KeywordsBusiness Administration, Marketing.
AdvisorPuto, Christopher P.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractMarketers commonly scent a large variety of products ranging from toilet paper to crayons in order to differentiate their products from the competition. Exploratory research suggests that the meanings consumers attach to fragrances are a critical part of the consumption experience in many product categories. Such meanings may be symbolic (e.g., what the scent communicates about the personal or social identity of the product user) or functional (e.g., what the scent implies about product performance). Product scents range from being centrally to peripherally important to the primary function of a product depending upon the product category. In each of these cases, both functional and symbolic inferences of product benefits based on scent are guided by a set of learned associations which are the focus of this research. This dissertation takes an anthropological perspective, arguing that cultural construction plays a major role in how consumers acquire, cognitively represent and use these olfactory meanings in day-to-day consumption. The central thesis is that cultural models anchor what consumers experience when they encounter scents in consumption contexts. The empirical work first uses a qualitative long interview methodology to discover how consumers acquire these shared cultural models of product scents for four product categories. This approach also explores the cognitive representation of these cultural models, attempting to identify the propositional and image schemas in which consumers store these learned symbolic and functional meanings. The dissertation then focuses on how consumers use these schemas to evaluate products. The stability of these representations are empirically tested by examining whether consumers can reliably and validly assign a range of product stimuli to these categories based only on exposure in the olfactory mode or whether additional marketing stimuli are necessary to determine a product's meaning. Finally, a pilot experiment assesses how manipulating product scents to be consistent or inconsistent with the functional or symbolic benefits influences product evaluations, as well as assessments of objective product performance. The findings provide insights into the use of olfactory meanings for market segmentation and product differentiation.
Degree ProgramGraduate College