Executive summary of "The impact of consumer resistance to brand substitution on brand relationship

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 12 January 2015



(2015), "Executive summary of "The impact of consumer resistance to brand substitution on brand relationship", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 32 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCM-12-2014-1259



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Executive summary of "The impact of consumer resistance to brand substitution on brand relationship"

Article Type: Executive summary and implications for managers and executives From: Journal of Consumer Marketing, Volume 32, Issue 1

This summary has been provided to allow managers and executives a rapid appreciation of the content of the article. Those with a particular interest in the topic covered, may then read the article in toto to take advantage of the more comprehensive description of the research undertaken and its results to get the full benefit of the material present.

Companies are increasingly engaging in the practice of changing the names of their brands. It is hoped that brand name substitution can help the brand portfolio perform better and, thus, become more profitable. A common strategy is to imbue smaller brands with the identity of a stronger brand, often of global standing. Raider becoming Twix and Marathon being rebranded as Snickers are typical examples of that process.

Different studies have noted the risk involved in altering the name of a familiar brand. Considerable investment is needed to establish a brand, and the evidence shows that consumers are prone to reject change. A brand name signals relationship and symbolic functions to a consumer, and change places the product’s recognition into some doubt. Confusion is also likely to emerge. The prevailing negativity impacts on trust and quality perceptions. Many individuals indicate their objection to the change by ceasing to purchase the brand in its new form. Brand loyalty suffers accordingly.

Trust is widely acknowledged as crucial in developing and sustaining loyalty. It is, therefore, highly important that brand managers find ways to ensure that consumer opposition to brand name change is kept to a minimum.

According to the resistance to change theory, resistance is a natural response to a threatened status quo. Familiarity offers reassurance, security and comfort. In addition, if people treasure something, they do not want to lose it. In the case of brands, “past references” provide the assurance, which the new brand name then removes. One view is that the change becomes likelier to be accepted when it is imposed more gradually. The premise here is that people are still able to use past references while becoming used to the new brand. The trust in and loyalty toward the old brand will subsequently be transferred to the new one once it has been accepted.

Ensuring that the substitute brand resembles the old one as much as possible can help minimize negative consumer views. For instance, researchers suggest that the use of similar packaging facilitates the transfer of image and associations to the substitute. Empirical evidence exists to show that consumers do not welcome alterations to either the graphics or the color scheme on product packaging when a brand changes its identity. The substitute brand was perceived unfavorably in these situations.

Several studies confirm the significance of umbrella brands. It is generally stated that an umbrella brand serves to indicate consistent quality across the portfolio. In this context, any risk perceived with regard to a name change is lowered because existing associations to the umbrella brand remain.

How trust should be defined and conceptualized remains subject to considerable debate. Where brand trust is concerned, a three-dimensional construct is used by some academics:

1. Brand trustworthiness: This relates to the expertise of brand functions and its ability to provide the quality and level of performance that will result in consumer satisfaction.

2. Brand integrity: The brand’s promise being upheld by the company is the focus here.

3. Brand goodwill: Concerns the ongoing “ethical commitment” toward consumer interests.

A change of brand name might disrupt these dimensions. Doubts about the substitute brand’s quality and trustworthiness can surface along with question marks against its reliability and whether it is able to meet consumer needs. Perceived similarity reflected in, for example, packaging helps alleviate fears and ensure transfer of the three trust components to the new brand. Likewise, scholars argue that the presence of an umbrella brand will have a comparable effect. Another important factor is consumer attitude. The transfer of trust is unlikely to occur when consumers oppose the change to a brand’s identity. Sustaining trust is a matter of high priority, not least, because of its function as a driver of loyalty. It is, thus, proposed that a transfer of the trust dimensions from the old brand to the new will see loyalty transferred accordingly.

Mogos Descotes and Pauwels-Dalassus explore these issues further in a study of consumer reaction to the renaming of renowned French biscuit brand Taillefine to Belvita. Brand owner Kraft communicated the change through extensive TV and Internet communication campaigns to inform consumers. This example was chosen by the authors because the campaigns aimed to minimize the consumer opposition to the substitute brand.

The online questionnaire was pretested before being completed by 313 participants aged between 18 and 56 years. Women accounted for 76 per cent of the sample, almost three-quarters of which were either students or executives. In addition to answering questions pertaining to the brand name change issues, respondents were asked to provide socio-cultural information.

Data analysis revealed empirical support for claims made in the literature. Significant findings are as follows:

  • The most significant factor is consumer resistance to brand name change because it impedes transfer of the consumer trust dimensions from old to new brand.

  • Transfer of trust from old to new brand facilitates the subsequent transfer of loyalty.

  • Consumer opposition to changing a brand’s name is reduced when old and new brands are perceived as similar.

  • The presence of an umbrella brand serves to lower consumer resistance to the change.

In light of these indications, Mogos Descotes and Pauwels-Dalassus advocate actions that can help combat negative consumer reactions to a brand name change. Marketing managers are urged to:

  • use both qualitative and quantitative marketing techniques to emphasize that the new brand closely resembles the old;

  • ensure that packaging changes only minimally following the switch to the new brand name. Color and pictorial content should remain as similar as possible; and

  • provide reassurance to consumers by highlighting the umbrella brand on product packaging. This serves to endorse product quality because it is part of the umbrella brand’s range.

Such moves can help alleviate consumer concerns and generate the necessary trust in the brand. Transfer of loyalty from old to new brand then becomes likelier to occur.

Conducting similar research with different product or service categories and using a more representative sample is recommended. In addition, the authors point out the scope to explore the effect of name changes involving less well-known brands or to situations where the new name presents a less radical change than the one in this study.

To read the full article, enter 10.1108/JCM-07-2014-1041 into your search engine.

(A précis of the article “The impact of consumer resistance to brand substitution on brand relationship”. Supplied by Marketing Consultants for Emerald.)

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