Special Session Summary the Role of Role in Consumers' Responses to Advertising, Sales, and Service Interactions

Margaret C. Campbell, University of California-Los Angeles
Jennifer L. Aaker, University of California-Los Angeles
[ to cite ]:
Margaret C. Campbell and Jennifer L. Aaker (1996) ,"Special Session Summary the Role of Role in Consumers' Responses to Advertising, Sales, and Service Interactions", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23, eds. Kim P. Corfman and John G. Lynch Jr., Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 157.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23, 1996      Page 157



Margaret C. Campbell, University of California-Los Angeles

Jennifer L. Aaker, University of California-Los Angeles

A considerable amount of research in consumer behavior focuses on interactions between the marketer and the consumer. Much of this research conceptualizes a consumer-marketer interaction in terms of the attributes of the action. For example, the consumer's processing and evaluation is typically considered in terms of whether or not the salesperson is efficient, the ad is humorous, or the service provider is competent. However, recent work on the Persuasion Knowledge Model (Friedstad and Wright 1994; Wright 1986) indicates that the consumer's thoughts about the marketer's thoughts can be a component of the consumer's processing and that these "schemer schema" (Wright 1986) exercise an important influence on the evaluation of the marketing interaction.

The purpose of this special topic session was to explore how perceived roles can influence the inferences that a consumer makes about the interaction. All three papers proposed and explored ways in which the consumer's role perceptions influence his or her interpretation of the marketer's thinking and how the consumer's interpretations affect the consumer-marketer interaction. While the three papers were all concerned with role and consumers' inferences about the marketer's thinking, each paper explored these issues with different contexts, roles, and dependent variables.

Campbell presented a paper proposing that consumers can either be "active observers" (e.g., asking for assistance or making a purchase) or "passive observers" (e.g., browsing or waiting in line) of a marketer. An active observer is the target of the marketer's attention and both interacts with and observes the marketer. A passive observer observes the interaction between the marketer and the active observer without interacting with the marketer. This research hypothesized that role influences inferences about the marketer and evaluation of the interaction. A between-subject experiment testing the effects of role in a sales encounter context indicated that, compared to an active observer, a passive observer was more likely to consider the salesperson as an active persuader, inferring greater persuasive influence of the salesperson. The data showed that passive observers had more negative and fewer positive thoughts about the salesperson and were less satisfied with the interaction.

The second paper, by McGill, Drolet, and Anand Keller, proposed that a service provider can play both the role of seller, and is thus to be evaluated by the consumer, and the role of referent group member, and thus evaluates the consumer. This research hypothesized that some consumers may care about what the service provider thinks of them and that such a "self-conscious" consumer's inferences about the service provider's opinion influence the consumer's evaluation. The results of an experiment showed that for self-conscious consumers, satisfaction is a function of their feelings towards the service provider more than their beliefs regarding the service provider or other service characteristics. For consumers who are not self-consciously looking to the service provider for an evaluation of their own knowledge, performance, etc., beliefs regarding functional service characteristics have a greater influence on satisfaction than do their feelings toward the service provider.

The paper by Aaker, Brumbaugh and Grier explored consumers as members of an advertisers' target market versus non-target market (defined as those who perceive themselves to not be the target of an advertisement). By examining consumers' processing strategies and evaluations when in both roles, the authors hypothesized and showed that negative effects can occur when consumers perceive themselves to be in the non-target market. Further, the results of the experiment showed that target market status affects the processing of the advertisement. While target market members tend to process the advertisement more centrally, non-target market members process the advertisement more peripherally; an effect that is mediated by subject "distinctiveness". The theoretical and practical implications of this research were discussed.

Peter Wright, as discussant, provided direction for the discussion by framing the papers in terms of consumers' thoughts about the "marketing game." He encouraged comment on ways to conceptualize the interaction between consumer and marketer that emphasize the two-sided nature of the interaction and the strategic qualities of consumers' thinking.