Consumer responses to brand elimination: An attributional perspective

Published on Jul 1, 2009in Journal of Consumer Psychology
· DOI :10.1016/J.JCPS.2009.03.004
Huifang Mao8
Estimated H-index: 8
(UCF: University of Central Florida),
Xueming Luo53
Estimated H-index: 53
(UTA: University of Texas at Arlington),
Shailendra Pratap Jain14
Estimated H-index: 14
(UW: University of Washington)
While research on innovation and new product development abounds in the literature, studies on firms deleting brands from their portfolio are virtually non-existent. This paper provides a pioneering examination of how brand elimination might influence consumer evaluations of the firm. As compared to a widely-held belief that brand elimination would adversely affect firm image, we propose that in situations where brand elimination can be viewed as the firm's effort to improve performance, consumers will rate this action favorably, with concomitant outcomes relating to firm evaluation. These ideas are supported in three studies. Study 1 finds that elimination targeting a weak (vs. strong) brand is more likely to be associated with eliminate-to-improve attributions, and consequently, more favorable evaluations. Study 2 shows that explanations provided by the firm (as against explanations generated internally by the consumers) help consumers make positive attributions for elimination targeting a strong brand, but lower evaluations when a weak brand is being eliminated. Study 3 establishes that loyal consumers are more likely to assess the applicability of an ‘eliminate-to-improve’ attribution and give favorable evaluations only when the eliminated brand is weak. Non-loyal consumers in general respond favorably to the elimination, regardless of brand strength. Future directions for brand elimination research are discussed.
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