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Associate Professor, Marketing
Matt Thomson an associate professor in marketing at the Ivey Business School, Western University (Canada). His PhD (University of Southern California) was supervised by Debbie MacInnis and CW Park. He also earned degrees from Indiana University, Bloomington (MBA) and McGill University (BA). His primary research interests lie at the intersection of brands and relationships. He is an editorial board member of the Journal of Consumer Research and Journal of Consumer Psychology and a fellow at the Brands & Brand Relationships Institute. He directed the PhD program at Ivey from July 2014 to 2017. Before becoming an academic, he worked for the Information, Privacy and Ethics Commissioner of Alberta.
- Marketing Management
- Advertising & Promotions
- Research Methods
- Consumer Behaviour
- BA, McGill University
- MBA, Indiana University
- PhD, University of Southern California
Recent Refereed Articles
Albert, N., Thomson, M.,
(forthcoming), "A Synthesis of the Consumer-Brand Relationship Domain: Using Text Mining to Track Research Streams, Describe Their Emotional Associations and Identify Future Research Priorities", Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.
Abstract: We conduct a text mining analysis of 287 articles representing the consumer-brand relationship (CBR) literature from 1999 to 2015. We propose that the CBR domain is reflected by 71 constructs, of which less than half can be considered important. We structure the domain by identifying its 7 major research streams as well as demarcating their respective evolution and emotional features. Using the original data and incorporating a second corpus based on the articles included in the current issue on “Brand Relationships, Emotions, and the Self”, we outline a collection of insights that define opportunities for future research.
Connors, S.C., Anderson-MacDonald, S.A.M., Thomson, M.,
2017, "Overcoming the ‘Window Dressing’ Effect: Mitigating the Negative Effects of Inherent Skepticism towards Corporate Social Responsibility", Journal of Business Ethics, October 145(3): 599 - 621.
Abstract: As more and more instances of corporate hypocrisy become public, consumers have developed an inherent general skepticism towards firms’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) claims. As CSR skepticism bears heavily on consumers’ attitudes and behavior, this paper draws from Construal Level Theory to identify how it can be pre-emptively abated. We posit that this general skepticism towards CSR leads people to adopt a low-level construal mindset when processing CSR information. Across four studies we show that matching this low-level mindset with concrete CSR messaging works to effectively mitigate the negative effects of inherent CSR skepticism on consumers’ attitudes, purchase intentions, and word-of-mouth. The resulting construal-mindset congruency strengthens the favorability of consumer responses through increased positive elaboration and perceptions of CSR message credibility. Furthermore, this congruency effect is shown to persist over time in skeptical domains but to dissipate in less skeptical domains.
Link(s) to publication:
Bendle, N.T., Thomson, M.,
2016, "Indirect Prejudice: The Danger in Considering Others’ Preferences during a Primary Election", Journal of Customer Behaviour, Autumn 15(3): 239 - 259.
Abstract: In a primary election, the normative advice is for voters to consider a candidate’s electability; that is, to incorporate others’ preferences into their own choice. We identify an ethical problem with considering electability and investigate indirect prejudice, which is the impact of other voters’ prejudice on a non-prejudiced person’s vote. We use an analytical model to show that indirect prejudice impacts outcomes in a primary election, where considering others’ preferences is normatively superior, but not in a general election, where personal preferences dominate. When strategic voters in a primary over-predict the prejudice of general election voters, they can reject a candidate facing prejudice who the majority of voters prefer. We also present the results of an experiment that shows prompting respondents to think about prejudice reduces support for a female candidate but only in a primary election. We conclude by noting the ethical dilemma tied to indirect prejudice and letting others’ prejudice impact our decisions.
Link(s) to publication:
Whelan, J., Goode, M.R., Cotte, J., Thomson, M.,
2016, "Consumer Regulation Strategies: Attenuating the Effect of Consumer References in a Voting Context", Psychology & Marketing, November 33(11): 899 - 916.
Abstract: Consumption cues (e.g., brands, money, and advertisements) can have powerful effects on cognition, perception, and behavior, yet how people regulate responses to such cues is not well understood. This is surprising given that consumption cues are increasingly present in nontraditional consumer contexts, such as healthcare, education, and politics. This research develops a measure of two types of consumer regulation strategies, cue-based and budget-based (studies 1–4), and demonstrates that these strategies influence how people respond to consumption cues in a political context (study 5). Specifically, in a study involving the 2012 American Presidential Election, priming survey participants as consumers (versus citizens) influenced both voting intentions and self-reported voting behavior, and the newly developed consumer regulation scale was instrumental in detecting this effect. These findings suggest there may be merit in the escalating debate and concern over referring to voters as consumers.
Link(s) to publication:
Whelan, J., Johnson, A., Marshall, T., Thomson, M.,
2016, "Relational Domain Switching: Interpersonal Insecurity Predicts the Strength and Number of Marketplace Relationships", Psychology & Marketing, June 33(6): 465 - 479.
Abstract: In this paper, the authors test a compensation model of interpersonal and marketplace relationships. Guided by an attachment theory perspective, the authors argue that reflecting on or experiencing insecure interpersonal relationships can induce consumers to seek surrogate relationship partners in the marketplace. This general prediction is supported by results from an experiment and two surveys. Specifically, results show that interpersonally anxious consumers report more and stronger brand relationships. Furthermore, interpersonally avoidant consumers report more and stronger brand relationships, as well as more numerous but weaker service relationships. These studies support the prediction that people employ marketplace solutions to offset deficiencies in their personal relationships. The paper concludes by contextualizing the results within research on loneliness and materialism.
Link(s) to publication:
Goode, M.R., Hart, K., Thomson, M.,
2016, "Say no more! The liability of strong ties on desire for special experiences", Journal of Consumer Psychology, January 26(1): 91 - 97.
Abstract: Interpersonal connections are often involved in the planning, consuming, and reminiscing of special consumption experiences. Yet we have limited understanding of how consumers in different stages (planning versus reminiscing) influence one another and how this might vary as a function of relationship strength. From two experiments, our findings suggest that when planning a novel special experience, consumers should be cautious of others’ reminiscences and, specifically, of memories shared by strong ties. In our first study, we found that a memory shared by a strong tie increases a consumer’s desire to switch a novel experience. In study 2, we unpacked this effect by examining the role of savoring and internalization of memory details. When a memory was shared by a stronger (versus weaker) tie, the expected utility of savoring was reduced, and desire to switch to a new experience increased. Post analyses suggest this may be due to differences in the extent to which the memory is assimilated as one’s own experience.
Link(s) to publication:
Pirouz, D.M., Johnson, A., Thomson, M., Pirouz, R.,
2015, "Creating Online Videos That Engage Viewers", Sloan Management Review (MIT), Summer 56(4): 83 - 88.
Abstract: Most people think that cute babies and sexy bodies are what make online videos go viral. But new research shows that the key driver of engagement for online video content has less to do with what you show than how you show it. By juxtaposing content elements in incongruous combinations or by creating original or exaggerated content, an emotional connection is forged with the viewer, which in turn leads to a more engaged viewer response.
Link(s) to publication:
Johnson, A., Thomson, M., Jeffrey, J.,
2015, "What Does Brand Authenticity Mean? Causes and Consequences of Consumer Scrutiny", Review of Marketing Research, May 12: 1 - 28.
Abstract: Purpose ¬- Brand narratives are created to differentiate brands, and consumers base their assessments of a brand’s authenticity on this narrative. We propose that the default consumer position is to accept a brand’s narrative, and we find that consumers maintain belief in this narrative even when explicitly reminded that it is manufactured by firms with an underlying profit motive. Because belief seems to be the default position adopted by consumers, we investigate what factors act as disruptors to this default position, thereby reducing assessments of authenticity. Methodology - This research uses a series of studies to investigate when and why consumers view some brand stories as authentic and others less so. In addition, we examine the impact of changes to authenticity assessments on managerially important brand outcomes. Findings - Only when one or more authenticity disruptors are present do consumers begin to question the authenticity of the brand narrative. Disruption occurs when the focal brand is perceived to be nakedly copying a competitor, or when there is a gross mismatch between the brand narrative and reality. In the presence of one or both of these disruptors, consumers judge brands to be less authentic, report lower identification, lower assessments of brand quality and social responsibility, and are less likely to join the brand’s community. Implications - Creating compelling brand stories is an important aspect of any marketing manager’s job; after all, these narratives help drive sales. Care must be taken when crafting narratives however, since consumers use these as the basis of their authenticity assessments, and brands deemed inauthentic are penalized.
Link(s) to publication:
Thomson, M., Whelan, J., Johnson, A.,
2012, "Why Brands Should Fear Fearful Consumers: How Attachment Style Predicts Retaliation", Journal of Consumer Psychology, April 22(2): 289 - 298.
Abstract: In two surveys of adult consumers, we find that attachment styles predict consumers’ reactions after brand relationships end. Specifically, ‘fearful’ consumers – those high in both attachment anxiety and avoidance – are most likely to complain to third parties, to obsess about harming the brand, and to report seeking payback against brands. Two factors mediate the effect of attachment on reactions: threats to consumers’ self-image and the loss of benefits from their relationship. This is consistent with the explanation we propose: specifically, fearful individuals invest in and depend more on consumption relationships and, therefore, lose more when such relationships end.
Link(s) to publication:
Johnson, A., Matear, M., Thomson, M.,
2011, "A Coal in the Heart: Self-Relevance as a Post-Exit Predictor of Consumer Anti-Brand Actions", Journal of Consumer Research, June 38(1): 108 - 125.
Abstract: This article extends theory around consumer-brand relationship quality by exploring conditions under which such relationships may be transformed into exceptionally negative dispositions toward once-coveted brands. Survey and experimental results indicate that the more self-relevant a consumer-brand relationship, the more likely are anti-brand retaliatory behaviors after the relationship ends. These anti-brand behaviors are diverse: from complaining to third parties, to negative word of mouth, to illegal actions such as theft, threats, and vandalism. In contrast, post-exit consumer-brand relationships that were low in self-relevance but were high in trust, commitment, and satisfaction are less likely to result in anti-brand actions. The role of a discrete product or service failure is also explored, and results suggest that self-relevance may motivate retaliation even in the absence of a so-called critical incident. Ultimately, this research illuminates previously unexplored mechanisms—including self-conscious emotional reactions—that motivate consumer hostility and retaliation.
Link(s) to publication:
Fedorikhin, A., Park, C.W., Thomson, M.,
2008, "Beyond Fit and Attitude: The Effect of Emotional Attachment on Consumer Responses to Brand Extensions", Journal of Consumer Psychology, October 18(4): 281 - 291.
Abstract: In two studies employing fictitious and real brands, this paper shows that brand attachment goes beyond attitude and fit in determining consumers' behavioral reactions to brand extensions such as purchase intentions, willingness to pay, word-of-mouth, and forgiveness. The effect is pronounced at high and moderate, but not low levels of fit. The paper also shows that attachment has an impact on the extent to which the extension is categorized as a member of the parent brand family, which partially mediates attachment's effects.
Thomson, M., Johnson, A.,
2006, "Marketplace and Personal Space: Investigating the Differential Effects of Attachment Style Across Relationship Contexts", Psychology & Marketing, August 23(8): 711 - 726.
Abstract: An individual's tendencies in purely personal relationships seem to lead to related tendencies in consumer relationships. The following article presents a study that illustrates how individual differences in personal relationship attachment style can be used to predict the likely success of consumer relationships. In addition, it illustrates how the success of consumption versus nonconsumption relationships can be explained by the effect of attachment style on the individual's perception of qualities of the relationship.
2006, "Human Brands: Investigating Antecedents to Consumers' Stronger Attachments to Celebrities", Journal of Marketing, July 70(3): 104 - 119.
Abstract: This article explores recent advances in self-determination research to address why consumers develop strong attachments to 'human brands,' a term that refers to any well-known persona who is the subject of marketing communications efforts. Study 1 uses a survey that is analyzed with structural equation modeling. Study 2 is qualitative and offers corroborating evidence for the proposed theoretical model. Study 3 extends the model with a more naturalistic sample and tests several alternative hypotheses using hierarchical regression. The results suggest that when a human brand enhances a person's feelings of autonomy and relatedness and does not suppress feelings of competence, the person is likely to become more strongly attached to it. This article documents that strong attachments are predictive of satisfied, trusting, and committed relationships and proposes that attachment strength may be a parsimonious proxy for consumer-brand relationship strength. The results imply that benefits would accrue to organizations such as entertainment firms and political parties that establish direct and routine interaction between human brands and consumers, that human brands to which consumers are attached offer significant potential as endorsers, and that organizations should address how to make the human brands they manage more authentic.
Beck, I.T., Thomson, M.,
2006, "The Health Care Philosophy that Nearly Destroyed Medicare in Canada in a Single Decade", Clinical and Investigative Medicine, April 29(2): 65 - 76.
Abstract: Background: In 1989, governments in Canada perceived an economic crisis in health care funding and commissioned two economists, Drs. Barer and Stoddart, to review policies. They indicated that major costs were caused by physicians and recommended cutting physician training and hospital facilities. In 1991 governments selectively implemented their recommendations. The Federally established Romanow Commission `re-reviewed' the problem and reported in 2002. Objectives: To examine whether there was an economic crisis and to assess the effects of reductions in funding on the provision of health care in Canada. Method: We analyzed data from Statistics Canada, the Association of Canadian Medical Colleges, and the Canadian Institute of Health Information, the Canadian Nurses Association, and Health Canada. We focus exclusively on public health care spending. Results: Publicly financed health care spending remained stable as percentage of Gross Domestic Product in the five years leading up to the commissioning of the Barer-Stoddart report (1986-1990). An increase in the elderly population partly explained rising costs. By 2000, people over 65 accounted for 48% of overall health costs. Emerging from the report's recommendations, between 1990 and 2000 medical students and residents as a proportion of the population were cut by 17% and 12% respectively and hospital beds by a third. Nurses per 100,000 fell 12%. Home care remained under-funded, less than 4% of the total health budget. Conclusion: There was no economic health care crisis in the early 1990s. Growing costs were principally due to increased patient need. Funding reductions resulted in inadequate care, including the creation of prolonged wait lists that have resulted in legalizing private care, thereby threatening the universal equal care principle.
Thomson, M., MacInnis, D., Park, C.W.,
2005, "The Ties that Bind: Measuring the Strength of Consumers' Emotional Attachments to Brands", Journal of Consumer Psychology 15(1): 77 - 91.
Abstract: Extant research suggests that consumers can become emotionally attached to consumption objects, including brands. However, a scale to measure the strength of consumers' emotional attachments to brands has yet to be devised. We develop such a scale in Studies 1 and 2. Study 3 validates the scale's internal consistency and dimensional structure. Study 4 examines its convergent validity with respect to four behavioral indicators of attachments. Study 5 demonstrates discriminant validity, showing that the scale is differentiated from measures of satisfaction, involvement, and brand attitudes. That study also examines the scale's predictive validity, showing that it is positively associated with indicators of both commitment and investment. The limitations of the scale and the boundary conditions of its applicability are also discussed.
- Information Management Consultant for the Information, Privacy and Ethics Commissioner, Alberta
- Assistant Professor, Queen's School of Business