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Original brands in competition against high quality copycats

Hang Nguyen (Michigan State University Eli Broad College of Business, East Lansing, Michigan, USA)
Kunter Gunasti (Washington State University College of Business, Pullman, Washington, USA)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 24 May 2018

Issue publication date: 21 June 2018




Copycat brands offering improved product quality pose serious challenges to original brands. This paper aims to provide a better understanding of why consumers prefer copycat brands with superior product attributes and how original brands can shift this preference back by strategically leveraging brand identity cues.


Four experimental studies test different types of brand identity cues that original brands can use to influence consumer preferences. Logistic and linear regression analyses analyze the effects.


The results systematically show the power of brand identity cues in helping original brands reduce share loss to copycat brands using superior product attributes. They also reveal the role of brand equity, conspicuous consumption and consumers’ tendency of using brands as status symbols in enhancing the effect of brand identity cues in the face of superior copycats.

Research limitations/implications

This paper extends cue diagnosticity theory and the brand identity literature by showing the power of brand identity cues in predicting consumer choices of original brands.

Practical implications

This paper provides useful guidelines for managers of original brands on how to effectively use brand identity cues to compete against copycats.


Prior research focuses on how copycat brands’ characteristics influence consumers’ evaluations of copycats. These studies are limited, however, by their focus on cheap and low-quality copycats. The current paper examines the effects of brand identity cues and draws attention to the trade-offs consumers make when choosing between original brands and copycats offering superior product features.



The authors thank Drs William T. Ross Jr and Robin A. Coulter at the Department of Marketing, School of Business, University of Connecticut, for their support and helpful comments on the paper. The two authors contributed equally to this work. The order of authorship was determined by a coin toss.


Nguyen, H. and Gunasti, K. (2018), "Original brands in competition against high quality copycats", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 52 No. 7/8, pp. 1574-1597.



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Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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