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How Brand Loyalists View the Competition

Brand commitment affects the way consumers process information about competing products.

(originally published by Booz & Company)

The Effect of Brand Commitment on the Evaluation of Nonpreferred Brands: A Disconfirmation Process
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Sekar Raju, H. Rao Unnava, and Nicole Votolato Montgomery  

Journal of Consumer Research, vol. 35, no. 5

Date Published: 
February 2009 (October 2008, online version)

Marketers have known for decades that some consumers exhibit incredibly strong brand loyalty and others show almost no commitment to any brand and instead constantly sample the latest products. In this study, the authors examine why brand loyalists focus on the differences between their preferred product and brands that compete with it, whereas consumers with little brand loyalty tend to focus on brands’ similarities. In a series of experiments, the authors worked with groups of undergraduate students to measure their commitment to popular brands such as Sony, Saucony, and Olympus. The researchers found that students’ level of brand commitment affected the way they sought out and analyzed information about competing products. By pushing brand-loyal students to focus on the similarities between the target brands and competitive products, and asking non-brand-loyal students to focus on the differences, researchers were able to alter the students’ perceptions of the products. They argue that marketers trying to win over a customer who has been loyal to a competitor may need to change the structure of their advertisements in order to point out the similarities between their product and a competing product.

Bottom Line:
Brand commitment affects the way consumers process information about competing products. Loyal customers will look for reasons not to switch brands, whereas less-loyal customers will look for similarities between competing brands.


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