Date of Award

Summer 8-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)


Marketing and Analysis

First Advisor

Laura Flurry


Knowledge-based economies and digital disruption in Western societies have triggered significant changes in the way consumers purchase, communicate and maintain relationships. The shift in consumption patterns reflects a move from solid (physical, ownership-based) consumption to more liquid (ephemeral, access-based) consumption. Increased liquidity can affect need fulfillment and consumption goal achievement across individual values, such as materialism. Materialistic consumers obtain possessions to communicate a successful image, achieve happiness or find enjoyment. The dissertation asks, how are materialistic consumers meeting their needs in the digital realm as liquid consumption increases?

A mixed methods approach addresses the proposition that social media may allow consumers, including high materialists, to achieve certain consumption goals they once achieved with solid consumption. Qualitative depth interviews and quantitative cross sectional data examine the degree to which Instagram followers experience parasocial relationships with influencers, connect with an influencer’s human brand or feel a psychological sense of community among other followers. The studies also provide insight on whether followers who perceive the relationships and connections will likely purchase brands that influencers post. A final multi-group analysis addresses whether the rise of consumer self-definition through experiences prompts materialistic consumers to participate in the activities and places they see influencers feature. Results reveal that engaging in parasocial relationships with influencers, connecting with an influencer’s human brand and feeling a psychological sense of brand community among other followers all occur to some extent across individuals. The studies also suggest the occurrence of influencer-inspired purchases of both material and experiential nature. While the strength of a parasocial relationship fails to positively affect a follower’s purchase intentions, self-human brand connection strongly influences both types of purchase intentions. Psychological sense of brand community positively influences a follower’s material purchase intentions but not experiential purchase intentions. The extent to which a follower embraces materialism as a personal value makes little difference regarding whether relationships and connections with influencers increase the likelihood of a follower’s material or experiential purchases. The dissertation extends the application of liquid consumption and lends insight to managers engaged in tactics such as influencer and experiential marketing.