Investigating Differences in the Roles of Enduring and Instrumentally Involved Consumers in the Diffusion Process

Meera P. Venkatraman, Boston University
ABSTRACT - This paper argues that enduringly involved consumers can have a significant impact on the diffusion process. It reviews related literature in the involvement, opinion leadership and innovation fields to support this thesis. It also shows, based on a study of the movie seeing behaviors of 317 undergraduate students, that enduring involvement has significant positive relationships with elements of the diffusion process such as opinion leadership and innovative behavior.
[ to cite ]:
Meera P. Venkatraman (1988) ,"Investigating Differences in the Roles of Enduring and Instrumentally Involved Consumers in the Diffusion Process", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 15, eds. Micheal J. Houston, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 299-303.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 15, 1988      Pages 299-303

INVESTIGATING DIFFERENCES IN THE ROLES OF ENDURING AND INSTRUMENTALLY INVOLVED CONSUMERS IN THE DIFFUSION PROCESS

Meera P. Venkatraman, Boston University

ABSTRACT -

This paper argues that enduringly involved consumers can have a significant impact on the diffusion process. It reviews related literature in the involvement, opinion leadership and innovation fields to support this thesis. It also shows, based on a study of the movie seeing behaviors of 317 undergraduate students, that enduring involvement has significant positive relationships with elements of the diffusion process such as opinion leadership and innovative behavior.

INTRODUCTION

Gatignon and Robertson (1985) note that while consumer behaviorists have made significant contributions to the diffusion literature, this contribution has mainly been in terms of testing relationships between concepts that have been proposed in the diffusion literature of other fields. They argue that concepts that have been developed by consumer behaviorists can have an important impact on our understanding of the process by which products and services diffuse across market segments.

Enduring involvement is one such consumer behavior concept. It has the potential to differentiate those who promote diffusion from those who do not (Bloch and Richins 1983). However, the role of enduring involvement in diffusion has not been systematically studied either theoretically or empirically. This paper argues and finds support for the role of enduring involvement in the process of diffusion. It shows that, as compared to instrumentally involved consumers, enduringly involved consumers tend to seek information on an ongoing basis, have considerable product knowledge and expertise, influence other people's behavior, and buy new products.

RELEVANT RESEARCH

Enduring involvement and the diffusion elements

Enduring involvement is the "long-term, cross-situational perception of product importance based on the strength of a product's relationship to an individual's central needs and values" (Bloch and Richins 1983; p. 72). It is akin to the concept of ego involvement (Sherif and Cantril 1947), in that the product is central to the consumer's identity. An enduring involved consumer has a strong hobby-like interest in or enthusiasm for the product, sometimes this interest can even take on an obsessional quality. This product interest is one form of self expression for enduringly involved consumers. It helps individuals establish their relationship with the rest of the world.

The very nature of enduring involvement suggests that enduringly involved consumers could play an important role in the diffusion process. It seems logical that individuals who consider a product central to their self identity will seek and share information about the product, be knowledgeable about the product class and tend to buy new products in the product class. Some conceptual and empirical support for this thesis is found in the research on enduring involvement, opinion leadership and innovative behavior. Although, much of this research focuses on relationships between concepts that similar to enduring involvement, such as product interest, and one or two elements of the diffusion process.

Corey (1971) contends that the unique involvement of opinion leaders with a product class distinguishes them from non-leaders. Opinion leadership comprises the dimensions of influence,- expertise, information sharing and innovative behavior (Assael 1987; Myers and Robertson 1971). In support, Summers (1970) found that involvement with womens' clothing fashions is the strongest of five variable sets that influence opinion leadership. The others are demographics, sociological variables, personality, media exposure and attitudes and values. His seven item measure of opinion leadership primarily tapped the dimension of information sharing. Further support is provided by Myers and Robertson (1971) among women opinion leaders for 12 product categories such as entertaining at home and personal care and cosmetics. They found that interest in the product class is related to the amount of influence the consumer yields. This research on the relationship of interest with opinion leadership, information sharing and influence, suggests a positive relationship of enduring involvement with other elements of the diffusion process such as innovative behavior.

Support for the relationship between enduring involvement and new product adoption is-provided by Bloch, Sherrell and Ridgway (1986) and Venkatraman (1987). The former report that consumers enduringly involved with clothing and personal computers consider it important to keep up with new product developments. While, Venkatraman (1987) found that consumers who are enduringly involved with the personal computer, food processor and video cassette recorder respectively, are prone to buy innovations in these product categories.

Bloch, Sherrell and Ridgway (1986) also found strong positive relationships between enduring involvement and on-going information search. Enduringly involved consumers are likely to visit stores, discuss the product with friends, other users and sales people, and read ads/articles about the product without any specific purchase motivation. This is supported by Richins and Bloch (1986) who found that consumers enduringly involved with automobiles, seek information from media and interpersonal sources and disseminate information to others. More importantly, they found that the information seeking and sharing characteristics of enduring involved consumers are stable over time.

In conclusion, there is some support (most of it indirect) for the thesis that enduring involvement is related to elements of the diffusion process such as opinion leadership, innovative behavior, influence, information seeking and information sharing. Here the relationship of involvement with usage rate and expertise is also examined. Largely because heavier use of a product class is a distinguishing characteristic of adopters (Dickerson and Gentry 1983; Taylor 1977) and expertise is a distinguishing characteristic of opinion leaders (Jacoby and Hoyer 1981).

Instrumental involvement and diffusion elements

Instrumental involvement is a temporary perception of product importance based on a "consumer's desire to obtain particular extrinsic goals that may derive from the purchase and/or usage of the product" (Bloch and Richins 1983; p. 72). This concept is conceptually equivalent to the importance dimension of the perceived risk concept (Bauer 1960). There is no reason either conceptual or empirical to expect that instrumental involvement plays an important role in the diffusion process. In fact, Venkatraman (19873 found that instrumental involvement with a personal computer, food processor and video cassette recorder respectively is not related to proneness to innovate with new products in these product categories.

It is clear that past research suggests that enduring and instrumental involvement have different relationships with diffusion elements. The relationship of enduring involvement with these elements is expected to be stronger than that of instrumental involvement. Therefore the hypothesis is:

Hypothesis 1: As compared to instrumental involvement, enduring involvement has stronger positive relationships with elements of the diffusion process such as opinion leadership, innovative behavior, information seeking, information sharing, influence, expertise and usage rate.

METHODOLOGY

Product Class

It is clear that consumer products differ in the degree of enduring and instrumental involvement they engender (Bloch and Richins 1983). For example, some products such as cars and personal computers foster high enduring involvement, while others such as liquid soap and safety pins do not inspire the same degree of enduring involvement. This is one reason for carefully selecting the product class studied in this research.

After careful consideration, movies were selected as the product class of interest for several reasons. First, enduring and instrumental involvement with movies is expected to vary over a relatively wide range. Second, movies are inexpensive enough that the chances of income confounding the results is reduced. Third, since new movies are released every week this provides ample opportunity for new product purchase. However, new movies are continuous (and not discontinuous) new products, since seeing a new movie does not require changes in attitudes or behavior (Robertson 1971). Therefore, it is expected that the adoption processes for new movies may be different from those of discontinuous innovations. However, the elements of the diffusion process studied here, such as influence and expertise are equally relevant in the diffusion of new movies as they would be in the diffusion of a discontinuous innovation. Especially, since word of mouth and interpersonal influence play very important roles in influencing movie-going behavior.

Sample

The sample consisted of 317 undergraduate students at a leading northeastern university. The data was collected by students enrolled in an undergraduate Marketing Research class. At the beginning of the semester, each student was instructed to ask 10 non-class students to participate in a project which involved responding to four questionnaires over the entire semester. These questionnaires focused on opinion leadership, innovativeness and other related topics with respect to movie seeing behaviors. For other details contact the author.

Measures

With the exception of opinion leadership, multi-item scales were developed to measure the constructs studied in this research. These measures comprised Likert-type scales with a 5 point response format, where '1' is the lowest point on the scale and '5' is the highest point.

Involvement: Items that measure enduring invoLvement should assess the centrality of the product to the individual's lifestyle (Bloch and Richins 1983). The 10 item scale developed to measure this construct comprised items such as "Movies are more than mere entertainment to me. They are like a hobby" and "I consider myself a movie buff."

Instrumental involvement is measured by developing a list of motives/goals for seeing movies and assessing the importance of each goal (Bloch and Richins 1983). The scale developed for this study included 11 goals such as "Avoiding a movie that is a waste of money" and "Selecting a movie that helps me escape from every day problems for a while."

Opinion Leadership: This construct was measured by Childers version of the King and Summers (1970) opinion leadership scale. This 7 item self designating scale was preferred to the previous version since Childers (1986) shows that it has better construct validity properties.

Innovative behavior: The measure of innovative behavior was developed based on Midgley and Dowling 1978. The four item measure developed here was neither too specific that most people would be non-adopters nor so general that it measured inherent and not actualized innovativeness. It comprised items such as "I often try to see sneak previews of movies before they are officially released" and "I often try to attend movie premiers."

Ongoing Information Seeking Behavior: A 4 item scale was developed based on Bloch, Sherrell and Ridgway (1986). It comprised items such as "I read the newspaper's arts and entertainment section every day" and "I read the film section in the Phoenix every week."

Information sharing: This scale is intended to measure the extent to which individuals talk to friends about movies, discuss and listen to other people's opinions and share their opinions with others. The eight item measure of information sharing included items such as "I regularly ask friends for their opinions of movies I am thinking of seeing" and "My friends and I often discuss what movies are worth seeing."

Influence: A six item measure of influence was developed for this study. It included items such as "I'm usually the one in my group who suggests going to a movie" and "I'll often steer my friends away from movies I did not like."

Expertise: A five item measure was developed to measure expertise. This measure included items such as "I usually know what my favorite actors and directors are working on" and "I generally know the show-time schedules of theaters I go to."

Frequency of seeing movies: This variable was measured by the item, "On an average how often do you go to the movies each month?. Responses ranged from "Less than once a month" to "More than eight times a month."

ANALYSIS AND RESULTS

Reliability Analysis

The Cronbach's alpha statistic was computed to assess scale reliability. This statistic shows that all measures satisfy the Nunnally (1978) reliability criterion of .70 (Refer Table 1). The alpha coefficients for the enduring and instrumental involvement scales are .80 and .72 respectively.

TABLE 1

THE RELATIONSHIP OF ENDURING AND INSTRUMENTAL INVOLVEMENT WITH ELEMENTS OF THE DIFFUSION PROCESS

Hypothesis test

To test hypothesis 1 each diffusion element was separately regressed against enduring and instrumental involvement. The betas for the involvement types were compared using Rindskopf's F statistic (Rindskopf 1984). A significant F-statistic (p <.01) indicates that the betas are not equal. Further, an examination of the magnitude of the betas shows their relative strength.

This analysis generally supports the hypothesized difference in the relationships of enduring and instrumental involvement with diffusion elements. Compared to instrumental involvement, enduring involvement has stronger positive relationships (p < .01) with innovative behavior, on-going information seeking, influence, expertise and frequency of seeing movies. The relationship of enduring and instrumental involvement with opinion leadership is significantly different at p < .10, while the involvement types do not differ in their relationship with information sharing.

Since, consumers generally are to some extent both enduringly and instrumentally involved with a purchase, it is not sufficient to look at the direct main effect relationships between involvement and diffusion elements. It is also important to identify the enduring and instrumental involvement profiles of consumers.

Development of involvement clusters

One approach for identifying involvement clusters is to use the high-low dichotomy to categorize consumers into four clusters based on their enduring and instrumental involvement scores. However, there is no theoretical or empirical reason for expecting a four cluster solution. Therefore, to identify the number of clusters in the data, based on Milligan and Cooper's evaluation of 30 procedures, the Calinski and Harabasz index was computed (Milligan and Cooper 1985). This index is the [trace B/(k-l)]/[trace W/(n-k)], where n and k are the total number of cases and the number of clusters in the solution respectively. B and W are the between and pooled within cluster sum of squares and cross products matrices. The cluster solution with the highest index is the best fit to the data.

The SPSSX clustering algorithm with Ward's clustering method and Squared Euclidean distance measure was used for several clustering solutions, till a clear upper limit on the Calinski and Harabasz index was obtained. This index was highest for the three cluster solution, after which it tapered down, indicating that the data comprised three involvement profiles. The clusters comprised 92, 138 and 87 consumers respectively. The mean enduring involvement scores for the three clusters are 3.13, 2.25 and 3.38 and the mean instrumental involvement scores are 3.09, 3.59 and 3.99.

The first cluster is termed the enduringly involved group. Compared to the other groups, they are moderately high on enduring involvement and lowest on instrumental involvement. The second cluster is the instrumentally involved group. They are moderately high on instrumental involvement and lowest on enduring involvement. The third group is termed the highly involved group since they have the highest scores on both enduring and instrumental involvement. Group mean scores on each diffusion element are compared using one-way analysis of variance. Group pairs are compared using the Scheffe contrast procedure (p <.05).

Since enduring involvement is an on-going stable trait it represents the baseline level of involvement with a product. The transitory situation specific instrumental involvement should enhance the level of enduring involvement. Therefore, it is expected that the highly involved consumers will play the most important role in the diffusion process. Further based on Table 1 results, it is expected that enduringly involved consumers will play a more important role as compared to instrumentally involved consumers.

Profiling the involvement clusters

Table 2 describes differences between clusters in terms of the diffusion elements. An examination of the results reveals that they are consistent with apriori expectations. The highly involved group has the highest scores on each diffusion element. In the case of opinion leadership, information sharing, and influence the scores are higher than both the enduring and instrumentally involved group. While, the highly and enduringly involved consumers have the same levels of innovative behavior, information seeking, expertise and frequency of seeing movies.

TABLE 2

PROFILING THE INVOLVEMENT CLUSTERS IN TERMS OF THE DIFFUSION ELEMENTS

Further, enduringly involved consumers play a more important role in the diffusion process as compared to instrumentally involved consumers. On all diffusion elements except information sharing they have significantly higher scores as compared to instrumentally involved consumers.

CONCLUSION

[The Discussion, Implications and Conclusion sections were drastically cut due to space constraints, please contact the author for copies of the original paper.]

In conclusion, enduring and instrumental involvement play very different roles in the process of diffusion. Enduring involvement has significantly stronger relationships with elements of the diffusion process as compared to instrumental involvement. Further, these involvement types cluster in three involvement segments viz., the enduringly, instrumentally and highly involved consumers. Of these segments, the highly involved consumers play a very important role in the diffusion process as compared to the other two segments.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to acknowledge the many helpful comments of the ACR reviewers. I am also grateful to Richard Harmer for his very extensive help in measurement development and data collection.

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