Journal of product and brand management

Perceptual Mapping

Perceptual mapping techniques were used to compress the information provided into a two dimensional exhibit showing not only the relative attractiveness of the diverse dimensions, but also suggesting the sources of the relative competitive positions for the various dimensions.

Perceptual mapping is a graphical technique used by researchers that attempts to visually demonstrate the perceptions of respondents, usually in two dimensions that are composites of rankings on various factors.

Perceptual mapping has been used widely in marketing. This influential technique is used in new product design, advertising, retail location, and many other marketing applications where the manager wants to determine (1) the basic cognitive dimensions consumers use to evaluate "products" in the category being investigated and (2) the relative "positions" of at hand and probable products with respect to those dimensions. For example, Green and Wind (1973) use similarity scaling to identify the basic dimensions used in conjoint analysis. Pessemier (1977) applies discriminant analysis to produce the joint-space maps that are used in his DESIGNR model for new product design. Hauser and Urban (1977) used factor analysis to recognize consumer perceptions and innovation opportunities in their method for modeling consumer response to innovation. All of these researchers report empirical applications in a number of product and service categories. When used correctly perceptual mapping can identify opportunities, enhance innovation, and direct marketing strategy to the areas of investigation most likely attarct to consumers.

Perceptual mapping has received much consideration in the literature. Though varied in scope and application, this attention has been focused on refinements of the techniques, assessment of alternative ways to use the techniques, or implementation of the techniques to marketing problems.' Few direct comparisons have been made of the three chief techniquessimilarity scaling, factor analysis, and discriminant analysis. In fact, most of the interest has been in similarity scaling because of the assumption that similarity measures are more accurate measures of perception than direct attribute ratings despite the fact that similarity techniques are more difficult and more expensive to use than factor or discriminant analyses.

In practice, a market researcher has neither the time nor the money to simultaneously apply all three techniques. He/she usually choose one method and uses it to address a particular marketing problem. The market researcher must decide whether the added insight from similarity scaling is worth the added expense in data collection and analysis. Furthermore, if the market researcher selects an attribute-based method such as factor analysis or discriminant analysis he/she wants to know which method is better for perceptual mapping and how such maps compare with.

Perceptual mapping has been used for many years in a variety of applications (Kohli and Leuthesser, 1993). For example, Young (1993, 1999) used the methodology to position financial institutions, while Ganesh and Oakenfull (1999) applied perceptual mapping to international product placement. More recently, Romaniuk and Sharp (2000) and Diamantopoulos et al. (2003) used perceptual mapping to observe brand positions and export information utilization respectively. To allow development of the perceptual map, participants were asked to rate each of the ten south-eastern cities with reverence to similarity on a five-point Likert scale (1 very dissimilar to 5 very similar). Respondents then indicated which city they preferred most. Given the methodology employed, it was compulsory to limit the number of location variables (i.e. ten cities); as such, the MDS procedure employed required 45 pair-wise comparisons. While the insertion of a greater number of cities would have been desirable, expanding the number of cities studied would have required significantly more participant's effort and may have limited response.

Preference Maps vs. Market Models

All address models of differentiated markets have three key elements. First, existing and potential brands are given locations in product space. Second, the distribution of consumers' preference parameters is explicitly described. Third, consumers' brand choice behavior is specified. All three elements must be present in a marketing model designed to yield quantitative predictions of the demand for new products or even, we would argue, sound qualitative insights into market structure.(Albers, S.,and Brockhoff, K., 1979)

Most perceptual mapping techniques in marketing focus on the first of these elements and neglect the second and third. They are thus inherently incapable of producing quantitative predictions of market response to new products or other changes. Maps based on similarity judgements or discriminant analysis are particularly weak from this point of view. Besides their other shortcomings [36, 933, their theoretical links to consumer choice behavior are so tenuous that it is unclear how they might be used as the basis for complete market models. Maps based on consumers' attribute-by-attribute evaluations of competing brands (perhaps with the use of factor analysis to reduce dimensionality 36, 87, 883) have more potential in this regard and are widely used in practice 933. We accordingly cocentrate on this mapping technique in what follows. (Amemiya, T., 1981)

From an economic point of view, the usual use of evaluation-based mapping has a number of serious shortcomings. Consider, for example, the perceptual map of pain relievers presented and discussed by Urban and Hauser in their popular text 93, p. 1873. The dimensions of the product space are "gentleness" and "effectiveness", along both of which differentiation is presumably vertical. Six brands are shown, three of which are dominated.

That is, they provide less of both attributes than at least one other brand. One brand, private label aspirin, is dominated by three other brands. Even if consumer behavior is described by a random utility model (as discussed below), one would not normally expect dominated brands to make substantial sales, which the brands on the Urban/Hauser map do. (Even private label pain relievers maintained a 3-4% volume share in the 1980-81 period. 5) Something important is clearly missing from this picture.

As Hauser and Simmie 373 stress in their discussion of this example, one obvious missing element is price. If consumers U's are in fact determined only by "gentleness" and "effectiveness", the dominated brands must have lower prices in order to make substantial sales. Hauser and Simmie suggest dividing U's by prices to deal with this problem. It may be more natural for a product of this sort (useage not price-sensitive, a small fraction of consumers' budgets) to subtract prices from utilities, as we discuss below.

At any rate, the pain reliever map as drawn cannot be readily interpreted, let alone used for quantitative predictions, without the addition of price information, since price clearly affects choice for at least some consumers. Given an evaluation-based preference map, the next standard step 93, ch. 103 is the use of preference regression to estimate the vector Bw in a model like (3). But this approach has two important shortcomings. First, as commonly performed, preference regression neglects price information.

Second, and more importantly, this approach assumes pure vertical differentiation, that is, essentially identical preferences. Since this assumption is generally false, preference regression generally yields information only about the average of consumers' preferences. This approachthus invites the user to fall victim to the classic "majority fallacy" 543 and to design products for the "average consumer," who may not exist. (In the Kuehn-Day 543 example, some consumers like high-sudsing detergents and some like low-sudsing products. The "average consumer" thus prefers medium-sudsing detergents, which no real consumers prefer.) As many authors have stressed [25, 27, 29, 41, 873, one needs to know more about the distribution of preferences than its mean in order to make intelligent product design decisions.

The branding objective

A marketer's main objective goes ahead of a single sale to one customer. Usually the eventual objective is to build a long lasting relationship between a particular brand and a particular customer group - to create a strong bond between brand and buyer! Whether it is between parent and child, friends, lovers, or consumer and brand, bonding is a process; not so much of war among rivals, but of courtship between suitor and beloved. Unlike a single seduction or conquest, the courtship process includes identifiable phases -introduction, familiarity, then preference, and finally, if successful, a loyalty that excludes relationships with rival suitors.

Advertising and promotion offer the introduction and familiarity. The next two steps - building preference and loyalty - are a bit stickier. A few good moves can win the battle, but too many bad ones along the way will lead to rejection and breakdown. So the effective marketer, like the successful suitor, needs a good, sound game plan (Macrae, 1994, 1997; Low and Fullerton, 1994).

Brand Awareness

Brand awareness is the consumer's capability to identify a brand under different circumstances (Keller, 2003). This can take the form of brand recognition and brand recall. Brand recognition assumes preceding exposure to the brand. When given a cue, consumers are likely to appropriately identify the brand as being previously seen or heard. Consumers might recognize many brands but only recall a small quantity; sometimes even only single brand. Brand recognition is therefore considered as the minimum level of brand awareness and is based on aided recall (Holden, 1993; Laurent et al., 1995; Mariotti, 1999). Brand recognition is particularly significant when a consumer chooses a brand at the point of purchase.

Brand recall is considered as the next level of brand awareness. It relies on unaided recall (Holden, 1993; Laurent et at, 1995; Mariotti, 1999) and relates to the consumer's capability to retrieve the brand from memory when provided with a relevant signal (Ross and Harradine, 2004). As the consumer is not aided by having the name provided, brand recall implies that the brand holds a stronger brand position in his or her mind. The first-named brand in an unaided recall thus represents the highest level of brand awareness (Laurent et at, 1995; Mariotti, 1999).

The simple brand preference-building form was (and still is) effective for creating brand name awareness, but of course it does very little else. Thousands of brief name/need pairings may cause the brand name to come to mind every occasion the need arises for the consumer, but it says very little about how successfully the brand will satisfy the need. Consequently, few advertisers depended completely on this mode.

Today, the advertisers and promoters of consumer goods rarely depend very heavily on this simple brand preference-developing mode. Slogans and jingles receive minor attention and they tend to be changed much more repeatedly. When need association is used in contemporary advertising, its main objective is usually to develop brand recognition when new brands of small-ticket, frequently purchased supplies are initially introduced. Yet some marketers handle to make need association work for them throughout the life cycle of the product, simply by including a reference to the need right in the logo or the brand name, itself:

Joe pulled the well-stained drop cloth off of the mounting collection of tools and bits and pieces of lumber in the corner of the garage, and then jumped back in dismay! A fairly impressive array of six-legged creatures scurried for cover, while a few others - undaunted by the sudden glare of light - stood their ground, reluctant to give up their new-found residence so easily. Joe muttered a few guttural sounds to himself as he surveyed the repulsive army that was taking over his workshop. But then a familiar cry arose in his mind's ear as he planned his vengeful counterattack. He picked up the list of things to buy at the hardware store and added a bold entry at the very top - Raid!!!

Brand awareness and advertising

Brand awareness is formed and enhanced by increasing the familiarity of the brand through continual exposure, which ultimately results in consumers having "experienced" the brand (Keller, 2003). When consumers have adequate experience of the brand by seeing, hearing or thinking about it, the brand will take root in memory. Advertising is a major path to increased familiarity and brand awareness. Moreover, visual and verbal belongings in advertising help entrench the brand name in the consumer's mind (Keller, 2003). Hence, the first duty of advertising is to develop brand awareness (Gregory, 1993; Hoyer and Brown, 1990). Through advertising, marketers expose potential consumers to the brand and give them the opportunity to accept it. This is the reason why big companies such as Nike and Adidas make use of television and magazines to advertise their products and brand names (Waterschoot, cited in Ross and Harradine, 2004).

Brand functions

Brands could perform a numeral functions for consumers (Lambin, 2002; Varey, 2002, Pickton and Broderick, 2001), for example, serve as a indication of the product characteristics; simplify decision-making; serve as a guarantee by providing trust, consistency or a set of promises and a lessening of risk; fulfill a personalization, social or status function; or provide enjoyment.

Brand Elements and Brand Awareness

Brand rudiments such as the name, logo, symbol, slogan or packaging can be chosen to increase brand awareness, identify the brand in common, as well as to distinguish it from other brands (Keller, 2003). Brand elements thus make it easier to accomplish the goals of creating and enhancing brand awareness (Vranes?evic and Stanc?ec, 2003).

Brand awareness and the decision-making process

Brand awareness also plays a vital role in consumer decision-making by influencing which brands go into the consideration set, which of these brands are used as a heuristic, and the perception of quality (Macdonald and Sharp, 2000).

During the decision-making process the consumer retrieves, from long-term memory, those products and brands of which she/he is aware. This minute set of brands (the consideration set) is important, since a brand that is not part of the consideration set is unlikely to be chosen (Mowen and Minor, 2001).

A relationship exists between the height of brand awareness and the purchase decision (Woodside and Wilson, 1985). The more effortlessly the consumer recalls the brand in an unaided recall situation, the superior the purchase intention and the more likely the purchase of the brand. In other words, top-of-mind brands have the highest likelihood to purchase.

Consumers do not always spend a great agreement of time or cognitive effort in making purchase decisions. They often aim to minimize decision-making by using a heuristic such as "buy the brand I have heard of or "choose the brand I know" and then purchase only familiar, well-established brands (Keller, 1993).

The decision-making process is further simplified by a brand's association with quality (Vranes?evic and Stanc?ec, 2003). High perceived quality is said to drive a consumer to choose one brand above competing brands (Yoo et al., 2000; Lin and Chang, 2003). Consumers' perception of excellence is sometimes based on the faith that "if he/she is proverbial with the brand, the organization must have spent a lot on advertising. If the organization spends a lot on advertising, it must have good ROI which means that many consumers are pleased with the product; therefore the product must be good"(Macdonald and Sharp, 2003). Especially in low-involvement scenarios, familiarity has a greater consequence on the quality perception of a brand than its physical characteristics do (Macdonald and Sharp, 2003).

Brand Image

A well-built brand image offers an organization several significant strategic advantages. A brand distinguishes the goods and services of one seller from those of competitors. A powerful brand characteristic creates a major competitive advantage; a well recognized brand encourages repeat purchases. Thus, a brand acts as a indicator to consumers regarding the source of the product and protects customers and manufacturers from "me-too" products that may appear indistinguishable. Brand image consists of consumer knowledge and beliefs, stored in memory as associations, about brand attributes and the outcomes of brand use (Peter and Olson, 1994). These associations are typically organized in some meaningful manner (Aaker, 1991). Thus, Coke is not just a set of ten strong associations and 20 weaker ones. Rather, the associations are grouped in such a way that it has meaning. There may be a lifestyle cluster, a sponsorship cluster, and a variety of products cluster. There might also be one or more mental pictures that come to mind when Coke is mentioned, such as the Coca-Cola logo, the Olympic Torch Relay, or inevitably, a refreshing drink.

Brand Attributes

Brand positioning refers implicitly to consumers' memory of the brand's particular information content. Because positioning attributes are only part of the exact information associated with a brand, memory in this context refers to information intersections (Anderson and Bower, 1979). By connecting diverse attributes pertaining to the brand and the brand network, marketing managers ensure that the interrelated information becomes associated in consumers' minds and determines brand images (Keller, 1993). In effect, brand image results from the integrated effect of a multiplicity of brand or product attributes.

Furthermore, product positioning depends on consumers' perceptions of chief product attributes, which enable them to differentiate and make comparisons among competing products (Kotler, 1997).

Ghosh and Chakraborty (2004) argue that a good positioning variate should be able to decompose consumer preferences towards the brand attributes or the brand itself. In this case, discriminant analysis appears most appropriate, because it can depict the current market structure and determine the target brand and its competitive position. In addition, it helps distinguish decisive attributes of the brand.

Consumer buyers almost always move toward the marketplace with a well-established set of tastes and preferences (Christopher, 1996; Hoyer and Brown, 1990). Only very rarely do they make completely unstructured impulse purchases. The vast majority of times, even their unplanned and unanticipated purchases are merely influenced by pre-existing tastes and preferences. In a very real sense, marketing and promotion comprise a battle for the minds of consumers. While direct competitors struggle to outdo one another to winning greater brand preference and loyalty, there is also competition between producers and marketers in very diverse industries, promoting very different kinds of goods and services (Knox, 1997). Virtually every advertiser competes with every other to rise above the clamor and gain the attention and interest of the buying public (Settle and Alreck, 1989). This means that practically everyone who promotes and markets to them should be concerned with how consumers develop their likes and dislikes, so that they can instill strong, favorable, positive preferences for their brand (Aaker, 1996; King, 1991; Uncles, 1995; Crimmins, 1992).

Besides that, recent studies have revealed that periods of life transitions are associated with significant changes in consumer behavior (e.g., Andreasen 1984; Mehta and Belk 1991; Price and Curasi 1996). Two different theoretical perspectives helps find explanations for these changes: role transition perspective and stress perspective. The first perspective holds that as people change roles, adopt new roles, or give up old roles their consumer behavior also changes. These changes in consumer behavior are either because of their need to redefine their self-concepts as a result of the assumption of a new role (e.g., Mehta and Belk 1991); or due to role relinquishment as people attempt to dispose of products relevant to the enactment of a previous role (e.g., McAlexander 1991). Previous research has shown that possessions are integral to the definition of self and the expression and performance of roles (Belk 1988); and their disposition is necessary in communicating important changes both to the consumer and to others (Young and Wallendorf 1989).

The second perspective on behavioral changes is based on stress theory and research. Stress refers to environmental, social, or internal demands which require the individual to readjust his or her usual behavior patterns (Thoits 1995). These demands cause disruptions of previously more or less balanced states. Major life changes and transitions are often treated as "stressors" that create a generalized demand for readjustment by the individual. Thus, the assumption of a new role or its anticipation requires major adjustment of one's lifestyle which can be stressful. People attempt to restore balance and relieve frustrations and tensions accompanying disequilibrium by initiating or modifying behaviors, which are viewed as coping strategies (e.g., Lazarus and Folkman 1984; Pearlin 1982). Coping refers to actions and thoughts that enable the individual to handle difficult situations, solve problems, and reduce stress (Lazarus and Folkman 1984). Support for the stress perspective is found in previous consumer studies showing that initiation, intensification or changes in consumption habits reflect efforts to handle stressful life events (e.g., Andreasen 1984; O'Guinn and Faber 1989).

Based on these two theoretical perspectives, it is proposed that changes in brand preferences are the result of life changes (events) that (a) signify transition into new roles and (b) create stress that forces the individual to modify his or her consumption behavior. While changes in brand preferences have not been linked empirically to life transitions or stress, there are reasons to believe that brand-preference change is a consequence of life changes for at least two reasons: first, product and brand choices are interdependent (e.g., Wells 1993) and should be studied as such (Meyer and Kahn 1991). Second, while some life events such as natural disasters may only create stress (and not result in transition into a new role), many other unpredictable events such as divorce and chronic illness may result in more permanent or longer-lasting changes and role transitions (Hetherington and Baltes 1988). Rutter (1983) has referred to such events as "transactional events." These are events that increase the probability of a set of other events occurring. For example, an accident may result in physical handicap, financial duress, career shifts, and alterations in social relations. Thus, the occurrence of an event, such as divorce, does not only creates stress, which may be handled via product consumption (and consequently may result in changes in brand preferences), but also raises the probability of the occurrence of other events such as relocation and financial duress (e.g., Price and Curasi 1996) that could also affect brand preferences.

However, Anil Mathur, George P. Moschis, Euehun Lee, (2001) generally support the notion that changes in brand preferences may be viewed as outcomes of stress, mediated through consumption-related lifestyles, as individuals try to adapt to stressful life conditions or role transitions marked by life events.

These findings have implications for theory and practice. The findings of this research can help us understand and extend research presented by Andreasen (1984). They can help us understand the positive (opposite to what was hypothesized) relationship of stress to changes in brand preferences found. Also, in the Andreasen study, quantity of life status changes (events) was positively related to both stress and "lifestyles" (related to consumption behavior), which in turn were positively related to his "change in brand preferences" variable. Thus, consumers may attempt to deal with averse psychological conditions during stressful life changes by initiating or changing their consumption lifestyles, which are likely to affect their brand preferences.

As previous research noted, consumer preferences are likely to develop and change in response to one's efforts to adjust or adapt to new life conditions created by major life events and changes (e.g., Andreasen 1984; Mergenhagen 1995; Schewe and Balazs 1992). Consumer transitions into new roles, or attempts to adjust to stressful life events, create opportunities for marketers to position their products. As consumers are likely to reevaluate their consumption priorities due to major life changes (e.g., retirement, widowhood), needs for specific product may develop or intensify. While the practice of segmenting the market by life stage or age is widely accepted, the results of the present research suggest that specific life events and status changes might prove to be better predictors of consumer behavior than broader measures of life-status change. Furthermore, marketers should recognize the opportunities created by life events in their attempts to build their customer base. Thus, marketers who wish to attract new customers may want to appeal to those who recently have experienced, or are about to experience, major life events (e.g., marriage, relocation). By the same token, marketers should be aware that their loyal customers are at greater risk of "defecting" once they experience or are about to experience major life changes.

Six modes for building brand preference

Perhaps the first and most important question to ask is "How will my prospective consumers develop their preferences for my brand?" If we know the reply to that question, then we can help them build the kind of preference that will guarantee greater patronage and loyalty. Consumers do not develop a preference for M&Ms candy in the same way as they build up a preference for Maytag washing machines. They do not prefer a BMW over other makes of cars for the same motive that they prefer Budweiser over other brands of beer. Consumer tastes and preferences for a product or brand might be built through one or more of six distinct modes:

  1. Need association
  2. The product or brand is linked to one need through repeated association.

  3. Mood association
  4. The mood is attached to the product or brand through repeated association.

  5. Subconscious motivation
  6. Suggestive symbols are used to excite consumers' subconscious motives.

  7. Behavior modification
  8. Consumers are conditioned to buy the brand by manipulating cues and rewards.

  9. Cognitive processing
  10. Perceptual and cognitive barriers are penetrated to create favorable attitudes.

  11. Model emulation

Idealized social lifestyle models are presented for consumers to emulate.

These six modes are resulting from the leading theories and perspectives on human learning that have evolved in the fields of psychology and collective psychology. Need association and mood association are most directly linked to what is commonly called "classical conditioning" and the work of Pavlov and others of his vintage. Subconscious motivation is resultant mainly from the work of Freud and his disciples while behavior modification has its roots primarily in the behaviorist learning theories of Skinner and his followers. The cognitive processing mode leans a lot on the information processing models so thoroughly presented and studied by cognitive psychological theorists. Finally, model emulation finds its basis in social psychology and sociology, specifically in theories of the socialization process, social influence, and social role playing and meeting the expectations of others.

Although different consumers might build the similar preference for a particular brand through different modes, certain modes are greatly more effective for a given type of product or service than for others.

Store Branding

A well-recognized and accepted brand image is one of the most valuable resource firm possesses. Brand managers and manufacturers are concerned with dealing brand equity and capitalizing on the worth of a brand image (Aaker, 1991). A product or retail establishment has many relations which combine to form its total feeling. Few would argue that consumers form impressions of brands, and that these impressions later put forth a major influence on store choice decisions and shopping behaviors. Favorable images of brands optimistically influence patronage decisions and purchase actions, while unfavorable images harmfully influence such decisions and behaviors. In other words, the images linked with the brands a store carries influence a store's image, which in turn, influences consumers' decision-making processes and behaviors. As a result, brand image and retail image are inextricably linked to one another.

If buyers do not possess complete information about a store, they make inferences from available informational cues before forming perceptions about the store (Monroe and Krishnan, 1985). Recently it has been recommended that the inferences buyers make about the merchandise quality of a store directly influence retailer image (Baker et al., 1994). Brand image often serves as an informational cue used by buyers to form inferences about a store's merchandise quality (Olshavsky, 1985). Knowing that brand image helps form merchandise quality inferences that influence buyers' perceptions of retail image, we propose that two informational cues help buyers form these inferences. First, the awareness level of brands carried by a store helps buyers form merchandise quality inferences that influence their perceptions of retail image. Second, the presence of a brand(s) having strong awareness, recognition, and quality perceptions - an "anchor brand" - influences buyers' inference-making and impressions of retail image. This perspective suggests that brand and retail managers need to be apprehensive not only with the influence that specific anchor brands' images have on a retail store's image, but also the effect that the overall image of the brand blend carried by a store has on buyers' perceptions of a retail store's image.

Store or retailer brands have made significant inroads into the packaged goods market in the 1980s and 1990s with the average market share of store brands increasing from 15.3 percent in 1988 to 20 percent in 1998 (Corstjens and Lal, 2000; Dunne and Narasimhan, 1999; Hoch, 1996). According to Quelch and Harding (1996), there are additional private labels - "store brand" goods - on the market than ever before. Especially in Europe, store brand saturation is extremely large, with Belgium occupying a third place after UK and Switzerland with a store brand market share of more than 40 percent since 2001 (Fitzell, 1992; Hoch, 1996; Van Ossel and Versteylen, 2002)

Retailer brands have evidently evolved throughout time. According to Dunne and Narasimhan (1999), private labels are no longer simply category killers. In fact, they now play a range of roles, with different implications for manufacturers and retailers alike. Burt (2000) indicates that the typical brand product range of the late 1970s and early 1980s comprised a three-tier arrangement of leading manufacturer brands, seen as the high-quality/high-price alternative; retailer brands, generally positioned as a mid-quality/mid-price alternative; and a "generic" range offering acceptable quality for a low price. He argues that there is an development from private labels offering the consumer a lower quality product alternative for a lower price, to retail brands offering a true quality brand alternative, reflecting the appliance of a clear marketing approach in the retail environment. Effective marketing of store brands can create a confined clientele and make the chain less vulnerable to price pressures or aggressive attacks by the competition (Dick et al., 1995). Several real-life examples illustrate that this novel type of retailer brand is clearly gaining ground. One example is the success of the private label "President's Choice" of Loblaws, the largest Canadian grocery chain, showing that premium private labels are feasible and that they can be a major competitive force in the consumer goods industry (Dunne and Narasimhan, 1999).

In spite of the surfacing and growing importance of store brands, most preceding conceptual and empirical research has been focused on national brands (Steenkamp and Dekimpe, 1997). Although store brand mechanisms have often been discussed in the business press, only recently have they been methodically investigated in theoretical and/or empirical research (Ailawadi, 2001). The limited amount of academic research that has been conducted on store brands has taken two basic approaches: some studies examined correlates of store brand proneness; others were oriented towards experimentally investigating store brand attitudes and strength (Richardson et al., 1996). With respect to the second type of research, Cotterill et al. (2000) state that surprisingly little research has been conducted addressing the subject of the increasingly strong competitive interaction between private labels and national brands. Most previous empirical research has focused on the distinction in market share of private label products across categories. Richardson (1997) supports this identified gap, representing that the question whether store brands are perceived to be just another brand in the market has received little concentration in the marketing literature over the past three decades. Until now, hardly any study incorporates the differences in positioning objectives of retailers and national brand manufacturers. Nevertheless, as is true for any brand, positioning of a store brand can exert an important influence on its performance (Sayman et al., 2002).

Consumers most heavily way in brand name as a store information cue when evaluating merchandise quality (Mazursky and Jacoby, 1986). Brand name communicates a great deal of information - an image - to the potential customer because it has become associated with a bundle of information generated by advertising, word-of-mouth communication, and previous usage of the brand (Stokes, 1985). The merchandise, whether perceived positively or unfavorably, projects an image not only of the brand itself, but also of the store as a whole. Empirical findings emply that retail store image could be improved by linking it with brands that are evaluated positively and damaged by association with brands that are evaluated less favorably (Jacoby and Mazursky, 1984). On the other hand, brand images may not be as readily influenced by relationship with retail images. Brand images can be negatively influenced by association with retailers having less favorable images; however, when brand images are related with retailers having more favorable retail images, there is little change or influence to the brand's image (Jacoby and Mazursky, 1984). This suggests that brand image plays a major role in the development of a consumer's perception of retail image (Zimmer and Golden, 1988). Furthermore, this indicates that brand image, as a build, is more stable than retail image across various occassions. This stability may be attributable to the fact that marketing specially creates or positions a brand's image using a rather limited amount of congruent dimensions (e.g. quality, price, and sales communications activities). Thus, brand image may be able to stand on its own as it calls to mind a list of desired attributes and associations that provide value to a consumer in a range of ways regardless of the retailer carrying the brand (Aaker, 1991; Ward et al., 1992). On the other hand, retail image appears to be a more multifarious construct, and is therefore less stable than brand image. While merchandise quality and brand image(s) are major predictors of retail image, they are not the only predictors (Baker et al., 1994; Mazursky and Jacoby, 1986). This may help clarify, for instance, the success of off-price retailers and manufacturers' outlets. The value provided to the customer, in terms of the proportions of low prices and favorable brand names, creates a retail image that is optimistic in the consumer's mind.

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