Possibilities and perils in targeting consumers' core beliefs
Decades of consumer research suggest that targeting consumers’ core beliefs via identity marketing leads to increased purchase and deeper loyalty. Presumably, identity marketing messages that explicitly link purchase to consumer identity expression are most clearly intended for the target segment, and should thus be most effective. Our results indicate that managers share this intuition and prefer explicit identity marketing. In contrast, we demonstrate that explicit identity marketing can backfire. Though the existing literature has overwhelmingly emphasized the possibilities of identity marketing, we illustrate its potential perils. Building on a preliminary set of empirical tests, five main studies across laboratory and field settings show that messages that merely reference consumer identity increase product choice and purchase likelihood, consistent with the literature. However, messages that define the terms of consumer identity expression, by explicitly linking a purchase with identity expression, actually reduce purchase. Such identity-defining messages threaten consumer autonomy in identity expression, leading to unfavorable outcomes. Only in situations in which autonomy is undesirable do these effects reverse, with consumers seeking greater identity definition. Two initial studies show illustrate the disconnect between managerial intuitions and consumer response, and demonstrate how explicit identity marketing threatens perceived consumer autonomy in identity expression. A third study shows that these effects increase as people care more about the target identity, leading them to avoid products that they would otherwise prefer. A fourth study further explores the role of autonomy by measuring how response to identity marketing changes with individual differences in sensitivity to constraint. Finally, a fifth main study shows how receptiveness to identity marketing changes in a context in which autonomy is aversive. Two final studies explore future directions, extending these findings into the social domain and investigating the downstream consequences of these effects on subsequent identity-relevant behavior. Together, our findings simultaneously validate the explanatory power of the identity construct and highlight the unique perils of targeting consumers on the basis of their core beliefs. ^
Business Administration, Marketing|Psychology, General
"Possibilities and perils in targeting consumers' core beliefs"
(January 1, 2012).
Dissertations available from ProQuest.