Document Type



reactance; reciprocity; price discounts; assertive messaging; prosocial advertising

Identifier Data


Emerald Insight

Publication Source

European Journal of Marketing



Prosocial advertisers widely use assertive messages to encourage prosocial attitudes and behaviors, but ironically, assertive messages may cause reactance. By applying cultural theories and the reciprocity principle, this study aims to observe whether consumers’ responses to assertive messages hold across culturally different audiences (Americans vs South Koreans) and different consumption situations (price discount vs no discount).


American and Korean participants take part in three experimental studies examining the interactions of nationality, price discounts and assertive messaging for influencing consumer responses, first to a prosocial ad encouraging recycling (Study 1), the second for a campaign requesting donations for disadvantaged children (Study 2) and the third to prosocial messages encouraging water conservation (Study 3).


The three experiments strongly support the moderating role of price discounts and cultural backgrounds in the persuasiveness of assertive prosocial messages. American consumers generally dislike assertive messages, but feel reciprocal obligations if marketers include price discounts, whereas South Korean consumers accept both assertive and nonassertive messages without resistance, and discounts have no effects on persuasion.

Research limitations/implications

The findings make two key contributions to the literature and to prosocial advertising practices. First, although many corporations have adopted philanthropic strategies, few researchers have examined how specific consumption contexts determine the effectiveness of prosocial persuasion. The findings show how price discounts and message framing potentially alter the effectiveness of prosocial messages across Eastern and Western cultures. Second, assertive language evokes reactance, but the findings suggest that reactive responses to prosocial advertising are culture-specific.

Practical implications

International nonprofit organizations and brands using philanthropic strategies might use the guidelines of this study for tailoring strategic, practical prosocial messages that will appeal to consumers from diverse cultural backgrounds. In particular, pro-environmental and charity campaigns targeting North American or Western European populations may consider bundling discounts into promotions to evoke reciprocity.


Findings provide novel implications for social marketers regarding on how to couple message assertiveness and price discounts to maximize the success of prosocial messages in different cultures.

Included in

Marketing Commons