Journal of Brand Management

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 9–20 | Cite as

Redefining fit: examining CSR company-issue fit in stigmatized industries

  • Lucinda AustinEmail author
  • Barbara Miller Gaither
Original Article


This study explores the impact of the “fit” of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives in industries stigmatized by society, or industries whose products or production processes have a negative societal impact. While extant research suggests that CSR initiatives that are highly congruent with a company’s products or services tend to generate more favorable public outcomes, this study tested hypotheses suggesting fit would likely function differently within stigmatized industries. In these instances, although the company and CSR issue are logically connected, the association is a negative one, as the company or its products have a negative impact on society that it is attempting to address (or appear to address) through a CSR initiative. An experiment involving a fictitious cola company and its promotion of anti-obesity versus literacy CSR activities was used to examine the effect of fit with negative contribution on skepticism, attitudes toward the company and the CSR initiative, and participants’ stated supportive intentions toward the company. In partial support of the hypotheses, findings revealed that, for the high-fit negative contribution CSR initiative (anti-obesity), skepticism was heightened while both attitudes toward the company and supportive intentions toward the company’s products were negatively impacted, in comparison with the low-fit CSR initiative (literacy). While attitudes about the social initiatives of anti-obesity versus literacy were not significantly different, findings also suggest participants felt obesity was a more important cause for the cola company to undertake. The practical and ethical implications for CSR are discussed.


Corporate social responsibility CSR fit Stigmatized industry Skepticism Attitude Supportive intentions 


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Media and JournalismThe University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.School of CommunicationsElon UniversityElonUSA

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