Date of Award

August 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Management Science

First Advisor

Xiaojing Yang

Second Advisor

Laura Peracchio

Committee Members

Xiaoyan Deng, Tracy Rank-Christman, Sanjoy Ghose


The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate how marketplace interpersonal relationships affect the persuasiveness of marketing messages, specifically how consumer process and respond to marketing messages. I examine interpersonal relationship in the marketplace from three perspectives: consumer-marketer relationship (essay I), consumer-consumer relationship (essay II), and consumer-humanized product relationship (essay III).

In the first essay, I examine how marketers can strategically use appreciation instead of apology after service delay to optimize the effectiveness of symbolic recovery. As an initial recovery effort after service delay, marketers need to decide “what to say” to consumers to restore their satisfaction. Prior work on service recovery suggests that marketers should employ an apology strategy (e.g., saying “Sorry about the delay”). In this article, I propose that an appreciation strategy (e.g., saying “Thank you for your patience”) is often more effective in restoring satisfaction. Drawing from research on linguistic framing and self-concept, I reason that such a subtle shift of focus in the marketer-consumer interaction, from emphasizing marketers’ mistake and accountability to spotlighting consumers’ merits and contribution, can increase consumers’ self-esteem and hence recovery satisfaction. Using various service delay contexts, including two real-world delay situations, I show that appreciation is more effective than apology in promoting recovery satisfaction (Studies 1-2). I further provide convergent evidence that the superiority of appreciation to apology is caused by consumers’ elevated self-esteem as a result of being thanked (Studies 3-5). I also identify two boundary conditions, severity of delay and obviousness of marketers’ fault, for the superior effect of appreciation, such that the superiority of appreciation disappears when the service delay is perceived to minor (Study 6) and that superiority of appreciation is reversed when marketers’ fault is obvious (Study 7).

In the second essay, I examine the diverse effects of friend and family reminders on consumers’ regulatory focus and the persuasiveness of product appeals. Prior research suggests that close friends and family members exert similar effects on consumer behavior because both represent strong social ties and are subject to communal norms. However, on the basis of the auto-motive model and regulatory fit theory, I postulate that exposure to relationship reminders of close friends and family can actually have different impacts on consumers’ subsequent purchase decisions. Across four experiments, I demonstrate that exposure to relationship reminders of close friends increases purchase intentions toward products with promotion-focused appeals while exposure to relationship reminders of family members increases purchase intentions toward products with prevention-focused appeals.

In the third essay, I examine how consumers view anthropomorphism in general. Specifically drawing from recent research on anthropomorphism and gender identity, I propose and attest to the identity-signaling function of anthropomorphism by examining the anthropomorphism–femininity association and its marketing implications. Eight studies provide convergent evidence for such an association. The pilot study shows that engaging in anthropomorphic activities and purchasing anthropomorphic products are positively associated with femininity. Studies 1 and 2 provide evidence for both causal directions of the anthropomorphism–femininity association by demonstrating that people perceive a feminine (vs. masculine) person as more likely to purchase anthropomorphic products and judge a person who owns anthropomorphic (vs. nonanthropomorphic) products as more likely to be a woman. Study 3 further examines the association by examining how recalling one’s own anthropomorphic activities influences self-perceived femininity. Study 4 provides direct evidence using an Implicit Association Test. Finally, studies 5ab and 6 demonstrate the implications of the anthropomorphism–femininity association from the perspective of masculinity maintenance and gift-giving, respectively.

Included in

Marketing Commons