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Of Photographs, Souvenirs, and Ticket Stubs: Understanding Mementos


The current research examines a class of items that almost every consumer owns: mementos. Whether a photograph taken during a special event, souvenirs purchased on a vacation, or ticket stubs saved from a concert or movie, mementos are a nearly ubiquitous item owned or acquired at one point in time by almost every consumer.

Chapter 1 focuses on why and when consumers desire mementos of experiences. While recent research suggests that the consumption of experiences compared to material goods is on the rise and furthermore leads to greater happiness, many experiences are still frequently accompanied by the consumption of material goods, most notably in the form of mementos. Existing accounts of why consumers acquire such mementos focus on the reminiscing utility and memory benefits that mementos provide. This research proposes that mementos also alleviate sadness that arises from the ending of a positive experience. Based on this understanding of mementos, this research further proposes that consumers are more likely to desire mementos when the end of an experience is approaching and feel sadness associated with that ending. These hypotheses are supported across five studies using a combination of methodologies, including laboratory experiments, field surveys, and field experiments, that encompass various experiences (football games, college, and vacations) and mementos (ticket stubs, photos, and mugs). This research offers practical insights to marketers on how to encourage product purchases, and provides novel and relevant insights into advancing our understanding of the co-consumption of experiences and material goods.

Building on the previous chapter showing that mementos reduce the negative affect associated with the end of a positive experience, Chapter 2 explores how mementos may also affect the emotions from giving up items. Existing literature suggests that affective reaction contributes to the endowment effect; if mementos lessen negative affective reaction, then having a memento of an endowment should also weaken the endowment effect. This research demonstrates that mementos decrease selling prices and increase willingness to part with an endowment in three studies. Thus, this research not only identifies mementos as a moderator of this much-studied phenomenon, but also contributes to understanding the much-debated psychology underlining the endowment effect by providing additional evidence for affective reaction as one component of the endowment effect.

Chapter 3 examines consumer happiness and well-being from mementos. Recent research suggests an experiential advantage in which consumers derive greater happiness from discretionary spending on experiences compared to material items. As material items that are also closely associated with experiences, mementos present an interesting point of comparison for both experiential and material purchases. While this research partly replicates earlier findings that discretionary spending on experiences makes consumers happier than spending on material items, the effect does not hold when spending on material items is for mementos. Spending on mementos makes consumers happier than spending on other material items, even after controlling for factors such as cost of the purchase, time since the purchase, and importance of the purchase. This research therefore contributes to the existing literature by identifying an important instance when spending on a material item may bring happiness that is comparable to spending on an experience and demonstrating that not all material items are created equal when it comes to consumer happiness.

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