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Understanding Individual and Collective Consumer Power in the Modern Economy
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM).
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Consumers today are empowered by access to technology: they have drastically improved their ability to obtain knowledge, to communicate with each other and with firms, and to influence the marketing function. The research presented in this dissertation investigates consumer power in the modern economy. This topic is studied in two contexts which reflect the range of consumer power that exists today, from low levels of power exhibited by individual consumers to high levels of power exhibited by consumer collectives. These two contexts shed light on how consumers exert control over the marketing function in the context of the modern economy.

The investigation of consumer power is undertaken through four papers. Paper 1 illustrates how even unskilled and everyday consumers who are operating as individuals can exert power over marketers through the practice of upcycling, or when items which would otherwise be considered garbage are repurposed, modified, or transformed into useful items. This paper suggests that there are a range of benefits consumers seek when they engage in the empowered behavior of upcycling, and provides managerial guidance on how firms can approach situations in which consumers upcycle their offerings. Papers 2, 3, and 4 focus on consumer power in situations where consumers are members of collectives; specifically, these papers focus on crowdsourcing. Paper 2 examines how consumers have used crowdsourcing initiatives as opportunities to push their own agendas. This paper illustrates a range of possible behaviors which may occur in crowdsourcing initiatives, and exposes risks that firms face when engaging in crowdsourcing. Paper 3 provides a theoretical conceptualization of why consumers are able to influence outcomes in crowdsourcing. Specifically, this paper uses social power theory to identify how power is structured in consumer collectives and to explain how this power structure can lead to the outcomes identified in paper 2. Paper 4 investigates consumer perceptions of power throughout the crowdsourcing process. In addition, this paper investigates how attitudes towards the brand and purchase likelihood are impacted by a firms decision to ‘accept’ or ‘reject’ the will of the crowd.

Through these four papers, this research enhances understanding of the spectrum of consumer power that exists today, from unskilled individual consumer power in upcycling to networked consumer power in crowdsourcing. This research provides new theoretical understanding of how consumer power is structured and provides managerial guidance of how to approach situations in which consumers exercise their power. Specifically, this research conceptualizes how the bases of social power are structured differently depending on the context. From a practical stance, this research exposes both opportunities and risks that marketers face as a result of increased consumer power, and provides guidance for managers on how to approach these situations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2019. , p. 207
Series
TRITA-ITM-AVL ; 30
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Industrial Economics and Management
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-262214ISBN: 978-91-7873-322-4 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-262214DiVA, id: diva2:1360931
Public defence
2019-11-26, Sal F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, Stockholm, 09:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-10-31 Created: 2019-10-14 Last updated: 2019-10-31Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. When creative consumers go green: understanding consumer upcycling
Open this publication in new window or tab >>When creative consumers go green: understanding consumer upcycling
2016 (English)In: Journal of Product & Brand Management, ISSN 1061-0421, Vol. 25, no 4, p. 394-399Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose - Consumers are known to repurpose products for uses other than those they were originally intended for; this paper aims to focus on an environmentally conscious form of creative consumption known as upcycling. Design/methodology/approach - This conceptual paper presents and defines the consumer practice of upcycling. Findings - The author identifies gaps in the literature regarding consumer upcycling and identifies avenues for future research and theory development. Research limitations/implications - Upcycling has considerable implications with respect to end-of-life planning for products. Originality/value - This research identifies consumer upcycling as an environmentally beneficial form of creative consumption and discusses its implications for firms.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2016
Keywords
Consumer innovation, Creative consumers, Consumer recycling, Creative consumption, Environmentalism, Upcycling
National Category
Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-193271 (URN)10.1108/JPBM-09-2015-0972 (DOI)000382559600009 ()2-s2.0-84979657076 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20161007

Available from: 2016-10-07 Created: 2016-09-30 Last updated: 2019-10-30Bibliographically approved
2. Crowdsourcing in a time of empowered stakeholders: Lessons from crowdsourcing campaigns
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Crowdsourcing in a time of empowered stakeholders: Lessons from crowdsourcing campaigns
2017 (English)In: Business Horizons, ISSN 0007-6813, E-ISSN 1873-6068, Vol. 60, no 2, p. 247-253Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Crowdsourcing can test a company's willingness to relinquish control to key stakeholders. Using past examples of four failed crowdsourcing initiatives, we explore the negative and unintended consequences of crowdsourcing in an age when stakeholders are empowered to speak their minds, make a mockery of organizational initiatives, and direct initiatives as it suits their own agenda. The concepts of crowdthink and crowd hijacking are introduced, and advice is given on how managers can avoid or anticipate some of the potential issues that arise during crowdsourcing endeavors. With these considerations, managers can harness the power of crowds effectively to achieve organizational goals with limited negative consequences.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
ELSEVIER SCIENCE BV, 2017
Keywords
Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding, Creative consumer, Consumer backlash, Crowdthink, Crowd hijacking
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-205500 (URN)10.1016/j.bushor.2016.11.009 (DOI)000398009000011 ()2-s2.0-85009507641 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20170510

Available from: 2017-05-10 Created: 2017-05-10 Last updated: 2019-10-30Bibliographically approved
3. Where is the power in numbers?: Understanding firm and consumer power when crowdsourcing
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Where is the power in numbers?: Understanding firm and consumer power when crowdsourcing
2018 (English)In: Business Horizons, ISSN 0007-6813, E-ISSN 1873-6068, Vol. 61, no 4, p. 545-554Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This work utilizes the theory of social power as a lens through which to analyze the power structure of firms and consumers involved in crowdsourcing and discusses the managerial implications of this power balance. The results of this analysis reveal how power is structured differently in each form of crowdsourcing, with consumer power being strongest in the case of idea crowdsourcing and weakest in the case of microtask crowdsourcing. These differences in power have implications for managers who initiate and maintain crowdsourcing endeavors. Understanding the structure of consumer power in different types of crowdsourcing allows firms to better prepare for the wide range of possible outcomes as consumers inevitably push their own agendas regardless of whether or not these agendas are aligned with those of the firm.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2018
Keywords
Power theory, Consumer power, Crowdsourcing, Consumer empowerment, Social power, Consumer collectives
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-232619 (URN)10.1016/j.bushor.2018.03.004 (DOI)000438002100006 ()
Note

QC 20180731

Available from: 2018-07-31 Created: 2018-07-31 Last updated: 2019-10-30Bibliographically approved
4. Consumer power in crowdsourcing
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Consumer power in crowdsourcing
(English)In: Article in journal (Other academic) Submitted
Abstract [en]

Consumers today are more powerful than ever before, particularly when they are members of collectives. This research investigates consumer power in crowdsourcing through a series of studies. Study 1 adapts and validates the Perceived Social Power Scale by Imai (1989) to create a suitable measurement instrument to capture perceptions of consumer power in crowdsourcing. Study 2 finds that consumers who participate in idea crowdsourcing (in which consumers submit ideas for new offerings) show higher perceived coercive power than those who participate in crowd voting (in which consumers are invited to vote for various options for new offerings) but finds no differences in perceived expert power. Study 3 manipulates whether the crowdsourced ideas or votes were accepted or rejected by the brand, and provides a longitudinal investigation of consumer perceptions of power, purchase likelihood, and attitudes towards the brand. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.

National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-262212 (URN)
Note

QC 20191017

Available from: 2019-10-14 Created: 2019-10-14 Last updated: 2019-10-17Bibliographically approved

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910111213141512 of 32
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