An empirical examination of the role of context on the psychological meaning of products and brands
McManus, Sara Kristen
MetadataShow full item record
Meaning is all around us each and every day. Psychological meaning focuses on the factors that underlie the meaning an individual derives from and ascribes to a particular product. For decades, consumers’ psychological meaning of products and brands has been known to play a key role in purchasing decisions. This dissertation attempts to better understand the meanings that consumers attach to their possessions. The framework presented here examines psychological meaning in terms of tangible attributes and intangible attributes, as well as contextual influences on these meanings. Products are known to have tangible attributes, which are objective and verifiable, but also to contain intangible attributes which are the results of cognitive associations and abstractions. The combination of these attributes contributes to the overall meaning that is ascribed to a product or brand. It is also important to note that meaning is always meaning in a given context. In the framework presented in this dissertation, contextual variables fall into three main groups: psychosocial characteristics, demographic characteristics, and situational characteristics. In this work, we focus on one contextual variable to study from each of these groups. In psychosocial characteristics, we examine materialism; in demographic characteristics, we look at gender; and in situational characteristics, we focus on product involvement. Therefore, this research is intended to contribute not only to the field of studies on psychological meaning, but also to the fields of these three contextual variables. The framework is challenged using the word car as the stimulus. This particular stimulus was chosen for its balanced blend of both tangible and intangible attributes. It is also a product for which all respondents will have at least some level of familiarity and which most consumers have an awareness of various brands. Data is collected in the form of free, stimulus-bound, one-word associations, as widely used in the prior research. The data is then clustered into “components of meaning” by independent judges in a manner compatible with the literature. With the components of meaning for car identified, standard non-parametric statistical tests are used to look at significant differences across the contextual variables.