Recent years have witnessed the diffusion of 3D printing technologies that allow consumers to create products with the push of a button. While these technologies may change how value is created in the marketplace, there is little research on 3D printing from a consumer perspective. Against this background, this research conceptualizes 3D printing as a form of co-creation and presents four studies aimed at understanding how consumers respond to products they have printed themselves. Study 1 shows that self-printing a product positively affects product evaluations by increasing perceived ownership. Study 2 finds that this effect occurs even when people are not able to observe the printing process. Study 3 shows that the positive effect of self-printing is moderated by the affective quality of the products being printed. Specifically, while self-printing enhances the evaluations of hedonic products, it has no effect on the evaluations of utilitarian products. Finally, Study 4 identifies a strategy that may offset the disadvantage that utilitarian products face in a 3D printing context, that is, ingredient branding.
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According to our framework, self-printing allows consumers to develop stronger feelings of ownership for a product, thus leading to more favorable evaluations. However, these feelings of ownership are unlikely to develop if and when consumers have a very low interest in the product in the first place.
Obviously, these findings rest on the assumption that keychains are more of a hedonic than a utilitarian product. As such, whereas a key is a utilitarian object that serves a specific purpose, a keychain is typically more of a decorative accessory. To validate this assumption, we conducted a post-test with 50 participants (38.60 years, 62.00% female) recruited through Amazon MTurk. Using the same three-item scale as for the manipulation check in Study 3 (α = .95), we asked participants to indicate if they considered keychains to be more utilitarian or hedonic (higher numbers on the scale are indicative of a hedonic perception). As expected, keychains were considered more of a hedonic than a utilitarian item (M = 5.05 on a 7-point scale, t(49)diff_from_4 = 4.25, p < .001).
Specifically, the film was about the use of 3D printing technologies for architectural applications such as the rapid production of scale models and the production of entire components for mid-sized houses.
Arguably, participants’ positive responses to self-printed products may also be affected by the fact that 3D printing is a novel and somewhat “exciting” technology. To account for this possibility, we measured and controlled for perceptions of novelty in Studies 2 to 4 (i.e., we included perceptions of novelty as a covariate). As there are no substantial differences in the results when perceptions of novelty are controlled for, we decided to report the results without novelty as a covariate.
To substantiate our argument that self-printing affects psychological ownership by making people feel in control, we also measured feelings of control in Study 4 and performed our mediation analysis with perceived control as the mediator instead of perceived ownership. In line with our reasoning, the analysis revealed fairly similar results for the two mediators. Furthermore, lending additional support to our argument, a correlation analysis confirmed that feelings of control and feelings of ownership are strongly correlated (r = .754, p < .001).
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The authors would like to thank the editor, the associate editor, and three anonymous reviewers for their guidance and encouragement in the review process and Sarah Hübner for her help in collecting the data.
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Ingredient brand descriptions
Utilitarian version of Hover: Hover considers 3D printing to be an efficient and effective new way of production. With its materials it wants to contribute to a flexible and uncomplicated production process. It wants to offer you materials that are practical and functional to use and that can provide the basis for products that fulfill their purpose.
Hedonic version of Hover: Hover considers 3D printing to be more than just a production method. It believes that 3D printing can turn production itself into an experience. With its materials it wants to contribute to your personal ability to express yourself through your individual creations. The use of its materials should provide you with enjoyment and allow you to become creative and experiment.
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Wiecek, A., Wentzel, D. & Erkin, A. Just print it! The effects of self-printing a product on consumers’ product evaluations and perceived ownership. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. 48, 795–811 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-019-00700-7
- 3D printing
- Perceived ownership
- Hedonic and utilitarian consumption
- Ingredient branding