How Naming Products can Induce Feelings of Ownership and Affect Subsequent Consumer Responses

Giving names to the products we love is a common thing practiced in many parts of the world. From things that we rely on on a daily basis – like bicycles and cars – to goods that make our homes a bit homier – like soft toys or plants – an abundance of items lend themselves to individualization by their owner.

Recently, companies like Toyota have started to leverage consumers’ infatuation with the name game by activley encouraging them to name their cars as part of a marketing campaign. And while the Swedish furniture giant IKEA is keeping the aspect of consumer individualization to product assembly, it has at least itself been assigning fancy names to their products for years. Who is not familiar with the Pax’s and Billy’s of this world?

But does naming products actually make a difference when it comes to consumer responses? And if so, why? In a recently published paper in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, the authors Jennifer L. Stoner (University of North Dakota), Barbara Loken (University of Minnesota) and Ashley Stadler Blank (University of St. Thomas) explore this question. Across three experiments, they show that when consumers name their products, their evaluations of those products increase. Additionally, they find that this increase in product evaluation stems from a boost in psychological ownership consumers experience from naming. This boost in psychological ownership, is, in turn, driven by name fit and creativity – two aspects that are highly subjective and thus only of real magnitude when names are self-chosen as opposed to assigned.

Overall, their very interesting results open up a new substantive line of inquiry into the effects of naming products. More details about the research can be found by clicking [HERE].

Reference

Stoner, J. L., Loken, B. and Stadler Blank, A. (2018), The Name Game: How Naming Products Increases Psychological Ownership and Subsequent Consumer Evaluations. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 28: 130-137.

 

 

 

May we introduce: Graham Brown

“[What surprises me about psychological ownership is] that these feelings can overpower rationality. People overvalue their possessions despite objective information. People will confront others who they feel have infringed on their “territory” even if those people were trying to help.”

After quite a long break, we are back with a new interview for our Featured section. In this feature we would like to introduce Graham Brown from the Peter B. Gustavson School of Busines at the University of Victoria. In his interview, he talks about how he got into psychological ownership research and what as well as who influenced him the most in his own pursuit of the topic.

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Generally, Graham’s research focuses on territoriality and psychological ownership. He applies these two threads to a variety of research topics including negotiation, creativity, and workplace conflict. His recent research focuses on the impact that feelings of ownership have on innovation and new venture success with the thesis that feelings of ownership are both positive in that they propel efforts but simultaneously negative in that they create resistance to help and feedback from others. He hopes to achieve a better understanding of the factors that lead to entrepreneurial success. His work has been published in the Academy of Management Review, Organization Science, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes and featured in Harvard Business Review online. His teaching focus is in the areas of human resource management, leadership and negotiation and he applies these concepts to help others discover and use their passion to lead and create.

As an active entrepreneur Graham has been involved in several ventures in the travel and education industry including one company that he started while a student at the University of Victoria. His most recent project involves developing a training program to help high school students become social entrepreneurs. Graham also lives on and operates an active berry farm in Metchosin with his wife and four children.

For the full interview simply follow us this way.

 

What Business Leaders can learn from the Psychology of Ownership

A GUEST COMMENTARY BY FABIAN BERNHARD, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MANAGEMENT AT EDHEC BUSINESS SCHOOL IN FRANCE

TSOO: You have been doing research  in the field of ownership, could you please tell us the main insights?

Our constitution* states that „Property entails obligations.” Accordingly, owners of an object have certain rights and duties how to act with their possessions. Most people are very much familiar with this legal aspect of ownership. Less known, however, are the psychological aspects of the feeling of ownership. Research during the past decade has started looking into this phenomenon referred to as “psychological ownership”.

Psychological ownership influences human thinking and acting. And indeed latest research in the field of neuroscience confirms what philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, and business scholars have suspected and theorized for a long time. Ownership about material and immaterial objects has a strong motivational force on the way we act and our attitude towards things. Once we call an object “ours” and feel like having the right to possess it we tend to taking better care of it. We are motivated to closely paying attention to the owned object, supporting it, improving it, and also have difficulties relinquishing it.

While the psychological effects of ownership are present in all aspects of our daily lives, it is particularly the business world that has become interested in using psychological ownership as a motivational tool managing their workforce. The idea is to make employees feel and act like owners. When they feel like the organization is ‘theirs’ they potentially put more effort into it. However, rather than giving out shares and making employees factual and “legal” owners, it has been shown that the mere ownership feeling can increase individual commitment and performance.

Given these desirable outcomes the question arises how to actively influence employees’ psychological ownership. Together with a psychologist we looked deeper into this phenomenon. In a quantitative study of 50 companies we examined the ownership feelings of over 200 employees. We found that psychological ownership can depend on the business owners’ leadership style. Certain business owners in our study were more transformational in their leadership to their employees than others. They acted as role-models, provided their workforce a general vision but left enough autonomy for their followers to find their own ways to fulfill goals. Employees under such leadership were more likely to develop ownership feelings. On the other side, results showed that transactional leaders, meaning those that put emphasis on extrinsic rewards and control created them to a lesser degree. While transactional leaders were still effective, a third group of leaders, those who followed a “laissez-faire” approach, meaning not giving enough guidance to employees, blocked the emergence of ownership feelings.

In line with these findings, the study also showed that those employees with higher degrees of psychological ownership demonstrated more positive attitudes and behaviors. For example, the psychological owners displayed higher levels of performance and were more willing to go the extra mile. They helped their colleagues more often, were more committed, and more satisfied in their jobs. As a consequence psychological ownership also created more loyalty towards the company and among the workforce.

In a second series of more recent studies with colleagues from the universities of Mannheim and Rostock, we investigated in more depth how some leaders exert their influence on psychological ownership. For example, we examined the effects of emotional exhaustion of service workers and customer appreciation of their work. Similarly, we could show a relationship of certain leadership styles on employee welfare and an organizational climate of initiative taking.

Overall, the studies illustrated the potential power of ownership feelings in organizational settings and the difference well-suited leadership can make. Psychological ownership also plays a particularly relevant role in closely-held companies in several ways. First, it has been argued that founders of businesses work harder and longer hours than most employees. This may have to do with ownership feelings. When we work for our “own” ideas or projects our motivation is usually highest. We regularly observe such effect in enthusiastic start-up entrepreneurs working long hours to make their business “fly”. So, ownership feelings may be the motivational fire in entrepreneurial business endeavors.

Second, many business founders would like to see that the entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to the business transfers to the next generation. Accordingly, they ask how to convey ownership feelings to their future successors. In a research project with American colleagues we tackled this issue and investigated several teaching approaches to stimulate emotional attachment and psychological ownership in the next generation of young family business members.

And lastly, it is also of interest for family-owned businesses to find ways to include and keep those motivated who are not part of the family, namely the nonfamily employees and external managers. Together with two colleagues from the University of St. Gallen we found that justice and fairness perceptions play an essential role for the development of ownership feelings in the nonfamily personnel. By means of creating a fair environment family-owners could create a motivated and committed team.

Prof. Dr. Fabian Bernhard is an Associate Professor of Management and a member of the Family Business Center at EDHEC Business School in France. He is also a research fellow at the University of Mannheim in Germany, where he also had studied business administration. A scholarship led him to the University of Oregon from where he graduated with an MBA. After working several years at a large, international consulting company in New York, he returned to academia in 2007. During the following years as a PhD student at the European Business School (EBS) and the WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management in Germany, he developed the ideas of his book on “Psychological Ownership in Family Businesses”. After having completed his doctoral degree in 2011, he was a research professor at INSEEC Business School in Paris and an adjunct professor at the Family Enterprise Center (FEC) at Stetson University of Florida in the US.

Fabian Bernhard’s current topics of interest revolve around the intersection of organizational behavior, organizational psychology, and family business research. In particular, Fabian is interested in the emotional dynamics in family businesses, moral emotions (such as shame and guilt), the education and preparation of next generational family business leaders, as well as all kinds of  attachment to the family business, such as psychological ownership, commitment, social identity, and their influence on the decision-making process in family businesses. If you want to know more about Fabian, feel free to visit his profile at EDHEC [CLICK HERE].

This article was originally published in transfer – Werbeforschung & Praxis, (03/ 2017) 

A Researcher’s Perspective on Ownership: Bart Claus – We are what we have. Or were we?

A GUEST COMMENTARY BY BART CLAUS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF MARKETING AT IÉSEG SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT IN PARIS, FRANCE

TSOO: You have been doing research  in the field of ownership, could you please tell us the main insights?

To me ownership is one of the most fundamental phenomena in consumer behavior, even in human behavior in general. You see this when looking at how big a part of their active lives people commit to paying off a mortgage – 30 years standard in the U.S., but even longer in other countries. You see this in fashion item purchases. Even kids at very young age organize their worlds based on who owns what. Our sense of ownership is solidly hardwired in our human brain. Consequently, in my research I find that merely being assigned ownership literally changes peoples’ perspectives. Not only do they value their possessions more – a traditional effect – but physiological effects ensure that they literally see and remember objects more in detail, and see more difference with similar objects. In other words: everybody sees their own possessions as more unique than they actually are.

Furthermore, people mentally process owned objects as being closer to themselves – similar to processing objects that are physically close, or even similar to thinking about close friends and family. These findings make it easier to understand why we use the “my” that we use for “my socks” also for the chair that I happen to sit on (“my seat”) but also for “my friends” and “my home” (different of course from “my house”). These findings also clarify the central role possessions play in people’s identities, together with everything else we address with “my”. It is difficult to claim you are a sportswoman or –man if you don’t invest in the right apparel. Without owning a vast collection of records, it will be more difficult to pass yourself off as music lover.

Looking at that, these are interesting times. Until now, people often measured a successful life by the collection of items accumulated over this life, and often it was even exactly this collection that represented the life and owner’s identity itself. More and more, we engage in “liquid consumption” that in many cases doesn’t leave the trace of ownership. The emerging sharing economy, is one such example. In another research project, I look at the creation and destruction of value through sharing, finding that overall, sharing does create value. However, with the central role of ownership in our psychological and social structures, it remains to be seen how we will define identities and evaluate lives in which all accumulation of ownership has been replaced by access to shared goods, and how or life satisfaction will be affected.

Dr. Bart Claus (PhD in Applied Economic Sciences, KU Leuven) is an Assistant Professor of Marketing and Academic Director of the MSc. in International Business at IÉSEG School of Management in Paris, France. His research in consumer behavior focuses on the interplay between consumers’ social and personal identities on one hand, and consumer choice and ownership on the other hand. This research has attracted national and international funding, and has been published and presented widely in academic journals and conferences, and practitioner print outlets. In the past, he has consulted both companies and governments on marketing and communication strategy and issues related to behavioral change. He has experience in teaching from bachelor to executive level. If you want to know more about Bart, feel free to visit his profile at IÈSEG School of Management [CLICK HERE].

 

This article was originally published in transfer – Werbeforschung & Praxis, (03/ 2017) 

Update: The Future of Ownership Research – Insights from the Opening & Closing Forums

The collaboratively discussed insights from the Opening and Closing Forums, which where held within the scope of “The Future of Ownership Research” workshop this July 2017, are now readily available to download.

You can either click [HERE] to download the full summary or go to the event’s page to do so.

A visual summary of the Closing Forum is provided below.

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On this note we would like to thank all participants for collaborating so effortfully with us on this! We believe that the questions that were raised will guide us towards a prosperous future in ownership research!

“The Future of Ownership Research” Workshop 2017

As already announced earlier this month, our team hosted an interdisciplinary workshop on ownership research at the WU Vienna University of Economics and Business in collaboration with our colleagues Joann Peck (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Stephan Dickert (Queen Mary University of London).

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The Origanizational Committee

The workshop took place on July 7th and 8th and we are now happy to be able to share the highlights of this special get-together with you. You will find a detailled report by [CLICKING HERE]. Alternatively, you can also reach the page through the main navigation under the “events” tab.

We are still in the process of adding more material as we go so make sure to check back regularly for new insights on the future of ownership research.

“The Future of Ownership Research” – Workshop at WU Vienna

Dear readers,

as aleady announced earlier this year, we are hosting a workshop on ownership research titled “The Future of Ownership Research” at the Vienna University of Economics & Business (WU Vienna), which will take place this Friday and Saturday, July 7th + 8th.

TheScienceofOwnership.org will of course cover the workshop in more detail, so be prepared to read more about it soon.

Detailled information about the speakers and the program can be found [HERE].

We are looking forward to providing you with an update soon.

– The Science of Ownership Team