Paolo Antonetti and Stan Maklan

Scholars have documented that many consumers have positive attitudes towards responsible products but do not consistently buy these alternatives. In this paper we present a new perspective, based on categorisation theory, to examine the attitude–behaviour gap. Through a qualitative study, we identify two dimensions that influence consumers’ categorisation of ethical products: (1) construing the decision as altruistic or self-interested and (2) perceiving the context of the behaviour as private or public. Using these dimensions to assess the consumption situation, consumers construe four types of responsible purchase that rest on different motivations. Analysing the categorisation process allows a more nuanced understanding of the potential reasons that underpin the attitude–behaviour gap. We show that the inconsistency between words and deeds has different explanations depending on the frame applied by consumers to the decision, and suggest that a deeper understanding of framing processes is necessary for the development of more effective marketing strategies.

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