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Document Type

Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Hospitality & Tourism Management

Year Degree Awarded

2016

Month Degree Awarded

May

First Advisor

Rodney Warnick

Second Advisor

Albert Assaf

Third Advisor

Melissa Baker

Fourth Advisor

Ronnie Janoff-Bulman

Subject Categories

Hospitality Administration and Management | Marketing

Abstract

In today’s society, when companies neglect ethical or social issues involved in business practices, these types of behavior could result in consumer boycotts or anti-consumption. The majority of previous research in anti-consumption assumed that consumers’ brand avoidance is a result of a brand or a company’s moral failure, however, more recent research indicates that this may not be the case. In fact, consumer avoidance of a brand may happen as a result of brand positioning status in the marketplace – coined as “underdog effects”. Although it is still questionable how individuals make judgments about underdogs in the hospitality industry, and more specifically within the food and beverage market segment, underdog brand positioning status has been frequently exploited in marketing practice.

However, despite its strong relevance in practice and anecdotal evidence found in previous literature, only a scant amount of research has been conducted on the domain of “underdogs” in hospitality and tourism marketing. Moreover, “to what extent do underdog brand effects alter consumer judgment and decision-making” is still largely unknown (Paharia, Keinan, Avery, & Schor, 2011). Thus, this study positioned its inquiries within the domain of moral value judgment and attempted to investigate one’s underlying psychological motivations behind his or her support for “underdogs” and ultimate avoidance of topdogs.

To explain such consumer reactions toward underdog and topdog brands, this study grounded its argument within the belief in a just world theory and examined how brand positioning status (topdog vs. underdog) could alter one’s perception of market status unjustness and also could impact on motivation to restore justice. To build on what exists in the literature, this study incorporated several normative variables (brand origin: local vs. non-local; brand ideology: power vs. universalism) that might interplay with brand positioning status in making underdog appeals more salient. This research, then, tested the role of belief in a just world view as a moderator that influenced the relationship between brand positioning status, normative variables (brand origin and brand ideology), and motivation to restore justice. The belief in a just world theory assists this study in anticipating consumers’ behavioral outcomes when they encounter power imbalance between a winner and a loser in a business competition.

To test these hypotheses, this dissertation conducted two 2x2x2 between-subjects factorial design studies. The aim of Study 1 (brand positioning status x brand origin x belief in a just world view) was to create underdog effects by manipulating brand positioning status (underdog vs. topdog) and brand origin (local vs. non-local) and to examine its interaction effects with a variable examining individual differences (belief in a just world construct). This study can help consumers identify a winner or a loser of a business competition, motivate consumers to restore justice, and eventually can stimulate consumers to be engaged in underdog brand support behavior. The relationships were also tested with a moderator (belief in a just world view). The purpose of Study 2 (brand positioning status x brand ideology x belief in a just world view) was to expand the understanding of underdog brand effects by examining its interaction effects with brand ideology and one’s belief in a just world view. Hence, a 2 (brand positioning status: underdog vs. topdog) x 2 (brand ideology: power vs. universalism) x 2 (belief in a just world view: high vs. low) between subjects factorial design was developed to test hypotheses.

Findings of this research can fill the literature gap in underdog brand status and consumers’ reactions toward large corporations. By incorporating normative variables (brand origin and brand ideology) to make the brand positioning status more salient, this study can shed light into the understanding of consumer support in underdogs and anti-corporation movement. More specifically, this study can contribute to the following areas: 1) deriving academic interest from luxury branding to small business branding; 2) considering brand effects in a network of brands; 3) broadening the understanding of consumer rejection for corporations and support for underdogs and extending the understanding of pro-social behavior; 4) justice restoration motive and third party justice motive; and, 5) reviewing and studying the application and extension of the belief in a just world theory.

Available for download on Thursday, May 06, 2021

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