What Do You Want Your Brand To Be When It Grows Up: Big and Strong?

Nigel S. Hollis and Andy Farr

In April 1997 the long awaited clash of the titans took place at the Advertising Research Foundation Annual Conference. Larry Light, the champion of brand loyalty as the main mechanism of brand success (1993), took on Professor Andrew Ehrenberg, champion of Double Jeopardy (the empirically based generalization that big brands have more brand-loyal users than small ones simply because they are big (1997). Light attempted to demonstrate that consumers could possess a clear attitudinal predisposition toward a brand that resulted in stronger sales and profit levels for the brand concerned. Ehrenberg replied by demonstrating that the behavioral loyalty of most brands within a particular category could be predicted on the basis of their penetration alone, without resorting to more attitudinally based concepts of brand equity. Each of the contenders argued their case with eloquence and passion, but at the end of the day the two seemed as opposed as ever. However, in the opinion of the authors, neither viewpoint seems to give a complete view of what most of us in marketing and related disciplines observe in real life. In many cases, behavioral loyalty is directly related to brand size within a category and appears to be remarkably resistant to change. Much marketing effort, however, is spent trying to buck that trend, and success in doing so is often attributed to building attitudinal equities, the perception that a brand is better or more appealing than its competition. This suggests that in real life both theories can apply. In most product or service categories brand size does have a strong influence on the behavioral loyalty of consumers. In many cases, however, this does not prevent a brand from temporarily, or permanently, deviating from that relationship, for good or ill, as a result of changing attitudinal affiliations.