From warmth to warrior: impacts of non-profit brand activism on brand bravery, brand hypocrisy and brand equity

Zoe Lee, Amanda Spry, Yuksel Ekinci, Jessica Vredenburg

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Empirical evidence concerning the effects of brand activism on brand equity is growing but remains mixed at best. Although non-profit brands increasingly implement activism initiatives, there are not yet any studies that look outside the commercial sector. Non-profit brands are well placed to step up and engage in political dialogue – social change is at their core. Yet, the risks of neglecting a warm charitable image are considerable in terms of alienating current supporters and losing donations. Our research contributes to this debate by employing signalling theory to examine the effects of non-profit brand activism on brand equity in the ‘third sector’. The mediating roles of brand bravery and brand hypocrisy in this central relationship are also explored. Survey data were obtained from 518 British respondents and analysed using structural equation modelling. Our results show evidence of partial serial mediation, where the direct negative effect of non-profit brand activism on brand equity is eliminated in the presence of brand bravery and brand hypocrisy. Interestingly, in studying the mediated-moderation links, we also find the strengthening effects of a donor’s moral foundations at play. Our study suggests that there are equity gains for non-profit brands that shed traditional ‘warmth’ positioning and embrace activism and bravery.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Brand Management
Early online date20 Mar 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 20 Mar 2023


  • brand activism
  • brand equity
  • non-profit branding
  • brand bravery
  • brand hypocrisy
  • virtue signalling

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