Harvey J, Branco-Illodo I, Gallage S, Nica-Avram G, Ljevar V & Goulding J (2021) Conceptualising Hybridised Giving. Reframing Marketing Priorities, Online, 05.07.2021-07.07.2021. https://www.academyofmarketing.org/conference/conference-2021/
This paper investigates failed giving experiences in the world’s most popular food redistribution platform OLIO to offer a new conceptualisation of hybridised giving. Various consumer researchers (Harvey et al., 2020; Arsel and Dobscha, 2011; Scaraboto, 2015) draw attention to forms of computer-mediated giving that demonstrate hybridisation i.e. giving behaviour that simultaneously has characteristics of other behaviours normally described in opposition to giving, such as ‘sharing’, ‘exchange’, or ‘donation’. In anthropological literature such hybridised classification is known as ‘polythetic’ rather than ‘monothetic’ (Needham, 1975) because empirical examples have many sufficient features to meet a definition of giving, but none that are necessary in isolation. This anti-essentialist approach to studying consumer behaviour raises problems for marketing practice. If a consumer behaviour cannot be neatly defined, how should marketing communications be directed at such an ambiguous object? This problem is compounded by participants of computer-mediated giving platforms themselves, who may hold contradictory or opposing views about the practices they enact. Rather than some monolithic ‘brand community’, with a shared consciousness or ideology, the platform may instead succeed by fostering a harmonious plurality of practices. OLIO involves consumers who redistribute surplus food, retailers who avoid waste by offering surplus, and a volunteer network dedicated to minimising environmental impact and food insecurity. This mixture of stakeholders inevitably creates social tensions, which can help illustrate how processes of hybridisation succeed.
To conceptualise hybridised giving on OLIO we begin where interactions lead to unsuccessful outcomes (as identified by participants). Two datasets underpin the study: (1) A behavioural dataset of over 1 million reviews recorded by OLIO users, of which we identify a subset of negative outcomes and associated antecedent causes through network analysis and machine learning; and (2) A qualitative textual dataset collated by extracting 3,193 complaints from a public forum. These complaints are inductively examined to provide insight into reasons people associate with negative giving experiences. The codes generated from complaints are aggregated to develop a processual model of hybridised giving for parallel customer journeys.
Our findings show how online and offline processes involved in failed giving experiences support the emergence of hybridised norms, which are learned and perpetuated by the community, despite differing from archetypal forms of giving. We identify a network of “social others” who play varied roles in parallel customer journeys (Hamilton et al., 2021) disposing (e.g. supermarkets, donors), requesting (e.g. Olio users for consumption), listing food (e.g. individuals to reduce food waste), collecting to give to others, or violating norms, such as taking surplus food left for other people on the doorstep.
The results challenge existing gift-giving conceptualisations which focus primarily on the gift, the giver and the receiver (Sherry, 1983) or third-parties influencing decisions (Lowrey et al., 2004). Additionally, norm violations (e.g. etiquette, logistics, unethical behaviours) uncover touchpoints that contrast with existing research focused primarily on the gift (Roster, 2006), misalignment of giver-receiver preferences (Schiffman and Cohn, 2009) or relationships. In conclusion, we propose that identifying emergent norm violations or misbehaviours can help foster new hybridised giving practices.
Gift giving; hybrid gifts