How competitor brand names affect within-brand choices
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This research shows that consumers’ intra-brand choices (e.g., Mercedes C330 vs. C340) can be affected by exposure to a competitor alphanumeric brand name that forms an incidental trend with the numbers in the focal brand names (e.g., BMW320i or BMW350i). We propose and test two mechanisms. First, when no attribute information is available, the competitor brand can make the numerical trends formed by brand names salient and meaningful, and increase the preference for higher brands (e.g., Mercedes C340). Second, when attribute values are negatively correlated with brands, exposure to the competitor brand name can trigger brand-attribute magnitude tradeoffs. In five experiments, we demonstrate that our predictions hold when there are no intrinsic brand-attribute associations, and even when the competitor brand is not available for choice. We identify competitive categorization as a boundary condition and demonstrate that the effect diminishes when consumers do not categorize the nonfocal option as a competitor.
KeywordsAlphanumeric brand names Numerical cognition Product attributes Context effects Competition Competitive categorization
Authors would like to thank William Ross, Nicholas Lurie, Chris Janiszewski, Hans Baumgartner, Robin Coulter, Margaret Meloy, Baler Bilgin, David E. Sprott, Yany Grégoire, D'Wayne Hodgin, Gaia Rubera and David Norton for their feedback on earlier drafts of the manuscript. This research was partially supported by the Competitive Summer Research Grants funded by University of Connecticut and University of Idaho. Please address all correspondence to the first author.
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