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Measuring the brand category through semantic differentiation

Marcus Abbott (Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK)
John P. Shackleton (Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand)
Ray Holland (Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 18 July 2008




This paper aims to explore the cognitive processing mechanisms of concepts and categories by examining the methodologies behind how branded‐product concepts behave in the second of two co‐incident alternative constructs – as a member of a product category, and in some cases, as a category by itself. General proposals for such mechanisms present language as a facilitator in the process. Therefore, linguistic concept assessment models are proposed to confirm the “brand as category” hypothesis evident in an example brand.


The study extended conventional semantic differentiation (SD) methodologies; sets of bi‐polar measures of concept properties describing the concept “semantic space”, to the brand category. Through iteration, the SD tool is refined and the effects of weighted scales understood.


The results provide evidence that some brands do act as categories, with clearly identifiable exemplar positions within the brand‐category “semantic space”.

Practical implications

This paper offers interesting alternatives to established brand and product development activities concerned with the provision of product features and consumer benefits. Specifically, for many emotive, non‐utilitarian products, brand attributes highly influence purchase decision, and therefore brand accuracy and differentiation, measured in the product's properties, are key – characteristics that can be most saliently depicted in the “brand as category” alternative.


This paper applies SD to the brand category for the first time. It provides a new methodology with advantages for brand and product managers concerned with the development of products that are not only “good” but also “right” for the brand.



Abbott, M., Shackleton, J.P. and Holland, R. (2008), "Measuring the brand category through semantic differentiation", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 223-234.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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