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Do feelings of lack of control hinder the success of brand extensions?

I recently read an article in the June issue of Journal of Marketing Research titled “Putting Brands in Their Place:  How a Lack of Control Keeps Brands Contained” by Keisha M. Cutright, James R. Bettman, and Gavan J. Fitzsimons.  In the past I have had the opportunity to dabble with Fast-Moving Consumer Good advertising research and brand extensions were always a favorite topic of mine!  I absolutely loved to wager whether or not a new line extension was going to make it in the market or fail miserably.  Even to this day, when I’m shopping and I see a new brand extension – I simply can’t help but try it!  (my most recent was the Windex Touch Up product).  I digress – back to this particular article.

It is an interesting idea that a brand extension’s success may hinge on whether or not the consumer feels it is a good fit within the brand.  The authors start with an example of Starbucks and its recent announcement to extend its offering to beer and wine in select United States stores. Will this new offering be accepted, or is it too outside Starbucks core offerings?  The article continues to outline four separate studies, their hypotheses, outcomes, and overall findings.  The findings are interesting and worth reading in the article.  My favorite insight, though, was possibly that executional details in advertising and marketing pieces may help create a sense of structure/control, and as a result increase the brand extension’s acceptance. 

Thinking of customer experience surveys and how often product offerings are evaluated, would it be appropriate (especially for new line extensions) to add a question gauging the customer’s perception of brand fit and/or control of the situation?  Or maybe even before the product is launched, customer experience surveys could act as a platform to get a read on potential perceived fit of the line extension.

And if you are wondering about the Starbucks example . . . . A study of 182 participants showed “that people with a low connection to Starbucks were less willing to consider the Starbucks extension when their feelings of control were low (vs. high).  This finding did not hold true for people with a high connection to Starbucks, suggesting that companies may receive the most negative reactions from their non-loyal, less committed consumers (who may or may not be a critical target) when feelings of control are low.”

 

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