Conference Proceeding

Who Are the Gift Receivers? A Dynamic Gift-Giving Network: An Abstract


Branco-Illodo I, Heath T & Tynan C (2017) Who Are the Gift Receivers? A Dynamic Gift-Giving Network: An Abstract. In: Rossi P (ed.) Marketing at the Confluence between Entertainment and Analytics. Developments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science. 2016 Academy of Marketing Science (AMS) World Marketing Congress, Paris, France, 19.07.2016-23.07.2016. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, pp. 851-852.

This research sheds light on givers’ relationships with recipients by identifying the dimensions that characterise receivers as part of a dynamic gift-giving network. For this, we draw on attachment theory, which conceptualises humans’ propensity to form affectional bonds with particular others (Bowlby 1977). Understanding how givers characterise gift recipients is of great importance given the economic significance of gift giving in the UK, representing an expenditure of £40 billion p.a. (Mintel 2013). Marketers need to understand receivers as antecedents of gifting in order to apply strategic decisions to the marketing of gifts (Beatty et al. 1996). From a givers’ perspective, some receivers are more valued than others (Lowrey et al. 2004), and these relationship differences influence aspects such as gift expenditures (e.g. Saad and Gill 2003) and motives (e.g. Wolfinbarger and Yale 1993). Three main research limitations restrict the understanding of gift receivers. First, existing classifications assume that specific types of recipients, such as family, are close by definition (e.g. Caplow 1982) without explaining what makes them important to the giver. Second, the study of relationship closeness in gift giving is limited to the giver-receiver dyad, neglecting the influence of third parties who tie the giver and the receiver together, with the exception of Lowrey et al. (2004). Lastly, although gift relationships can change over time, prior research adopts a static approach by assuming that the factors that could cause relationship change affect all receivers in the same way. In order to address these gaps in the gift literature, we collected 28 online diaries and conducted 27 follow-up interviews from 28 informants, which provided data on 247 different gift events. After conducting a quantitative content analysis (Kassarjian 1977), we adopted an interpretive approach to enable new themes to emerge from the data as used by Ruth et al. (1999). Our findings suggest that givers characterise recipients in three ways. First, in agreement with gift research (e.g. Joy, 2001), givers distinguish receivers in terms of the nature of the relationship (e.g. family, partner, friends). Second, givers differentiate recipients based on the type of emotional ties connecting the two of them. These ties involve (1) direct bonds, indicating sources or targets of support to the giver (e.g. supportive mother); (2) mediated bonds, signalling receivers who are means of support (e.g. wife’s father as a means to be close to a wife); and (3) surrogate bonds, signalling substitutes for unavailable supportive receivers (e.g. friend replacing a deceased sister). This finding advances the traditional approach to studying relationships, restricted to the giver-receiver dyad. Finally, givers alluded to the stability of the receivers’ presence within their gift network and identified permanent gift receivers, characterised by strong attachment bonds, transient receivers characterised by weaker bonds and sporadic receivers with non-existent bonds. Permanent gift receivers with strong attachment bonds tend to be less affected by factors that could cause relationship change than transient or sporadic receivers, which challenges the assumption that all gift relationships have the same likelihood of change. This manuscript advances knowledge on gift giving by dimensionalising givers’ relationships with gift recipients in terms of the nature of the relationship, the type of bonds and stability of the receiver’s place on the giver’s gift list. In marketing, contributions based on differentiation add insight by categorising a construct under study, and they matter because lack of distinction creates errors in reasoning (MacInnis 2011). In gift giving, failure to differentiate these dimensions leads to inaccurate assumptions of closeness, which practitioners mistranslate into their marketing communications and targeting strategies.

Customer Relationship Management; Attachment Theory; Marketing Communication; Relationship Change; Quantitative Content Analysis

FundersUniversity of Nottingham
Title of seriesDevelopments in Marketing Science: Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Science
Publication date31/12/2017
Publication date online30/04/2017
Place of publicationCham, Switzerland
Conference2016 Academy of Marketing Science (AMS) World Marketing Congress
Conference locationParis, France