Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science

, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 587–604 | Cite as

Leveraging customers’ multiple identities: identity synergy as a driver of organizational identification

  • Paul W. FombelleEmail author
  • Cheryl Burke Jarvis
  • James Ward
  • Lonnie Ostrom
Original Empirical Research


Marketers want to encourage constituents to strongly identify with their organizations, because organizational identification contributes to positive firm outcomes. However, the extant research on organizational identity largely has overlooked the fact that an individual’s “self” actually is a collection of multiple social identities. This study is the first to propose and empirically demonstrate that marketers can leverage customers’ multiple societal roles (e.g., parent, environmentalist, professor) to build and reinforce their relationships with the firm. Specifically, the research introduces the concept of “identity synergy.” Identity synergy occurs when individuals’ involvement with an organization facilitates their pursuit of other important social identities. Our study shows that customer perception of identity synergy is positively related to identification with an organization. Moreover, the study helps explain the process by which antecedents of organizational identity (identity affirmation, identity support, and value congruence) positively affect customer-firm relationships by proposing and testing identity synergy as a mediator between these antecedents and organizational identification. The study also contributes to our understanding of organizational identity theory by introducing the new concept of peer identification, or identification with other members of the organization, such as other customers or volunteers. The empirical evidence demonstrates identity synergy’s role in building peer identification, as well as peer identification’s role in building organizational identification.


Organizational identification Peer identification Multiple identities Identity synergy 



The authors would like to thank Jennifer Hall, Harry Jones, and Jim Brewer from the Phoenix Zoo for their hard work in making this project possible; Bruce Clark from Northeastern University for his insightful comments and timely advice throughout the review process; and the editor and anonymous reviewers for their insightful feedback on earlier drafts of this manuscript. The authors also gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Center for Services Leadership at Arizona State University.


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Copyright information

© Academy of Marketing Science 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul W. Fombelle
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cheryl Burke Jarvis
    • 2
  • James Ward
    • 3
  • Lonnie Ostrom
    • 3
  1. 1.College of Business Administration, Marketing GroupNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA
  2. 2.College of BusinessSouthern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA
  3. 3.W.P. Carey School of BusinessArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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