Ethics and the Typology of Customer Value

ABSTRACT - The typology of customer value (Holbrook 1994a, 1994b) posits that ethics (including justice, virtue, and morality) is one of eight kinds of value that may be obtained in the consumption experience. This paper examines ethics as a customer value and its relationship to the other of types customer value and to the framework as a whole. The merits of the typology of customer value are highlighted and the role of ethics within the framework carefully delineated. In particular, the distinction is made between consumption experiences that have entirely altruistic motivations and those experiences that, in addition, have a less selfless aspect. Illustrations of ethics as a customer value are provided, including the consumption of charity services and participation in consumer boycotts. Suggestions are made for research that may benefit from the integration provided by the framework.


N. Craig Smith (1996) ,"Ethics and the Typology of Customer Value", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23, eds. Kim P. Corfman and John G. Lynch Jr., Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 148-153.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23, 1996      Pages 148-153


N. Craig Smith, Georgetown University


The typology of customer value (Holbrook 1994a, 1994b) posits that ethics (including justice, virtue, and morality) is one of eight kinds of value that may be obtained in the consumption experience. This paper examines ethics as a customer value and its relationship to the other of types customer value and to the framework as a whole. The merits of the typology of customer value are highlighted and the role of ethics within the framework carefully delineated. In particular, the distinction is made between consumption experiences that have entirely altruistic motivations and those experiences that, in addition, have a less selfless aspect. Illustrations of ethics as a customer value are provided, including the consumption of charity services and participation in consumer boycotts. Suggestions are made for research that may benefit from the integration provided by the framework.


The typology of value (Holbrook 1994a, 1994b) proposes ethics as one of eight kinds of value in the consumption experience. By way of illustration, Holbrook suggests that the consumption of charity services, such as donating one's blood to the Red Cross, provides this kind of customer value; it "constitutes an ethically virtuous action if one pursues helping others purely for its own sake" (1994b: 54). As well as ethics (or morality), the typology proposes that efficiency, play, excellence, aesthetics, status (or politics), esteem, and spirituality are different kinds of value that consumers may obtain through consumption. The different types of customer value are categorized according to three dimensions; whether the value is extrinsic or intrinsic, self- or other-oriented, and active or reactive.

The purpose of this paper is to examine ethics as a customer value and its fit within the typology. First, I comment on the merits of the customer value framework, confirming its "value" to consumer researchers. Second, I examine ethics as a customer value, providing illustrations of when this type of value may be obtained. Next I examine the conceptualization of ethics within the framework and suggest an alternative conceptualization; I note that it is particularly important to differentiate between ethics and altruism. Finally, I conclude with some suggestions for future research.


Recognizing that exchange is central to the marketing concept and that marketing transactions involve exchanges of value, Holbrook (1994a: 134) highlights the importance of understanding the nature and types of value customers obtain in the consumption experience. In other words, he asks: what form does the value take that customers hope to receive when they hand over their hard-earned cash? Such a question clearly should be at the core of consumer research.

In providing an answer to this question, Holbrook (1994b: 26-39) identifies, or at least hypothesizes, four key characteristics of customer value. He defines value as "an interactive relativistic preference experience" (1994b: 27). First, it is interactive because value can only be obtained through an interaction between the customer and the product; while a product may have many qualities, they only come to represent customer value when they are appreciated by customers within the context of a marketplace exchange. With respect to art, for example, this suggests a distinction between artistic value and customer value; a work of art appreciated by the artist alone may have artistic value but not customer value.

Second, value is relativistic because it can never be absolute when it is the result of customers, who differ amongst themselves, making comparisons between alternative possible sources of value in a multitude of different situations. Fashion clothing marketers know too well, for example, that customer tastes differ and may change over time or in response to the arrival of new styles. Hence, the third characteristic that value is a judgement of preference.

Finally, value is found in the experience of consumption of the product, rather than in its purchase. Typically, the act of purchase is not an end in itself but the means of obtaining experiences derived from the product. It is a marketing axiom that people do not buy products, they buy the services that products provide; as Levitt (1995: 13) put it: "people actually do not buy gasoline... what they buy is the right to continue driving their cars." However, we might recognize that for some products and markets the act of purchase is a part of the consumption experience; I may choose to shop at an expensive delicatessen in preference to a conventional supermarket because this is more enjoyable and, arguably, this is part of the consumption experience derived from the goods purchased.

As well as fleshing out the nature of customer value, Holbrook (1994b: 44-55) also proposes a framework or typology, classifying customer value by three dimensions: 1) extrinsic versus intrinsic, 2) self- versus other-oriented, and 3) active versus reactive (see Table 1 for the complete typology in its most recent form). Esteem, for example, is a value that might be obtained in the purchase of a luxury automobile. It is extrinsic, because the esteem value is instrumentally derived rather than through the act of consumption as an end in itself (compare with the intrinsic value of play). It is other-oriented, because the esteem value is derived from the reaction of others to the customer's ownership of the car, rather than his or her reaction to it (compare with the self-oriented value of excellence that might be derived from product quality). It is reactive, because the esteem value comes from what the car does for the customer rather than what he or she does to it (compare with the active value of efficiency resulting from the functional use of a product).

Types of value are not mutually exclusive. It follows from the earlier discussion of the nature of customer value that a luxury automobile may provide different types of value to different customers. For another customer, the same luxury automobile may provide the extrinsic, self-oriented, and reactive value of excellence. Indeed, for the same customer, the same luxury automobile may provide a combination of values, perhaps play and excellence in addition to esteem. As Holbrook (1994a: 138) notes: "any or all of the value types distinguished earlier may and often do occur simultaneously to varying degrees in any given consumption experience." Accordingly, as further discussed below, the framework suggests that ethics is a value that customers may obtain in addition to other types of value.

Holbrook's conception of the nature and types of customer value is a useful contribution to consumer research and marketing practice. Its merits for consumer researchers lie in the recognition or assertion that: 1) customer value lies in the consumption experience, not the product; 2) different types of value may be obtained; 3) these types of value may occur simultaneously and to varying degrees in any consumption experience; 4) there is an interrelationship between the different types of value that arise in consumption; and 5) the types of value may be subject to a higher-order classification (such as the dimensions proposed in Holbrook's typology). Marketing managers would likely find Holbrook's conception of customer value and the typology both accessible and intuitively appealing. It provides scope for improved understanding of the benefits sought by consumers and hence the scope for increased customer satisfaction. More specifically, it might suggest alternative approaches to organizing data in marketing research, concept testing in new product development, and message strategy in advertising.



However, this is not to suggest that researchers or managers should embrace the framework in its entirety. The conception of customer value, including the recognition that there are different types of value, is well-argued by Holbrook (1994a, 1994b). The detail within the framework is more subject to question. It is beyond the scope of this paper to examine the dimensions of the typology and all the different types of value proposed. However, it can be noted that there is uncertainty about the antecedents and consequences of the dimensions. [This point has also been made by an anonymous reviewer of the special session proposal.] What is the theoretical basis for the three dimension chosen? Holbrook (1994: 39-44) briefly discusses the literature supporting the dimensions chosen, but not alternative dimensions. For example, perhaps there is an affective dimension of the consumption experienceCwhether the consumer has positive or negative feelings. Do positive or negative feelings influence the type of value consumers obtain? Is this adequately captured in the existing framework? Likewise, is there an economic dimension of value [Suggested by another anonymous reviewer of the special session proposal. Arguably, the economic components of value are only means to the end of alternative types of value already captured in the framework.] or a tangible/intangible or a physical/mental dimension? Moreover, Holbrook (1994a: 137) has noted the "disappearance of the self-other dichotomy" when faith becomes a state of ecstasy.

The classification of the types of value identified also may be questioned. Perhaps, as indicated above, faith may be classified as self-oriented as well as or instead of other-oriented. Further, is the framework sufficiently inclusive, does it capture all key types of value in consumption? Holbrook (1994b: 58) is correct to observe that some types of value identified in the framework have received little attention from consumer researchers, including ethics or morality in consumption. Yet are some important types of value missing, such as the intellectual value that may be obtained from a subscription to a current affairs magazine or the purchase of an encyclopedia? Indeed, this line of analysis soon suggests more careful limits may need to be imposed on the domain of the framework if it is to avoid the impossible task of attempting to include virtually all types of human behavior. Moreover, are those values that are included adequately delimited and accurately defined? Finally, if value is found in consumption, we might consider whether Holbrook's framework is more accurately about consumer value; it is not primarily as a customer that the value is obtained, indeed, one may not have been the customer and yet still obtain the (consumer) value Holbrook describes.

Concerns about the dimensions of the framework and the types of value identified are addressed throughout the papers in the special session. The primary focus of this paper is on ethics as a type of customer value and how it is classified within the framework.


Holbrook's (1994a: 139; 1994b: 45) typology refers to "morality" and, parenthetically, to "virtue or ethical acts". Holbrook (1994a: 137) refers to a "pursuit" of morality (hence its classification as active on the active/reactive dimension), that aims at "virtue sought for its own sake as its own reward." He continues by referring to "deontological value" and the concept of duty or obligation to others. Noting that such obligations "often appear in the form of socially accepted rules of conduct or conventions that dictate proper behavior," Holbrook illustrates morality as a customer value by reference to wearing a white dress at one's wedding or a tuxedo to the prom. He adds that ethics is viewed as intrinsically motivated (hence its classification as intrinsic on the extrinsic/intrinsic dimension). Aside from references to charitable contributions, other illustrations of morality as a customer value in Holbrook (1994a), are somewhat whimsical ("Holbrookian"?) in keeping with the lighter tone of this paper.

Holbrook (1994b: 52-54) gives more detailed attention to moral philosophy, yet the essence of his perspective on ethics as a customer value remains the same: "Ethical action involves doing something for the sake of othersCwith concern for how it will affect them or how they will react to it" (p. 52). The motivation for such action is intrinsic because "virtue is its own reward" (pp. 53, 54). More controversially, he suggests that "the moment we stop pursuing some ethical action as an end in itself and begin pursuing it as a means to some ulterior purpose, it stops being ethical and partakes of some other sort of value" (p. 53). This perspective on ethics requires some examination, as will follow below. In addition, the use of the terms "ethics", "virtue", "morality" and (in Table 1) "justice" interchangeably, is also problematic. Nonetheless, it is clear that Holbrook (1994b) is referring to ethics as a customer value where it reflects doing good for its own sake and as a result of a sense of moral obligation or duty.

By way of illustration, Holbrook (1994b: 54) "defends" the consumption of charity services "on the moral grounds that it is 'right' to behave generously without offering any further reason or objective;" for example, donating money to the United Way, one's blood to the Red Cross, and one's time to a soup kitchen. However, such behaviors only constitute "an ethically virtuous action [i.e., ethics as a customer value] if one pursues helping others purely for its own sake." Indeed, Holbrook (1994b: 54) rejects any self-interested motivations of such behaviors: "If, by contrast, one were to invoke the aim of benefiting from tax deductions, earning gratitude, or improving the neighborhood by reducing the number of street people, the relevant type of value would become political [or status, to use the term adopted in Table 1] rather than moral." As I explain in more detail below, this is a narrow perspective on ethical conduct and I will argue in favor of a broader and more widely accepted view. Holbrook (1994b) raises a conundrum in moral philosophy that has troubled philosophers for centuries: can an act ever be entirely without self-interest? Moreover, from an empirical standpoint, can we ever know? It is generally accepted that doing good has a multitude of motivations, some of which may be self-interested.

While it will be argued that the role of ethics in the typology of customer value needs to be carefully delineated, Holbrook's notion of ethics as a customer value is not in principle disputed. Indeed, I have elsewhere (Smith 1987a, 1987b, 1990; Burke, Milberg and Smith 1993) examined "ethical purchase behavior", as Holbrook (1994b: 58) acknowledges. The consumption of charity services and (arguably) the wearing of appropriate attire in formal settings have been used to illustrate ethics as a customer value. In the next section, ethics as a customer value is further illustrated by consumer boycotts, providing an inductive basis for specifying the meaning of ethics as a customer value.

Consumer Boycotts as an Illustration of Ethics as a Customer Value

Boycotts can take many forms and have been used for centuries (Smith 1990: 134-166). Early examples include boycotts of British goods by American colonists in the Revolutionary War, boycotts of slave-made goods by abolitionists, and, as early as 1327, a boycott of the monks of Christ's Church by the citizens of Canterbury, England in an agreement not to "buy, sell or exchange drinks or victuals with the monastery" (Laidler 1968: 27-30). Laidler (1968: 27) defines boycotting as "an organized effort to withdraw and induce others to withdraw from social or business relations with another." More specifically, the consumer boycott may be defined as "the organized exercising of consumer sovereignty by abstaining from purchase of an offering in order to exert influence on a matter of concern to the customer and over the institution making the offering" (Smith 1990: 140). It is clear from the instrumental purpose evident in these definitions that a consumer boycott often would not qualify as an "ethically virtuous action" under Holbrook's (1994b: 54) conception of ethics. Indeed, Smith (1990: 278-282) argues that consumer boycotts should be viewed as a tool for achieving the social control of business. [With consumer boycott defined as "abstaining from purchase" one might be tempted to argue that there is no exchange and hence no customer value obtained. This is disputed on two grounds: 1) there is still an experience related to the domain of human behavior broadly characterized by Holbrook as consumption, as in research on possessions (Belk 1991); and 2) a boycott typically involves abstaining from the purchase of a given supplier's product with a substitute purchased instead, as Holbrook notes, customer value is a preference experience.]

However, Smith (1990: 8-9) suggests consumer boycotts (especially where organized by pressure groups) are only the most clearly identifiable and deliberate form of a broader phenomenon, described as ethical purchase behavior, which occurs "where people are influenced in purchase by ethical concerns" (1990: 8). The ethical content of participation in a consumer boycott and ethical purchase behavior generally, notwithstanding possible instrumental motivations, may be illustrated by research on specific boycotts. Consider the following examples (Smith 1990: 233-255):

! An editorial in the Financial Times, headed 'Moral Pressure in the Market,' attributed the withdrawal from South Africa by Barclays Bank to a consumer boycott and concluded that this was effective because of the ethical concern of consumers: "ordinary people, revolted by what they have learned about the [apartheid] system from the news media... have proved they can bring effective pressure to bear on commercial organizations... Moral pressure of this kindCwhether against apartheid, whaling, the fur trade, vivisection or even the defence industryCis an increasingly important fact of business life" (Financial Times, 25 November, 1986).

! The moral opprobrium associated with Nestle's marketing of infant formula in developing countries is well captured in this letter from a supporter of the consumer boycott of Nestle: "My children love Nestle Quik. My husband and I are virtually addicted to Nescafe. But we will no longer be buying these or your other products. We have learned about the suffering your advertising of infant formula causes... our outrage joins with that of many others and together we will boycott Nestle products until you change" (Smith 1990: 249).

! Middle-class urban America supported the successful, 1965-70 grape boycott, because of concern about the treatment of farm workers and issues of poverty, pesticide misuse, and civil rights. In a union pamphlet entitled Why We Boycott, Cesar Chavez later wrote, "The boycott is the way we take our cause to the public. For surely if we cannot find justice in the courts of rural California, we will find support with our brothers and sisters throughout the nation (emphasis added)."

! During the boycott of Douwe Egberts coffee, over its sourcing of coffee from Angola (when Angola was seeking independence from Portugal), a Douwe Egberts sales director made the following comment on instructions given to the sales force (Hofstede 1980): "We told them that the company could not take a political position. On the other hand, they know that they should follow the customerCthe customer is always right. This was OK as long as the customer was only interested in the taste of coffee. Now, for the first time, the customer expressed an opinion about something very different."

Smith (1990: 260) highlights the importance of moral outrage in consumer boycott effectiveness and success. He notes (1990: 258) that boycotts have expressive as well as instrumental functions: "The boycott is a moral act; an expression by the consumer of disapproval of the firm's activities and disassociation from them." This desire on the part of the consumer to have "clean hands" may mean, as Smith continues, that it is inappropriate to refer to objectives or effectiveness in reference to consumer participation in a boycott; no instrumental motivation may be present, at least for some consumers. This is illustrated by "many consumers' refusal to purchase South African goods, [because of] the wish to avoid tainted (and being tainted by) products of apartheid" (Smith 1990: 158).

More broadly, Smith (1990: 178) defines ethical purchase behavior as "an expression of the individual's moral judgement in his or her purchase behavior." While this definition may be flawed because it can be argued that moral judgement is almost always present in any human behaviorCthere is a moral burden as a consequence of the human conditionCit recognizes the possibility of ethics as a customer value. As well as abstaining from purchase for ethical reasons, in consumer boycotts or perhaps as a vegetarian, Smith (1990: 2-3) also recognizes more affirmative forms of ethical purchase behavior, where products of a particular supplier are sought, as in buying domestically produced goods because it is "the right thing to do." Also noteworthy here is the literature on socially responsible consumption (Smith 1990: 178-181). For example, Engel and Blackwell (1982: 610) refer to socially conscious consumers as "those persons who not only are concerned with their own personal satisfactions, but also buy with some consideration of the social and environmental well-being of others." More broadly still, in a variety of spheres, scholars such as Etzioni (1988: 51-66) have recognized the moral dimension of economics and provided many examples of people apparently acting unselfishly in their economic behavior. In short, there is ample evidence in consumer boycotts and elsewhere to support a role for ethical concern in consumer behavior and the possibility of ethics as a customer value.


While ethical concerns may be recognized as an influence on purchase behavior, can ethics be viewed as a value sought by consumers? There is something troubling about the concept of ethics as a customer value to be obtained in marketplace exchanges. It might be argued that ethics is not appropriately conceived as one of a number of possible values customers might seek, that it is in some way above consideration alongside quality or fun, or that it is beyond the reach of commercial consideration. (Similarly, one might argue that spirituality, at least in relation to religious behavior, is also above comparison with the more earthly types of value.) However, the apparent contradiction of a form of value obtained as ethics, is largely dependent upon a conception of ethics as selfless behavior. If ethics is for its own sake, it is difficult to argue that this can provide "value" to the customer; clearly, value is not sought. Holbrook (1994b: 22) refers to exchange by way of an explanation of customer value, noting that exchange is a transaction involving two agents in which each agent gives up something of value in return for something of greater value. It would seem that if customer value is a form of utility obtained by the customer, then it cannot be obtained for selfless reasons. There is a way of resolving this issue. It requires a broader and more widely accepted perspective on ethics and an understanding of altruism. First, however, let us consider the multiple motivations for participation in a consumer boycott.

In choosing to boycott Barclays Bank, a consumer may have strongly believed that apartheid was wrong and that Barclays' presence as the largest bank in South Africa supported apartheid and was therefore wrong as a consequence. Participation in the boycott may have been motivated by: a) the belief that support of the boycott could help the people of South Africa by forcing Barclays' withdrawal and speeding the downfall of the apartheid regime, an instrumental motivation; b) a desire not be associated with a company that directly or indirectly benefits from apartheid, a 'clean hands' motivation; or c) a reluctance to be seen patronizing the 'apartheid bank', an avoidance of unseemly conspicuous consumption. Although instrumental, the first motivation could qualify as an ethically virtuous action under Holbrook's definition. The second motivation of a clean conscience may also qualify. The third motivation is more problematic, not wishing to be embarrassed or having to brave protesters when visiting a Barclays Bank outlet, reflects self-interest. Given that it is conceivable that all three motivations might be present for any one consumer, would this mean that ethics is not a customer value obtained in participation in the Barclays boycott? Likewise, a vegetarian may be concerned about the treatment of animals and dislike the taste of meat, or working in a soup kitchen may be motivated by a desire to help the homeless and to be seen as a caring individual. In short, there may be ethically virtuous (as defined by Holbrook) and less selfless motivations to some consumption experiences and yet we might still wish to characterize them as consumers obtaining ethics as a customer value.

The concept of altruism provides clarification here. Altruism may be defined (Becker and Becker 1992: 35) in terms of an action intentionally aimed at helping others and involving some other-directed motivation, a regard for the well-being of others for its own sake. In addition, some restrict the term to the placing of the interests of others ahead of those of oneself. Holbrook's conceptualization of ethics as a customer value may more accurately be described as altruism. This presents three problems for consumer researchers attempting to use the typology: 1) truly altruistic acts are rare and some would say never occur or are impossible to identify with certainty; 2) altruism does not include many behaviors we might wish to characterize as ethical; and 3) a broader conceptualization of ethics as a customer value that goes beyond altruism may violate the framework dimensions. The third problemCparticularly in terms of whether ethics as a customer value is other-oriented, self-oriented, or bothCis addressed in the next section. Below, I argue against a narrow conceptualization of ethics (i.e., altruism) as a customer value in favor of a broader view that can encompass the motivations described in consumer boycott participation and other consumption experiences where ethical concerns are involved but with self-interest present too.

Clearly, to advance this argument, ethics needs to be defined in a way that includes altruism yet also permits less selfless motivations. A consumption experience that provides value or utility because it is ethical is the result of a consumer judgement of how he or she ought to behave, in accord with moral principles or, more simply, a belief about what is the right or good thing to do. Clearly such value could not be obtained by unethical behaviors; for example, by drinking and driving when it is known that driving under the influence of alcohol is wrong because it impairs driving ability and may result in harm to others.

To differentiate between consumption behaviors that are not unethical in the sense of not being wrong and behaviors that deliberately seek to do good, we need to introduce the role of values. (It is also useful to thereby distinguish between moral values and customer value.) An affirmative act of "goodness", promotes what may be conceived as the currency of ethics, namely fundamental human values such as rights, freedom and well-being. These values are "what philosophers call 'prescriptive' or 'action guiding' because they provide standards for directing human choice" (Donaldson 1989: 11). Accordingly, ethics as a customer value results from an affirmative act of goodness that promotes one or more moral values of the individual. Hence, I may participate in a consumer boycott to promote the welfare of blacks in apartheid South Africa, or contribute to a charity to prevent harm to children. [This use of values is preferred to Holbrook's (1994b: 53) use of virtue ("regarded as pursuing the moral end just defined") in part because of the more specialized meaning of virtue found within virtue ethics. Holbrook's reference to justice (see Table 1) is also presumably in regard to a moral end that may be realized when ethics is a customer value. In both cases, the realization of moral values may be considered to be more encompassing.]

Unresolved, however, is whether such behaviors are truly selfless. As earlier discussed, the notion that a consumption experience may provide utility because it is ethical suggests the behavior is also self-interested. While ethical egoism [Defined as "the theory that the only valid moral standard is the obligation to promote one's own well-being above everyone else's" (Beauchamp 1982: 57.] is rarely advocated by moral philosophers, the arguments of psychological egoists have presented serious challenges to the concept of purely selfless behavior. Psychological egoism discounts as selfless even acts of great personal sacrifice (that would clearly be in keeping with the more restricted definition of altruism, above). As Beauchamp explains (1982: 58): "The psychological egoist does not contend that people always behave in an outwardly selfish manner. No matter how self-sacrificing a person's behavior may be at times... the desire behind the action is always selfish; one is ultimately out for oneselfCwhether in the long or the short run." Philosophical interest in psychological egoism may be traced back to Plato. However, resolution of the issues it raises for philosophers may only lie in a greater understanding of the psychology of human motivation, including unconscious motives (Beauchamp 1982: 61-62). Nonetheless, it cannot be argued with any certainty that an affirmative act of goodness that promotes moral values of the individual is ever ultimately without self-interest.

Donaldson (1989: 10-11) notes that "values possess legitimacy beyond the boundaries of simple self-interest" and suggests the possible role of "enlightened self-interest". Hence, to conclude this initial conceptualization, ethics as a customer value may be said to arise in a consumption experience when the individual engages in an affirmative act of goodness, promoting one or more moral values for the well-being of others and for reasons of enlightened self-interest.


The broader, alternative conceptualization of ethics as a customer value (above) is more accommodating of a greater variety of consumption experiences that include ethical concern as a motivating factor, such as those 'acts of charity' that Holbrook would exclude. However, this presents problems when we attempt to return to the framework. Holbrook (1994b: 53) acknowledges that "an ethical egoist... pursues a self-oriented perspective that is clearly inconsistent with the present typology." Yet a self-oriented perspective is conceivably a component within acts that are ostensibly or largely other-oriented. To maintain the integrity of the existing framework, it must be argued that only altruistic value is other-oriented (and active and intrinsic). Any self-interest in otherwise altruistic consumer experiences must be accounted for elsewhere in the framework. This suggests future research to consider the possibility of expanding the framework by sub-dividing ethics as a customer value, differentiating between consumption experiences that have largely altruistic motivations and those experiences that, in addition, have a less selfless aspect. Alternatively, a more parsimonious typology might exclude the self-/other-oriented dimension, especially if its antecedents are uncertain or if it proves problematic when other types of value are more closely examined.

These concerns about the fit of ethics within the typology should be seen as a call for fine-tuning and not dismissive of the framework. The framework has definite merit and highlights interesting conceptual and empirical issues. Indeed, the scope for future research using this typology is considerable, especially research that adopts an integrative approach to customer value. By way of illustration, consider consumer trade-offs between different types of value such as play and ethics in the consumption of alcohol (here it is suggested that ethics is a value obtained by moderating consumption). Research on play and ethics as potentially conflicting types of value obtained in the consumption of alcohol would inform understanding of consumer behavior and, from an industry standpoint, indicate possible approaches to more socially responsible forms of advertising. It might also identify more effective public policy interventions.

Holbrook's perspective on the consumption experience improves our understanding of consumer behavior and points to hypotheses for consumer researchers both directly, in work to develop the framework, and indirectly, in studies across the field that might benefit from a more integrative framework. Indeed, the framework may even have the potential to serve as a paradigm for some consumer researchers.


Beauchamp, Tom L. (1982), Philosophical Ethics: An Introduction to Moral Philosophy (New York: McGraw-Hill).

Becker, Lawrence C. and Charlotte C. Becker (1992), Encyclopedia of Ethics (New York: Garland Publishing).

Belk, Russell W. (1991), "Possessions and the Sense of Past," in Russell W. Belk (ed.) Highways and Buyways: Naturalistic Research from the Consumer Behavior Odyssey (Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research), pp. 114-130.

Burke, Sandra J., Sandra J. Milberg, and N. Craig Smith (1993), "The Role of Ethical Concerns in Consumer Purchase Behavior: Understanding Alternative Processes," in Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. XX, Leigh McAlister and Michael L. Rothschild (ed.) (Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research), pp. 119-22.

Donaldson, Thomas (1989), The Ethics of International Business (New York: Oxford University Press).

Engel, James F. and Roger D. Blackwell (1982), Consumer Behavior (New York: The Dryden Press).

Etzioni, Amitai (1988), The Moral Dimension: Toward a New Economics (New York: Free Press).

Hofstede, Geert (1980), "Angola CoffeeCor the Confrontation of an Organization with Changing Values in Its Environment," Organization Studies 1:1.

Holbrook, Morris B. (1994a), "Axiology, Aesthetics, And Apparel: Some Reflections on the Old School Tie," in Marilyn Revell DeLong and Ann Marie Fiore (ed.) Aesthetics of Textiles and Clothing: Advancing Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives (Monument, CO: International Textile and Apparel Association), pp. 131-141.

Holbrook, Morris B. (1994b), "The Nature of Customer Value: An Axiology of Services in the Consumption Experience," in Roland T. Rust and Richard L. Oliver (ed.) Service Quality: New Directions in Theory and Practice (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage), pp. 21-71.

Laidler, Harry W. (1968), Boycotts and the Labor Struggle: Economic and Legal Aspects (New York: Russell and Russell) (reissued, first published 1913).

Levitt, Theodore (1995), "Marketing Myopia" in Ben M. Enis, Keith K. Cox, and Michael P. Mokwa (ed.) Marketing Classics (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall), pp. 3-21 (first published in Harvard Business Review, July-August 1960).

Smith, N. Craig (1987a), "Ethical Purchase Behavior," in Understanding Economic Behavior, Vol. III, Proceedings of the International Association for Research in Economic Psychology (Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus School of Business), pp. 949-64.

Smith, N. Craig (1987b), "Consumer Boycotts and Consumer Sovereignty," European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 21, No. 5 (1987), pp. 7-19.

Smith, N. Craig (1990) Morality and the Market: Consumer Pressure for Corporate Accountability (London: Routledge).



N. Craig Smith, Georgetown University


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23 | 1996

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