CSR in the time of coronavirus : a qualitative study on the perception of coronavirus cause marketing relief responses from the perspective of consumers
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- Master Thesis 
For years, companies have been acting to provide relief when disasters strike in order to build a competitive advantage, as this is something consumers are demanding more and more. It is no longer seen as acceptable for companies to stand on the side-lines when disasters strike; they must act. Despite these growing expectations, relief responses are not always seen as being altruistic. Instead, during the Coronavirus pandemic, consumers have been critical judges of disaster relief responses taken by companies, and these newly affected disaster victims are not shy about voicing their displeasure when they find a company's response unsuitable. Throughout this study, I took a deep dive into the determining factors of cause marketing relief response perceptions to answer the question: Which factors influence consumer perception of cause marketing relief responses during the Covid-19 pandemic? To answer this question, an exploratory and descriptive qualitative study was conducted with an abductive approach: past theory of CSR perception acted as the theoretical foundation for the study, while new emerging factors specific to the pandemic were allowed to emerge. To do so, a series of interviews was conducted and examples of specifically relevant relief responses from the beginning of the pandemic were shown to respondents. From the findings, a mixture of pre-existing factors was contextualised in this new setting and new ones were discovered. Ultimately, Covid-19 cause marketing relief response perception depend on a multitude of factors. First, consumers will perceive a relief response and the firm behind it more positively when they attribute values-driven (intrinsic) motives to the firm, and negatively when they attribute egoistic (extrinsic) motives. Attribution of motives and perception will be influenced by various moderating factors. These include relief response characteristics (effectiveness, fit with the company); company characteristics (size and reputation); external factors (Media and WOM); contextual factors (corporate hypocrisy, timing), consumer characteristics (trust, ethics). These factors will influence the attribution of motives behind a company’s actions and perception of the relief response and the company. Relief response perception can affect the attitudes that a consumer holds towards a company. In an uncontrollable disaster setting, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, managers should offer tangible help in the form of product donations which are in high demand.