Marketing Concepts (Marketing 801)

David J. Burns, D.B.A.
Mentor: Peter Bycio, Ph.D. (Management and Entrepreneurship)

Course Information

Marketing involves exchanges. The activities in marketing products, services, and ideas are examined within a framework of customer management. Topics include global marketing environment, market analysis and segmentation, consumer behavior, product development and management, pricing, promotion, and distribution. Marketing is examined from its role as a central function of business and non-profit organizations, and from its dominant role in a market economy.

Students: Graduate students (without recent business undergraduate degrees) very early in their programs.


As an outcome of the thirty-second General Congregation (GC32), Decree Four, Our Mission Today: The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice, was published. Although some confusion existed over the meaning of the word "justice" in Decree Four, most agree that it includes social justice - "to change the structures of society which were depriving people of their human rights" (Tripole, S.J. 1994, p. 9). Calvez, S.J. (1991) states that although economic injustices are particularly pervasive, injustice includes any threats to "human life and its quality." Similarly, Dulles, S.J. interprets justice as "the dismantling of unjust social structures, to conscientization, and to the building of a new and better society" (1989, p. 21). Indeed, Tripole, S.J. states "human beings cannot enter into union with God unless they enter into union with one another, and the degree to which they are alienated from one another will be reflected in an analogous alienation from God" (1994, p. 55). Hence, a commitment to justice is an integral part of evangelization as can be noted in the life of Ignatius. Justice, therefore, includes social justice, but it includes much more - the furthering of social justice leads to justice in all things.

The top item of the social justice agenda concerns the gap between the rich and the poor (Dorr, S.J. 1991). Although financial resources are obviously an important consideration, a focus merely on the material provides an incomplete picture of individual well-being. Instead, the "poor" can be viewed to be those who do not possess the resources, financial and other, to experience life to the full - they are the oppressed, economically, socially, educationally, or emotionally, and consequently, are those who are prevented from experiencing the freedom life affords. Tripole, S.J. states that the Society's goals should be "the service of faith through the promotion of a Christian and human culture" (1994, p. 128), where culture is defined as "the way people think, how they understand themselves, why they do what they do, and how they seek fulfillment in their lives" (1994, p. 129). The project addresses this issue. Particularly, in the culture's rush to maximize wealth, what is truly of value is being lost. Instead of freeing ourselves from economic deprivation, we are imprisoning ourselves to the very things that were supposed to free us.

Marketing, Well-Being, and Justice

Unquestionably, the exercise of marketing has added to the material welfare of modern society. It has significantly increased the availability and variety of goods, and it has significantly decreased product costs. As a result of marketing, consumers have access to, and can enjoy goods that could not be foreseen anytime in history. The global percentage of people living in abject poverty (though unquestionably a major social issue), is lower today than perhaps it ever has been. Individuals suffering from hunger (also still a major problem which requires concerted effort to combat) is also at historical lows as a percentage of the population. Several have equated these manifestations of marketing as an improvement in society's quality of life. Is this contention true? Has the increased availability of goods actually increased individuals' quality of life?

There is a widespread belief in our culture that happiness, or one's quality of life, is a function of the quantity of things that one possesses. This mentality is present in the widespread belief that happiness is based on one's income, or one's ability to acquire possessions and experiences without hindrance. Empirical research, however, paints a different picture. Numerous studies clearly show that once survival needs are met, additional income and additional possessions do little to improve one's level of happiness. The lack of a positive relationship between possessions/income and happiness raises two questions: 1) If possessions do not bring happiness what does? and 2) How has the apparent myth "increased possessions is the true road to happiness" become so ingrained in society's consciousness?

Empirical studies have left little doubt that few factors affect an individual's level of happiness for longer than a few days. The only issue that empirical research repeatedly shows to have the ability to affect an individual's long-term happiness is the existence of long-term close relationships with others (family, friends, and one's God). Interestingly, these are the very relationships which many individuals will so readily trade-off for the opportunity to make more money to acquire more things with the empty hope of achieving the sought-after goal of increased happiness. The supposed relationship between possessions and happiness, however, is well-communicated within today's society. This relationship is formed, or at least is significantly strengthened, through marketers' use of non-market need pairing. Non-market need pairing involves establishing a link between a particular marketer's product and a specific non-market need in the consumer's mind. (Non-market needs are those needs which cannot be directly satisfiable through the market, such as feelings of belonging, companionship, happiness, etc.). When the pairing is successful, consumers will view the specific non-market need in conjunction with the product - the product will be viewed as a means for fulfilling the non-market need. The key to this pairing is that the linking is not natural, but contrived. Indeed, the product is associated with a need which it, in fact, cannot truly fulfill.

A Brief History

Contrary to popular thought, a consumer culture amongst the masses has not always existed. In pre-modern times, product acquisition was not a priority, or even a possibility, for most. When excess resources were acquired (more than that required for subsistence living), the excess resources were typically saved or were used to acquire additional leisure time - not to acquire additional products. Furthermore, during this time, one's self was often passively assigned. Everyone knew who they were and everyone knew who others were, and there was often little chance for significant changes in the self. Relationships with others (family and community) and with God (religion) provided the basis for the self. As a result, identity problems were virtually nonexistent.

With the industrial revolution and the rise of modernism, however, the permanency and the level of influence which family, community, and religion exerted on individuals declined significantly. The social and geographic mobility afforded (or mandated) by the industrialization process acted to slowly sever individuals' ties with family, disrupted entire communities, and caused many to question the need for religion. Furthermore, with a growth in the importance of science, dependence upon a Supreme Being seemed to become unnecessary. Under modernism, individuals were forced to make or develop their own identity - it was no longer merely inherited. The basis of the self also changed. The self was left to be fulfilled through transient, physical realities, primarily through one's own actions - personal achievement, and to a greater extent, the acts of acquisition and consumption. Indeed, the marketplace became a primary channel through which a self could be acquired. Individuals began to become what they owned. One's self then, could often be viewed as the result of an explicit choice which was often fulfilled through shopping and consumption activities. This marked the origins of the consumer culture.

More recently, modernism has been replaced with postmodernism. In a postmodern environment, the presence of relatively permanent anchors upon which to base the self have vanished. Actually, in postmodernism, the self, as a single concrete reality, simply does not exist. Instead of speaking of a singular self, it is more common to refer to multiple roles or images, where individuals are encouraged to consume symbols consistent with the role or image desired at any particular time. The self, therefore, exists merely to display - to display the articles which portray a desired image. As a result, consumption becomes the defining feature of postmodern societies and the consumer culture reigns supreme. In postmodern societies, the acquisition of physical possessions is viewed as the primary, if not the only, source of individuality, happiness, and satisfaction. Within postmodernism then, marketing has achieved an unforeseen level of societal significance. Instead of focusing on identifying and meeting consumer wants and needs, the focus is instead on providing consumers with the building blocks necessary to build personal images and to construct desired realities. The logical outcome then, is a focus on pleasure and on attempts to acquire it during this earthly life - clearly a primary quality of today's culture. Similarly, as pleasure in itself proves to be insufficient to meet the fundamental needs of individuals, a logical outcome is a growth of hopelessness and despair, again common qualities in today's culture.

All indications seem to point to fatal problems in the basis of a consumer culture - the consumer culture appears to be unable to deliver what it has promised. Although it has very successfully increased standards of living beyond initial comprehension and has provided products which offer forms of comfort and entertainment alternatives which were inconceivable only a few years ago, it has been unable to bring increased happiness and increased fulfillment to people's lives. The continuing desire to increase consumption necessitates ever increasing levels of income. The need for ever-increasing levels of income in turn, leads to the need to maximize time spent in work activities, usually at the expense of leisure and social activities. This is why, even in the face of significant gains in productivity, the amount of time spent working has risen steadily and substantially over the past forty years. We have become prisoners to the need to make greater incomes - relationships and the needs of others have been cast aside in the strivings to obtain more belongings.

In summary, Tripole, S.J. speaks of our students: "They have been influenced by our society to such an extant that they take it for granted that life is fulfilled in terms of the values our secular culture provides them, the values that are largely a product of our production-consumption society. In that society, human value is defined by the amount of money made and the degree of power and the kind of reputation enjoyed: greed is accepted as a legitimate human virtue, and one's own needs take precedence over the welfare of the community" (1994, p. 132). Tripole, S.J. further states that service activities, although valuable, have little effect on the point-of-view of students - "In spite of the efforts at justice, the basic structures remain untouched, ... our understanding of who we are, what the meaning of life is, and where we are going remains the same" (1994, p. 135). In addition to not being in a position to attend to the justice and faith of others, students themselves as prisoners - prisoners to a mindset which prevents them from experiencing true happiness and which prevents them from truly helping others in need. "What is necessary, then, is to change the inner lives of people, to restructure their dominant motivating values, the values by which they formulate their own criteria for self-fulfillment" (Triple, S.J. 1994, p.137).

Course Component

The course component of this project is subject-based. It consists of integrating a new content section into the "understanding consumers" part of the MKTG 801 (Marketing Concepts) course. This course is one of the first courses taken by students entering the MBA program. It is required of all students entering the program who have not pursued a business undergraduate degree. As such, the students generally have no background in marketing or in understanding the consumer and the consumer culture. The course component includes the following issues:

1. Provide an historical basis of the development of a consumer culture (to break the commonly held myth that the consumer culture has always existed). This includes an examination of the alternative conceptions of the substance and meaning of life that have been dominant in the past and the basis of each.

2. Develop an understanding of today's postmodern consumer culture, its impact on the individual, and its inability to positively affect an individual's well-being. This includes 1) truly understanding the role of marketing in the consumer culture and the process of non-market need pairing, and 2) gaining an understanding of the prevalent product-based identity structure.

3. Provide students with a basis for understanding the role of products in their own personal lives and to help them be able to critically analyze the effects that marketing activities have on culture and on the lives of individuals. This is accomplished through extensive discussion and reflection in class.

4. Develop an ability to examine marketing activities and choices within the context of the effect that they have on the lives of individuals in society.

An explicit object of the course component of this project is to develop students' reasoning abilities - to provide students with the insight necessary to truly evaluate the outcome of marketing activities and choices on society.

The effectiveness of the course component in conveying knowledge is assessed during the midterm exam.

Whether the course is effective in affecting student's attitudes and opinions is assessed by a before-and-after questionnaire (described below).

Scholarly Component

The scholarly component of this project directly relates to the course component of this project. Specifically, the scholarly component of this project examines the effect that the course component has on students' views toward money and belongings in their personal lives. This is accomplished by a pretest and posttest. On the first day of class, students are immediately required to complete a questionnaire that includes scales to measure the following constructs:

  • Love of Money
  • Possession Satisfaction Index
  • Materialism
  • Time Orientation Toward Money
  • Ethics and Social Responsibility
  • Prestige Sensitivity
  • Desire for Unique Consumer Products
  • Need to Belong
  • Social Connectedness/Social Assurance
  • Importance of Connectedness

Students are required to complete the same questionnaire immediately prior to the final exam to permit an assessment of the effect that the course may have on individuals' attitudes and beliefs.


Attempt #1 801-81A

Several students were very defensive.

Question on the midterm exam (1/4 of the exam) went very well - students knew the material.

Problems were encountered - students were unwilling to participate without compensation.

Attempt #2 801-84B

Revised discussion went very well.

Question on the midterm exam (1/4 of the exam) went very well - students knew the material.

"Before" and "after" questionnaire administration completed (points were awarded).

Although the sample size was very small (22), t-tests were run to test whether differences exist in the "before" and "after" responses (See Table 1). Significant (at the .05 level) differences were observed for four of the 25 pairings. As a result of the course,

  • Students were more likely to consider money as an indicator of success.
  • Students were more likely to believe that success equals possessions.
  • Students were less likely to be envious of other's possessions.
  • Students were less likely to believe that social responsibility and profitability are compatible.

The results were surprising. Although it is difficult to draw conclusions from the relatively small sample size, in three of the four instances where significant results were observed, results were opposite of that hypothesized. This result may indicate the need to adjust the classroom component of the course.

Table 1: Results

Scale t-Value Level Significance
Love of Money
Overall -1.580 .129
Budget -.934 .361
Evil -.458 .652
Equity -.289 .776
Success -2.209 .038
Motivator .847 .406
Possession Satisfaction Index
Overall .-1.494 .150
What Possessions Can Do .794 .436
What Possessions Cannot Do -1.121 .275
Public Image .755 .459
Success Equals Possessions -2.241 .036
More is Better -1.517 .144
Possessiveness .208 .837
Nongenerosity 1.530 .141
Envy 2.137 .044
Time Orientation Toward Money
Overall .357 .725
Ethics and Social Responsibility
Social Responsibility and Profitability 4.454 .000
Long-Term Gains -.678 .505
Short-Term Gains -1.646 .115
Prestige Sensivity
Overall -1.204 .242
Desire for Unique Consumer Product
Overall -1.563 .133
Need to Belong
Overall .305 .763
Social Connectedness -.440 .664
Social Assurance .209 .837
Importance of Connectedness
Overall -.335 .741

Paper presented at the Colleagues in Jesuit Business Education Conference, Milwaukee, WI, July 8-11, 2010.

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Materialism and Macro Marketing

Mee-Shew Cheung, Ph.D.
Mentor: Philip Glasgo, Ph.D. (Finance)

Mee-Shew Cheung, Ph.D.Course

Marketing 300: 2 sections, 30 students each, Spring 2007.

This course is designed to introduce marketing to the undergraduates who have not formally studied the area previously. It serves as a vehicle by which students can become familiar with the area of marketing. It provides a basis for future study in marketing and a better understanding of the business world and the role which marketing plays therein.

With my participation in the Ignatian Mentoring Program, I made the following changes to incorporate a missiondriven teaching component that stresses the need for discernment and responsible action. With this inclusion, the course content is broadened to a macro level.

Syllabus addition


Each student is required to turn in a 3 to 5 page paper on his/her understanding of the phenomenon of materialism and his/her thoughts on the topic. For this assignment, students are required to

  • visit the library databases such as ABI Inform or Business Source Premier and understand the meaning of the term 'materialism',
  • read articles/books/websites (such as 'The World is Flat', 'Micro-lending: Banker to the Poor', the 'Product RED'),
  • write a research paper elaborating the implications of materialism for individuals, business organizations, and society as a whole and linking the concept of corporate social responsibility to some of the real world examples in the marketplace.

Lecture and Class Discussions

While lecturing the chapters on Segmentation and Targeting, and Global Marketing, I used the following questions to guide the class discussions:

  • Does marketing promote materialism?
  • Does the practice of segmentation and targeting create class issues within our society?
  • International marketers tend to overlook poverty stricken people in less developed countries. Why is this?
  • Can marketing be applied to help lift poverty and improve the quality of life in an impoverished society? How?

Materialism and Ignatian/Jesuit Pedagogy

This teaching component seeks to:

  • Involve students to practice critical thinking in understanding the high price of materialism, and linking social responsibility to firms' marketing decisions.
  • Inspire students to change our society and the world for the better by engaging them in a discernment process to:
    • understand the high price of materialism
    • link social responsibility to firms' marketing decisions
    • seek ways to break the material values cycle
    • focus on values for self-acceptance, good relationships and contributions to the community.

Materialism defined:

Materialism in economic psychology and consumer research has been defined as "the importance a consumer attaches to worldly possessions" (Belk 1985) or as "an orientation which views material goods and money as important for personal happiness and social progress (Ward and Wackman 1971). Not only are materialists viewed as "driven" to consume more, but they are also seen to focus on the consumption of "status goods" or unique consumer products. The popular notion of materialism also associates materialism with excessive status consciousness, condescension, envy, disregard of others and of social issues, self-centeredness, a lack of principles, possessiveness, insecurity, and interpersonal detachment. Sociologists describe materialism as a personal value that encompasses concern with material things, competitiveness, and emphasis on making profit as opposed to human well-being.

Learning Outcome

Students met the challenge of this assignment in articulate ways. I present some of the highlights of their responses:

Student reflection

"When individuals in a society are driven by material values, weakened interpersonal connections, disrupted community life, resource depletion and environmental damage result."

"The best ways to break the material values cycle are focusing on values for self-acceptance, fostering good relationships and contributing to community."

"Marketing and materialism go hand in hand. On one side of the argument, marketing is a profitable experience for business as well as helping the consumers to improve their standard of living. On the other hand, marketing and materialism create unattainable goals for the public as well as pushing aside thoughts of inner self-improvement and more toward conformity."

"Perhaps it is about time to forget about possessions and get back to the days where community and family were the most important things in life."

"Marketers have the self-interest in selling their products to consumers because this affects their bottom line. While it is their job, marketers need to act in responsible ways so as not to destroy the social fabric of our culture by shifting all focuses to materialistic concerns."

"Materialism helps economy grow and flourish, but at the same time drives people to unhappiness."

"Materialism in essence is like a drug. It relieves the pain temporarily but offers no promise of a cure." "Before I was exposed to the concept of 'Product RED', I never thought that marketing can be used to impact the world in such a positive and powerful manner."

"International marketers tend to assume that people in the poor nations do not have enough money or business sense to buy or sell products. Thus, marketing is strongly promoted only in the affluent nations, which leads to a worsened situation in materialism in these nations. The affluent nations might be able to enjoy all the branded goods and services, but people in these nations are not necessarily happier."

"The primary goal of business corporations is to maximize shareholder wealth, but perhaps of equal importance is the social responsibility these companies have towards their employees and the areas in which they operate. The world is becoming interconnected, and some countries may be left behind because of their inability to afford products or the inability of their citizens to operate them. Micro-lending and similar concepts have proven they have a positive affect on all participants. Multi-national corporations have the resources and international marketers have the knowledge to present programs and products so as to improve the global standard of living, and not leave any nation behind."

"As multinational corporations play a significant role in improving the standard of living in developing nations, international marketers are called to help promote the product effectively to the right people. All of the programs designed to help the poor, need to be marketed correctly to appeal to the potential beneficiaries. Micro-lending and the One Laptop Per Child are two great examples."

"International marketers need to be ready to help the developing countries establish the best industries in which to invest. Furthermore, marketers are encouraged to look at the product and consider a few questions to see if their products can become a global product: is our product too sophisticated for this new market? How do we make our product image more attractive to a larger segment of the total population? How do we match our product quality and purchasing power to create real and long term demand?"

"As a next generation international marketer and entrepreneur in an era of globalization, I recognize that it is becoming the trend to create new markets and not merely adapt to the existing ones. By creating new markets, international businesses can pave the way for emerging markets and promote economic reform in the poorer nations of the world."

Instructor Reflection

In preparing for this new teaching component, I was challenged to explore new topics to broaden my research agenda. I became interested to research topics on macro marketing and the role of international marketing in a flattened world. I am also planning to incorporate this new teaching component in all other marketing courses that I will be teaching in future semesters.

In conclusion, this added component in M300 was very beneficial to the students and the instructor. During discussion all students agreed that this assignment should be included as part of the course in future years. The assignment was able to instigate a self-reflection by the students as well as the instructor to help them find a new anchor in their life and their career.


Belk, R.W. (1985), "Materialism: Traits aspects of living in the material world," Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp. 265-280.

Ward, S. and Wackman, D. (1971), "Family and media influences on adolescent consumer learning," Am Behav Scientist, 14, 415-427.

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Personal Data Collection: Marketer and Consumer Perspectives

David M. Houghton, Ph.D. (Marketing)
Mentor: Alan Jin, Ph.D. (Management & Entrepreneurship)

Course Information:

Principles of Marketing (MKTG 300) is the introductory marketing course for students who have no previous experience with the field. In many cases, this course is the first business course that students take. Through a broad survey of marketing topics, this course introduces students to many aspects of business and consumerism that they have not yet considered.

Data Collection and Consumer Vulnerability:

Marketers collect a wide variety of data about consumers on a regular basis. Some of this data collection occurs with full consumer awareness (e.g., signing up to win a contest, registering for an email newsletter, or completing a survey at the grocery store), while other forms of data collection occur without most consumers knowing (e.g., GPS tracking within smartphone apps, online retailers accessing consumers’ web search activity, and companies collecting psychological data from personality tests distributed on social media).

Most social media platforms, online retail stores, and other commercial sites engage in this activity on a regular basis. Data helps to inform better decision making (McAfee et al. 2012), and in the realm of marketing, consumer data is invaluable. This data allows marketers to target their efforts in a manner that boosts revenue while decreasing costs.

Consumers are aware of this data collection in a general sense, and they have come to accept it in their daily lives. However, when asked about specific instances of personal data being collected and used, consumers are often unaware and feel uneasy once they learn about it. For example, a 2018 poll from Pew Research found that 74% of U.S. adults surveyed did not know that Facebook collected data on user interests and traits (Hitlin and Rainie 2019). Once they were told it was happening, 51% of those surveyed were not comfortable with Facebook having that information. Facebook users know they are giving up some information to access the site but are often surprised to learn how much they give up.

“If the product is free, you are the product.” – Marketing adage, original author unknown

The above saying originally referred to broadcast TV stations that brought valuable demographics of consumers together with free programming for the sake of selling advertising space. The adage is still relevant in the digital age. Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms let people use their sites for free, despite the enormous upkeep costs related to those platforms. This is because they make money by collecting data about their visitors and using that data to sell advertising.

This is the exchange that today’s consumers tacitly agree to every day. But should we assume it is safe? We know that data breaches occur regularly. We know that these companies sell our data to each other and to third parties without our knowledge. We also know that some parties will use our personal data to try to manipulate us on a psychological level to sway our votes or beliefs (e.g., the Cambridge Analytica scandal, see Confessore 2018).

Consumer Data and Ignatian/Jesuit Pedagogy:

Marketing graduates from the Williams College of Business will live two parallel lives once they start their careers – that of a consumer and a marketer. As a marketer, they will be driven to collect consumer data of all kinds and use it to improve their marketing efforts. This behavior is incentivized in the workplace through raises and promotions tied to the cost reductions and increased profits that can result from targeting individuals based on their own data.

As a consumer, they may continue to view data collection as merely the price to pay for access to the digital world. They will think nothing of it, even as the data that is collected becomes more personal and the methods of collection become more intrusive.

The purpose of this course addition is to have students experience a visceral reaction to a questionable request for personal data from a marketer. Students will reflect upon what it would mean to them if that data was given to a third party without their consent. Additionally, students will be asked to consider this problem as a future marketer who could benefit greatly from collecting this data.

An understanding of data ethics and privacy will assist in fulfilling the objectives of Jesuit and Ignatian pedagogy in the following ways:

(1) Encourage a sense of lifelong learning in Marketing students who will live on both sides of the consumer/marketing divide. Advances in technology and online consumption will only make the questions addressed in this exercise more relevant to our students’ lives and careers.

(2) Help students develop into responsible citizens who are sensitive to the needs of others when it comes to protecting and valuing their personal data and privacy. Data collection is ramping up in all aspects of life, not only in business/marketing. The goal is for our graduates make informed and empathetic decisions if they find themselves in a position to acquire or use the data of others.

(3) Inspire students to change society and the world for the better by teaching them to discern the needs of business from the needs of consumers, and to find the balance between them. Commerce is important, but so is a person’s sense of security.

Course Component: In-Class Exercise:

An in-class exercise and discussion were designed to be incorporated into Principles of Marketing (MKTG 300) or Digital Marketing & Analytics (MKTG 385). The digital marketing course would contain a more focused group of students studying digital topics, but the principles course would allow for a broader reach of both marketing and non-marketing students at an earlier age, which could allow the exercise to impact students before they take classes that require data collection and analysis.

The context of this exercise is the voluntary registration for a contest/giveaway, which is a standard way for marketers to collect consumer data. The activity has three components:

First, students will be asked to complete a form in exchange for a chance to win a reward. The form will ask for personal information, a few pieces of which will go beyond what would be necessary to award the prize. For example, if the reward is a chance to win tickets to an upcoming Xavier basketball game, the form would ask for the students’ birthdate, mother’s maiden name, and personal email address, in addition to the student’s name, Xavier email address, and student ID#. Some of the extra personal data fields will be marked as required, while others will be marked optional.

Second, once all forms are completed, the class will be asked what they thought of the contest and the form they completed. The ensuing discussion will touch on:

  1. Whether students completed the entire form, only the required fields, or perhaps less than what was required. Follow up questions will focus on why students completed some fields but not others. This discussion will focus on students’ experiences as consumers completing a marketing form that may make them feel uncomfortable.
  2. The type of data that would be necessary (vs. unnecessary) for the awarding of tickets to a student prize winner. This discussion point relates to discerning which data should be collected (vs. not collected) as a responsible marketer.
  3. The potential usefulness of the additional/unnecessary information to marketers. What could marketers do with this level of personal information? This discussion point asks students to reflect as a marketing scholar on the potential benefits to be had (ethically or unethically) by a company or organization if they were to obtain such data.

Third, students will be divided into small groups and asked to design a new and improved form for the contest that balances the information needs of the marketer with an appropriate level of consumer privacy and protection. Each small group will likely have a different take on what the form should include. Changes could include asking different questions or being more upfront about why certain data is being collected. Discussion of each group’s choices and their reasoning will follow.

Wrap-up: Students will be given the option of keeping the forms they completed or shredding them in a shredder provided by the instructor. The instructor will make sure any forms left behind are destroyed.


Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic of Spring 2020 made it impossible to conduct this exercise in class as planned. The activity will be included in an in-person class once teaching resumes on campus.


Marketing students in the Williams College of Business, in addition to the non-marketing students we see in our classes, are consumers embedded in a digital world. They have become used to giving up their personal data in exchange for access to online services, e-commerce, and entertainment. Data requests occur so often that many of today’s consumers do not notice it anymore. As future leaders in business and society, our students need to be aware of the overreach that can occur in personal data collection. The needs of business and the needs of consumers do not always overlap. It is important for our graduates to understand both sides of the marketer-consumer equation in order to protect consumers from potential harm, in accordance with Jesuit principles.


Confessore, Nicholas (2018), “Cambridge Analytica and Facebook: The Scandal and the Fallout

So Far,” Retrieved from

Hitlin, Paul and Lee Rainie (2019), “Facebook Algorithms and Personal Data.” Retrieved from

McAfee, Andrew, and Erik Brynjolfsson (2012), “Big Data: The Management Revolution,”

Harvard Business Review, 90(10), 60-68.

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An Investigation of Compulsive Buying in a University Setting

Vishal Kashyap, Ph.D.
Mentor: Peter Bycio, Ph.D. (Management and Entrepreneurship)

Course Information (MKTG 300 -Principles of Marketing):Vishal Kashyap, Ph.D.

Marketing involves exchanges. The activities involved in marketing products, services, and ideas are examined within a framework of customer management. Topics include global marketing environment, market analysis and segmentation, consumer behavior, product development and management, pricing, promotion, and distribution. Marketing is examined from its role as a central function of business and non-profit organizations, and from its dominant role in a market economy.

Student Profile:

Undergraduate students fulfilling the core of their marketing course requirements. Given that this course is an introduction to marketing, students are not expected to have prior knowledge of marketing in a structured academic format and as such the academic research on compulsive consumption.

Background on Compulsive Consumption Research:

Compulsive buying has been defined as "chronic, repetitive purchasing that becomes a primary response to negative events or feelings" (O'Guinn and Faber 1989). Compulsive consumption has been the focus of consumer researchers since the mid-1980s (Hirschman 1992). Researchers have argued that compulsive buying is conceptually connected to a larger category of compulsive consumption behaviors that include alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders, and compulsive gambling (O'Guinn and Faber 1989). In addition, compulsive buyers are characterized by lower self-esteem, higher scores on general measures of compulsivity and a higher propensity for fantasy than the general population. Faber, O'Guinn and Krych (1987) find that several characteristics of compulsive consumption exhibit commonalities with other manifestations of addictive behavior such as (i) the presence of a drive, impulse or urge to engage in the behavior (ii) denial of the harmful consequences of engaging in the behavior, and (iii) repeated failure in attempts to control or modify the behavior.

Effects of Compulsive Buying:

Compulsive buying can have serious implications on, for example, the mental states of the compulsive consumer, personal bankruptcies and credit card debt and the natural environment, among others (Roberts 1998). Compulsive consumers are affected by depression, anxiety, frustration and low self-esteem (Desarbo and Edwards 1992). Increases in personal bankruptcies and credit card debt are other negative consequences of compulsive buying. While compulsive buyers engage in frequent consumption, they might not have the financial wherewithal to pay for their purchases. Credit card debt keeps mounting nationwide and compulsive buying has become more noticeable with the rapid growth of the bank card industry (Faber, O'Guinn and Krych 1987). Further, compulsive buying can have a negative effect on the environment as well. A culture of consumption discourages the assignment of value to environmental concerns and detracts people from involvement in the public domain (Droge and Mackoy 1995).

From a consumer policy perspective, it is important to educate consumers about the potential effects of credit card debt as well as the proper use of credit. Currently most advertising for credit cards appeal to desire for status and instant gratification (Roberts 1998). Adolescents and compulsive buyers are particularly vulnerable to such appeals (Faber, O'Guinn and Krych 1987). Marketers could refrain from aggressive marketing campaigns targeted at such vulnerable segments of the population.

Compulsive Buying and Ignatian and Jesuit Pedagogy:

The young adults of today have been reared in a rapidly changing world where mass consumption and instant gratification are common. An understanding of the incidence of compulsive consumption and its negative consequences can assist such young adults in making prudent choices. Specifically, given that graduates from the Williams College of Business may choose careers where they might be in charge of developing and executing marketing campaigns, it becomes important that such potential marketers are aware of the effects of targeted marketing campaigns. An understanding of compulsive buying will assist in fulfilling the objectives of Jesuit and Ignatian pedagogy in the following ways:

  • Prepare students for lifelong learning, by raising awareness about the potentially harmful effects of compulsive buying that students can use in their careers later when designing marketing campaigns.
  • Develop responsible citizens who are sensitive to the needs of our times by understanding that marketing programs targeted at vulnerable segments can have the effects of promoting unsustainable consumption habits among such segments. Particularly with an increase in personal bankruptcies and an increase in credit card debt, the need of the times is to promote responsible, not irresponsible consumption.
  • Inspire graduates to change society and the world for the better by engaging them in a discernment process concerning unsustainable consumption both among themselves and the populations that they serve and thereby refrain from compulsive buying themselves. This also ties in with the Ignatian ideal of 'discernment'.

Course Component and Objective:

The course component consisted of integrating a content component into one section of the MKTG 300 (Principles of Marketing) course for the Spring 2006 semester. The instructor was responsible for teaching two sections of MKTG 300 for the first time, with each section enrolling 28 and 27 students respectively. The course is the first marketing course that is taken by students in the Williams College of Business and so students have limited prior knowledge of marketing tools and techniques. The course component consisted of a short research project to promote the understanding of compulsive buying and to test for the effectiveness of the new component. The syllabus for the course was designed keeping this component in mind and the introduction of the component was a specific outcome of the Ignatian Mentoring Program. Specifically a study design was executed across two sections of the Principles of Marketing course to achieve the goals of understanding the effectiveness of and the implications of introducing a course component on compulsive buying.

Participants. Approximately 30 participants in each section of the MKTG 300 course were asked to complete a scale on Compulsive Buying (Table 1) that was introduced by Faber and O'Guinn (1992). This is a reliable and valid scale that has been used in multiple prior studies on compulsive buying.

Method and Procedure. Participants were administered the scale twice over the duration of the semester. While one section was treated as the test group, the other section was treated as a control group. In the first administration, both the groups were asked to fill out the questionnaire on the first day of class. Subsequently, the syllabus of one section of the course with the integrated component, where the students were required to complete a short research project (approximately 2 pages) on their understanding of the effects of compulsive buying and their thoughts on the topic. This was the test group. The control group was asked to complete a project on designing a marketing plan that had nothing to do with compulsive consumption. On the day both the projects were due in class, the students were administered the compulsive buying questionnaire for the second time. As a manipulation check, towards the end of the questionnaire, an additional 4 items were included (e.g. "I am very aware of the consequences of compulsive buying") anchored on a 5-point scale by 'Strongly Agree' to 'Strongly Disagree'. Table 2 presents the complete list of manipulation check items. Differences within groups will be observed both on the scale items as well as the manipulation check items. The group with the research project paper on compulsive buying is expected to exhibit a higher level of awareness on the phenomenon of compulsive buying with regards to the manipulation check. Overall, it is expected that there will not be a significant difference between the two groups during the first administration of the compulsive buying questionnaire. After the test group completes the course requirements on the research paper, it is expected that the mean scores on compulsive buying will be significantly different between the two groups on the second administration of the compulsive buying questionnaire.


With the first administration of the compulsive buying questionnaire, participants indicated on 5-point scales that they were not compulsive buyers (MExperiemntal = 1.85, MControl = 1.88). (See Table 1.) All scales were reverse coded. The difference was not significant across the two groups t (44) = -.171, p > .05. A principal component analysis with Varimax rotation of the four manipulation check items indicated that that the four variables in the measure of awareness of compulsive buying loaded onto a single factor (eigenvalue = 2.98). This measure of awareness showed a relatively high level of reliability for a new scale (α = .85). With the second administration, the manipulation check showed that the test group displayed a higher awareness of compulsive buying (MExperiemntal = 4.70) than the control group (MControl = 4.24). This difference was significant t(47) = 3.36, p < .01. However, the means of the two groups with regard to their compulsive buying behavior patterns (MExperiemntal = 1.84, MControl = 1.95)did not vary significantly, (t(47) = -.77, p > .05. ). Table 2 presents a comparison of the two groups with regard to their compulsive buying behaviors and the manipulation check items used in the study. (See Table 2.)


As predicted, we found no difference between the compulsive buying patterns of both the groups prior to their completing the research project. This is consistent with our expectations. Scores between the two groups after the completion of the research project were not significantly different. While not consistent with our predictions, this is not very surprising. The compulsive buying questionnaire measures behavior, and given the relatively short time between project completion and the subjects responding to the questionnaire, any change in behavior that can be attributed to the research project might be arbitrary. However, what is interesting is that the awareness of compulsive buying varies significantly between the two groups that completed different projects. The group which completed a project on compulsive buying shows higher awareness of compulsive buying than does the group which completed a general marketing project. This awareness is indicative of the impact of the project on student's perception of compulsive buying. Awareness can be critical in the formation of attitudes (Priluck and Till 2004). As such the significantly different awareness scores between the two groups suggest that this is an important step in the formation of attitudes which might have an effect on student behavior. The inclusion of course components in classrooms that can emphasize and promote awareness of phenomena consistent with Ignatian pedagogy can be important in shaping student attitudes and may hold promise in promoting the objectives of the IMP program. This exploratory study enables us to measure the effectiveness of course components that are introduced into the classroom. The measurement of such classroom components has the potential of informing the instructor about the use and effectiveness of such components. Any future work should try to extend this study across multiple sections of a class. A larger sample size as well as a longitudinal approach in which students attitudes are measured at multiple points can also aid in furthering understanding of the effects of the introduction of such course components.


Desarbo, Wayne S. and Elizabeth Edwards (1996), "Typologies of Compulsive Buying Behavior: A Constrained Clusterwise Regression Approach," Journal of Consumer Psychology, 5(3), 231 - 262.

Droge, Coreila and Robert D. Mackoy (1995), "The Consumption Culture Versus Environmentalism: Bridging Value Systems with Environmental Marketing," in Proceedings of the 1995 Marketing and Public Policy Conference, eds. P.S. Ellen and P. Kaufmann, Atlanta, GA: Marketing and Society Special Interest Group: 227 - 232.

Faber, Ronald J., Thomas C. O'Guinn and Raymond Krych (1987), "Compulsive Consumption," in Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 14, ed. M. Wallendorf and P. Anderson, Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research, 132-135.

Hirschman, Elizabeth C. (1992), "The Consciousness of Addiction: Toward a General Theory of Compulsive Consumption," Journal of Consumer Research, 19 (September), 155 - 179.

O'Guinn, Thomas C. and Ronald J. Faber (1989), "Compulsive Buying: A Phenomenological Explanation," Journal of Consumer Research, 16 (September), 147 - 157.

Priluck, Randi and Brian D. Till (2004), "The Role of Contingency Awareness, Involvement, and Need for Cognition in Attitude Formation," Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 32 (3), 329-344.

Roberts, James A. (1998), "Compulsive Buying Among College Students: An Investigation of Its Antecedents, Consequences and Implications for Public Policy," The Journal of Consumer Affairs, 32 (2), 295 - 319.

Table 1: Compulsive Buying Scale Items

1. Please indicate how much you agree or disagree with each of the following items. Place an X on the line which best indicates how you feel about each statement.

Strongly agree Some what disagree Neither agree nor disagree Some what disagree Strongly disagree
a. If I have any money left at the end of a payâ period, I just have to spend it. ___ ___ ___ ___ ___


2. Please indicate how often you have done each of the following things by placing an X on the appropriate line.

Very often Often Sometimes Rarely Never
a. Felt others would be horrified if they knew of my spending habits. ___ ___ ___ ___ ___
b. Bought things even though I couldn't afford them. ___ ___ ___ ___ ___
c. Wrote a check when I knew that I didn't have enough money in the bank to cover it. ___ ___ ___ ___ ___
d. Bought myself something in order to make myself feel better. ___ ___ ___ ___ ___
e. Felt anxious or nervous on days I didn't go shopping. ___ ___ ___ ___ ___
f. Made only the minimum payments on my credit cards. ___ ___ ___ ___ ___


Table 2: Mean Comparison Between Groups

Test Group Control Group
Pre test
Post Test
t(d.f.), p Pre Test
Post Test
t(d.f.), p
1a. If I have any money left at the end of a pay period, I just have to spend it. 2.04 2.12 .28 (44) 1.95 2.20 -.22 (47)
2a. Felt others would be horrified if they new of my spending habits. 2.13 2.17 .00 (44) 2.13 2.36 -.76 (47)
2b. Bought things even though I couldn't afford them. 2.17 2.04 -.65 (44) 2.35 2.20 -.61 (47)
2c. Wrote a check when I knew that I didn't have enough money in the bank to cover it. 1.17 1.21 .35 (44) 1.13 1.08 1.10 (47)
2d. Bought myself something in order to make myself feel better. 2.91 2.79 .95 (44) 2.70 2.68 .37 (47)
2e. Felt anxious or nervous on days I didn't go shopping. 1.26 1.25 .30 (44) 1.22 1.20 .37 (47)
2f. Made only the minimum payments on my credit cards. 1.27 1.33 -1.59 (44) 1.65 1.96 -2.21 (46)**
Overall Mean 1.86 1.85 -.17 (44) 1.88 1.95 -.78 (47)
3a. I am aware of the consequences of compulsive buying. 4.50 4.08 1.91 (47)
3b. I understand the meaning of compulsive buying. 4.38 4.36 3.41 (47)**
3c. I understand the concept of compulsive buying. 4.79 4.28 3.41 (47)**
3d. I am aware of the significance of compulsive buying. 4.67 4.24 2.75 (47)**
Overall Mean 4.70 4.24 3.36 (47)**

** indicates significance at p<.05 level.

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Reflection into Students' Views on CSR as Consumers

Russell Lacey, Ph.D.
Mentor: Michele Matherly, PhD (Accountancy)

Photo of Dr. Russell Lacey

The emergence of corporate social responsibility (CSR) reflects the widely held perspective that firms that enjoy enormous power in terms of controlling the bulk of society's resources have an ethical and social responsibility to go beyond economic and regulatory imperatives. Broadly defined, CSR represents a firm's activities and status relative to its societal or stakeholder obligations (Brown and Dacin, 1997). As a social bonding source, CSR represents a multi-dimensional reflection of its corporate values, including those shared with consumers of its products and services. Some of the basic tenets of CSR include giving back to the community, respecting the environment, being good to your employees and partners, and to do no harm. Despite the unprecedented lack of trust in the corporate world, John Mackey, CEO and founder of Whole Foods posits that "Well-run, values-centered businesses can contribute to humankind in more tangible ways than any other organization in society." (Mackey and Sisodia, 2013, p. xi).

CSR and Ignatian and Jesuit Pedagogy
Personal reflection of the potential value of CSR on society in relationship to individual student discernment will assist in fulfilling the Jesuit and Ignatian pedagogy. Moreover, an understanding of the prevalence of CSR and its effects of individual consumer behavior may serve to inspire students to utilize corporate resources to improve society by engaging them in a reflective process concerning CSR and its relationship with individual consumer values in shaping current managerial perspectives and/or those organizations they will serve in the future.

Given CSR's growing prominence in contemporary business practices, the primary purpose of this teaching and learning classroom exercise is to investigate how CSR perceptions are shaped by students' expectations. This student discernment activity is influenced by the Motivator-Hygiene Theory (Herzberg, et al. 1959) and explores the role of CSR as a motivating factor and/or as a hygiene business requirement. Fredrick Herzberg developed a two-factor theory that distinguishes dissatisfiers (factors that cause dissatisfaction) from satisfiers (factors that cause satisfaction). In line with this theory, marketers should avoid sources of dissatisfaction that might harm a brand and identify sources of satisfaction that please customers and supply them. Students practice discernment by looking into their own feelings about CSR. Specifically, students are asked to consider whether CSR serves as a personally motivating factor for brand allegiance and/or acts as a hygiene factor. When CSR is viewed as a hygiene factor, brands are less likely to be rewarded for their CSR efforts but rather insufficient CSR levels would work to weaken a consumer's attitudes toward the brand.

Marketing Course Student Profiles
This project took place during the Spring 2013 semester across the following three marketing classes: (1) MKTG 325-Services Marketing, (2) MKTG 600-Marketing Strategy, and (3) MKTG 700-Marketing Concepts and Strategy. By including undergraduate marketing students as well as graduate students both at an MBA and EMBA level, the activities and intellectual discourse offers students in various points of their education and professional career to personally reflect on the impact of CSR on society. The inclusion of 71 participants across all three classes also provides an unusually diverse group of students in terms of age, education, and work experiences from which to draw from and compare. The number of participants, average age and male/female gender representation for the three corresponding marketing courses just highlighted are: (1) MKTG 325 = 27 participants, 20.8 years old, 63% male/37% female; (2) MKTG 600 = 31, 27.8, 58%/42%; and (3) MKTG 700 = 13, 39.4, 69%/31%.

Methods and Procedures
A brief CSR attitudinal and perceptions survey was administered prior to classroom discussion for each class: MKTG 325, MKTG 600, and MKTG 700. The CSR survey was comprised of Likert-type scales (e.g., 1=strongly disagree to 7=strongly agree) to assess students' CSR perceptions of four leading brands (Proctor and Gamble, Kroger, Starbucks, and Google), in addition to their favorite brand (identified by the participant), and their respective attitudes about CSR as a motivator and as a hygiene factor. The brands included in the study were selected because students, ranging from undergraduate to EMBA, would be very familiar with them, although perhaps not as familiar with their CSR activities.

The Lichtenstein et al. (2004) five-item measure of CSR Perceptions assessed individual views of a brand's involvement in corporate giving, including its support of non-profit organizations. Given the wide variety of CSR initiatives, this scale was selected because it encompassed a broad view of CSR as defined in this study. In order to capture the respective potential roles of "CSR as Motivator" and "CSR as Hygiene Factor", new measures were used to reflect the study's duality theoretical perspective. Table 1 provides a listing of the multi-scale measures used in this research along with sound evidence of their respective reliability and validity properties.

After completion of the survey, I shared some research I have done in this area and used both the survey and research overview to serve as a springboard for class discussion about their thoughts about CSR, including its role and importance toward strengthening customer relationships. Classroom discussions probed for whether or not students personally believe that corporations have an obligation to engage in CSR. Of particular emphasis was learning how, if at all, CSR practices individually impact student's attitudes toward brands, including the degree to which CSR practices strengthen brand loyalty due to their respective views of CSR as a motivator or hygiene factor.

CSR Survey Results
In aggregate (n=71), students are more apt to have a positive association of the CSR efforts of their favorite brand (µ=5.29). EMBA students (µ=6.09) report statistically significantly higher CSR perceptions of their favorite brand in comparison to undergraduate students (µ=5.14; p=.005) and MBA students (µ=5.08; p=.002). No differences are observed between undergraduate students and MBA students. See Table 2. At a group mean construct level, students are more likely to see that CSR functions as a hygiene factor (µ=4.17) as opposed as a motivator (µ=3.75) on their favorite brands. Despite a highly significant difference (p<.0001) found between the motivator and hygiene factors, both constructs received a relatively neutral mean score (on a 7-point scale, 4=neither agree nor disagree).

Table 2 also compares "CSR as Motivator" mean scores of the undergraduate (µ=3.87), MBA (µ=3.26), and EMBA (µ=4.64) student participants, EMBA students are more likely to view CSR as a motivator factor than MBA students, at the p=.005 level of significance. Much weaker evidence (p=.08) is seen between the undergraduate and EMBA students, with non-significant differences between the undergraduate and MBA student groups. Similarly, when evaluating "CSR as Hygiene Factor" mean values of the undergraduate (µ=4.31), MBA (µ=3.72), and EMBA (µ=4.95) student groups, EMBA students are shown as significantly more likely (p=.02) to view CSR as a hygiene factor than MBA students. Only directional evidence (p=.07) is seen between the undergraduate and MBA students and non-significant differences are reported between undergraduate marketing and EMBA student participants.

As a post hoc test, regression analysis was conducted to examine CSR's respective motivator-hygiene factor relationships as predictor variables on CSR perceptions of their favorite brands. According to the regression results (R2=42.4%; F-ratio=25/68 df), only "CSR as Motivator" is shown to have a significant effect (t-ratio=3.76; p=.0004) on CSR perceptions. Conversely, "CSR as Hygiene Factor" reveals insignificant results (t-ratio=1.51; p=.14) on CSR perceptions of the respondent's favorite brand. Further examination of the regression results among the three student groups reveal significant differences. Namely, only in the case of the undergraduate student group are the results (R2=50.8%; F-ratio=12.4/24 df) similar to the combined student pool; here only "CSR as Motivator" is shown to have a significant effect (t-ratio=2.67; p=.013) on CSR perceptions.

Students reported CSR perceptions among measured brands, ranging from slightly positive perceptions (Google: µ=4.35; Starbucks: µ=4.71) to more positive CSR perceptions (Kroger's: µ=5.07; PandG: µ=5.79). Regarding their favorite brand, CSR perceptions (µ=5.29) are significantly higher than those held towards either Starbucks (p=.002) or Google (p<.0001) though significantly lower than PandG (p<.01). Comparison of these results at each undergraduate, MBA, and EMBA level, we find similar results. For undergraduate students, in comparison to the CSR perceptions held toward their favorite brand, CSR perceptions (µ=5.14) are significantly higher than those held toward Google (µ=4.39; p=.01). For MBA students, their view of CSR of their favorite brand (µ=5.08) is significantly higher than CSR perceptions of Google (µ=4.48; p=.02) but significantly lower than PandG (µ=5.82; p<.01). Finally, EMBA students' CSR perceptions of their favorite brand (µ=6.09) in comparison with other measured brands, we find significantly higher perceptions of their favorite brand versus Google (µ=3.92; p<.0001) and Starbucks (µ=4.48; p<.002).

Class Discussions of Effects of CSR on Brand Relationships
As confirmed by the above survey results, most students are relatively unaware of the CSR initiatives undertaken by companies, including their favorite brands. Instead, students are more likely to be at least generally aware of CSR activities of their past or present employers. To further enrich what undergraduate marketing students learned from these discussions, they were offered a modest extra credit opportunity so those undergraduate students could uncover specific social responsibility initiatives of their favorite brand (e.g., Nike, Macy's, Target, Apple, Patagonia, Amazon. etc.). Seventeen students submitted the extra credit assignment at the beginning of the following class. This exercise stimulated additional discussion.

Overall, many students view social responsibility is an important business practice but believe that companies should refrain from using CSR activities or accomplishments in a marketing context. Communication is appropriate and important as long as it is fact-based and void of hyperbole. One prevailing sentiment across student groups is that whatever companies say they do regarding sustainability or helping others, it better be matched by their actions.

As expressed by a number of students, the business challenge is to walk the fine line of sharing the brand's contributions without appearing to be exploitive or raising concerns about the brand's underlying motivations. Some students expressed that they view CSR practices with skepticism and suspect that the business motivations can be driven either by desire for marketing demand generation or brand equity enhancement, as opposed to altruistic reasons.

Interestingly, even when CSR brand initiatives overlap with individual values, students were hesitant to say that they would be more loyal to the brand. While they have a greater appreciation of the brand, the overwhelming sentiment appeared to be that students would not support them more because of good deeds taken to help others. Rather students typically report that CSR might play a more minor positive role in brand choice but would not be a major determinant. This exploratory research does offer anecdotal evidence in support of CSR playing more of a hygiene factor role as students become increasingly aware of widespread CSR practices across many industries. Hence, some students spoke about how CSR is now expected and if it came to their attention that CSR was not being practiced, it would be grounds to no longer support a brand (i.e., hygiene factor effect).

It is commonplace for businesses to dedicate considerable time, effort, and financial resources to practice social responsibility. The objective of the classroom discussions was to learn and discuss how CSR efforts are viewed by students from a consumer's perspective. This study examines CSR perceptions and how CSR initiatives resonate among student groups. Specifically, the study empirically investigates the individual effects of CSR as a hygiene factor and as a motivator on CSR perceptions. The study provides partial evidence how individual views impact perceived social responsibility of the brand. Most revealing were student views on how raising awareness has potentially positive (although relatively minor) marketing effects of consumer attitudes and intended behaviors. Yet the paradox is that students do not want CSR exploits communicated in a marketing context. By undertaking this classroom exercise across a diverse group of Xavier students, I plan to use the insights I have gained to formulate a framework for how businesses can ethically communicate their social responsibility activities.

Brown, T. and Dacin, P.A. (1997). The company and the product: Corporate associations and consumer product responses. Journal of Marketing, 61(1), 68-84.
Herzberg, F., Mausner, B. and Snyderman, B. (1959). Motivation to Work. New York: John Wiley.
Lichtenstein, D.R., Drumwright, M.E. and Braig, B.M. (2004). The effect of corporate social responsibility on customer
donations to corporate-supported nonprofits", Journal of Marketing, 68 (4), 16-32.
Mackey, J. and Sisodia, R. (2013). Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. Boston, Harvard
Business Review Press.


Table 1: Scale Items and Confirmatory Factor Analysis

Lambda Loadingsa Composite Reliability Average Variance Extracted
CSR Perceptions ___ .90 .59
This Brand includes charity in its business activities. .83 ___ ___
This brand is involved with the local community. .66 ___ ___
Local nonprofit organizations benefit from this brand's contributions. .82 ___ ___
This brand is committed to using a portion of its profits to help nonprofit causes and events. .85 ___ ___
This brand is involved in corporate giving. .85 ___ ___
CSR as Motivator ___ .94 .85
I support this brand because they include charity in their business activities. .91 ___ ___
My satisfaction with this brand is tied to its level of social responsibility involvement. .91 ___ ___
I support the brand because it is involved in corporate giving. .95 ___ ___
CSR as Hygiene Factor ___ .82 .61
I believe this brand that i support has an obligation to undertake community service activities. .57 ___ ___
I would be dissatisfied with this brand if it was not involved in charitable corporate giving. .86 ___ ___
I would stop supporting this favorite brand if they discontinued charity in their business activities. .88 ___ ___

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Consumer Communities Do Well, But Can They Do Good? An Ignatian Mentoring Project

Dr. James Loveland, PhD

Mentor: Dr. Mina Lee, PhD (Management and Entrepreneurship)

Problem Introduction.
Over the last decade, the relationship between consumers and brands has become a focal point of both academic research and corporate activity. Consumers are more demanding of their brands, and actively consider not only factors such as product quality, but also the nature of the firms that make their products, and the types of consumer-brand relationships that might be engendered by choosing one brand over another. For example, many consumers want to know that their brands are engaging in prosocial behaviors and supporting causes important to them (cf. Bhattacharya and Sen 2004); many consumers also participate in brand and consumer communities, so that they can build relationships with their fellow consumers (e.g. Muniz and Guinn 2001) . These communities also represent a significant strategic asset for firms, and so many firms have accepted the reality that building relationships with consumers, and focusing on these relationships from a customer-centric perspective (Fournier 1998) provides an important means of building customer loyalty, for addressing consumer concerns, and for communicating the different prosocial activities that the firm is engaged in. Ultimately, these communities have the potential to create firms which must be accountable to their constituents, and to create organizations that can take pride in enacting social change. Research oriented around these consumer-brand relationships within the context of prosocial activities has tended to focus on the impact of the firm’s activities on relational outcomes important to the firm, such as customer loyalty and other purchase-related behaviors.  However, the profit-centric approach ignores the potential value that consumers place with brands engaged in prosocial behavior.   Hotel guests, for example, will reuse their towels while staying at hotels to make the planet greener. While this is in part due to a desire to protect natural resources, consumers consider this within the scope of relational and social norms for this relationship. In fact, many consumers expect this type of behavior from firms.  Despite its potential importance, research has not seriously examined the capacity of firms to mobilize consumers to do good or to participate in prosocial causes that do not involve purchase behavior. For example, Harley-Davidson’s “Ride For a Cure” entails donating money to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, asking friends to sponsor their ride, and riding in groups along specific routes. These activities allow consumers the opportunity to build relationships with fellow consumers, engendering a sense of community (McAlexander, Schouten, and Koenig 2002) and a stronger sense of social identification with the brand and community (Hogg and Abrams 2003). In addition, prosocial activities which require consumers to actively donate their own time and effort directly tend to provide greater emotional benefits to consumers than do less direct prosocial activities (Krishna 2011). Activities of this nature should therefore simultaneously create benefits for the brand, the consumer, and for the social cause being endorsed. While these types of activities themselves are widely known, the actual level of participation, or who is doing the participation, is still unexamined.


Community and Ignatian and Jesuit Pedagogy
Consistent with Ignatian values, the desire to help others, to be men and women for and with each other, is perhaps one of the strongest unifying principles of the human experience. However, there are several tensions created when we organize; these tensions can create situations that may enhance the common good at the expense of those that are not considered to be part of the fold or a “key demographic” in marketing terms. For instance, a brand might seek out others who are similar and like-minded to the point that they actively exclude others. Consumers might also decide not to participate in a cause because it is already being pursued by their brand, and so companies must act in such a way that enhances the greater good. These two issues form the basis for this project. The question of inclusion in communities was included in the course Marketing 495 (Marketing Planning and Analysis / Capstone) as part of a Harvard Business Case on Harley Davidson, and the second question, of the role of firms in building a common good, was addressed through a work of scholarship which was published in Journal of Interactive Marketing.

Student Project and Discussion
Project Setup. During the Spring of 2018, 65 senior marketing students enrolled in MKTG 495 read the Harley Davidson business case, and discussion centered on the community-building activities of the firm and the values that the brand and community espouse. Typically, many of the values that are mentioned are freedom, liberty, and masculinity. As the students noted, the brand does well in terms of fostering these values within the larger community. After considerable discussion, the students were asked why the community was not representative of America—it was noted that there are many groups that are underrepresented in this group, and that there are people whose ideas of freedom and liberty are different, and people for whom traditional masculinity does not represent an ideal. Moreover, these values have left people feeling excluded—and while this might seem only like a brand issue, these types of spontaneous social/group activities are an important piece of the fabric of modern American life. So, developing inclusivity within a brand community represents an important social good that also makes sense from a business perspective. How to address this was the basis for an impromptu project in which students needed to identify ways in which to maintain the values of the brand, while making the offering more inclusive.

Student Discussion. Clearly, this was a sensitive topic to discuss, as it touches on aspects of race, gender, sexuality, age, and even political affiliation; these are all matters that are typically avoided in business. However, these are still decisions that they would be making as the business leaders of tomorrow, and students were reminded that they needed to face these issues head-on, because if they did not, then others would tacitly make these decisions for their organizations and not face these important issues. The students came up with several powerful ideas, foremost of which was that the American experience has been different for everyone, and many have been disenfranchised to the extent that even concepts like freedom and liberty seem jingoistic to many Americans. Firms should take a stronger sense in communicating, then, what freedom and liberty are—to both share what these concepts mean as a member of the community, but to develop a definition which is inclusive, and does not require individuals to have to hide or suppress who they are. Another key point the students discussed was the responsibility that firms have in ensuring that their communities behave responsibly—many of the associations people have of these communities is based on popular culture and visible, overt behavior of members. Firms should ensure then, that their consumers behave appropriately. From here, students also discussed the tremendous potential of these brand communities to play a larger role in the civic realm.


Academic Project
Introduction to Problem. The academic portion of this project was based on a research study examining distributed computing projects. These projects are particularly interesting because they often address serious problems that are not addressable by other means—either because the projects require more computing power than one firm could devote to one unique problem, or because a problem is simply too large in scope, too lengthy in study duration, or otherwise not commercially viable. For example, UC Berkeley’s SETI@home project has been coordinating the analysis of radio telescope data in the search for extra-terrestrial life since project release in 1999, and Oxford’s project has been analyzing and improving climate models since 2003.     

Many of the largest projects focus on daunting problems of fundamental importance to society as a whole. The largest distributed computing project, in terms of amassed computing performance, is the Folding@home project (Wikipedia 2014b). The project is devoted to disease research and seeks to develop treatments and cures for some of the most daunting diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cancer. The Folding@home project, currently overseen by Stanford University, includes over 400,000 active processing units and can perform data analysis at a rate of 8,588 TFLOPS. To achieve this processing, the project relies on a network of volunteers who allocate their processors to this task whenever they are not using their computers. Naturally, the prosocial nature of many of these distributed computing projects has attracted the interest of firms as well. Firms, particularly those in the computer hardware industry, have devoted considerable capital and programming expertise to promoting these projects as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. But unlike other CSR initiatives a firm might decide to engage in, distributed computing projects depend heavily on the ability of the organizers and corporate sponsors to recruit consumers who are both willing and able to commit the computing resources needed in order for these types of CSR initiatives to realize their potential. In the past, the CSR literature has primarily focused on CSR initiatives in which the firm simply donates funds directly to a cause based on consumer purchase behavior, such as donating a certain amount of money for each yogurt lid that is mailed to the company, or for each credit card transaction during a specified period. Furthermore, this research focused on the benefits of CSR initiatives to the firm, rather than how to benefit the initiatives itself and promote consumer participation . Despite the potential benefits to society, little empirical research has examined consumer contributions to CSR initiatives in the context of distributed computing projects.

Promoting consumer participation in distributed computing projects presents unique challenges. The consumers most able to benefit these projects are those who own very specialized computing hardware—specifically, high-end 3D graphics cards from AMD and NVIDIA Corporation which produce 40 times or more of the computing power of Intel main processors. For example, while an Intel I7-3700 series processor can produce up to 125 gigaFLOPS (125 billion floating-point operations per second), high-end enthusiast 3D graphics cards such as the AMD Radeon R9 295x2 produce over 11.5 teraFLOPS (11.5 trillion floating-point operations per second). Furthermore, many computer enthusiasts possess systems with up to three such 3D graphics cards installed. Since these graphics cards also have power requirements which make it impossible to install them in standard desktop systems, these cards are primarily used in custom systems specially built by computer enthusiasts. The challenge therefore facing distributed computing projects and their corporate supporters is identifying those computer enthusiasts who are not just able to help but are willing to actually participate.

From the firm’s perspective, the natural targets for calls to participate are those enthusiasts who are the most dedicated and knowledgeable about the firm’s products. Such highly brand loyal consumers frequently participate in online brand communities where they can share their knowledge about and appreciation of the firm’s offerings (Muñiz and O’Guinn 2001, Thompson and Sinha 2008). In principle, these consumers possess the knowledge and ability needed to assist such projects. However, not all enthusiasts are dedicated to a particular brand. Some computing enthusiasts possess the necessary 3D graphics cards from AMD and NVIDIA, yet choose to avoid the associated brand communities in favor of non-brand based product category communities dedicated to those who enjoy high-end graphics cards in general. While both groups of enthusiasts are uniquely capable of “doing good” by participating in distributed computing projects, it is unclear which are more willing to do so. Thus, both project organizers and firm managers lack guidance on which consumers they should focus recruitment efforts on.

Summary of Results. Despite the tremendous faith that firms place in their purportedly loyal brand communities, our findings show that the strength or duration of the relationships that a brand has with its consumers do not necessarily provide a straight and direct path to increasing the likelihood to join a distributed computing project. Surprisingly, and completely contrary to the more optimistic predictions made in the marketing literature, membership in a brand community seems to actually be an impediment to joining a CSR distributed computing project, despite the high degree of identification that the most active members of these communities should have. By way of comparison, Algesheimer, Dholakia, and Herrmann (2005), in their study centered on ownership of European sports cars, found that continued membership, active participation, and relationship with the brand’s products were all significantly related to positive outcomes for the firm and for the consumer’s identification with the brand. However, in both the AMD and NVIDIA communities, active participation (100 posts) reduced the likelihood of joining the distributed computing project by margins of roughly 55% and 99% respectively. Membership duration had a similar, albeit smaller, effect of reducing likelihood of joining. Thus, while these active and longer-duration consumers are likely to be brand loyal and important to the brands they endorse, they do not represent the consumers that brands wishing to encourage participation in distributed computing projects should target.

In stark contrast to what was seen in the brand communities, we found that the likelihood of members of the general product category forum joining the Folding@home project actually increased by 476% when they actively participated in the product forum. Also, the impact of participation in a brand community is not wholly negative, as those participants who engaged in helping behaviors towards their fellow community members or toward outside (product category) members were more likely to join the distributed computing project. This underscores the multifarious nature of the consumer-brand relationship—this relationship extends beyond the product and brand to the larger community of product users. Many consumer-brand relationships have an inherently social dimension that is based on a connection with other users/admirers of the brand. Calling for prosocial action in the form of joining a distributed computing project appears to invoke these social relationships, rather than the relationship with the brand itself.

In sum, consumers who engage in helping behavior showed an increased likelihood to join a distributed computing project aimed at benefitting others. This positive impact of helping behavior was consistent across both of the brand communities as well as the product category community. This suggests that, despite the negative impact of brand community participation, the helping behavior that brand communities encourage can have a positive impact on joining projects aimed at benefitting others. Thus, brand communities can serve as a valuable source of donations to distributed computing projects—as long as the most help-prone members are targeted.

Overall Conclusions
What initially prompted both of these projects was to understand the role of the firm within product and brand communities. These communities have the power to protect consumers, and to help organizations mobilize their members to pursue greater goods than firms typically contemplate. However, firms have little guidance on how to mobilize these communities, and firms often ignore the social values that their communities may engender or foster.


Selected References.

Fournier, Susan (2001), “Building Brand Community on the Harley Davidson Posse Ride” Harvard Business Case 5-501-052.

Thompson, Scott A., Molan Kim, James M. Loveland, Russell Lacey, and Iana A. Castro (2017) “Consumer Communities Do Well, But Do They Do Good? A Study of Participation in Distributed Computing Projects” Journal of Interactive Marketing, 37 (2), 32-43.

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