When Consumers Know a Brand, but the Brand Does Not Come to Mind
When we ask consumers to name brands in a category, do they spontaneously mention all the brands they know? Our article shows that this is not always the case, by far.
We analyzed the phenomenon in the category of radio stations, in a specific French region in which people could listen to 31 radio stations on the FM band using traditional radio receivers, car radios, computers, smartphones, etc.
First, we asked participants to name “the radio stations [they] know, if only by name.” When answering the first question, the participants named only 8.3 of the 31 stations on average.
This traditional measure does not separate the two mechanisms that could explain why a respondent does not mention a specific brand in a category. If a brand is not mentioned, it may either be because the participant is unaware of its existence, or because the brand does not come to mind in spite of the participant being aware of it. Consequently, immediately after asking participants to name “the radio stations [they] know, if only by name,” we read the list of the 31 radio stations most easily accessible in the region (skipping the stations the participant had cited when answering the previous question) and, for each station, asked whether the participant “knows it, if only by name.” Thus, for each station, we learnt whether it came to the respondent’s mind and whether the respondent was aware of it. Their answers to the second question showed that they were aware of 21.8 stations on average, a much larger number.
For each participant, we computed the percentage of stations that came to the respondent’s mind among the stations of which the participant was aware. On average, this percentage is 38%, with values varying between 10.5% and 56.5%. Thus, a clear majority (62%) of the brands of which the consumer was aware do not come to mind.
In this article, we give the name of Brand verbal fluency to a consumer’s ability to name as many brands as possible in the specific semantic category constituted by a product category. Brand verbal fluency is a critical determinant of brand search and consideration across most choice situations, be they on the Internet or in a supermarket. Brand verbal fluency should not be confused with a consumer’s ability to recall or recognize items from a shopping list that he or she has been asked to learn by another person.
In this article, our key question is as follows: Which factors determine whether a known brand comes to mind?
The article identifies two key factors. First, consumer age. As illustrated in the figure below, consumer age has a strong negative impact on the probability of a brand coming to mind, given the respondent is aware of it: the probability declines from 45% to about 15%. This effect is largely explained by the decline with age in cognitive ability (measured by “processing speed”).
The second key factor is the age of the brand (the station here). In fact, the indirect effect of age through cognitive decline is negative for recent brands (which consumers first encountered long ago) but positive for long-established brands (which consumers first got to know when they were young).
Our results have significant managerial implications. What is the use of consumers knowing your brand if it does not come to mind? Managers should be careful about this “black hole” in the universe of their potential customers: individuals who know the brand but for whom the brand does not come to mind. This is a potentially interesting segment as these people already know the brand but there is a need to make the brand more salient for them. The article ends by discussing how to investigate the phenomenon in a specific category, and possible actions.
Auteurs: Raphaëlle Lambert-Pandraud (ESCP Europe), Gilles Laurent (Inseec) & Bernard Gourvennec (Telecom Bretagne)
Titre de l’article : Investigating Brand Verbal Fluency: when known brands do not come to mind
Reference: International Journal of Market Research,