Michael R Czinkota
Professor, Graduate School and McDonough School, Georgetown University
Professor, University of Kent, Canterbury, U.K
Professor Alkis Thrassou
University of Nicosia, Cypurs
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