The Noble Edge Effect: Why We Tend To Favor Brands That Show Care for Societal Issues
What is it?
The noble edge effect describes how we experience products created by socially responsible companies as being better than rival products created by socially indifferent or self-interested companies.
The seminal study
Despite research showing that socially responsible firms deliver superior financial performance, corporate social responsibility is often viewed by managers merely as a tool to enhance companies’ reputations and goodwill among customers, but costly to the bottom line.
In 2015, Alexander Chernev and Sean Blair set out to dispel these negative assumptions and show that social responsibility could be profitable. In a series of experiments, they showed that acts of corporate social responsibility — even those unrelated to the company’s core business — could make consumers perceive a company’s products as having superior performance even when they directly observe and experience the product.
In their first experiment, participants took part in a wine-tasting task. They were given a small sample of red wine in an unmarked plastic cup, along with a card introducing the winery that supposedly produced it. All the participants read the same general description of the winery, but half were also told that it donated ten percent of its sales revenues to the American Heart Association.
Everyone was then asked to sample the wine and rate it, and then to rate their wine expertise. Those who had read about the winery’s charitable donations thought the wine tasted better than did those who had not although, importantly, this effect was much stronger in participants who admitted to not knowing much about wine.
In their second experiment, the researchers asked participants to judge a hair-loss product. The participants were split into two groups. The first group was manipulated into focusing on corporate benevolence as a reason behind charitable behavior, and the second group was manipulated into focusing on corporate self-interest. Half of the participants in both groups were told that the company that made the…