PhD Dissertations

Laetitia MIMOUN, Marketing, 2018

Revisiting Liminality in Consumer Research: Liquid Lifestyles in the Marketplace

Advisor(s): T. LOWREY


Consumer liminality is a vital concept in marketing research, usually defined as a transitional state of betwixt and between social positions. It enlightens life transitions, extraordinary experiences, and consumption rituals. This dissertation assesses the conceptualization of consumer liminality and advances its theorization in liquid modernity by exploring contemporary consumer lifestyles, which embrace contingency, uncertainty, and ambiguity. The first essay conceptually reexamines the treatment of liminality in consumer research. I identify two distinct forms, transformational liminality and liminoidity, thus challenging the unidimensionality assumption. Countering its celebratory treatment, I highlight the dangers of liminality when it is part of a meaningless transition. This essay contributes to the literature by resolving definitional ambiguities, outlining the concept’s scope, and delineating research directions. The second essay explores the flexible consumer lifestyle, defined as purposefully embracing instability, change, and adaptability in every aspect of life through professional precariousness. With long interviews, projective techniques, and participant observation, I question how the frequent life transitions of the flexible lifestyle, which can be analyzed as an experience of permanent liminality, are handled by consumers. Departing from prior literature, I contribute to consumer research on liminality by illustrating that permanent liminality is unsustainable for individuals, who need a release from the overwhelming pressures of its pursuit. I also identify flexibility capital which enables consumers to be comfortable on the long-term with high degrees of change and uncertainty and thus, to create an escape from the social structure which otherwise compels them to dominated positions. The third essay studies the liminal consumer journeys of consumers who experience repeated cross-cultural transitions. I combine autodriving and long interviews to explore open-ended mobility, a type of international mobility characterized by a high uncertainty regarding the duration of the stay abroad and the next destination. This essay contributes by emphasizing liminal dangers. I identify that liminal consumer journeys put consumers at risk of rootlessness and self-loss and must be compensated by solidifying consumption, which anchors consumers’ identity narratives in crystallized consumption experiences, material objects, and symbolic brands.

Elena FUMAGALLI, Marketing, 2018

Aversive States Affecting Consumer Behavior

Advisor(s): L.J. SHRUM


In this dissertation, I examine the influence of aversive states (e.g., unpleasant emotions, undesired outcomes) on consumers' motivations and behaviors. In essay 1, I explore how feelings of physical and moral disgust can be threatening to consumers’ sense of self and motivate them to engage in compensatory consumption. In essay 2, I investigate why and when consumers exhibit negative behavioral intentions against firms that terminate unconditional business-to-consumer gift-giving initiatives. In essay 3, I explore how loneliness affects consumers’ preferences for products and services that do or do not require interpersonal touch and interaction (e.g., getting a massage vs. shopping online). Together, the three essays contribute to the literature on emotion, identity threats, and compensatory consumption, to the literature on sales promotion, and to the literature on loneliness. Moreover, the research findings inform marketing practice in the fields of advertising, sales promotions design, and consumer haptics. Finally, this research provides insights into consumer welfare by bringing attention to the unforeseen consequences of marketers’ actions that seek to benefit the consumers but instead generate compensatory behaviors to cope with their aversiveness.

Nimish RUSTAGI, Marketing, 2017

Compensatory Consumption: exploring key questions regarding its use, context and effects

Advisor(s): L.J. SHRUM


This dissertation comprises three essays that pertain to the interrelated constructs of materialism and compensatory consumption. In Essay 1, I review research on the conceptualizations, causes, and consequences of materialism, analyze how adopting different conceptualizations may account for variations in research outcomes, and suggest a broad framework for analyzing materialism research. I also introduce research on compensatory consumption, which refers to the use and possession of material goods to address self-identity threats. In the end, I discuss some ideas for future research, particularly those related to compensatory consumption. In the next two essays, I investigate specific questions on compensatory consumption. In Essay 2, I revisit extant research that shows that compensating with products symbolic of threatened aspects of self-identity (i.e., within-domain compensatory consumption) causes threat-related rumination and depletes self-control resources of individuals. I find that such depletion occurs only when products are explicitly connected to the threatened aspects of self, and not when they are implicitly connected to the threatened aspects. In Essay 3, I examine the efficacy of within-domain compensatory consumption, that is, whether it restores self-identity on aspects damaged by a self-threat. I find that self-identity repair is thwarted when threatened individuals compensate with products having explicit connections to the threatened identity domain, but not when these connections are kept implicit. Explicit, but not implicit, connections remind consumers of the threat, thereby impeding self-repair. I also test a boundary condition to these finding, and show that when the self-threat itself is implicit (e.g., subtle, non-obvious), even products with explicit connections can provide self-repair.

Maria ROUZIOU, Marketing, 2016

Impact of Social Comparisons on Sales Organization Performance

Advisor(s): Dominique ROUZIES


This dissertation examines how horizontal pay inequalities in sales organizations impact salespeople’s performance. More specifically, I explore costs that arise through social comparisons with salient targets within sales organizations. I use compensation and performance data of more than 34,000 salespeople as well as data pertaining to the brands they sell, to show that brand power can substitute for pay and counteract the detrimental effect of pay inequality on performance. Moreover, my results suggest that job challenge can also act as a surrogate for pay, thereby affecting the relationship between pay gaps and performance. Further, I describe the effect of organizational ownership structure on salespeople’s performance management. Given that many sales organizations reward better performers by heightening pay dispersion, decision makers should carefully leverage their brand portfolio and sales team job assignments to soften the impact of pay gaps on salespeople’s performance.

Mehdi NEZAMI, Marketing, 2016

Family Firms’ organizational identity and non-family employees, a case study

Advisor(s): Stefan WORM, Peter EBBES


In the face of increased product commoditization and growing global competition, many B2B firms transition to services to obtain competitive advantages and combat margin pressures. Yet despite their growing emphasis on services, many manufacturers still fail to understand the performance ramifications of adding service offerings to their portfolios. In three essays, I examine the performance effects of service transition strategies and investigate the reasons behind the increased relevance of B2B services and whether or not investing in these offerings is truly beneficial for B2B manufacturers over the long term. In particular, in the first essay, I test a comprehensive framework that disentangles the roles of sales growth, profitability, and earnings volatility in driving the effect of services on firm value over different stages of the transition. In the second essay, I examine the relationship between service transition strategies and the components of stock returns risk, including overall and downside systematic and idiosyncratic risk. I also explore the role of earnings volatility in delivering the effect of moving into services on firm’s risk. In the third essay, I investigate the performance effect of B2B service innovations through estimating the abnormal stock market returns to launch of new industrial services, while accounting for differences across types of services, stages of a firm’s service transition, and industry- and firm- level factors.

Ana BABIC ROSARIO, Marketing, 2016

Essays on Electronic Word of Mouth: A Multidisciplinary Review of Dimensions, Scholarly Communication, and Market Implications

Advisor(s): Kristine DE VALCK


This dissertation explores the construct, prior scientific inquiry, and market implications of electronic word of mouth (eWOM), and it is based upon one conceptual and two empirical papers. In the first essay, I provide conceptual clarity by dimensionalizing the construct according to five aspects (the Who, What, Where, When, and How of eWOM). In the second essay, the resulting organizing framework is followed up with a historical analysis of eWOM dimensions, aliases, theories, and methodologies used in prior research. Additionally, I employ citation network analysis in order to identify gaps in scholarly communication and facilitate progressive knowledge building in this area. Finally, in the third essay, I use meta-analysis to empirically test the moderating impact of four of the five eWOM dimensions on sales effectiveness. I find that eWOM is positively correlated with sales (.091), but its effectiveness differs across platform, product, and metric factors. Theoretical and practical implications, as well as avenues for further research are discussed.

Yi LI, Marketing, 2015

Three Essays in Consumer Information Processing in the Context of Retailing

Advisor(s): Marc VANHUELE, Selin ATALAY


In this dissertation, I focus on consumer information processing in three different domains of retailing. In essay 1, I examine what drives consumer’s spending decisions under the self-selected price bundling promotion, i.e., the promotions where consumers can decide which products to include in the bundle. In essay 2, I study the attention bias, a phenomenon suggesting that consumers allocate more attention to the chosen option than the non-chosen options during their choice processes. I investigate when and how this attention bias emerges in consumer choice process. In essay 3, I examine the influence of denomination, i.e., the currency’s face value, on consumer’s purchase experience. More specifically, I investigate how the size of the denomination and the spending value jointly influence consumer’s pain of paying. The findings in these three essays contribute to our understanding on how the information presentation can influence consumers’ perception of the decision, choice of the decision strategy, and perception of value in the context of retailing.

Tatiana SOKOLOVA, Marketing, 2015

Mental Arithmetic in Consumer Judgments: Mental Representations, Computational Strategies and Biases

Advisor(s): Marc VANHUELE


In my dissertation I look at mental representations and cognitive processes thatunderlie mental arithmetic in the marketplace. This research contributes to behavioral pricingliterature by outlining novel factors that influence consumers’ price difference judgments.Particularly, I uncover factors that make consumers more or less likely to fall prey to the leftdigitanchoring bias (Essay 1) and factors that determine their tendency to rely on relativethinking in price difference evaluations (Essay 3). Further, this research provides newinsights to the mental budgeting literature by identifying mental computation strategies thatlead to more accurate basket price estimates (Essay 2). Overall, I expect my research tocontribute to our understanding of consumers’ price judgments and suggest contexts andstrategies leading to more accurate price evaluations.

Moumita DAS, Marketing, 2014

How To Sell a Luxury Product in a Non Luxury Store

Advisor(s): Dominique ROUZIES, Jean-Noel KAPFERER


The domain of sales management research for luxury products is still nascent. With the persistent growth of luxury brands and ongoing optimistic projections for the future, it is imperative to take a step forward in this field and understand the triggers that enable luxury sales. The personal luxury goods industry operates via two routes to market – “retail” (directly controlled by luxury brand manufacturers) and “wholesale” (outside of luxury brand manufacturer’s control). A significant amount of sales happen via the ‘wholesale’ route, in multi-brand stores where a mix of luxury brands co-exists with non-luxury brands. Drawing from a vast literature on cognitive dissonance and social identity theory, using multilevel methods, this dissertation raises the question of how to predict salespeople’s effort allocation towards a focal luxury brand in this multi-brand selling environment.

Charles LEBAR, Marketing, 2012

Personal Knowledge Perceptions and Memory for Information: When Does Feeling Ignorant Make Me Remember More?

Advisor(s): Sandor CZELLAR


Subjective knowledge refers to consumers’ perceptions about how knowledgeablethey are in a specific domain. The present research investigates the impact of manipulatingsubjective knowledge on information processing and retrieval strategies. In a first study, weshow that consumer self-esteem moderates the relationship between subjective knowledgemanipulations and different measures of memory for new information. In a second study, weidentify moderating mechanisms and boundary effects for the hypothesized effects. The thirdstudy specifies the scope of the memory effect. Finally, the fourth study extends thegeneralizability of the findings by adopting another subjective knowledge manipulation andcovering a different domain of knowledge. Implications of these results are discussed andfuture tracks for research are provided.