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Whether, when, and why functional company characteristics engender customer satisfaction and customer-company identification: The role of self-definitional needs

Roland Kassemeier, Till Haumann and Pascal Güntürkün

International Journal of Research in Marketing, 2022, vol. 39, issue 3, 699-723

Abstract: Beyond merely satisfying customers, companies are increasingly striving to build deeper and more meaningful customer relationships characterized by strong customer-company identification. However, whereas previous research has solely focused on symbolic drivers of identification, it remains unclear whether, when, and how managers can build on core functional company characteristics (i.e., quality, innovativeness, and price) to establish customer–company identification. The present study addresses these questions by developing a theoretical framework based on theoretical notions of social identity theory and the cue diagnosticity framework. Evidence from two field studies and one experimental study shows that functional company characteristics are not effective in creating customer–company identification per se, but that their influence depends on whether they match with a self-definitional need that is important to the customer (i.e., self-continuity, self-distinctiveness, or self-enhancement). The findings also reveal the underlying mechanism of this contingency by showing that a self-definitional need fosters customer–company identification because it strengthens the symbolic value of a matching functional characteristic. By identifying specific characteristic–need matches, this research offers novel insights into how managers can leverage functional company characteristics in their targeting and communication efforts to establish meaningful long-term relationships with customers.

Keywords: Customer–company identification; Customer satisfaction; Self-definitional needs; Functional company characteristics; Social identity theory (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1016/j.ijresmar.2021.08.002

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