UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Two essays on the perils and opportunities of using marketing labels for prosocial outcomes Mookerjee, Siddhanth


Businesses and consumers are confronted with a myriad of societal issues, from environmental harm to entrenched racial inequality. In response, firms are highlighting their commitment to prosocial outcomes that benefit consumers, society and the natural environment through marketing labels. In this dissertation, I examine how consumers view labels used by firms that promote prosocial outcomes in two different domains: sustainability (essay 1) and diversity, equity and inclusion (essay 2). Essay 1 examines a major determinant of food waste —consumer rejection of perfectly edible but unattractive produce. I examine why consumers discard aesthetically unattractive produce, and test a solution: emphasizing the produce’s aesthetic flaw through ‘ugly’ labeling (e.g., labeling unattractive cucumbers “Ugly Cucumbers”). I demonstrate that ‘ugly’ labeling corrects for consumers’ biased expectations regarding key attributes of unattractive produce—particularly tastiness—and thus increases purchase likelihood. ‘Ugly’ labeling is most effective when associated with moderate (rather than steep) price discounts. Against managers’ intuition, it is also more effective than alternative labeling that does not exclusively point out the aesthetic flaw, such as ‘imperfect’ labeling. Essay 2 investigates ways in which firms are trying to redress racial inequalities. Minority-owned businesses suffer from systemic difficulties in operating their businesses compared to businesses owned by White individuals. In response, minority business owners are starting to explicitly highlight their race or ethnicity via minority-owned labels (e.g. “Black-Owned Business”) in their marketing communication, to rally consumer support for their businesses. I examine how consumers’ political orientation and ethnicity impact the effectiveness of such labels. Across 8 studies, I find that White (non-Hispanic) consumers, compared to people from other ethnic or racial backgrounds, are more likely to be sensitive to the use of the label, and the valence of their reaction is dependent on their political ideology. I find that White conservatives are less likely to purchase from a business that uses a minority-owned label (vs. no specific label) because of their endorsement of meritocratic beliefs, which suppose that opportunities and rewards should be distributed based on individual merit, and not social categories such as race.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International