Doctoral Dissertations


Simon Walls

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Business Administration

Major Professor

David W. Schumann


This study introduces the concept of the consumer-firm bonding experience. It proposes that consumers develop bonds with firms. This idea has not been fully explored in the literature. This dissertation seeks to offer a contribution to the marketing literature and the marketplace by building upon existing marketing and psychology literature and theory. This study suggests that there is an inherent genotypic-source desire within each consumer to form bonds with selected individuals. These consumer-firm bonds result in a physiognomy and other figural notions such as the consumer's cogito, and response to environmental influences that are grounded in each consumer's unique background of previous experience, culture, and worldview. The research may start to offer additional insight and explanation into some rather intriguing questions that are presently lurking in the domain of consumer behavior. Some of these queries may include asking why customer satisfaction is such a poor indictor of consumer behavior, and why so many of the traditional measures associated with relationship marketing (such as trust, commitment, loyalty, customer satisfaction) are unable to capture much of the richness and depth of the consumer-firm relationship. Although the notion of bonding between two parties is well established in the psychology literature, much of this material has yet to be explored in the domain of marketing with respect to the consumer-firm dyad. From an academician's point of view, relationship marketing has been practiced for many years in the practitioner world. The marketing literature is delinquent in both theory and application of the phenomenon, thus leaving a demand in both the academic literature and practitioner world for increased understanding and practical insights into the consumer-firm bond. The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the nature and scope of the consumer-firm bonding phenomenon (Bowlby 1969/1982, 1973, 1980). As consumers engage firms in relationships, they derive both physical and psychological benefit from the union. Firms that recognize this seek to foster these bonds and to strengthen the consumer-firm relationship and, by so doing, are able to gain competitive advantage, thus bringing into focus the managerial relevance of this dissertation (Fournier, Dobscha and Mick 1998). This dissertation supports the notion that the consumer-firm relationship is structurally isomorphic and allows insight into repeat purchasing behavior and consumer purchasing rituals. A general pattern of purchasing behavior can be described in the underlying relationship structure. As respondents were interviewed in this study it was found that they were able to identify the primary aspects of their own bonding experiences with firms. This study employs a qualitative methodology based on the practices of gestalt and existential-phenomenological psychology (Ihde 198; Merleau-Ponty 1962; Pollio, Henley and Thompson 1997; Kohler 1947).

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