Can the marketing department benefit from socially responsible marketing activities? The role of legitimacy and customers’ interest in social responsibility

Peren Özturan, Amir Grinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: In a world where corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a meaningful trend valued by firm stakeholders, it is still not clear how the marketing department integrates corporate-level social responsibility strategy into its departmental activities i.e. socially responsible marketing activities (SRMA) and whether such activities can benefit the department. Using legitimacy as the underlying theoretical explanation, this paper aims to study two instrumental returns from SRMA at the marketing department level, i.e. marketing department’s performance – impact outside the firm on multiple marketing-related outcomes and influence within the firm – the power of the marketing department compared to other departments. Design/methodology/approach: Three studies were performed. Study 1 is a survey that offers a validated measure of SRMA and examines its relationship with the focal outcome variables. Study 2 is also a survey that investigates the mediating role of the marketing department’s legitimacy and the moderating role of customers’ interest in social responsibility and uses actual sales data of firms. Study 3 is an experiment that examines the main findings in a controlled setting using participants other than marketing executives i.e. chief executive officers. Findings: Study 1 shows that SRMA is different than the closely related variable socially responsible business strategy and is positively related to the marketing department’s performance and influence within the firm. Study 2 complements these findings by demonstrating these impacts are mediated by the marketing department’s legitimacy and strengthened with higher customers’ interest in social responsibility. Study 3 sets the causality between the focal variables and the mediating role of legitimacy. Research limitations/implications: This work extends the study of firm-level CSR to the department- and implementation-level, in the context of marketing departments. It reveals the underlying mechanism driving the positive impact of SRMA, i.e. legitimacy, and identifies a moderating condition, i.e. customers’ interest in social responsibility. It further extends research on the role of the marketing department and its contribution to firm performance. Practical implications: Marketers can benefit from the reported findings by understanding when and how CSR-related, domain-specific activities that feature the traditional responsibilities of marketing, including market research, customer relationship management and the product, promotions, price and place (4Ps) may be reshaped to include a broader set of stakeholders and a socially responsible angle and thereby generate more legitimacy and impact – inside and outside the firm. Originality/value: This study provides a novel perspective on how marketing departments evaluate CSR in their daily activities where such engagement vests increasing returns to the marketing department and underpins the successful implementation of CSR.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-441
Number of pages42
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2 Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • CSR
  • Legitimacy
  • Marketing department
  • Marketing department’s influence
  • Marketing performance
  • Socially responsible marketing
  • Socially responsible marketing activities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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