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Yours, mine, and ours: How families manage collective, relational, and individual identity goals in consumption

Amber M Epp, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Families regularly engage in consumption activities that help to define who they are as a family. Within families, a set of relationships co-exist (family, siblings, couples, parent-child, and so on) that shape families' choices. In order to be relevant to families, firms must understand what they are trying to accomplish in their relationships. Research questions included (1) what identity-related goals do families express in their consumption stories; (2) how do families use marketplace resources (i.e. brands, products, and services) as they manage the interplay among family, relational and individual identity goals; and (3) under what conditions do families alter their consumption strategies as they manage these goals?^ Based on depth interviews with 88 family members from 21 families, I gathered collective vacation narratives to develop a grounded theory of identity management that explains families' approaches to managing multiple identity goals, identifies how families enlist marketplace resources, outlines marketing outcomes, and delineates conditions that alter this process. As the framework emerged from attention to relational and collective units within the family, rather than solely to individuals, it offers a different lens for examining core marketing concepts.^ Seven identity goals emerged from this research: building, transforming, re-asserting, preserving, securing idealized, legitimizing, and concluding. Families enlisted marketplace resources directly as they managed the interplay among family, relational, and individual identity goals using the following approaches: (1) prioritizing identity bundles, (2) replicating practices, (3) integrating practices, (4) building resource constellations, and (5) enlisting platform resources. The narrative analysis revealed how families value firms' resources according to the roles families assigned resources in their stories: obstacle, hero, enabler, challenger, educator-historian, entertainer, protector, mnemonic, and architect. Finally, families altered their consumption strategies based on three conditions: member (dis)agreement, commitment to specific identity performances, and synergy/discord among identity bundles. Study findings link identity-management approaches to marketing outcomes such as the displacement of families' identity practices, loyalty, and processes of family decision-making. In general, resources embedded across identity practices and bundles (family, relational, and individual) displace other resources that may be less central to families' identities and likely enjoy more enduring loyalty.^

Subject Area

Business Administration, Marketing|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

Recommended Citation

Epp, Amber M, "Yours, mine, and ours: How families manage collective, relational, and individual identity goals in consumption" (2008). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3297655.