Towards an integrative understanding of consumer perceptions of corporate social responsibility and its outcomes in the brand context
: A study on UK and Swedish consumers

  • Jayne Cathcart

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

The relationship between Consumer Perceptions of Corporate Social Responsibility (CPCSR) and loyalty is widely documented. However, due to the vague and inconsistent approaches to conceptualising this relationship, its complexity remains overlooked, particularly in brand contexts where consumer-brand interactions are inherently multifaceted.

This research advances a richer, more specific conceptualisation and measurement of the CPCSR-brand loyalty relationship by adopting a broader theoretical lens than existing studies, and clearly outlining the conceptual boundaries of CPCSR. Specifically, the study draws on stakeholder, social identity, social exchange, and attribution theories. In line with this approach, a single product category in the beauty industry is evaluated in the context of two cultures: the UK and Sweden.

The CSR concept is considered interactive, voluntary and comprises environmental and social dimensions. Brand loyalty encompasses attitudinal and behavioural components. The mediators and moderators in the CPCSR-brand loyalty relationship and their dimensionality are identified. Two scales of the CPCSR-brand loyalty relationship are developed for use in the UK and Swedish contexts. The scales are refined using focus group data from 34 consumers from both cultures and validated using quantitative data collected from 321 UK respondents and 326 Swedish respondents.

Structural equation modelling is used to test the causal model. The results show that the CPCSR-brand loyalty relationship is mediated by brand image and product quality perceptions, and these perceptions are highly interactive. The proposed moderators (CSR expectations, perceived CSR motives and price sensitivity) are not supported. By revealing that CPCSR directly activates four relational outcomes including satisfaction and trust, its potent influence on consumer’s emotional and cognitive responses - and therefore, social identity and social exchange processes - is confirmed. In general, the dimensionality and outcomes of CPCSR are not significantly different across masculine and feminine cultures, except for the brand image-satisfaction connection.

Overall, the study provides a more comprehensive understanding of the psychological and social mechanisms underpinning the CPCSR-brand loyalty relationship, and the antecedents to brand loyalty in a Northern European context. These findings offer strategic implications for brands operating in various industries and specifically in the beauty industry.
Date of AwardDec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorShirley-Ann Hazlett (Supervisor) & Hilary Downey (Supervisor)

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