Can the Marketing Function Benefit from Social Responsibility? The Role of Socially Responsible Marketing Orientation



In a world where corporate social responsibility is a meaningful trend valued by firm stakeholders, it is likely that various organizational functions will seek ownership and compete for resources in order to lead the trend within firms. While the role of the marketing function and marketing managers, and their contribution to firms, are attracting attention in the marketing discipline, marketers’ involvement in the social responsibility trend has not been studied. Thus, we do not know much about the value for the marketing function arising from adopting a socially responsible marketing orientation (i.e., implementing socially responsible marketing practices). Using legitimacy theory as a theoretical framework, this research studies the impact of a socially responsible marketing orientation on marketing functions’ performance (a form of external legitimacy) and influence within the firm (a form of internal legitimacy). Based on multiple empirical efforts (secondary data analysis, surveys, experiments), we find that, while socially responsible marketing orientation is far from mainstream, it positively contributes to marketing functions’ performance and influence within the firm. Additionally, this impact is moderated by three legitimacy-related factors: It is strengthened when customers are more interested in social responsibility, while weakened when other organizational functions are more interested in social responsibility and when the marketing manager is more experienced.