Beyond personality: an emergence view of influential consumers

Academic Article


  • Purpose Previous research studies assume that influential consumers (“influentials”), who play a powerful role in the marketplace, are persuasive (or not) based on innate, static personality traits. By contrast, this paper proposes an emergence-based view of influentials. Grounded in dynamic self-concept theory, this research establishes that individuals possess an “influential” self-concept that can be activated by firm-originated communications. Specifically, the authors examine the impact of firm feedback on the three dimensions of influentials (and the corresponding traits and behaviors): who they are (propensity to connect with others), who they know (WOM) and what they know (expert power). Design/methodology/approach The study tests whether an influential self can be evoked by marketers using a longitudinal experimental test with data collected in three periods. The data are analyzed using a multi-mediation model and partial least squares structural equation modeling. Findings The results reveal that even after controlling for the extroversion trait, firm-originated positive feedback increases perceived expert power of participants, which increases word-of-mouth behavior in a subsequent period, both directly and indirectly via an enhanced propensity to connect with others. Research limitations/implications Cultivating the influential self-concept requires time to ensure that the self-concept is sufficiently realized to become an enduring self-concept. Practical implications By cultivating influentials, practitioners are able to leverage diffusion mechanics and reduce costs and inefficiencies associated with traditional customer relationship management marketing strategies focused on finding them. Social implications These findings have implications across all domains that rely on the diffusion and adoption of ideas or products via influentials, including but not limited to public policy, politics, public health and sustainability, in that influentials can be evoked and leveraged to diffuse ideas in these important social domains. Originality/value This paper provides empirical evidence that firms can evoke influential consumer behavior challenging existing views of influence as a static personality trait. It casts a line to connect influential consumers to the nascent study of social emergence.
  • Authors

  • Satornino, Cinthia
  • Andrews, Demetra
  • Perren, Rebeca
  • Brady, Michael K
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • November 22, 2019
  • Has Subject Area

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 160
  • End Page

  • 169
  • Volume

  • 37
  • Issue

  • 2