Researchers Find That an Intense Guilt Trip in Advertising Turns Consumers Off to Brands

Cause-related marketing needs to balance a fine line

The patron saint of heavy-handed cause advertising is likely Sally Struthers. Though her intentions for Save the Children are laudable, some of the ads that she starred in during her two decades as a spokesperson for the charity used massive doses of guilt to loosen wallets and, ultimately, raise a great deal of money. Today, however, brands continue to dive deeper into their own cause and purpose-led activities, and new research published by the Journal of Advertising Research shows that a more heavy-handed approach can negatively impact consumer perceptions.