Nota Fiscal Paulista: Proposition of a theoretical model in Social Marketing

Artigo apresentado na “International Nonprofit and Social Marketing Conference” no ano de 2009.

Nota Fiscal Paulista: Proposition of a theoretical model in Social Marketing

Among the activities undertaken by governments, it can be highlighted those intended to change social behaviors to improve society’s well-being. The Nota Fiscal Paulista (NFP) program, sponsored by São Paulo State in Brazil, has the objective of stimulating consumers to demand the tax invoice in their usual purchases, offering, in return, part of the tax effectively collected in those transactions and the right to join a monthly sweepstake. Since social behaviors are the focus of Social Marketing, it is proposed, in this paper, a theoretical model with regard to the program adoption (or not) by consumers, based on some popular models found in related literature.

One of the main goals of social programs is to change the behaviors of certain targets, to improve social well-being. In order to tackle the challenges and reach their objectives, public entities usually employ a variety of tools, especially in a modern context in which the government’s capabilities are continually called into question (Howlett, 2005). In São Paulo State, there have been, over the previous decades, some sparse initiatives in the tax-related field to promote behaviors that improve the tax collection results, by offering incentives to citizens that demand the tax receipts in their regular purchases. Although companies are obliged by law to supply these receipts in every commercial transaction, the majority of them (according to official estimates) resort to the tactic of not issuing the receipt to evade their tax obligations, especially in the BtoC segment. If government can make consumers change their behavior in the direction of claiming the tax receipts even when they are not promptly issued, then it can make a dent in tax evasion and improve the collection of resources, which can, in turn, ameliorate social conditions and foster sustainable development. The most recent program aimed at changing tax-related consumers’ behavior is named Nota Fiscal Paulista (Brazilian Tax Incentive Program, referred to throughout this paper as NFP).

This paper presents a model depicting the antecedents and effects of the target behavior (claiming the tax receipt in every purchase), by utilizing Social Marketing framework and related bodies of knowledge. The method comprised a literature review, open interviews with 30 consumers chosen by convenience, and a content analysis of the messages posted to the NFP virtual community – consisted of approximately one thousand members – in the social network Orkut, the most popular in Brazil. The main objective was to uncover salient behavioral results, sources of normative influence, factors related to behavior control, and other beliefs that could play a role in the adoption of the target behavior. These elements helped to define the proposed model. This paper draws from the concept of exploratory research, which is recommended in situations where it is sought a better definition of the problem, the suggestion of hypotheses, and the isolation of variables and key relations to further examination (Malhotra, 2004).

The NFP program, launched in 2007, returns to consumers part of the sales tax collected in their purchases, and enables them to participate in a monthly sweepstake, with total prizes of US$ 5,000,000. To join the program, consumers have to inform their CPF number (a national registered number) to the sellers and this information must be relayed electronically to the Secretary of Treasury. The credits can be redeemed in cash or can be offset against the tax paid by vehicle proprietors. A drawback emerges from the fact that consumers cannot calculate beforehand how much credit they will be entitled to in each purchase, since it depends on the actual tax collection of each store and on the participation of each purchase in the whole revenue of the store in a particular month. This specific piece of information is available at least two months after each purchase, what poses a challenge to the success of the program, because in a context of social change, “the less obvious the outcomes, the weaker are the incentives for the adoptive behavior” (Bandura, 1997, p. 512). After creating an account, consumers can check both the amount of their credits and the number of tickets to sweepstakes on the program website. The conceptual base of the program has similarities to the concept of relationship marketing (Hastings, 2003; Hastings and Saren, 2003), inasmuch as it establishes, in theory, a long-term relationship between the government, which sponsors the program, and the consumers. In order to accomplish the intended results, it is of paramount importance the retention of consumers, who must remain satisfied and loyal for the relationship’s sake. In a modern conceptualization, the relationship should be seen as a dialogue, in which customers feel that the organization shows a genuine interest in them and that it appreciates feedback and makes use of it (Grönroos, 2004).

The behavior which the program aims to modify is outside the traditional marketing realm, in which consumers incur monetary and non-monetary costs in exchange for products, services and intangible benefits. It refers to an action that takes place in the context of a standard commercial transaction, although it tends to encompass ampler meanings, related to beliefs, values and attitudes toward the government and social roles. The particularity here derives from the fact that social behaviors usually bound to be influenced (through marketing or other tools) involve mostly preferences which are resistant to change (e.g., respecting the speed limits), high costs (psychological or social) and the exchange of direct benefits for diffuse ones (Alcalay and Bell, 2000; Andreasen, 1997). Moreover, a social marketing program requires the transmission of skills to potential adopters (Bandura, 1997), which involves, in the NFP program, computer skills to check the credits on the Internet.

Social Marketing and the proposition of a model

Social Marketing is a process that applies marketing principles to deliver value and influence target audience behaviors to benefit society (Kotler and Lee, 2008). To distinguish the field, which suffers competition from alternative frameworks (Rothschild, 1999; Rothschild, 2001), it is important to focus on behavior change, what is considered the bottom line of Social Marketing (Andreasen, 2003). Moreover, the real challenge is to go beyond the first step, attaining the maintenance of the behavior indefinitely (Binney, Hall and Shaw, 2003).

It is important to stress that the individual behavior prone to social interventions is, in its essence, human behavior (Hastings, 2003). Thus, the discipline can be enriched by behavioral theoretical models, such as Health Belief Model, States of Change model and the like (Andreasen, 2006). Predictive models have been applied more often in health-related issues, although some of them have been extended to other fields in the social arena (e.g., Chang, 1998). Among the most influent models in Applied Social Sciences, it was chosen the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) as one of the main components in the proposed model. Thus, following Andreasen’s recommendations (1997) – for whom Social Marketing can benefit from research on the fundamental processes underlying consumer behavior – it is proposed a model to account for the adoption of the NFP program by the point of view of consumers. The model incorporates contributions from several lines of research. The Theory of Planned Behavior was selected as a starting point, based on its versatility, its popularity in behavioral studies (e.g., Ajzen, 2001; Ajzen, 2005; Montaño and Kasprzyk, 2008) and its parsimony (Conner and Armitage, 1998). In accordance with Armitage and Conner’s recommendation (2000), who contend that motivational models (such as TPB) oversimplify the reality, and following Bagozzi’s criticism (1992), who considers TPB reductionist, it was tried to increment the model’s explicative power by adding constructs such as trust, satisfaction, social norms, and cues to action. Moreover, marketing effects subsequent to adoption of the target behavior were also considered (see Figure 1).


The main constructs of TPB are attitude, subjective norm and perceived behavioral control (Ajzen, 2002). Attitude is considered under the expectancy-value framework, which is the most popular form of its conceptualization, whereby a person’s attitude is defined by the beliefs she holds about the association between the object and certain attributes and the strength of these associations (Ajzen, 2005). The subjective norm construct attempt to capture the influence of significative others. Several authors (e.g., Thorbjørnsen, Pedersen and Nysveen, 2007) contend that subjective norm is the most frail component of the theories advanced by Ajzen (TRA, TPB), what is deemed by Armitage and Conner (2001) as a result of utilization of single-item scales in most of the studies. Ajzen (2001) reports the findings of a research that concludes individuals vary concerning the relative influence of attitude and subjective norm in their intentions and, hence, the weight of these constructs will vary according to the behavior under analysis. In line with Cialdini (2007), who states that social proof is one of the main influences on individual behavior, the normative component was extended by including the social norm construct. In new and ambiguous situations, people tend to act based on behavior of similar ones. In this sense, Bandura (1997) asserts that human behavior cannot be grasped purely in terms of psychological or social factors: it is necessary to take an integrated perspective by which social influences operate through self-processes that prompt the individual into action. In Social Marketing literature, the theory of social norm is related to oft-erroneous perceptions about the prevalence of certain behaviors among the members of the social group of reference (Fisher and Ackerman, 1998; Kotler and Lee,
2008). Social norms can also influence pro-social behaviors, such as environmental conservation, volunteering or tax compliance (e.g., Bobek, Roberts and Sweeney, 2007). The underlying mechanism is supposed to be the attributions of social consequences (rewards or punishments) to acceptable or inappropriate behavior (Fisher and Ackerman, 1998).

According to Ajzen (2002), Perceived Behavioral Control (PBC) shares similarity with constructs such as Health Belief Model barriers and Social Cognitive Theory self-efficacy. The latter, which has a pervasive centrality in behavior models, can be defined as “beliefs in one’s capabilitites to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments” (Bandura, 1997, p. 3). Ajzen (2002) puts forth the idea that while auto-efficacy is based upon the easiness or difficulty on performing a behavior, the controllability is related to personal beliefs on the degree one controls that performance. PBC, in this view, comprehends both self-efficacy and controllability.

Ajzen (2001; 2005) highlights that the conversion of intention into action is more probable when the former is relatively stable, in the sense that it represents a behavioral prompt, which, given the appropriate time and opportunity, is activated, especially if there are no control restraints. Fazio, Powel and Williams (1989) point out that readily memory-accessible attitudes lead to a greater correspondence between attitude and behavior, moderating this relationship. By their turn, Kidwell and Jewell (2008), among others, postulate that past behavior influences attitude and the other TPB constructs, playing a moderating role and increasing the explicative power of the model. Thus, to the extent a behavior is adopted, the consumer relies on heuristic information instead of embarking on a deep processing of information, which requires a cognitive effort. One consequence is that the decision rules can be based increasingly on context characteristics, prompting also conditioned responses (Bagozzi, 1981). Ji and Wood (2007) contend that strong habits can even replace the role of intention in performing the behavior. One reason is the function of behavioral clues (time, place, mood and interaction partners), which can activate automatic associations to habitual behaviors (responses), diminishing the predictive function of intentions and leading to a more efficient decision process. In the proposed model, past behavior is considered by its frequency and recency, to incorporate the influence of automatic aspects (Richetin et. al., 2008).

The identified beliefs associated with the NFP program are summarized as follows. Behavioral beliefs: (1) data integrity: belief that personal data can be subject to security breaches; belief that Federal Revenue Service (in charge of taxing personal income) can have full access to individual spending data, to detect frauds; (2) perceived gains: function of perceived costs and benefits; (3) perception that any cash return, even a small one, is attractive, offsetting part of high amount of taxes collected by the government, what suggests a silver lining mental accounting process (Thaler, 2000). Normative beliefs: Expectations from relatives in terms of return levels of the program. Control beliefs: (1) time required to issue the tax receipt with CPF number; (2) convenience; (3) non-monetary costs (effort, psychological cost); (4) familiarity, information and knowledge; (5) habit of demanding the tax receipt; (6) retail cooperation.

Citizenship values was a oft-cited determinant of the behavior in the interviews. Consumers ask tax receipts to fulfill their citizen duty, in order to facilitate the accomplishment of government’s mission. Thus, these values can reflect a moral or ethical obligation, perceived by the consumer, what makes them closer to the moral norm concept, characterized by social values associated with specific behaviors and antecedent of attitude (Conner and Armitage, 1998). Another considered component of the model revolves around the beliefs on government role, especially the ones associated with non-declared intentions of public interventions. This can be a powerful factor to preclude the intended change, provided that the public has a bias against these interventions (Peattie and Peattie, 2003). As stated by Pandya and Dholakia (1992), social systems like tax collection and social security can be classified as redistributive systems, characterized by centralization and ulterior redistribution of resources. The proper functioning of those systems will rely on how their members perceive the fairness and adequacy in attaining the intended social goals.

From Health Belief Model it was selected the cues to action variable. In a health-related context, it can assume the form of an internal factor (a symptom) or an environmental one, such as advertisement (Champion and Skinner, 2008). The role of cues is strengthened in situations with low barriers to action. In the context of the NFP program, there happens to be a particular cue to action: in some store chains, as soon as the sellers start checking out the purchases, they remind the consumers about the possibility of including the CPF number in the tax receipt. This is done due to the fact that most commercial softwares utilized in Brazilian retail shops are designed to input this information at the beginning of the process. Upon providing the cue, the seller reinforces the association with the target behavior (Ji and Wood, 2007) and favours the implementation of the behavioral intentions (Gollwitzer, 1999). Therefore, the cues to action variable allows the measurement of a directly related environmental element which can play a role in the translation of intention into action.

More credit has been increasingly given to trust, especially in a context of relationship marketing. In an ample approach, based on trust and commitment, it is possible to stablish relationships with several stakeholders, such as clients, suppliers, employees and competitors (Morgan and Hunt, 1994). Hastings (2003) advances that social marketing can benefit from this relational paradigm, which shifts the focus from isolated transactions to a long-term perspective, founded in trust, commitment and satisfaction. Trust is a cornerstone in Social Marketing interventions, inasmuch as one of the main goals is to keep the target performing the intended behavior, characterizing the maintenance stage of the States of Change model. Trust can be defined as the expectancies that the service provider is dependable (Morgan and Hunt, 1994; Sirdeshmukh, Singh and Sabol, 2002) or the belief in the trustworthiness of the other party, particularly when there is a personal risk involved (Arnott, 2007; Selnes, 1998). Hence, it is expected the consumers will be more prone to join the NFP program if they believe their personal data will not be relayed to a third party and that the systems work properly, without delays or miscalculations. Coupled with trust, satisfaction is antecedent of consumer loyalty (Baptista, 2005), strengthening the relationship marketing and diminishing the probability of negative word of mouth. Satisfaction results from an evaluative process, following the contrast of previous held expectations with the actual outcomes. Olsen (2007) puts forth a cumulative concept of satisfaction, more suitable in a relationship marketing context: instead of punctual evaluations, it comprises the accumulated balance of all relational transactions between the consumer and the organization.

Four marketing effects were considered: (1) The stage occupied by consumers in the States of Change model; (2) Word of mouth; (3) Active, apathetic or resistant consumer predisposition; and (4) the percentage of identified tax invoices in the total of consumer purchases. The stage in the States of Change model (Prochaska, Redding and Evers, 2008) can indicate the inclination of consumers to continue the relationship. It was used the Andreasen’s adaptation (2006): pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation and action, and maintenance. Concerning word of mouth, it was adopted Sernovitz’s (2006) conceptualization of the organic type, which is the natural form of the phenomenon, because it can be a proxy for consumers’ involvement. The main effect of word of mouth tends to materialize itself online, through social networks and other Web 2.0 applications (Gillin, 2007). Finally, the active, apathetic or resistant consumer’s predisposition and the percentage of identified tax invoices in the total of consumer purchases point to the degree of adherence to the program.

The model will be tested with members and non members of the program, using a Structural Equation Modeling approach. From a theoretical point of view, it adds to Social Marketing literature by incorporating constructs from consumer behavior and social psychology theories and applying them in studying an under-researched social behavior. It can also have practical implications, since it can pinpoint the components which facilitate or inhibit the adoption of that behavior. This intervention has potential to be a hallmark in the tax-related field, wheredeeply ingrained beliefs can prevent the government from achieving its social goals.

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