Sustainability: Opportunities and challenges for brands

This article is part of a series of articles on sustainability. Read more.


Corporate social sustainability characterises considerable investment for companies. As part of their sustainability-related initiatives, companies support global social causes related to, for instance, poverty, environmental change, peace and justice. Such cause-related efforts of companies are often promoted via advertising campaigns appealing to consumers’ guilt emotion. Using such campaigns, companies seek to encourage consumer identification with the brand as well as purchasing behaviour. A key question is how consumers respond to guilt-arousing messages in cause-related advertising. Crucially, what level of guilt appeal intensity is most effective in cause marketing campaigns?

Need to know

  • Cause marketing is a widely used strategy for brands and charities seeking to promote their efforts in addressing social challenges around the world.
  • Cause marketing campaigns can help brands to promote their sustainable practices by including low intensity appeals to guilt emotion of receivers.
  • Cause marketing campaigns including low intensity guilt-arousing messages are effective at strengthening consumer’s identification with the brand, which in turn enhances corporate brand image and intention to purchase the brand.
  • High intensity guilt-arousing messages in cause marketing campaigns by contrast trigger inferences of negative motives of the company and should be avoided.
  • Pre-testing cause marketing advertising copy to understand how receivers perceive the brand’s motives is advisable.

The growing popularity of cause-related ad campaigns