Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Business Administration



Committee Chair

Daniel L. Sherrell

Committee Member

Mehdi Amini

Committee Member

Jeff Thieme


This dissertation comprises three separate essays that deal with the role of influentials in the diffusion of new products. Influentials are a small group of consumers who are likely to play an important role in the diffusion of a new product through their propensity to adopt the product early and/or their persuasive influence on others’ new product adoption decisions. The literature labels these consumers as opinion leaders, social hubs, innovators, early adopters, lead users, experts, market mavens, and boundary spanners. This dissertation integrates two perspectives that researchers have mostly studied independently: market-level, which investigates the spread of a new product (e.g., total number of products sold) across markets over time as a function of aggregate-level marketing and social parameters; and individual-level, which considers how to identify influentials and their impact on the adoption behaviors of others. The first essay reviews and integrates the literature on the role of influentials in the diffusion of new products from a marketing management perspective. The study develops a framework using the individual- and market-level research perspectives to highlight five major interrelated areas: the two theoretical bases of why influentials have a high propensity to adopt new products early and why they considerably influence others’ adoption decisions, the issues concerned with how marketers can identify influentials and effectively target them, and how significant individual-level processes lead to significant market-level behavior. The study synthesizes the relevant research findings and suggests future research directions for improving our knowledge of the role of influentials in the diffusion of new products.The second essay explores firms’ decisions regarding the selection of target consumers for seeding—providing free products to enhance the diffusion process. The study examines the profit impact of targeting five groups of potential consumers for seeding under alternative social network structures. The findings suggest that seeding programs generally increase the net present value of profits. Moreover, social hubs—the most connected consumers—offer the best seeding target under most conditions that were examined. However, under certain conditions firms can achieve comparable results through random seeding and save the resources and effort required to identify the social hubs. Finally, the interactions among several variables—the choice of seeding target, consumer social network structure, and variable seeding cost—impact the returns that seeding programs generate and the ‘optimal’ number of giveaways.The third essay explores the adverse impacts of three types of consumer resistance to new products—postponement, rejection, and opposition—on firm profits. The study investigates these effects across five groups of consumers and alternative social network structures. The findings suggest that complex interactions between three groups of parameters—resistance, consumer social network, and diffusion parameters—affect the relationship between resistance and profits. Moreover, opposition reduces firm profits to a degree that is significantly greater than rejection and postponement. Finally, influential resister groups generally have stronger adverse impacts on profits than do randomly designated resisters.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.