Conceptualisation and modelling of the process behind brand association transfer

Jean Boisvert


Brand and line extension is a research topic that has been constantly evolving since the late 1980s (Boush et al. 1987; Aaker & Keller 1990) to the point of engaging international attention given its importance (Czellar 2003). Still today, the concept of extending brands is a current research area, especially in terms of perceived similarity and extension evaluation (Hem & Iversen 2009; Ahluwalia 2008; Hem & Iversen 2008; Volckner & Sattler 2006), as well as the notion of transfer of brand associations (Hem & Iversen 2008). Yet the process underlying the transfer of brand associations between a parent brand and a line extension is not fully understood.

Overall perceived similarity between the parent brand and its extension has been found to have either a positive effect (Volckner & Sattler 2006) or a limited impact (Klink & Smith 2001; Maoz & Tybout 2002) on extension evaluation. More recently, it has been claimed that perceived similarity can be broken down into specific dimensions (Czellar 2003; Hem & Iversen 2009). This goes beyond the sole notion of fit, which has recently been questioned in terms of the processes of transfer owing to its unidimensional conceptualisation of overall parent brand image or fit with the parent brand where neither appears to be a necessary condition for extension success (Mao & Khrisnan 2006). In fact, transfer processes are more complex and specific than originally thought and can be distilled down to the brand association level (Keller 1993, 2008). Consumers are thought to focus their attention on perceptually relevant attributes (e.g. brand associations) that are related to the extension, and intuitively compare them to the attributes of the parent brand before making a judgement, consistent with Basu (1993). This attribute’s in-depth comparison is likely to foster elaborate processing of information (Sanbonmatsu & Fazio 1990), supporting a piecemeal analytic process (Fiske & Pavelchak 1986) and objective knowledge of the information (e.g. brand associations) actually stored in memory (Russo & Johnson 1980; Brucks 1985).