Not all products are created equal: Study explores how consumers evaluate newly released products

In a forthcoming study from the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers from Indiana University explore the process by which consumers evaluate new products, be it a new razor with an unprecedented number of blades or an even mintier chewing gum. The researchers argue that when a multi-product brand such as Nike, which recently added electronic gadgets to its core of athletic apparel releases a new product, the consumer's evaluative process is significantly different than when a brand strongly associated with one product such as Gillette releases a new product.

"[The] attitude transfer process may be more complex than suggested by current models," write Huifang Mao and H. Shanker Krishnan. "For a multi-product brand, multiple referent points exist to judge a brand extension, resulting in more complex evaluative processes."

For multi-product brands, the researchers distinguish between the two measures consumers use to decide what they think of a newly released product: brand fit and product fit. "Brand fit" is the degree to which a new product is consistent with the overall brand image, and knee pads would fit well with the athletic Nike persona. However, certain new products that do not mesh with the Nike brand might still garner a positive consumer reaction if they demonstrate "product fit." A Nike car audio system, for example, would have high product fit with Nike's existing line of audio equipment for joggers. Surprisingly, this second type of association is often easier for consumers to make, the researchers found. "Consumers tend to transfer attitudes from varying sources to a brand extension," explain the authors. "[But] consumers may transfer their liking for an existing product to an extension in a spontaneous fashion."

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Huifang Mao and H. Shanker Krishnan. "Effects of Prototype and Exemplar Fit on Brand Extension Evaluations: A Two-Process Contingency Model" Journal of Consumer Research. June 2006.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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