Product-agency benefits: Consumer perspectives and strategic implications

Cele C. Otnes, Julie A. Ruth, Elizabeth Marie Crosby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this research is to explore the product-agency benefits that emerge as consumers interact with products, and how these benefits shape consumer experiences and marketing-related outcomes. Design/methodology/approach: Sixty-one depth interviews were conducted, and 78 written narratives were collected from informants, which explored how products had changed consumers' lives. The authors applied the tenets of grounded theory in the analysis of their text, creating abstract categories or tropes that reflected consistent patterns in their consumers' experiences. Findings: The findings support that the conceptualization of agentic benefits should be broadened. The research identifies five salient product-agency benefits: regulation, clarification, transcendence, discovery and growth. Research limitations/implications: Prior conceptualizations of agency in marketing focus almost solely on control, yet the authors find that multiple product-agency benefits emerge, supporting the need for a broader understanding of product-related agency. The authors also find these benefits can be anticipated or unanticipated. It is also important to note that the benefits can be paradoxical, in that while they often yield positive outcomes, at times they can produce unintended and even negative consequences. Practical implications: Incorporating consumers' (vs researchers') benefit perceptions into theory building and preference models will enhance understanding of consumer behavior and improve predictive power of preference and choice forecasts. The five salient product-agency benefits provide mechanisms for segmentation and building meaningful relationships with consumers, can propel product development and assist in creating more effective marketing-communication strategies. Originality/value: The paper offers a broader, more nuanced conceptualization of agency beyond control. It identifies five types of product-agency benefits that reflect a wide spectrum of consumers' lived experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)878-898
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Agency
  • Benefits
  • Consumption
  • Goals
  • Values

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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