Stereotypes Matter: Non-Profits Are Seen as Warm and For-Profits as Competent
Introduction (via Jennifer Aaker, Kathleen Vohs and Cassie Mogilner)
How do people view non-profit and for-profit organizations? And does the way they view these organizations predict crucial marketplace behaviors, such as likelihood to visit a website and willingness to buy a product from the organization?
Across three experiments, we found that consumers hold stereotypes, or shorthand, blanket impressions about an object, about non-profit and for-profit organizations and that these stereotypes predict crucial marketplace behaviors, such as likelihood to visit a website and willingness to buy a product from the organization. The results showed that consumers perceive non-profits as being warmer than for-profits, but as less competent. Competence perceptions drive willingness to buy, which means that consumers are more eager to buy a product from a for-profit than a non-profit. Consequently, when perceived competence of a non-profit is boosted through subtle cues that connote credibility (such as being associated with money or a respectable news outlet), consumers are equally willing to buy from a non-profit as they are to buy from a for-profit. In fact, when consumers perceive that an organization exudes high levels of competence and warmth, they feel admiration for the firm – which translates to increased desire to buy. These effects persist and play out in actual behavior, such as visiting a firm’s website or purchasing.
These findings offer tips for the types of stereotypes that do a disservice for both non-profits (which are seen as devoid of warmth) and for nonprofits (which are seen as devoid of competence). On the outcome side of the equation, it is important to note that admiration for the firm acted as a distinct driver of buying intent; hence there are multiple routes by which consumer behavior can be influenced in this domain.
This research should be of interest to non-profits interested in strengthening perceptions of competence, and for-profits interested in strengthening perceptions of warmth and authenticity. This work is important as it is the first to investigate whether stereotypes are used to evaluate non-profit and for-profit organizations (e.g., through the use of dot-org vs. dot-com internet domain names). It also responds to the need for research to explore social good, broadly defined.