Creative consumers: awareness, attitude and action


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This paper reports on the construction of a scale to measure a firm’s stance towards creative consumers; that is, customers who adapt, modify or transform a proprietary offering.

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Creative consumers: awareness, attitude and action

  1. 1. Creative consumers: awareness, attitude and action Pierre Berthon Bentley University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA Colin Campbell Department of Marketing, Monash University, Clayton, Australia, and Leyland Pitt and Ian McCarthy Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, CanadaAbstractPurpose – This paper aims to report on the construction of a scale to measure a firm’s stance towards creative consumers; that is, customers whoadapt, modify or transform a proprietary offering.Design/methodology/approach – A measurement instrument, called the 3As, is developed to assess the extent to which an organization is aware ofits creative customers, its attitude towards its creative customers, and finally the action it takes in response to its creative customers. A total of 178Executive MBA students were used to fine-tune a set of items using exploratory factor analysis (EFA).Findings – An empirical test of reliability and validity resulted in three clearly defined factors or dimensions, which correspond to the three constructsof awareness, attitude and action. The relationship between the scales’ prediction of stances and a manager’s self typing of the organization isassessed, and the relationship between firm stance, environmental turbulence, and performance explored.Originality/value – This paper provides the first scale for measuring a firm’s stance toward creative consumers.Keywords Creative consumers, Instruments, Modifying, Firm response, Consumers, Creative thinkingPaper type Research paper1. Introduction inexpensive hardware, particularly in the form of computer chips and storage media, enable enthusiasts to tinker withTraditionally, marketers have viewed customers as passive technologies. Like most important social phenomena this isrecipients and users of products and technologies, who not simply a “bad” or “good” thing. The adaptation byconsume and use finished offerings with little or no further customers (not by the firm itself) of Apple’s iPod foradaptation or modification. Where customers did modify or podcasting has led to a whole new form of media“misuse” products the retribution of companies was usually broadcasting. On the other hand, when customers tinkerswift. Consider the case of farmers employing their Model T with certain pharmaceutical products, or with safety featuresFords to perform a range of agricultural and mechanical tasks on vehicles, the potential for danger is immense.– many owners used the power of the car, transferred through The “clever customers” phenomenon can no longer bethe rear axle, to drive small milling and threshing machines, ignored by firms, for it can affect them in a range of importantand other agricultural equipment, but in response Ford ways. It can present significant opportunities for theMotor Company refused to honor warranties on vehicles that identification of new products that can be very profitable.they suspected had been adapted for alternative farming Simultaneously it presents public relations nightmares whenapplications. Nowadays, however, the advent of technologies the firm appears to be an insensitive bully, threatens litigationsuch as the internet permits the rapid propagation and when products do harm in the hands of meddling customers,communication of customer driven innovations. The and also represents a serious hazard to the firm’s intellectualfascinating list of simply clever, hugely useful, merely property. Whether it is aware of it or not, a firm will have aamusing, sometimes pointless, and downright stupid stance toward the customer innovation phenomenon, whichinnovations by customers continues to grow (Mollick, 2005; can range from positive to negative and from passive to active,Berthon et al., 2007). Hobby programmers delight in and it is likely that this stance will impact on a number ofimprovising and improving carefully written code. Modular outcomes, including the firm’s performance. In this paper weproducts, which embody high levels of reconfigurability, and report on the development of an instrument designed to measure the three dimensions of a firm’s stance towardsThe current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at creative consumers, namely awareness, attitude and Abbreviated to the 3As Questionnaire (awareness, attitude and action), the instrument shows robust psychometric properties, with good reliability and validity. We conclude Journal of Consumer Marketing by acknowledging the tool’s limitations, identifying 28/7 (2011) 500– 507 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 0736-3761] managerial implications, and singling out avenues for [DOI 10.1108/07363761111181482] further research. 500
  2. 2. Creative consumers: awareness, attitude and action Journal of Consumer Marketing Pierre Berthon, Colin Campbell, Leyland Pitt and Ian McCarthy Volume 28 · Number 7 · 2011 · 500 –5072. Firm stances toward creative customers 3. Development of itemsBerthon et al. (2007) developed a parsimonious model for the The items were developed deductively from the originalidentification of stances towards creative consumers, which is definitions set forth by Berthon et al. (2007). A pool of 12shown in Figure 1. The model and the stances are now items for each construct (awareness, attitude and action) werediscussed in greater detail. developed, these were then given to a sample of 41 managers Although the model uses the two dimensions of attitude on an executive development program who rated each fortowards creative consumers and action towards creative relevance to the provided definition of each construct; theconsumers, Berthon et al. identify a third precursor mangers were also asked to suggest word modifications wheredimension – awareness of the phenomenon (Berthon et al., necessary. Based on the feedback from the managers, the pool2007, p. 45): obviously one cannot have an attitude or take of 12 items was whittled down to eight for each of theaction on a phenomenon unless one is aware of it. As we have constructs. Specifically, the top eight items rated as mostalready alluded to, many companies may be blissfully ignorant relevant by managers were included for each of the threeof their own creative consumers. A firm with a discourage constructs. The items are shown in Figure 2.stance has a negative attitude towards consumer innovation, To these 24 items, an additional number of controlbut its actions are de facto passive. While it may verbally berate questions were added. These asked the respondent toconsumer innovation, it takes no overt action – it may just identify their primary business, rate the turbulence of theirignore, or reluctantly tolerate, or merely be unreceptive. In business environment (on a seven-point scale ranging fromthe case of the resist stance, while the firm’s attitude towards 1 ¼ not turbulent at all, through 7 ¼ extremely turbulent),consumer innovation is still negative, its responses are active. and rate their firm’s performance (on a seven-point scale ranging from 1 ¼ far inferior to competitors, through 7 ¼ farThus firms not only verbally berate consumer innovation; superior to competitors). A further question described thethey also follow up their espoused position with punitive four stances (as defined previously) toward creativeaction. The firm actively seeks to minimize or eliminate consumers and asked the respondent which description bestconsumer innovations. A long established embodiment of matched that of their firm.resistance is invalidation of warranty. The third stance is theencourage position. The firm’s attitude towards consumerinnovation is primarily positive, but the firm’s actions are 4. Sample and analysisagain de facto passive. Finally, there is the enable stance, where To test the instrument, a convenience sample of Executivethe firm’s attitude towards consumer innovation is positive, MBA students was used, drawing on two pools of studentsbut in contrast to the previous encourage stance, the firm’s from North American universities. Unlike most convenienceposture is overtly active. The firm praises consumer student samples used in management research, theseinnovation and backs words with deeds actively to help individuals were all in full-time employment inconsumers innovate with their products. This is very much a organizations; the average age was 37 years; the average“hands-on”, positive approach to the phenomenon. Berthon annual income was $87,000; and all could be classified aset al. (2007) and Mollick (2005) provide a range of examples being in middle- to senior management positions (many heldof firms and well-known products that typify the four stances the title of CEO). A total of 178 usable questionnaires weredefined previously. returned. As a precursor, t-tests were used to explore whetherFigure 1 Firms’ stances towards creative consumers 501
  3. 3. Creative consumers: awareness, attitude and action Journal of Consumer Marketing Pierre Berthon, Colin Campbell, Leyland Pitt and Ian McCarthy Volume 28 · Number 7 · 2011 · 500 –507Figure 2 Awareness, attitude and action – items 502
  4. 4. Creative consumers: awareness, attitude and action Journal of Consumer Marketing Pierre Berthon, Colin Campbell, Leyland Pitt and Ian McCarthy Volume 28 · Number 7 · 2011 · 500 –507there were significant differences between the two samples on order interaction effect. Performance was the dependenteach of the items – none were found, so the two samples were variable. The results of the analysis are shown in Table III.pooled. As can be observed, all variables in the model had a The items were subjected to an exploratory factor analysis significant impact on performance. Indeed the overall model(principal components with varimax rotation), with no yielded an R2 of 0.422. To visually inspect the relationshiprestriction on the number of factors. Three factors emerged between the main-effect of stance on performance a plot ofwith eigenvalues greater than one, accounting for the model estimated marginal means of firm performance isapproximately 51, 21 and 9 per cent of the total variance conducted for each of the firm stances. As can be observedrespectively, and explaining approximately 81 per cent of the from Figure 5, the Discourage stance is associated with thetotal variance. The associated scree plot showed a clear step highest performance, and the Enable stance with the lowest;after the third factor, and all ensuing factors had eigenvalues Resist and Encourage stances fall in between.less than one (see Table I). To inspect the impact of turbulence on the relationship The principal axis factor solution for the 3As scale is shown between stance and business performance the plots of thein Figure 3. As can be observed, three clear factors emerged, relationship for high and low turbulence are shown inwith the action items all loading on factor 1, the awareness Figure 6. As can be seen under high turbulence theitems loading on factor 2 and the attitude items on factor 3. differences between stances, is significantly reduced.The item loadings ranged from a low of 0.739 to a high of0.911. 7. Discussion The present paper develops an original scale to characterize a5. Reliability analysis firm’s stance toward creative consumers. The final instrumentThe reliability of the scales using Cronbach’s alpha as a considers three dimensions of stance – awareness, attitude,measure of internal consistency was encouraging, with all the and action – and demonstrates sound psychometricscales adequately meeting standards for such research (e.g. properties. Taken in conjunction with further questionsNunnally, 1978). As delineated in Figure 3, the Awareness related to business environment turbulence, firmscale achieved an alpha of 0.917, the Attitude scale an alpha performance, and self-declared stance, the initial resultsof 0.920, and the Action scale an alpha of 0.939. Inspection of from use of the instrument pose interesting questions.the item-to-total correlation scores and the alpha-if-item- Different stances appear related to differing levels of firmdeleted figures suggested that all items were beneficial to each performance; however, these results are moderatedof the scales’ reliability, so in each case all items were retained. considerably by turbulence in the business environment. In To test for convergent validity, the stance predicted by the reasonably stable business environments, it may be desirableattitude and action scales was compared with the respondents’ to discourage customer creativity. However, this strategyself typing of their firm’s stance. To do this, the midpoint for might have less of an impact in cases of high turbulence.each summated scale was used as the categorization cut-off Overall, the instrument provides a useful starting point forpoint. Thus, if a respondent scored below 32 (eight items further exploration of how companies can orient themselvestimes the midpoint of 4) on Attitude and below 32 on Action with respect to creative consumers.they would be categorized as a Discourage stance, above and As with any piece of research there are limitations that canincluding 32 on Attitude and Action they would be classified possibility affect results. In this case the most obvious is that aas Enable, and so on. Each stance was then labeled, with convenience sample was employed and this could affect theDiscourage being 1, Resist being 2, Encourage being 3 and generalizability of findings. Given the background and currentEnable being 4. This is shown in Figure 4. occupations of our respondents, however, we do not feel that The predicted stance and the self-type stance were then use of a convenience sample was detrimental, given thecompared in a cross-tabulation. This is shown in Table II. exploratory nature of this research. Another issue relevant toVisual inspection suggests fair agreement between the two our sample is the threat of common methods bias. Only onetypes of classification and thus a reasonable degree of respondent from each firm rated all measures, which includedconvergent validity. both firm stance and performance. Further research should eliminate this possibility. In addition, we used a subjective measure of firm performance rather than hard indicators (e.g.6. Stance, turbulence and performance from financial statements). There is good evidence to suggestTo explore the relationship between a firm’s stance towards its that managerial perceptions of performance are generally ascreative customers and its business performance a univariate good as, and often superior to harder measures (Dess andanalysis of variance procedure was used. As other research Robinson, 1984), but future research could consider the usesuggests that turbulence can be a significant factor in such of independent, objective measures. Lastly, the distribution ofinstances (e.g. Jaworski and Kohli, 1993) turbulence was firms across stance types is uneven. Less than 25 per cent ofincluded as a moderating categorical factor, of high and low responses fit within either the Discourage or Enable stance,turbulence based on a median divide. The model was set up the two stances characterized by best and worst firmin the following way: awareness (the level of a firm’s performance respectively. There is no clear reason why soawareness of its creative consumers) was entered into the few respondents fit these two groups. One possible cause ismodel as a continuous first order control variable; firm stance that the other two stances may represent “safer” choices forand turbulence were entered as categorical, fixed factor the respondents. This could be due to real or perceived lack ofvariables, each as main effects, and their product as a first knowledge or certainty of a firm’s stance. Such uncertainty 503
  5. 5. Table I Factors, eigenvalues and variance Initial eigenvalues Extraction sums of squared loadings Rotation sums of squared loadings Component Total Per cent of variance Cumulative per cent Total Per cent of variance Cumulative per cent Total Per cent of variance Cumulative per cent 1 12.296 51.233 51.233 12.296 51.233 51.233 6.916 28.818 28.818 2 5.044 21.016 72.249 5.044 21.016 72.249 6.360 26.499 55.317 3 2.082 8.675 80.924 2.082 8.675 80.924 6.146 25.607 80.924 4 0.693 2.886 83.810 5 0.653 2.719 86.529 6 0.531 2.211 88.741 7 0.410 1.709 90.450 Creative consumers: awareness, attitude and action 8 0.357 1.488 91.938 Pierre Berthon, Colin Campbell, Leyland Pitt and Ian McCarthy 9 0.271 1.130 93.068 10 0.256 1.065 94.134 11 0.215 0.897 95.030504 12 0.194 0.808 95.838 13 0.158 0.657 96.496 14 0.147 0.612 97.108 15 0.131 0.547 97.655 16 0.118 0.491 98.146 17 0.095 0.395 98.542 18 0.084 0.352 98.893 19 0.072 0.302 99.195 20 0.050 0.207 99.402 21 0.049 0.206 99.608 22 0.042 0.176 99.784 23 0.032 0.133 99.916 24 0.020 0.084 100.00 Note: Extraction method principal component analysis Journal of Consumer Marketing Volume 28 · Number 7 · 2011 · 500 –507
  6. 6. Creative consumers: awareness, attitude and action Journal of Consumer Marketing Pierre Berthon, Colin Campbell, Leyland Pitt and Ian McCarthy Volume 28 · Number 7 · 2011 · 500 –507Figure 3 Rotated factor matrix and reliability Table III Univariate analysis: stance, turbulence and awareness on performance Tests of between-subjects effects Dependent variable: PERFORMANCE Type III sum Source of squares df Mean square F Sig. a Corrected model 154.672 8 19.334 17.177 0.000 Intercept 177.264 1 177.264 157.484 0.000 Awareness 17.201 1 17.201 15.282 0.000 TYP_RES 93.535 3 31.178 27.699 0.000 TURB 30.089 1 30.089 26.731 0.000 TYP_RES * 76.931 3 25.644 22.782 0.000 TURB Error 190.227 169 1.126 Total 4656.000 178 Corrected total 344.899 177 Notes: a R-squared ¼ 0.448 (adjusted R-squared ¼ 0.422) Figure 5 Stance by performanceFigure 4 Stances and labels Figure 6 Stance by performance for high and low business turbulenceTable II Predicted stance vs self-typing stance TYP_RES *TYP_CLC CrosstabulationCount TYP_CLCTYP_RES 1 2 3 4 Total 1 12 6 1 1 20 2 9 37 19 3 68 3 6 17 43 6 72 4 0 1 2 15 18Total 27 61 65 25 178 505
  7. 7. Creative consumers: awareness, attitude and action Journal of Consumer Marketing Pierre Berthon, Colin Campbell, Leyland Pitt and Ian McCarthy Volume 28 · Number 7 · 2011 · 500 –507might be a result of the novelty of the consumer creativity customer creativity to the performance of the new productphenomenon to most managers. Regardless of its cause, development function in organizations (e.g. Capon et al.,though, conclusions should be tempered until deeper 1992; Clark and Fujimoto, 1991) or in broad terms to theinvestigation has been undertaken to investigate the uneven levels of a firm’s market orientation (Jaworski and Kohli,distribution of stance types. 1993). Creative consumers are becoming a major force in the8. Managerial implications business world. From open source (Pitt et al., 2006) to proprietary, lock down systems, consumers are adapting,Limitations aside, the scale has a variety of possible uses for modifying, and creating: the passive consumer is increasinglymanagers. As a start, companies concerned with building giving way to the empowered active co-creator, assisted bygreater understanding of how their firm deals with creative access to cheap software, hardware and knowledge. Manyconsumers can use the scale on a management team basis. firms are unaware of the extent of the phenomenon, and thereDoing so not only opens discussion centered on differences are few guidelines on how to assess and manage these creativediscovered between individual managers, but is a useful way consumers. This is more than just rhetoric – creativeof articulating what a firm’s stance currently is and what a consumers unless managed appropriately can cripple afirm may want it to become. Perhaps an organization company’s source of revenues. It is noteworthy that thediscovers that it is unknowingly harsh towards creative digital rights system which is the bed-rock of Netflix’s onlineconsumers but realizes that in the future it must adopt a more distribution of films was recently hacked by creativecollaborative stance. For example, encyclopedia companies consumers (Gilbertson, 2007). In contrast Lego’sare now suddenly struggling to compete with user-created management of creative consumers has provided acontent such as Wikipedia. Perhaps strict copyright significant source of product development and concomitantenforcement is no longer an optimal policy for an cost savings as well as significant product champions andencyclopedia company to follow. Conversely, a firm may opinion leads in the buyer community (Keoner, 2006).wish to tighten its stance where the modification of its The instrument described in this paper is one step towardsproprietary technologies is potentially dangerous, and leads to helping managers to identify, assess and strategically plan apossible legal liability. coherent response to creative consumers. The instrument As internet use matures and video emerges as a dominant possesses fair psychometric properties and initial resultscommunication mechanism, the ability of creative consumers suggest a rich vein of future research learn from and inspire each other multiplies. Companiesare well advised to not only become aware of this potentially Referencesaccelerating phenomenon, but to understand their currentposition toward such consumers. At a minimum this enables Berthon, P.R., Pitt, L.F., McCarthy, I. and Kates, S.M.firms to start a conversation – both among employees and (2007), “When customers get clever: managerialwith general consumers – about how organizations will react approaches to dealing with creative consumers”, Businessto such behavior. For those companies that seek stronger ties Horizons, Vol. 50 1, January-February, pp. creative consumers, the presented scale provides a “start” Capon, N., Farley, J.U., Lehmann, D.R. and Hulbert, J.M.point for an organization to move forwards. Addressing (1992), “Profiles of product innovators among large UScreative consumers in some manner is wise as while manufacturers”, Management Science, Vol. 30, February,innovation is certainly possible, legal ramifications must be pp. 157-69.addressed and considered to protect not only company Clark, K.B. and Fujimoto, T. (1991), Product Developmentinterests, but also consumer safety. Performance, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA. Deshpande, R., Farley, J.U. and Webster, F.E. (1993), “Corporate culture, customer orientation, and9. Conclusions and future research innovativeness in Japanese firms: a quadrad analysis”,A number of avenues for potential further research emerge Journal of Marketing, Vol. 57, January, pp. 23-7.from this paper. The scale is in its preliminary stages of Dess, G.G. and Robinson, R.B. (1984), “Measuringdevelopment – while the existing items may capture a organizational performance in the absence of objectivesignificant portion of the customer creativity construct, measures: the case of the privately-held firm andfurther work is required. In addition, empirical work beyond conglomerate business unit”, Strategic Managementa convenience sample is needed, and this should include a Journal, Vol. 5, July-September, pp. 265-73.wide range of industries, markets and technology applications. Gilbertson, S. (2007), “Netflix hack enables play-anywhereThe preliminary work has been conducted in North America, downloads”, Wired, 8 August, available at: http://blog.wirand there is potential to extend this in other cultures and It would also be worthwhile to link the customer Jaworski, B.J. and Kohli, A.J. (1993), “Market orientation:creativity construct to other organizational measures beyond antecedents and consequences”, Journal of Marketing,simple indicators of financial performance and environmental Vol. 57, July, pp. 53-70.turbulence. For example, it would be important to establish Keoner, B.I. (2006), “Geeks in toyland”, Wired, Vol. 14 No. 2.whether the stance toward customer creativity is in any way Mollick, E. (2005), “Tapping into the underground”, Sloandetermined by the culture of the organization, using similar Management Review, Vol. 46 No. 4, pp. to those deployed by researchers such as Deshpande et al. Nunnally, J.C. (1978), Psychometric Theory, McGraw Hill,(1993). Likewise, it would be useful to link stances toward New York, NY. 506
  8. 8. Creative consumers: awareness, attitude and action Journal of Consumer Marketing Pierre Berthon, Colin Campbell, Leyland Pitt and Ian McCarthy Volume 28 · Number 7 · 2011 · 500 –507Pitt, L.F., Watson, R., Berthon, P. and Zinkhan, G. (2006), Colin Campbell is a Lecturer at Monash University, “The penguin’s window: corporate brands from an OS Melbourne, Australia. Colin Campbell is the corresponding perspective”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, author and can be contacted at: MRCOL@MAC.COM Vol. 34 No. 2, pp. 115-28. Leyland Pitt is a Professor of Marketing in the Segal Graduate School of Business, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada.About the authors Ian McCarthy is the Canada Research ChairPierre Berthon is the Clifford Youse Professor of Marketing in in Management of Technology in the Segal Graduatethe McCallum Graduate School of Business, Bentley School of Business, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver,University, Waltham, MA. Canada.To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight.comOr visit our web site for further details: 507