Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration-Marketing

Committee Director

Yuping Liu-Thompkins

Committee Member

Kiran Karande

Committee Member

Juan Du


Goal plays a vital role in the purposive behavior of consumers, and goal pursuit represents an important psychological mechanism under loyalty programs. The purpose of my dissertation is to understand loyalty program members’ goal pursuit behavior and uncover the underlying psychological mechanisms.

The first essay examined how success or failure to achieve a tier goal affects consumers’ subsequent goal pursuit behavior. Specifically, utilizing two lab experiments and 5,719 customers’ flight activities data from a major airline’s multi-tiered frequent flyer program, this essay studied the effect of goal completion magnitude on individuals’ effort toward achieving subsequent goals, and how goal type moderates this relationship. I found that, when individuals failed to reach their preset goal, those failed an attainment goal put more effort in pursuing their subsequent goal than those who failed a maintenance goal. The opposite was true when individuals were highly successful in achieving their goals. In addition, when goal pursuit was successful, goal achievement magnitude and subsequent goal pursuit effort showed a positive linear relationship for individuals with a maintenance goal but an inverted U-shaped relationship for those with an attainment goal. For individuals with an attainment goal, high goal achievement created a surprising hampering effect on subsequent goal pursuit effort, which I termed the “close-but-no-cigar effect”. Two subsequent lab experiments explored the underlying psychological mechanisms. In the goal failure situation, negative self-efficacy mediated the effect of goal type on subsequent goal pursuit effort; in the goal success situation, negative emotion and counterfactual thinking were found to be the key drivers.

The second essay investigated loyalty program members’ reactions to email messages as a function of their program status. Applying construal level theory to two different distance dimensions, this essay showed that goal distance and tier level jointly moderate the relative effectiveness of abstract vs. concrete framing and cognitive vs. emotional appeals in email marketing messages. I analyzed 240 email campaigns that were sent to 19,281 loyalty program members from September 2016 to December 2016. I found that when goal distance is large, cognitive appeal is more persuasive than emotional appeal, and abstract message framing is more persuasive than concrete framing. In contrast, when consumers are close to their goals, emotional appeal is more effective than cognitive appeal, while abstract and concrete message framings are equally effective. In addition, these moderating effects of goal distance are stronger at lower tier levels than at higher tiers. Tiers served as a vertical dimension in forming one’s mental construal level. The insights from this research can help loyalty program managers optimize marketing communication to individual members.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).





Included in

Marketing Commons