The Role and Nature of Willingness to Sacrifice in Marketing Relationships
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Studies of human relationships in anthropology, religion, community studies and psychology have determined that willingness to sacrifice plays an important role in reinforcing and strengthening social bonds. It is remarkable that given the increasing prominence of the relationship marketing paradigm, marketers have spent little time investigating willingness to sacrifice as a potential variable of interest. This dissertation extends relationship marketing theory by defining, developing and testing the willingness to sacrifice construct in the context of brand communities. It not only establishes a role for willingness to sacrifice in the nomological network of relationship marketing, but also develops a typology of sacrifices members make in brand communities. Results from two experiments and a field study of two brand communities suggest there are significant relationships between willingness to sacrifice and established constructs in relationship marketing research, such as identification, satisfaction with peers, and norms of reciprocity. Moreover, these findings indicate that willingness to sacrifice is positively associated with beneficial marketing outcomes such as word of mouth, purchase intentions and brand community longevity. By integrating literature from personal psychology, sociology anthropology–all of which discuss sacrifice in terms of how it can benefit and strengthen relationships– this research challenges the conventional marketing assumption that sacrifice is merely “the price one pays.” Taken together, these studies enrich our understanding of willingness to sacrifice in a marketing context, and more specifically, identify a process through which it contributes to brand community success and related marketing outcomes.