This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Enhancing the efficacy of brand activism messaging: A construal level theory approach




Robinson, Ebony

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Consumer and Design Sciences

Restriction Status


Restriction Type

Auburn University Users

Date Available



As interest in brand activism has increased in recent years due to polarizing social issues, scholars and practitioners have been motivated to understand consumers’ response and perceptions of authenticity in relation to brand activism communications. Applying construal level theory (CLT) to brand activism on the issue of women’s right to choose, the current research examines: a) the interaction effect of a brand’s message construal (i.e., the concreteness/abstractness of the brand’s message) and consumers’ social distance from an issue (the extent to which a person is directly affected by an issue) on consumer response to brand activism communication [i.e., consumers’ attitudes, negative word-of-mouth (NWOM) intentions, and perceived brand authenticity], and b) the mediating role of consumers’ perceived brand authenticity and moderating role of issue stance congruence in the interaction effect. Using an online, between-subjects, quasi-experiment with a nationwide sample of 380 consumers between 20 and 40 years of age, the results revealed a significant message construal × social distance interaction effect on consumers’ attitudes toward the brand activism communication. Female consumers (socially proximal to the issue of women’s right to choose) demonstrated more positive attitudes towards the activism communication demonstrating abstract message construal as compared to male consumers (socially distal to the issue of women’s right to choose). No significant differences in the attitudes between female and male consumers were found when the communication demonstrated concrete message construal. The results also showed that female consumers displayed significantly higher attitudes toward the activism communication demonstrating abstract compared to concrete message construal. Whereas male consumers demonstrated most favorable attitudes when the communication included concrete compared to abstract message construal. No significant message construal x social distance interaction effect was found concerning consumers’ NWOM intentions and perceived brand authenticity. There was also no support for the a) mediating role of perceived brand authenticity and b) moderating role of issue stance congruence in the above interaction effect. Theoretically, the findings extend the applicability of CLT to the context of brand activism. From a practical perspective, the findings suggest that brands should consider gender differences when developing activism communications to enhance the efficacy of activism efforts.