Doing Good for (Maybe) Nothing: Motive Inferences when Rewards are Uncertain

Jackie Silverman, University of Delaware, and Ike Silver, Marketing, The Wharton School

Abstract: Consumers are often skeptical of social innovation (e.g., corporate social responsibility), thinking that firms undertake such innovations to increase profit rather than to “do the right thing.” How can firms convey the social and monetary benefits of investing in social innovations to consumers and stakeholders to best improve their brand image? In this work, we find that by communicating the potential riskiness of social innovation (e.g., that such investment could yield no profit), firms are seen as more purely motivated and more socially good, compared to when the social innovation has the same expected value without risk.