Relying on brand equity: insights from consumer evaluation processes

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Virginia Tech


This dissertation questioned whether the brand's equity can influence consumer evaluations, explored the formation of beliefs about brand extensions and accessed the relative extension effects of brand information. A series of three experiments explored: consumers’ schema activation process; the effects of brand equity on consumers’ beliefs and judgments; and consumers’ extension inference processes. The results indicate that consumers use brand knowledge as a frame of reference to understand the brand extension. If consumers are not familiar with the brand, they use other knowledge about the product category or specific exemplars to understand and evaluate the extension.

The brand name does not appear to be a major influence on consumers’ evaluations of category extensions. Consumers’ inferred beliefs have the greatest relative influence on evaluations and are based on the conjunction of their brand and new product category knowledge.

The brand name does not appear to carry the extension far. When the new product differs substantially from consumers’ brand expectations, firms cannot rely on the brand name to sustain the same meaning that it had in the past. Marketing synergies or efficiencies alone will not produce a successful extension. Firms must be aware of how the brand and new product category interact in the consumer’s mind.