Exploring Consumer Behavior and Corporate Responsibility
The world is changing rapidly; people are better educated and more connected than ever. This level of connection and awareness is disrupting industries the world over as corporate practices become, by necessity, more transparent and as consumers become more empowered to engage with corporate decision-makers. In order to stay relevant and avoid the rapid, white-hot conflagration of internet rage, companies must engage in socially responsible practices and effectively communicate those practices to consumers. That’s where Dr. Jiyun Kang of Texas State’s School of Family and Consumer Sciences steps in. Dr. Kang’s research focuses on the factors that drive consumers to make socially responsible purchasing decisions, and how their decisions interact with corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
Dr. Kang credits her success to her broad and varied experience, which has given her a unique perspective to apply to her research. She began her career in marketing, researching consumer behavior for LG. She discovered that she loved the process of conducting research, but wasn’t interested in the world of high technology. She went back to school and earned a Ph.D. in merchandising, during which she received a National Science Foundation grant to study sustainable practices and consumer behavior in the fashion industry. “This is an important moment in the world of consumer fashion,” Dr. Kang elaborates. “Because of the global environment we live in, we are all global consumers. There are well-known challenges in the fashion industry involving labor, transparency and the environment. My research seeks to bridge the gap between companies’ socially responsible behavior and consumer decision-making so that both companies and consumers can be better informed to meet their needs.”
Her past research has focused on consumer decision-making. She has worked to develop models showing ways in which both internal factors like personal psychology and external factors like marketing stimuli can cause consumers to want to engage with brands they viewed as socially responsible over competitors. More recently her research has been focused on companies’ CSR practices, something Dr. Kang believes to be more controllable and therefore more effective in offering direct insights to practitioners . She has conducted research into the intertwined relationship between a brand’s commitment to CSR practices, their communication of those practices and consumer behavior toward those brands. She also discusses consumers’ natural skepticism toward CSR practices and has shown that sincerity, transparency and right communication are key to the success of CSR commitment, maintaining consumer trust and brand loyalty.
Currently, Dr. Kang is working on developing actionable models for how to regain consumer trust when faced with a brand crisis. One of the primary questions Dr. Kang asks is: “If a company strives to behave in a very ethical manner, or has robust CSR practices, then if and when that brand faces a crisis of consumer trust, do consumers consider it a betrayal? Or will having those robust practices be a strength, and form a foundation that will help the company to bounce back?”