The purpose of this study is to expand the notion of differentiation by developing and testing a typology of brand benefit differentiation.
Brand concept maps were used to identify three types of differentiation. The effects of the types of differentiation on benefit evaluation and brand attachment were tested in two follow-up studies using path analysis.
A comparison of the association maps of four international brands showed instances of all three types of benefit differentiation – categorical, graded and structural benefit differentiation. The tests of effects revealed that categorical benefit differentiation had negative effects, whereas structural and graded differentiation had positive effects on benefit evaluation and brand attachment, respectively.
The findings suggest that other types of benefit differentiation are more important than uniqueness. Future research should test the relevance and usefulness of the typology for other brands and consumer segments.
The new typology opens new opportunities for the differentiation of brands. Brand managers should avoid a myopic focus on uniqueness. Rather, they should analyze networks of benefit associations in detail for all three types of differentiation identified in this research and strengthen the level of structural and/or graded differentiation.
This research demonstrates, for the first time, the importance of two types of differentiation other than uniqueness. It also supports previous studies showing the negative effects of uniqueness on variables related to brand equity.
Hem, A.F. and Supphellen, M. (2022), "Developing and testing a typology of brand benefit differentiation", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 31 No. 2, pp. 238-251. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPBM-06-2019-2412
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