How Does Organizational Identification Form? A Consumer Behavior Perspective
This article takes a consumer behavior perspective to investigate how constituents come to identify with organizations. Using longitudinal and cross-sectional interview data collected in two contexts (one consumer and one employee), the data illustrate that constituents engage with two conduits, one formal and one informal. These conduits provide opportunities for sensegiving, which features normative elements particular to an organization, and sensemaking, an integrative process in which productive consumption plays a key role. Three paths (epiphany, emulation, and exploration) leading from these conduits to identification are defined and explored. Second, this article reveals dynamic consequences of identification for both customer and employee constituents, including changes in their consumer values and behaviors extending beyond organizational concerns. Finally, this article defends the merit of softening hard conceptual distinctions drawn between consumers and employees, as the findings show that identification forms in parallel fashion with similar outcomes across a consumer-to-firm and an employee-to-firm context.
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