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Brand image associations for large virtual groups

Jeffrey E. Danes (Orfalea College of Business, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, California, USA)
Jeffrey S. Hess (Orfalea College of Business, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, California, USA)
John W. Story (Department of Marketing, The University of St Thomas, Houston, Texas, USA)
Jonathan L. York (Orfalea College of Business, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, California, USA)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 15 June 2010




As an aid to understanding brand image and brand attitude, this paper aims to present an innovative method of capturing qualitative brand associations from very large virtual groups.


From the target market, two familiar brands were selected: one more favored and one less favored by the market segment. Two samples of respondents engaged in a collaborative, virtual ideation session designed to elicit “top of mind” brand associations for two fast food brands, McDonald's and In‐N‐Out. Members of each group posted their brand associations and then rated each other's associations on the basis of agreement.


Analysis provided by showed sharp differences between the two brand images. To independently assess brand attitude, two judges evaluated favorability of the free associations as either “good,” “neutral,” or “bad.” The results confirmed initial expectations. The more favored brand received considerably more favorable free associations than did the less favored brand. The results are shown in qualitative word maps.

Research limitations/implications

A potential limitation of this paper is that the proposed qualitative method is more applicable to well‐known, familiar brands; thus these techniques may not work as well with less familiar brands.

Practical implications

Virtual collaboration tools provide a proficient method of measuring brand image and brand attitudes, for very large groups. These tools are well suited for gaining greater understanding of the cognitive and affective dimensions of a realized brand position (image) as well as an aid to re‐positioning an errant brand image.


Most qualitative group interviews are limited to a small number of respondents, ranging from five to 12 people. Virtual ideation sessions, which are designed to elicit “top of mind” brand associations, enable collection of qualitative data from large groups quickly and efficiently; without the negative influences of face‐to‐face group interaction.



Danes, J.E., Hess, J.S., Story, J.W. and York, J.L. (2010), "Brand image associations for large virtual groups", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 309-323.



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Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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