Consumers increasingly desire to make purchasing decisions based on factors such as health, the environment, and social justice. In response, there has been a commensurate rise in cause-related marketing to appeal to socially-conscious consumers. However, a lack of regulation and standardization makes it difficult for consumers to assess marketing claims; this is further complicated by social media, which firms use to cultivate a personality for their brand through frequent conversational messages. Yet, little empirical research has been done to explore the relationship between cause-related marketing messages on social media and the true cause alignment of brands. In this paper, we explore this by pairing the marketing messages from the Twitter accounts of over 1,000 brands with third-party ratings of each brand with respect to health, the environment, and social justice. Specifically, we perform text regression to predict each brand’s true rating in each dimension based on the lexical content of its tweets, and find significant held-out correlation on each task, suggesting that a brand’s alignment with a social cause can be somewhat reliably signaled through its Twitter communications — though the signal is weak in many cases. To aid in the identification of brands that engage in misleading cause-related communication as well as terms that more likely indicate insincerity, we propose a procedure to rank both brands and terms by their volume of “conflicting” communications (i.e., “greenwashing”). We further explore how cause-related terms are used differently by brands that are strong vs. weak in actual alignment with the cause. The results provide insight into current practices in causerelated marketing in social media, and provide a framework for identifying and monitoring misleading communications. Together, they can be used to promote transparency in causerelated marketing in social media, better enabling brands to communicate authentic valuesbased policy decisions, and consumers to make socially responsible purchase decisions.
Culotta, Aron; Cutler, Jennifer; and Zheng, Junzhe
"Finding Truth in Cause-Related Advertising: A Lexical Analysis of Brands’ Health, Environment, and Social Justice Communications on Twitter,"
The Journal of Values-Based Leadership:
2, Article 7.
Available at: http://scholar.valpo.edu/jvbl/vol8/iss2/7