Date of Award

5-2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management

Major Professor

Sejin Ha

Committee Members

Youn-Kyung Kim, Michelle Childs, Jeremy E. Whaley, Moonhee Cho

Abstract

Companies are increasingly incorporating empowerment into their brand websites (e.g., IKEA’s “Ideas” website), as a strategy to create a competitive advantage. Despite its growing popularity, research on empowerment strategy is at a nascent stage; many issues remain unaddressed. The current research develops a framework to explain how empowerment strategies produce favorable outcomes (i.e., customer evaluation of the end product). Specifically, this dissertation examines (a) how different empowerment strategies (i.e., empowerment-to-create, empowerment-to-select, non-empowerment) have varying effects on consumer responses; (b) how a contextual factor (brand type) moderates the effects of empowerment strategies on consumer responses; (c) how an individual factor (self-brand connection) as a moderator affects interactions between empowerment strategies, brand type and consumer responses; and (d) whether psychological ownership mediates the effectiveness of empowerment strategies. Two experimental studies test the hypotheses.Study 1 shows that the higher the level of empowerment in an empowerment strategy, the more favorable the responses to the strategy. That is, the empowerment-to-create strategy was most effective in increasing product attitude and perceived product quality compared to empowerment-to-select, followed by non-empowerment strategies. Further, empowerment strategies increase product attitude and perceived product quality by heightening a sense of ownership of the product, confirming psychological ownership as a mediator in the empowerment strategy effect.Study 2 shows that the relationship between empowerment strategies and product attitude is moderated by fashion brand type (luxury vs. mass-market). For a luxury brand, an empowerment-to-create strategy led to greater product attitude values than empowerment-to-select, followed by non-empowerment strategies. However, the brand type did not moderate the relationship between empowerment strategies and perceived product quality. The self-brand connection also did not moderate the interactive relationship between empowerment strategies and product attitudes and perceived product quality.This study contributes to the empowerment strategy literature and psychological ownership theory by elucidating how a brand’s empowerment strategy affects consumer product evaluation within the product development process. This study offers practical solutions for retailers to enable them to translate consumer needs into actionable product engagements within their marketing programs.

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