Corporate social responsibility and green marketing practices became mainstream in the recent decades (The Economist, 2008). While some scholars as well as practitioners are ready to call it the new marketing revolution and a transition towards the new paradigm of corporate responsibility which assumes that the primary responsibility is not only to deliver profits to its owners and managers but also care for environmental and social values, companies that publically report this shift sometimes fail to practice what they preach. Such failures may not only cost the brand its reputation but lead to serious financial losses. One of the examples of such failure is illustrated in this paper that is aimed at analyzing public response to Cadbury’s marketing activities that were labeled as ethical practices targeted at changing value perception and behavior of the target audience.
The situation under analysis can be described as follows. In 2009 Cadbury introduced palm oil to its chocolate ('Good oil on Cadbury', 2010) instead of the familiar cocoa butter. The new ingredient was much cheaper than cocoa butter and the move was intended to maintain price levels (Philippa, 2010). However, this move was followed by multiple protests by international and local organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund. Paradoxically, the change in components concerned Cadbury’s Dairy Milk – a product marketed as an “example of good corporate social responsibility” (Penny, Ory, 2011). The product’s communications campaign’s hidden message was that the product was improving standards of living of cocoa farmers in Ghana (Penny & Ory, 2011). The company was thus intending to use the Fairtrade logo for the brand in its key markets (including Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia). Following the public outcry, Cadbury spent millions on removing palm oil from its chocolate. While this was a costly mistake, the company reassured that “this would not be passed on to consumers in higher prices or smaller portions” (‘Cadbury removes palm oil recipe', 2010). The company was also surprised by the extent of public disapproval; the harshness of the response is the subject of analysis in this paper.
Thus, this situation can be used to illustrate the influence of consumer power and protest. Besides being a good illustration of what bad publicity can lead to in business world, the case study is a good illustration of how important it is for businesses not only to claim being socially responsible but also to adhere to proclaimed values since consequences of failure are disastrous.
Before analyzing the case study from buyer behavior perspectives, it is essential to recognize the importance of corporate social responsibility and green marketing in currently dominating models of corporate behavior. According to a special report by The Economist (2008), a vast range of activities now fall under the “doing good” umbrella. These activities span from volunteering in the local community to proper care for the employees or from helping the poor to saving the planet (The Economist, 2008). Stemmed from the sustainable development paradigm rooted in the assumption that consumption patterns of current generations should …