Leveraging customers' multiple identities: Identity synergy as a driver of organizational identification

Paul W. Fombelle, Cheryl Burke Jarvis, James Ward, Lonnie Ostrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)587-604
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the Academy of Marketing Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Identity synergy
  • Multiple identities
  • Organizational identification
  • Peer identification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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