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Impact of vertical line extensions on brand attitudes and new extensions: The roles of judgment focus, comparative set and positioning

Mauricio Palmeira (SKK Graduate School of Business, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, Republic of Korea)
Jing Lei (Department of Marketing and Management, Melbourne University, Melbourne, Australia)
Ana Valenzuela (Aaronson Department of Marketing and International Business, Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College, CUNY New York, USA and Universitat Ramon Llul, ESADE, Barcelona, Spain)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 6 February 2019

Issue publication date: 5 March 2019

Abstract

Purpose

Companies often extend brands to higher or lower quality tiers to access different market segments. However, the impact of such extensions on the brand and its subsequent offerings is not yet conclusive. While some studies found an “averaging” pattern (all models contribute equally to the overall perception of the brand: a symmetric effect), others found a “best-of-brand” pattern (the positive impact of an upstream extension is much greater than the negative impact of a downstream extension: an asymmetric effect). This paper aims to reconcile these seemingly conflicting findings by assessing the conditions under which each pattern is likely to emerge.

Design/methodology/approach

Three experimental studies are presented to test the conditions under which a symmetric or asymmetric pattern of brand evaluation would merge. Study 1 examined the impact of judgment focus (quality vs expertise) on the pattern of brand evaluations. Study 2 tested the impact of having a comparative set on the assessment of specific brand dimensions. Study 3 examined the impact of the informativeness of price positioning on product quality expectations.

Findings

Brand evaluations and attitudes are determined by the presence of a comparative brand and judgment focus. When brands are evaluated without a comparison, a symmetric pattern emerges, as a low-tier extension hurts a brand as much as a high-tier extension helps it. In contrast, when brands are evaluated with a comparison, focusing the assessment on quality leads to a symmetric pattern, while focusing it on expertise leads to an asymmetric one.

Research limitations/implications

The present research specifies conditions under which a low-tier model may hurt brand perceptions. We used hypothetical brands to avoid the impact of preexisting attitudes. While we expect our results to generalize to real brands, this may be considered a limitation of the present research.

Practical implications

The current research delineates the circumstances under which vertical line extensions have positive, neutral or negative impact on brand perceptions and future product expectations. We introduce the presence of a comparison set as a key variable and show how it interacts with assessment focus to affect brand evaluations. When thinking about the impact of extensions on brand perceptions, marketers need to consider which assessment focus is likely to be triggered by environmental cues and whether comparisons are salient.

Originality/value

Brand extension is an important area of investigation as evidenced by the vast literature dedicated to the subject. The present paper advances knowledge in this area by identifying key factors affecting the impact of vertical extensions on brand perceptions.

Keywords

Citation

Palmeira, M., Lei, J. and Valenzuela, A. (2019), "Impact of vertical line extensions on brand attitudes and new extensions: The roles of judgment focus, comparative set and positioning", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 53 No. 2, pp. 299-319. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-07-2017-0431

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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