The world has reached the point where a no name with better peer reviews can compete with a top brand in almost any industry. Does this mean branding is not a thing anymore? The latest researches suggest you should not jump to such bold conclusions.

People are judged by the brands they choose (but not as often as it seems)

A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology has revealed that there are two types of individuals: those who are inclined to make assumptions about others based on their brand preferences and those who are not. The attitude depends on a mindset. People with a so-called “fixed mindset” believe that our behavior is consistent over time. Therefore, they tend to judge one’s personality by his or her habits, which include brand choices. Individuals who have a “flexible mindset” are more open-minded, as they consider human behavior variable across different situations. When asked to rate a man driving either a Mercedes Benz or a car without a visible logo, “flexibles” evaluated both men as equally sophisticated. (While participants with a fixed mindset rated the one driving a Mercedes more sophisticated.) Though the research refutes the idea that we universally form perceptions based on brands, the fixed mindset population still dominates. Thus, marketers should enable consumers, who do not want to be judged by the majority, to minimize the display of the brand’s name on the item, says Ji Kyung Park, lead author and a marketing professor at the University of Delaware.

Brand incompatibility ruins relationships

Similar backgrounds, shared interests, personality traits – neither of these affect a couple’s happiness nearly as much as preferring the same brands. According to a research paper “Coke vs. Pepsi: Brand Compatibility, Relationship Power, and Life Satisfaction,” if you and your partner have different brand preferences in soda, coffee, chocolate, beer or vehicles, sooner or later one of you will feel stuck with another’s favorite brands. The study suggests it would rather be a partner with lower power in relationships. With time, he or she is going to become less and less happy, which won’t necessarily lead to a break up but will certainly cause unbearable tension. Leading author Danielle Brick claims these brand compatibility effects are extremely robust since brands play a significant role in our daily lives. However, consumers underestimate them. "If you are a different religion than your romantic partner, you know that if this is an issue you can't work through, then the relationship isn't going to last. Conversely, if you like Coke and your partner likes Pepsi, you're probably not going to break up over it – but 11 years into a relationship, when he or she keeps coming home with Pepsi, day in and day out, it might start to cause a little conflict. And if you're the low-power person in the relationship, who continually loses out on brands and is stuck with your partner's preferences, you are going to be less happy,” Brick says. For that reason, people should put brand preferences into their dating profiles. The results also have some implications for family-oriented brands. The latter should do their best to reach out to everyone in the family. “It's tricky, but firms that get it right can have their brand associated with happiness and harmony – and there's nothing better than that,” states Gavan Fitzsimons, a marketing professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business who took part in the study.

Google search queries reveal brand attitudes

A new research from Drexel University, Brigham Young University and Google shows that brand search volume can predict a lot more than sales. A group of scientists has been tracking searches of over 1,500 Google users for eight weeks. It has turned out that people who are just beginning to consider purchasing a smartphone or a car tend to search for any brand. However, as users narrow their decision, they start looking for something specific. The data confirms it would likely be a brand, which has gained all five positive attitudes – recognition, recall, familiarity, purchase considerations and purchase intent. The odds of searching for such brand is times higher (7 to 1 for smartphones, 5 to 1 for cars). The researchers have also found that people are much more likely to search for the brand they already own and use, regardless of whether they are actively shopping. According to authors, “information search is not simply associated with problems or product recalls, but that there is a steady volume of search produced by brand owners, where consumers are likely to have questions about usage and maintenance of the product they use daily.” At the same time some categories of products (e.g., furniture, vehicles, gadgets, financial services) draw more searches prior to purchase than others do.

Customers switch energy firms because of branding, not prices

While all the previous studies dealt with B2C marketing, a research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) explains how branding impacts B2B interactions. The authors looked at the Big Six energy firms – British Gas, npower, SSE, EDF Energy, E.ON UK and Scottish Power – and found that those with stronger brand personality have lower level of switching. Time-consistent brands performed better than providers that had significantly repositioned themselves. Nonetheless, “a strong brand personality alone is not enough to prevent consumer switching, rather, particular dimensions of personality are more favorable than others and the relevance of specific personality traits can change,” co-author Prof Konstantinos Chalvatzis says. Concentrating on communication via companies’ websites and annual reports, the scientists revealed the most important dimension for the UK energy sector. The research has shown that users prefer providers communicating excitement. Along with low to medium levels of competence and sincerity, it prevents consumers from switching brands. Therefore, authors recommend firms increase the communication of excitement without changing their branding each year. The shifts should be subtle, not radical. It is important to maintain consistency in both language and message. Scientists also suggest using competence related tone, especially when touching upon negative information.

In Conclusion

So, brands still influence reputation and purchase behavior. They can even affect our happiness in relationships or contribute to customer retention. That’s why nobody should neglect branding, which can be much stronger if developed (or improved) by The Loupe. Just so you know J