be regarded as more of a hygiene factor283; this is shown by the fact that two of our interviewees state that as IKEA is a strong brand, most consumers take for granted that IKEA is a responsible corporate citizen.284 The awareness among consumers of IKEA’s actual CSR efforts is perceived to be low by our IKEA interviewees285 - IKEA is not positioned as a CSR brand. Nevertheless, research shows that there are several benefits for the positioning as a CSR brand, going beyond those for a brand, which merely engages in CSR.286 Although CSR is considered to fit perfectly into their vision and values, IKEA relies on its core values – family friendliness and low prices to shape the brand. In addition to this, although a repositioning of IKEA as a CSR brand according to theory287 could have significant benefits, this can be considered too risky for an established company like IKEA that already is permeated by social values.
Following theory, CSR may have a range of favorable effects on consumer preference such as ability to charge a price premium, affecting purchase behavior favorably, customer loyalty due to consumer- company identification and favourable word of mouth.288 Our empirical findings do not indicate that IKEA has used CSR as a way to drive consumer preference, as shown by IKEA’s limited communication of CSR to consumers to date as well as the interpretation of results from IKEA’s yearly Brand capital survey of which we partook and in which it was found that consumers’ awareness of CSR efforts is in fact quite low.289 However, IKEA practices cause-related marketing on a small scale, in the form of its annual campaign in selling soft toys, with proceeds going to UNICEF and “Save the Children”. IKEA definitely does not use CSR to charge a price premium as this would go against their core value of guaranteeing low prices. A global example, which shows that IKEA customers in fact are not willing to pay a price premium for CSR is that of IKEA Singapore starting to charge money for plastic bags - the sales of these decreased substantially.290 Another indication that IKEA does not believe in the willingness of its customers to pay a price premium for CSR, is the choice of focusing their cotton production on cost-cutting sustainable alternatives, rather than producing products from more expensive ecological cotton; a niche product that could have been charged with a price premium. One can regard IKEA as being a company that is very focused on building consumer-company identification with for instance the IKEA Family Club and magazine. However, it does not yet see CSR as leading to consumer-company identification. Our interviewees showed an awareness of there being a certain type of customer which is very knowledgeable and interested in CSR issues and for which CSR has become a hygiene factor.291 However, the interviewees consider that for most customers CSR does not drive customer loyalty.292 The discrepancy between stated motivations and empirical findings, e.g. that IKEA does or does not see consumer preference as a motivation for CSR, is most probably due to the fact that IKEA does not see CSR as driving consumer preference – yet. At the moment, the number of consumers for which this is most important is marginal. Nonetheless, the number of CSR activists is growing as is the motivation for engaging in CSR as well as the need to preempt this possible risk for the brand.
283 284 285 286 287 288 289 290 291 292
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