Purpose: Harmonizing religion and economic pursuits is treacherous because mixing the two rarely resonate with consumers, often resulting consumers’ greed perceptions. This paper aims to explore the antecedents and consequence of consumers’ greed perceptions in the context of for-profit religious-affiliated companies (FPRCs) and how they can harmonize religious and commercial missions by using different ad types (direct vs indirect appeal). Design/methodology/approach: The authors conducted two experiments: Study 1 was an online experiment with participants from the USA collected through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (n = 410) to reveal the overall mechanism. Study 2 was a field experiment (n = 292) to corroborate Study 1’s findings. The authors analyzed the data using a multigroup structural equation model. Findings: First, consumers perceive greed against FPRCs’ dual identities incurred by their commercial activities. Second, when FPRCs obscure their religious identities by using third-party organizations (TPOs) as its promoter (i.e. indirect appeal), consumers’ greed perceptions decline, but this does not increase consumers’ future patronage intentions. Finally, in online and field experiments, consumers enhance their purchase intentions and behavior, respectively, under indirect appeal. Research limitations/implications: First, further investigation of the cognitive dissonance mechanism when consumers face seemingly contradictory identities of organizations is crucial to identify bottlenecks in promoting FPRCs’ commercial offerings. Second, examining boundary conditions of indirect appeal is important to enhance our understanding of FPRCs’ advertising, such as consumers’ awareness of TPOs’ intentionality. Lastly, not every type of indirect appeal brings the same effects. Future studies may explore diverse forms of indirect appeal, such as using artificial intelligence-based algorithms without TPOs. Practical implications: Despite heightened interest in supporting dual missions (i.e. purpose and profit), this study shows why doing well while doing good is inherently challenging in practice creating marketing liability. To deal with this, the present findings suggest that, first, rather than exposing an FPRC’s religious (or communal) identity upfront, providing subtle cues through a TPO of its religious affiliation can be persuasive to win the hearts of target customers. Second, given the short-term effectiveness of indirect appeal, FPRCs need to use both direct and indirect appeal flexibly, as each type of ad delivers a distinctive advantage. Lastly, indirect appeal is particularly effective in offline promotional activities in the context of FPRCs. Originality/value: First, by meshing paradox theory, the authors show that dual identities of FPRCs expose them to a marketing liability that single-mission enterprises rarely face. Second, when FPRCs use indirect appeal, they face a tradeoff between mitigating greed perception and securing future patronage. Third, results from the online experiment and field experiment show when consumers’ intention and actual behavior align.
- Field experiment
- For-profit religious-affiliated companies (FPRCs)
- Future patronage
- Indirect appeal