Purpose: Concerns related to the ethical issues are evident in the increasingly socially conscious marketplace. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the importance of fair-trade communication activities in the buying decision-making process of chocolate. The role of emotional empathy in influencing the willingness to pay and the purchase intention was also explored. Design/methodology/approach: A mail survey with a sample of 199 Italian chocolate consumers was conducted. Respondents were equally and randomly distributed among the four print advertising stimuli: conventional brand with conventional campaign; conventional brand with pro-social campaign; pro-social brand with conventional campaign; and pro-social brand with pro-social campaign. A between-subjects factorial design was used to test the hypotheses. Findings: Results showed the effectiveness of pro-social marketing campaigns in increasing consumers’ willingness to pay and purchase intention for fair-trade chocolate. Contextually, consumers with a high level of emotional empathy showed a greater purchase intention as opposed to those with a low level. Research limitations/implications: As the ethical nature of the product should be communicated in several ways, the effect of different types of textual information on the dependent variables should be considered. Originality/value: The study enriches the literature on ethical consumption and provides some guidance to manufacturers and product managers for understanding the role of pro-social marketing communication in influencing consumer behaviour.
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