From One to Many: Toward an Understanding of Multiple Means and Multiple Goals

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Consumers often use products, services, and behaviors to help them pursue their multiple goals. They eat fresh produce to be healthy, buy suits to look professional at work, and buy movie tickets to relax and have fun. These goal-related products and services are collectively referred to as "means" to goal attainment.

Prior research to-date has primarily focused on the use of a single means to pursue a single goal. This one-to-one relationship between a single means and a single goal, however, is an overly simplistic perspective. Consumers typically utilize multiple means for goal pursuit, and have multiple goals they wish to pursue at the same time. My dissertation adopts this more realistic framework for understanding how consumers use means to pursue their goals. In three essays I explore how the relationships among multiple means and multiple goals, which I define in terms of variety, impact consumer motivation.

The first two essays of my dissertation examine how the degree of variety among consumers' multiple means impacts goal-directed motivation. In Essay I, I consider how the motivational impact of having more (vs. less) varied means evolves over the course of goal pursuit, as consumers move from perceiving low to high progress towards goal attainment. Relatedly, in Essay II I consider how adopting a near versus far future time horizon for goal pursuit moderates the impact of variety among means on motivation. Finally, Essay III examines how perceived variety among consumers' multiple goals influences evaluations of means to goal attainment. I identify incidental mood as one factor spontaneously influencing consumers' perceptions of variety between goals.

My research has a number of implications for marketers. Highly motivated consumers are more likely to make repeated purchases within goal-related product categories, and also tend to have higher willingness to pay. Thus, from the perspective of marketers, motivated consumers are desirable consumers. These findings suggest how marketers might strategically manage consumer motivation in order to achieve such desirable outcomes. Perceptions of variety, among means and among goals, are malleable. Marketers may thus encourage consumers to perceive their product offerings, or associated goals, as more or less varied depending on consumers' position relative to goal attainment, their adopted time horizon for goal pursuit, and presence use of incidental mood appeals.