Millennial consumers’ perceptions of corporate social responsibility
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The purpose of this study was to measure consumer response to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). In recent years the adoption of CSR has become popularized by many companies, however little academic or industry related data has been collected to determine the relationship between consumer perception of CSR with purchasing and patronage. For this study, the well-known companies of Walmart, Starbucks, and Marriott web-sites were chosen, as these companies are geo-graphically diverse recognizable consumer brands which all have well-developed and award winning Corporate Social Responsibility programs. The sample sought in this study was the web-site surfing college-aged-members of Generation Y, a rapidly growing group of consumers whose purchasing power will play a role in the future direction of companies (i.e., online retailing, online marketing). The primary data sought in this study was the subconscious response of Generation Y when presented a web-site inspired PowerPoint containing the Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives of all three companies. As purchasing of goods is often a subconscious response and relies more on emotion rather than reasoning, obtaining subconscious data is crucial to understanding the minds of consumers. In order to test consumers’ subconscious responses, the neuroimaging instrument of Electroencephalography (EEG) was used . The EEG scan was conducted in NeuroImaging Cognition and Engineering Lab of within Texas Tech University. Prior to EEG scanning, a pre-survey was administered online to gather baseline participant responses to each of the companies and gather consumer opinion of each company’s CSR perception. After the EEG, a post survey was given to determine participant retention of the PowerPoint and future purchase intentions. Using the survey instruments described above, this study operates on the test-retest experimental research method and the theoretical framework known as Stimulus-Organism-Response (SOR), which investigated the relationship between web-site stimulus of CSR and the internal emotional perception of consumers evidenced in the outcome or behavioral response. Data collection was gathered for three days in April of 2012 and consisted of a sample size of 6 females and 5 males. From the sample, no definitive results can be drawn from the EEG results. The results, or brain scan readings, were distorted with artifacts, (i.e., outside noise, physiological movement, etc...), so no definitive brain response analysis could link the stimulus to the response. Therefore, a convenience sample of students was gathered and completed the study without the use of EEG equipment. The second sample consisted of 49 participants, 45 female and 4 male. The methodology remained the same from the initial study; however the emotional and subconscious data were unable to be obtained. The most significant results of the study were descriptive statistics relating to whether or not the participants believed each company possessed the socially responsible behaviors. The participant mean responses increased, indicating the perception that after being presented with the CSR stimulus, people’s perception of the company was more favorable.