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Strategic CSR, Corporate Identity, Branding and Marketing: Review & Comments

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The study also offers a few propositions to measure the effect of CSR on corporate branding and marketing to gain sustainable competitive advantage and increased firm-level performance. The study discusses the strategic designing of various CSR initiatives and stakeholder engagement from the corporate marketing perspective and how the strategic implementation of such efforts help companies in managing their brands to gain competitive advantage and firmlevel increased performance.

Strategic CSR, Corporate Identity, Branding and Marketing: Review & Comments

   Added on 2021-08-16

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Rev. Integr. Bus. Econ. Res. Vol 4(3) 121

Strategic CSR, Corporate Identity, Branding and
Marketing: Review & Comments

Subrat Sahu*
School of Petroleum Management, Pandit Deendayal
Petroleum University

Suvendu Kr. Pratihari,
School of Management, National Institute of Technology, India


ABSTRACT
Today, many corporations are facing the challenges of intense competition in the global
market to gain sustainable competitive advantage. Corporate Branding is becoming the way
in which the corporations are differentiating themselves within the competition framework.
It is observed that national and multinational companies are increasingly moving towards
corporate branding rather than branding of their products and services. Customers are
giving more importance to corporate brands’ social quality as compared to technical and
functional values of a product. Corporate identity that is fundamental to a corporate brand
has been playing a significant role in consumers’ product evaluation. Corporate Social
Responsibility (CSR) currently has occupied an important position on the Corporate
Branding and Marketing agenda. A growing number of authors have presented the linkages
between CSR, Corporate Identity, Corporate Image, Corporate Branding and Corporate
Marketing. The present study has identified some research gaps through an extensive
literature review and has proposed a framework describing the effect of CSR on Corporate
Branding and Marketing. The study also offers a few propositions to measure the effect of
CSR on corporate branding and marketing to gain sustainable competitive advantage and
increased firm-level performance. Strategic CSR affects the corporate identity positively,
which is again fundamental to the corporate brand, as some authors stated. The study
discusses the strategic designing of various CSR initiatives and stakeholder engagement
from the corporate marketing perspective and how the strategic implementation of such
efforts help companies in managing their brands to gain competitive advantage and firm-
level increased performance.

Key Words: CSR & Strategic CSR, Corporate Identity, Corporate Branding, Corporate
Marketing
Strategic CSR, Corporate Identity, Branding and Marketing: Review & Comments_1
Rev. Integr. Bus. Econ. Res. Vol 4(3) 122

followed parallel evolutionary paths, they have converged to convey a unified sense of a
company’s long-term success and its existence (Vaaland et al., 2008). This idea of
corporate consciousness indistinguishably been tried to the stewardship of business of not
just its well-being, but also that of the natural and social environment in which it operates
(Hildebrand et al., 2011). This has led forward-thinking companies to make a strategic
approach to CSR, devoting unprecedented efforts and resources to create and maximize the
shared value (i.e. the value both for the company and the society) (Porter and Kramer,
2011). In this context, some efforts have been made to conceptualize the questions that
persevere about the relationship between a company, its stakeholders, and its CSR
initiatives, and, in particular, how these three entities come together to create that elusive
shared value (Simmons, 2009; Balmer et al., 2007; Fukukawa et al ., 2007; Maignan and
Ferrell, 2004 and Sen and Bhattacharya, 2001).
Corporate branding is gaining momentum as the corporations are seeking to differentiate
themselves. Moreover, corporates consider corporate brands as an important element of
their organizational marketing strategy (Balmer, 2001a and Olins, 2000). Corporate brands
(CB) are significant assets that contribute billions of dollars to the balance sheet of the
company (Aaker, 1996). While the success or failure of virtually all major organizations
recognizes the significance of strong brand as an important factor for some time; CSR is
recently acknowledged as one of the most important factors in determining corporate brand
(Worcester, 2009). Moreover, CSR has been observed in becoming a mainstream topic,
rising to a corporate priority in management and marketing (Franklin, 2008). The question
of how does CSR affect customers’ and other stakeholders’ perception and how does it
affect the company’s identity, image, brand and organizational success, has become one of
the key topics at the intersection of sustainability and marketing research (Bhattacharya et
al., 2009; Sen et al., 2006; Smith, 2003).

2. CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (CSR)
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the practice and policy of corporate social
involvement to satisfy social needs (Angelidis and Ibrahim, 1993; Enderle and Tavis,
1998). CSR comprises a wide range of corporate activities that focus on the welfare of
various stakeholder groups, including society and the natural environment (Sprinkle and
Maines, 2010). While a firm’s CSR action should be in harmony with societal values and
expectations (Lerner and Fryxell, 1998), CSR has been further refined into business
activities that involve four responsibilities such as economic, legal, ethical, and
philanthropic (Carroll, 1996).

Table-1: Defining Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
CSR
Strategic CSR, Corporate Identity, Branding and Marketing: Review & Comments_2
Rev. Integr. Bus. Econ. Res. Vol 4(3) 123

business and promote innovation.
Legal
Firms’ fulfillment of their
economic responsibility within a
legal framework.

To comply with the law
Ethical
Firms’ abide by acknowledging
societal values and norms
defining appropriate behaviour.
To be moral and fair, respect
people’s rights, avoid harm and
social injury.
Philanthropic
‘‘Purely voluntary’’ in
contributing to the betterment of
society and improving the overall
quality of life.
To perform activities those are
beneficial for society. These
include: Altruistic CSR and
Strategic CSR
Source: Compiled by author. (Depicting the dimensions of CSR as described by
Carroll (1996) and by Lantos (2001))
In Carroll’s (1979) conception on CSR, businesses were said to prioritize their profitability
(economic obligation) and their responsibility to conduct business within the law (legal
obligation). Only in the second instance would ethical concerns (norm-imposed obligation),
such as minimizing environmental impacts, and philanthropic or “discretionary” concerns,
such as corporate giving play a role (Carroll, 1991). Taking this into account, Esrock and
Leichty (1998) investigated 100 Fortune 500 companies in six industry segments about
their CSR communication initiatives in establishing CSR policy as to present themselves as
socially responsible companies. In their findings, these authors found significant
differences between industries in disclosing ethical CSR issues. However, they didn’t
establish substantial differences between industries in the extent to which philanthropic
CSR was discussed.
Maignan and Ralston (2002) analyzed CSR discourse on the corporate signature websites
of Fortune 500 companies in four developed countries in terms of CSR motivations,
initiatives / processes and stakeholder issues. They found a cross-cultural variation in terms
of the CSR platform companies across these four countries (France, the United Kingdom,
The Netherlands and the USA) in conveying their respective socially responsible identity.
While US companies tend to discuss philanthropic initiatives, centering on corporate
giving, and volunteerism, Dutch, and French businesses emphasize environmental
programs, i.e. ethical concerns, and to a much lesser extent than US companies’
philanthropic initiatives. UK companies adopt what Maignan and Ralston (2002) termed an
intermediary approach”, a mix of CSR initiatives without a clear emphasis on one or
another CSR platform.
Strategic CSR, Corporate Identity, Branding and Marketing: Review & Comments_3
Rev. Integr. Bus. Econ. Res. Vol 4(3) 124

right, not merely because they are maintained by law or are profitable (e.g. money spent on
product safety or pollution control). With this argument, Lantos (2001) concluded that
there is nothing praiseworthy about this level of fulfillment of “social responsibility”, what
is ordinarily expected in the realm of morality. With this conceptualization, Lantos (2001)
incorporated ethical CSR as the economic, legal and ethical responsibility, as outlined by
Carroll (1979, 1991). Altruistic CSR is the humanitarian with the fulfillment of an
organization’s philanthropic responsibilities, irrespective of whether the business will reap
the financial benefit or not (Lantos, 2001). It has become significant that there must be
coherence between the company and their CSR strategy. If there is a real coherence, the
CSR strategy will affect the corporate identity positively, which is the fundamental to the
corporate brand (Aaker, 1991). This line of thought has been taken one step further to look
at branding theories and how CSR can be used to create a strong corporate identity.
In Carroll’s conception of this, corporations first consider their profits (the economic) and
the legal aspects of doing business, and they then go on to prioritize first ethical concerns,
and then finally philanthropic concerns, such as contributing their resources to the
community (Carroll, 1991). Visser’s recent adaptation of this for the developing countries
suggests that although economic responsibilities are still given the most emphasis, as is the
case in the developed countries and Carroll’s original work; philanthropy is now given the
second highest priority in the developing countries, followed by the legal dimension and
then finally ethical responsibilities (Visser, 2007).
This is further examined and supports the fact that ethical platform in CSR activities in the
global Oil and Gas (O&G) sector, which is dominated by Western corporations, whereas a
philanthropic platform was clearly present in the Indian O&G industry (Planken et. al.,
2007 and Sahu & Nickerson, 2008). It is also observed that CSR activities are generally not
related to core business interests within the Indian O&G sector, which contravenes what is
usually recommended in the professional marketing literature on planning CSR campaigns,
including the recommendations made by Kotler and Lee (Sahu & Nickerson, 2008; see
Kotler & Lee, 2004; Tandon, 2007, for a discussion of CSR and core business activities). In
another instance, while carefully examining the interventions of firms operating in Lebanon
context where private sector has traditionally been the dominant engine of growth, CSR is
found to be widely perceived as comprising the voluntary philanthropic contributions over
and above their mainstream contributions (Jamali, 2007). These findings lends tentative
support to the distinctions made by Lantos (2001) between mandatory CSR (ethical) and
voluntary CSR (social) and as observed by Visser (2007) that the understanding of CSR in
developing countries seems grounded primarily in the context of voluntary social
responsibility. However, this social voluntary contributions made, are rather, literally
highlight the distancing of social involvements from core business capabilities and long-
Strategic CSR, Corporate Identity, Branding and Marketing: Review & Comments_4

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