Persuading Consumers with Differing Values to Increase Their Ethical Purchasing Intentions: A Theoretical Re-Conceptualization and Experiment

  • Rachel Bodell

Student thesis: Doctor of Business Administration


Ethical marketing and ethical consumer behaviour studies continue to be important and prolific. While there is truth in these many studies, the fragmentation of the literature based on terminology and perspective leads to confusion. A synthesis and integration of ethical marketing and ethical consumption literature is needed to provide a useful reconceptualization regarding how to carry out persuasive ethical marketing strategies. To help address these challenges, this research aims to rethink the categorization of ethical marketing strategy, provide a more comprehensive understanding of the ethical consumer decision making process, and ultimately make recommendations on ways to carry out ethical persuasive marketing strategies. A mixed methodological approach is deployed to allow a comprehensive examination of a wide range of data and refine theory from a pragmatic philosophical perspective. The research is organized into three studies. The first and second research studies take a qualitative approach and employ grounded theory methods of open and axial coding of ethical marketing and ethical consumer behaviour literature. The result of the first study is a new conceptual typology of ethical marketing strategies, which delineates three approaches: justice (e.g., fair trade), charity (e.g., 10% donation for each purchase), and advocacy (e.g., stop sexual harassment) based on the type of resource (tangible or intangible) and type of stakeholder (internal or external) used and impacted by the organisation. The result of the second study is an integrative explanatory theory of ethical consumer behaviour which accommodates differing consumer values in the context of, ethical decision making and consumer behaviour process model theories. Based on the models developed in the first and second study, the third research study was a 3-way online quasi experimental survey to help predict how purchasing intension might reflect a functional alignment of consumer values with ethical marketing strategies. More specifically, it examined consumer purchasing intensions as a function of alignment between (a) intrinsic and extrinsic consumer values, (b) type of ethical marketing strategy (justice vs. charity), and (c) level of message prominence on the product packaging (high vs. low). The findings show that extrinsic consumers have a higher purchasing intension for prominently displayed messages, regardless of ethical marketing strategy type. This extends other studies which show that consumers may engage in ethical consumption for self-signalling reasons. The findings also show that intrinsic consumers have a higher purchasing intension for justice ethical marketing strategies. This result suggests buying products with justice attached may provide a personal reward for intrinsic consumers in a way which charity ethical marketing strategies do not. Overall, the findings suggest the models proposed in the first and second study may help to inform marketing strategies aimed at strategically nudging intrinsic consumers toward the benefit of self-accountability and extrinsic consumers toward altruistic cost-signalling benefits. If marketing managers cue consumers in more effective ways, it may help to increase the ethical purchasing.
Date of Award1 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCharles Cui (Supervisor) & Alex Gunz (Supervisor)


  • Persuasion
  • Ethical Consumer Behavior Model
  • Ethical Marketing Strategy Framework
  • Ethical Priming
  • Ethical Framing
  • Cause Related Marketing
  • Conscious Marketing
  • Inclusive Marketing
  • Social Marketing
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Ethical Consumerism
  • Nudging
  • Ethical Marketing
  • Ethical Purchasing Intention

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