Lou, Chen, and Alhabash, Saleem. (2018). Understanding non-profit and for-profit social marketing on social media: The case of anti-texting while driving. Journal of Promotion Management24(4), 484-510.

Previous studies suggest that consumers tend to infer more negative motives of for-profit sponsorship on social cause than to non-profits. The current study is aimed at identifying potential effective strategies for for-profit organizations to engage in social marketing efforts. Results show that participants express lower texting while driving intentions when the message is initiated by a non-profit than a for-profit organization. For-profit messages are more likely to elicit desirable persuasive effects if their business offering is congruent with the social cause. Participants’ intentions to interact with promotion messages on social media predict their offline behavioral intentions regarding the promoted behaviors. In summary, regarding the identical social cause, compared to for-profits, non- profit organizations seem to be more effective in eliciting desirable behavioral intentions via social marketing efforts on social media. However, when the element of source-cause congruence is considered in the persuasion process, for-profit messages with source-cause congruence can be just as effective as non-profit messages in inducing desirable behavioral intentions.

The study used a 2 (source: for-profit vs. non-profit) x 2 (source-cause congruence: congruent vs. incongruent) x 4 (message repetition) mixed factorial design, with source and source-cause congruence manipulated between subjects and message repetition manipulated within subjects. Messages promoting anti-texting while driving on Facebook were either initiated by a for-profit or a non-profit organization, and the message initiator/source selected from a pretest was perceived to be either congruent or incongruent in engaging with anti-texting while driving pro- motion. We recruited a total of 219 through a community pool (participants include college students from multiple colleges, faculty members, staff, and people living in the city) at a U.S. Midwestern city.

Key Findings

  • Results demonstrated that participants showed less favorable attitudes towards for-profits than towards non-profits upon seeing the same message from each of them;
  • Messages’ source-cause congruence did not have any direct effects on attitudes toward the for-profits/non-profits;
  • Results showed that messages posted by non-profits led to significantly lower intentions to text while driving than those of for-profits; Participants demonstrated lower intentions to text while driving upon seeing source-cause congruent messages than viewing source-cause incongruent ones;
  • When seeing source-cause incongruent messages, participants reported lower intentions to text while driving upon seeing messages posted by non-profits than those posted by for-profits; however, upon viewing source-cause congruent messages, participants’ intentions to text while drive did not significantly differ from seeing either for-profit messages or non-profit messages.

Implications for Practice
Findings of this study suggest that for-profits could also benefit from investing in social marketing efforts – receiving favorable attitudinal evaluation and desirable behavioral changes. For-profits should become involved in social causes that are congruent with their business offering and positioning, which could result in effective behavioral impact on societal well-being as non-profits. For either for-profits or non- profits, improving their promotion activities’ online engagement rate could be a viable step to induce actual behavioral change.

Article Location
The full article is available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10496491.2017.1380109

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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