PSS Users and Harley Davidson Riders: : The importance of consumer identity in the diffusion of sustainable consumption solutions
This paper sets out an approach to researching socio-cultural aspects of Product Service Systems (PSS) consumption in consumer markets. PSS are relevant to Industrial Ecology as they may form part of the mix of innovations that move society toward more sustainable material and energy flows. The paper uses two contrasting case studies drawing on ethnographic analysis, Harley Davidson motorcycles and Zip Car Car Club. The analysis draws on Consumer Culture Theory to explicate the socio-cultural, experiential, symbolic and ideological aspects of these case studies, focusing on product ownership. The paper shows that ownership of Harley Davidson motorcycles enables riders to identify with a brand community and to define themselves. Owners appropriate their motorcycles through customization. In contrast, Zip Car users resist the company’s attempts to involve them in a brand community, see use of car sharing as a temporary fix and even fear contamination from shared use of cars. We conclude that iconic products such as Harley Davidson motorcycles create emotional attachment and can challenge PSS propositions. But we also suggest that somewhat standardized products may present similar difficulties. Knowing more about socio-cultural aspects of PSS may help designers overcome these difficulties.