Consumer attitudes towards electric vehicles: effects of product user stereotype and self-image congruence

Bennett, Roger and Vijaygopal, Rohini (2018). Consumer attitudes towards electric vehicles: effects of product user stereotype and self-image congruence. European Journal of Marketing, 52(3/4) pp. 499–527.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-09-2016-0538

Abstract

Purpose

To investigate the effects of gamification on connections between consumers’ self-image congruence in relation to the purchasers of an environmentally-friendly product (electric vehicles [EVs]) and (i) their possession of a stereotype of EV owners as being ‘unconventional’, and (ii) their attitudes towards EVs, having regard to their levels of environmental concern and prior knowledge of EVs. Additionally, the research explored the link between attitudes towards and willingness to purchase EVs.

Design/methodology/approach

Participants completed a questionnaire and an Implicit Association Test both before and after playing a computer game wherein the player assumed the identity of an EV driver. A structural equation model was constructed to predict attitude to EVs. The relationship between attitude and willingness to purchase was examined via a conditional process analysis.

Findings

The experience of playing the game improved the favourability of the respondents’ stereotype of EV owners by an average of 19%, and their attitude towards EVs by 17%. Self-image congruence in relation to EV ownership increased on the average by 14% and reported EV product knowledge by eight per cent. However, willingness to purchase an EV was not substantially affected. The link between attitude and willingness to purchase was weak, but was significantly moderated by stereotype favourability and self-image congruence with EV owners.

Limitations

As with any IAT study, it was necessary to pre-specify a particular form of stereotype. Future research could employ alternative stereotypes. The investigation took place in a single country and involved a single environmentally-friendly product.

Implications

Gamification has much potential for helping manufacturers and government agencies to stimulate the mass market for EVs. In order to negate unfavourable images of EV owners, marketing communications promoting EVs might usefully employ celebrities, sports personalities and/or leading political figures as exemplars of the types of people who drive electric cars.

Originality

The research is the first to explore the effects of gamification on product user self-image congruence and stereotype formation. It is novel both in its employment of an IAT to measure the consumer stereotype of an environmentally-friendly product and in its examination of the moderating influences of stereotype and product user self-image congruence on the attitude-willingness to purchase link.

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