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Solving dissociative group effects using construal level theory

Miriam McGowan (University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK)
Louise May Hassan (Bangor University, Bangor, UK)
Edward Shiu (Bangor University, Bangor, UK)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 6 December 2019

Issue publication date: 7 January 2020




Consumers usually respond favourably to ingroups but negatively to dissociative groups and products linked to dissociative groups, termed the dissociative group effect. Despite important implications for branding, advertising and celebrity endorsement, little is known about how to attenuate the effect. This paper aims to introduce a mechanism which attenuates the dissociative group effect by drawing on construal level theory.


An experimental approach was used which included two-part between-subjects designs.


High identifiers prefer products linked to their ingroup over ones linked to a dissociative group, however, the opposite is true for low identifiers. The difference in preference is attenuated for high and low identifiers when they are placed in an abstract mind-set. The underlying mechanism of this effect is similarity focus.

Research limitations/implications

The same context was used to ensure that the attenuating effect found was not due to contextual factors. However, further studies should replicate the findings in a wider variety of contexts.

Practical implications

This research offers practical recommendations on how to manage multiple customer segments in increasingly diverse marketplaces. By inducing an abstract mind-set in customers, for example, via advertising copy, website architecture or contextual factors such as pitch of the music, marketers can increase the effectiveness of identity-linking marketing for consumers’ high/low in identification.


This is one of the first empirical studies to evidence the applicability of construal level theory within identity marketing and offers a novel mechanism to attenuate the dissociative group effect. The findings shed new light on how low identifiers relate and respond to identity-linked marketing.



McGowan, M., Hassan, L.M. and Shiu, E. (2020), "Solving dissociative group effects using construal level theory", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 54 No. 1, pp. 212-237.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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