Promoting upskilling: How a situational growth mindset increases consumers’ adoption of really new products
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Despite their evident capacity for improving people’s lives, 40 to 90 percent of innovations fail. A significant amount of research suggests that one important reason for failure is consumers’ lack of understanding of the benefits that a new product can offer. This dissertation seeks to enhance our understanding of how firms can help consumers to learn about and understand the benefits a new product can offer them. The general emphasis in the extant literature is on consumer declarative learning, which is mainly focused on the benefits of new products related to functional features. The underlying assumption regarding declarative learning about a product is that people already know how to use the new product— that is, they have procedural knowledge in the form of user skills. However, a literature review suggests that people do not have procedural knowledge when the product is really new. In this dissertation, I propose that lack of procedural knowledge inhibits declarative learning, and that procedural learning is needed in order to create an understanding of and an interest in a new product. Accordingly, I introduce the concept of “upskilling communication” to refer to messages related to learning how skills can be improved with the new product. Such learning of new skills is referred to as procedural knowledge. Not all people at all times will react to upskilling communication with the same desire to learn new skills. In order to learn, people need to be open for change and learning. Therefore, I propose that when consumers are in a state of growth mindset, their openness to change and learning should enable them to appreciate the benefits presented in upskilling communication. Specifically, this dissertation has examined two research questions: (1) will upskilling communication increase consumers’ adoption of really new products? And (2) will consumers’ situational growth mindset enhance the effect of upskilling communication on adoption of really new products? Across six studies and a meta-analysis, using four different ways to operationalize upskilling communication and across four different new products, the findings converge. The results from empirical investigation confirmed that upskilling communication leads to higher consumer adoption of really new products. More importantly, I demonstrated that upskilling communication works better for consumers with a situational growth mindset. However, If marketers are unable to identify consumers’ situational growth mindset, then signaling communication is more effective. The underlying mechanism of these effects was cognitive effort in learning about a new product and perceived relative advantage of the new product. The results presented herein are important for both consumer researchers and marketing practitioners.