To Contribute or Not: A Goals-Based Perspective on the Effect of Industry Sales Trend and Solicitation Messages on Voluntary Contributions to a Generic Advertising Campaign

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Generic advertising campaigns such as “Got Milk?” and “Pork: The Other White Meat” are intended to increase demand for the entire product category rather than demand for a specific brand. This research examines the influence of industry (or product category) sales trend and solicitation messages on voluntary contributions toward such campaigns. Based on the idea that the context in which decisions are made may induce goals, a theoretical framework is developed to suggest that a declining versus an increasing industry sales trend induces different goal orientations. Although contributing to a generic advertising campaign may be viewed as 1 means to achieve the induced goal, the means–goal association is likely to be stronger when the trend is declining rather than increasing. Further, the authors propose that a solicitation message that is congruent with the induced goal and the associated mean is likely to be most effective in increasing contributions relative to incongruent messages. Consistent with the framework, three studies demonstrate that voluntary contributions are higher when the industry sales trend is declining versus increasing, and the solicitation message that reinforces the association between the induced goal and the means to achieve the goal is most effective in increasing contributions.

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