Antecedents and outcomes of corporate political advocacy among consumers
March 10, 2021
By Linda Hon, University of Florida, and Leping You, Miami University (Ohio)
Given that Consumer Political Advocacy (CPA) is a vital yet underexplored area, this project examined the antecedents and outcomes of CPA with three studies.
The first study conceptualized and developed measurements for the behavioral outcomes of CPA among consumers. The study conceptualized consumer digital engagement (CDE) and political consumerism as two consequential behavioral outcomes of CPA.
CDE revealed two types of outcomes, activities that require low-to-moderate effort on social media, termed “LM-CDE,” and high-CDE activities that require high effort. Political consumerism was the second outcome, which captures “buycotting” and boycotting whereby consumers express their political ideology to reward or punish a company’s CPA through their purchasing behaviors.
Study 1 revealed valid and reliable dimensions for measuring CDE and political consumerism.
Based on the behavioral outcomes validated in study 1, study 2 proposed a conceptual model to examine issue polarization and advocacy congruity as antecedents of CPA while also looking at the underlying mechanism of how the antecedents motivate consumers to engage in supportive behaviors based on a company’s CPA.
The findings of study 2 suggested that, although the low polarization issue condition (employer-provided healthcare for all employees) was more likely to motivate consumers’ supportive behavioral intentions toward a company’s CPA than the high issue polarization condition (abortion rights), advocacy congruity moderated the relationship between high issue polarization and LM-CDE activities and buycotting.
These findings indicated that consumers are more likely to engage in LM-CDE activities and buycotting when the company advocated around a high polarization issue that is relevant to the company’s business mission. Study 2 also suggested consumers’ belief that the company’s CPA was motivated by public rather than self-interest was positively associated with consumers’ favorable attitudes and supportive behavioral intentions toward the company’s CPA.
Although research literature about CPA has suggested that a company’s political advocacy does not need to be tied to the company’s business mission, consumers engage in higher levels of supportive CDE and political consumerism when companies advocate for high polarization issues that are relevant to their business mission.
The study further demonstrated that advocating for an issue that is relevant to a company’s business mission helps the company to be perceived among consumers as legitimate, trustworthy, and dedicated to contributing to public service.
Given the normative nature of CPA, study 3 examined value congruence, whether the values a
company’s CPA advocates for are consistent with consumers’ values, and relevance, the extent
to which the issue outcomes of the CPA’s stance are relevant to consumers.
The findings of study 3 demonstrated that value congruence was associated with consumers’ positive attitudinal evaluation of and supportive behavioral intentions toward a company’s CPA regardless of whether the issue outcomes of the company’s CPA are relevant to consumers.
Study 3 further indicated that public service motive and trustworthiness were serial mediators on consumers’ intentions to participate in CDE activities and buycotting when the values that a company advocates for through its CPA are consistent with consumers’ values.
In other words, whether a company’s CPA is perceived among consumers to be trustworthy and motivated more by public than self-interest contributes to the positive relationship between value congruence and consumers’ behavioral support in response to a company’s CPA.
Given this, companies should build a distinctive CPA profile that can be easily understood by consumers regarding the values the company cares about. CPA is then most effective in creating positive attitudes and supportive behavioral intentions among consumers when the company’s values are congruent with the political stance of the company’s CPA and the values of consumers.
For further information on this study, please email Linda Hon at email@example.com or Leping You at firstname.lastname@example.org. This project was supported by a 2019 Page/Johnson Legacy Scholar Grant from the Arthur W. Page Center.