The Dark Side of Using Emergencies in Direct Marketing Campaigns for Blood Donation Services

Edlira Shehu, Ann-Christin Langmaack, Michel Clement

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


In this research paper, we investigate whether direct marketing campaigns that rely on emergencies are a successful strategy for nonprofit services. Prior literature grounded in monetary donations suggests that using direct marketing mailings with an emergency context should lead to a higher intention to donate blood than using mailings that are unrelated to emergencies. Contrary to this suggestion, we argue that mailings with an emergency context do not significantly increase the intention to donate beyond the effect from traditional standard invitation mailings with a rational appeal. To control for selection effects, we conducted a large experimental study (N = 1,054). We discover that in mailings of blood donation services, neither the use of emergencies nor the attribution of innocence to emergency victims leads to a significant increase in the intention to donate blood, for both former donors and nondonors, compared to a standard invitation mailing with a rational appeal to donate blood. We did not discover any interaction effect between the attribution of innocence to emergency victims and the drivers of donation behavior. However, the attribution of guilt to emergency victims shows a negative interaction effect on the extrinsic motive of social benefits for nondonors: the donation intention of nondonors driven by social benefits is significantly lower if they are addressed with mailings attributing guilt to the victims of emergencies. These results are highly relevant for the planning of direct marketing activities of nonprofit services.
Original languageEnglish
JournalService Science
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)163–178
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood donation services
  • Health services
  • Direct marketing
  • Guilt
  • Innocence

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