In a second experiment, students were asked to select a digital camera to take photographs at a friend’s wedding. They were presented with three options: They could purchase the same model as their own camera, replace it with the next-generation version, or select a camera with a completely new brand name. The students’ reactions to these choices offered an interesting bit of feedback about how people respond to products: Changing a brand’s name increases expectations that the product will have greater benefits along with a higher price. There is also an element of ambiguity. Faced with a name change, consumers are more likely to be unsure that the product offers what they want at a price they are comfortable with. In contrast, consistent naming is associated with lower benefits and lower costs; it produces feelings of continuity, compatibility, and incremental progress. Thus, any name change must take into account the confusing effect it is likely to have on potential consumers.
The message? Name changes, large or small, have an impact on branding. Handle with care.
Des Dearlove (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a business writer based in the U.K. He is the author of a number of management books and a regular contributor to strategy+business and The (London) Times.
Stuart Crainer (email@example.com) is a business writer based in the U.K. and a regular contributor to strategy+business. He and Des Dearlove founded Suntop Media, a publishing and training company providing business content for online and print publications.