The Effects of Brand Commitment on the Evaluation of Competitive Brands

Sekar Raju, Ohio State University
H. Rao Unnava, Ohio State University
[ to cite ]:
Sekar Raju and H. Rao Unnava (2002) ,"The Effects of Brand Commitment on the Evaluation of Competitive Brands", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29, eds. Susan M. Broniarczyk and Kent Nakamoto, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 207-208.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 29, 2002     Pages 207-208

THE EFFECTS OF BRAND COMMITMENT ON THE EVALUATION OF COMPETITIVE BRANDS

Sekar Raju, Ohio State University

H. Rao Unnava, Ohio State University

This paper discusses a study that examines the effects of commitment to a brand on the evaluation of claims made by a competitor brand. The results indicate that even when a competitor brand claims to be superior (marginally), consumers committed to a target brand counterargue the superiority claims and tend to devalue the competitor brand by holding a less favorable attitude toward it. Only when the competitor brand claims are seen to be significantly superior do committed consumers hold a more favorable attitude toward it. Compared to the high commitment consumers, low commitment consumers hold equally favorable attitudes toward the competitor brand irrespective of whether the competitor brand is marginally superior or significantly superior to the target brand. These results indicate that higher levels of commitment appear to help a consumer resist a competitive attack up to a certain point. Process measures indicate that the process by which committed consumers devalue a marginally superior competitor brand claims is by counterarguing and generating a greater number of negative thoughts relative to the condition when the competitor brand is significantly superior. In the case of low commitment consumers, the generation of negative thoughts is relatively lower.

Commitment can be thought of as an internal psychological state that makes a person feel tied to or connected to something (Lydon 1996). Commitment has been shown to affect a person’s response to negative publicity information on a brand (Ahluwalia, Burnkrant and Unnava 2000) or a person (Ahluwalia 2000). Specifically, high brand commitment was shown to cause people to counter argue negative publicity about the brand and exhibit resistance to changing their attitudes toward the brand. Further, consumers were found to "protect" the brand that they were committed to by not letting negative publicity about one attribute spill over to affect the other attributes of the brand. Also, committed consumers were found to process information in a biased manner. In sum, commitment to a brand appears to make consumers defend and protect the brand when it is attacked.

Since competitor’s advertisement represents an attack on the target brand, consumers who are committed to the target brand should actively defend it and not be swayed by the competitor’s ad claims. However, the ability to put up a meaningful defense should also be affected by the quality of the competitor claims. Thus, when the commitment to the target brand is high, and a competitor brand attacks the target brand, consumers react by devaluing the competitor so lng as the attack can be defended against. This devaluation will result in a less positive attitude toward the competitor brand compared to that of consumers whose commitment to the target brand is relatively low.

When the competitor brand is significantly superior to the target brand, it is less easy to argue against such evidence. Individuals facing such information may be more accepting of the attack information and will end up evaluating the competitor brand more favorably one would expect to find no significant difference between high and low commitment consumers under such circumstances.

To test the proposed hypotheses a 2 x 2 (target brand commitment: high and low; competitor brand: slightly superior and far superior) between-subject design was implemented. Seventy-four student subjects from an introductory marketing class participated in this experiment. Our target product category was athletic shoes.

Commitment to the target brand was manipulated using a similar procedure as in Ahluwalia, Burnkrant and Unnava (2000). The competitor brand (slightly superior or far superior) was then introduced by means of a comparative advertisement. Subjects then filled out the dependent measures questionnaire booklet. Manipulation checks were conducted on a separate set of twenty-seven subjects. These checks ruled out the possibility of alternate explanations of the results due to differences in mood, prior attitudes, beliefs and involvement. The manipulation check also proved that the commitment manipulation was successful.

The hypotheses were tested using the competitor attitude measures. As hypothesized, a significant interaction between commitment and brand quality (F(1,65)=4.28, p<0.05) was found. Planned contrasts between the mean attitude scores of low commitment and high commitment subjects, when the competitor was slightly superior, revealed a significant difference (t(65)=3.15, p<0.002). Subjects in the high commitment condition had significantly less positive attitudes toward the competitor (mean=5.75) than subjects in the low commitment condition (mean=6.67). A second contrast between high commitment and low commitment subjects when the competitive brand was far superior, revealed a non-significant difference (t(65)=0.20, p>0.50). Both high commitment and low commitment subjects rated the competitor equally positively (meanlow=6.54, meanhigh=6.49). Thus, the attitude data provided strong support to our theorizing of commitment effects on competitor brands. When subjects were highly committed to a target brand, their evaluations of a slightly superior competitor were biased to be lower than those of low commitment subjects. However, when the competitor was highly superior, both high and low commitment subjects rated the competitor equally positively.

Cognitive measures helped understand the process by which this devaluation took place. Planned contrasts between the mean number of negative thoughts between the low and high commitment subjects with a slightly superior competitor revealed that subjects in the high commitment condition had significantly more negative thoughts toward the competitor (mean=2.00) than subjects in the low commitment condition (mean=1.12). A second contrast between high commitment and low commitment subjects with a far superior competitor revealed that both high and low commitment subjects had more or less equal number of negative thoughts about the competitor (meanlow=1.00, meanhigh=0.88).

The results indicate that even when a competitor brand is marginally superior to the target brand, consumers committed to the target brand evaluate it less positively than consumers who are not committed. Only when the competitor is significantly better than the target brand do consumers highly committed to the target evaluate it positively.

REFERENCES

Ahluwalia, Rohini(2000), "Examination of Psychological Processes Underlying Resistance to Change," Journal of Consumer Research, 27 (September), 217-232.

Ahluwalia, Rohini, Robert E. Burnkrant, and H. Rao Unnava (2000), "Consumer Response to Negative Publicity: The Moderating Role of Commitment," Journal of Marketing Research, 37 (May), 203-214.

Beatty, Sharon E. and Lynn R Kahle (1988), "Alternative Hierarchies of the Attitude-Behavior Relationship: The Impact of Brand Commitment and Habit," Journal of Academy of Marketing Science, 16 (Summer), 1-10.

Beatty, Sharon E., Lynn R. Kahle, and Pamela Homer (1988), "The Involvement-Commitment Model: Theory and Implications," Journal of Business Research, 16 (2), 149-167.

Crosby, Lawrence A. and James R. Taylor (1983), "Psychological Commitment and its Effects on Post-Decision Evaluation and Preference Stability Among Voters," Journal of Consumer Research, 9 (March), 413-431.

Day, George S. (1969), "A Two-Dimensional Concept of Brand Loyalty," Journal of Advertising Research, 9 (September), 29-35.

Dick, Alan S. and Kunal Basu (1994), "Customer Loyalty: Toward an Integrated Conceptual Framework," Journal of Academy of Marketing Science, 22 (Spring), 99-113.

Eagly, Alice H. and Shelly Chaiken (1995), "Attitude Strength, Attitude Structure, and Resistance to Change," in Attitude Strength: Antecedents and Consequences, ed. Richard E. Petty and Jon A. Krosnick, Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 413-432.

Fournier, Susan (1998), "Consumers and Their Brands: Developing Relationship Theory in Consumer Research," Journal of Consumer Research, 24 (March), 343-373.

Gross, Sharon Ruth, Rolf Holtz, Norman Miller (1995), "Attitude Certainty" in Attitude strength: Antecedents and Consequences, ed. Richard E. Petty, and Jon A. Krosnick, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc, Hillsdale, NJ, p. 215-245.

Halverson, Richard R. and Michael S. Pallak (1978), "Commitment, Ego-Involvement, and Resistance to Attack," Journal of Experimental Psychology, 14 (January), 1-12.

Jacoby, Jacob and David B. Kyner (1973), "Brand Loyalty vs Repeat Purchasing Behavior," Journal of Marketing Research, 10 (February), 1-9.

Johnson, Dennis J. and Caryl E. Rusbult (1989), "Resisting Temptation: Devaluation of Alternate Partners as a Means of Maintaining Commitment in Close Relationships," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57 (December), 967-980.

Kelley, Harold H. (1983), "Love and Commitment," in Close Relationships, ed. H. H. Kelly et al., New York: W. H. Freeman.

Kiesler, Charles A.(1971), The Psychology of Commitment: Experiments Linking Behavior to Belief. San Diego: Academic Press.

Kiesler, Charles A., and Joseph Sakumura (1966), "A test of a model for commitment," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3 (3), 349-353.

Kotler, Philip and RaviSingh (1981), "Marketing Warfare in the 1980’s," Journal of Business Strategy, 1 (Winter), 30-41.

Krosnick, Jon A., David S. Boninger, Yao C. Chuang, Mathew K. Berent, and Catherine G. Carnot (1993), "Attitude Strength: One Construct or Many Related Constructs?" Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65 (December), 1132-1151.

Lydon, John E(1996), "Toward a Theory of Commitment," in The Psychology of Values: The Ontario Symposium Volume 8, ed. Clive Seligman, James M. Olson and Mark P. Zanna, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, NJ

Lydon, John E, Marta Meana, Deborah Sepinwall, Nancy Richards, and Shari Mayman (1999), "The Commitment Calibration Hypothesis: When Do People Devalue Attractive Alternatives?" Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25 (February), 152-161.

McQuarrie, Edward F. and J. Michael Munson (1991), " A Revised Product Involvement Inventory: Improved Usability and validity," Unpublished Working Paper, Santa Clara, CA: Santa Clara University.

Ohanian, Roobina (1990), "Construction and Validation of a Scale to Measure Celebrity Endorsers’ Perceived Expertise, Trustworthiness, and Attractiveness," Journal of Advertising, 19 (Fall), 39-52.

Ourusoff, Alexandra, Michael Ozanian, Paul B. Brown, and Jason Starr (1992), "What’s in a Name? What the World’s Top Brands Are Worth," Financial World, (September 1), 32-49.

Peterson, Robert A. and Mathew Sauber (1983), "A Mood Scale for Survey Research," in American Marketing Association Educators’ Proceedings, ed. Patrick Murphy et al., Chicago: American Marketing Association, 409-414.

Petty, Richard E. and John T. Cacioppo (1977), "Forewarning, Cognitive Responding, and Resistance to Persuasion" Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35 (9), 645-655.

Petty, Richard E. and Jon A. Krosnick (1995), Attitude Strength: Antecedents and Consequences, Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Pomerantz, Eva M., Shelly Chaiken, and Rosalind S. Tordesillas (1995), "Attitude Strength and Resistance Process," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69 (September), 408-419.

Pritchard, Mark P, Mark E. Havitz, Dennis R. Howard (1999), "Analyzing the Commitment-Loyalty Link in Service Contexts," Journal of Academy of Marketing Science, 27 (Summer), 333-348.

Roche, Eileen (1999), "Product Development: Why Line Extensions often Backfire," Harvard Business Review, 77 (March/April), 19-21.

----------------------------------------