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Why do consumers prefer matching food brands? Because they match, says study

By Nathan Gray , 21-Nov-2012

A belief that matching branded products are designed to work 'uniquely well together' means most consumers prefer to purchase matching branded foods, especially when those foods are to be consumed together, say researchers.

The new study – published in the Journal of Consumer Research – examined how matching branding on products affects consumer perception end enjoyment of products.

Led by Ryan Rahinel and Joseph Redden from the University of Minnesota, USA, the researchers reveal that the majority of consumers prefer products with matching brands when those products are to be consumer together, because they believe items from the same brand have been designed to go together.

“We posit that the reason for this ‘brand matching effect’ is that consumers expect a brand to have coordinated its products, through activities like joint product design and testing, to uniquely work well together,” explain the researchers.

“The belief that product coordination has taken place is cued when the brands of multiple products match,” they said.

Study details

In the first investigation performed by Redden and Rahinel, consumers ate branded (Tostitos brand) tortilla chips and a branded (Tostitos brand) salsa, but were told that the chips and salsa were various combinations of fictional brand names – such as ‘Festivity’ or ‘Party Time’.  They found that consumers enjoyed the chips and salsa more when told that the two foods were from the same brand.

In further investigations, consumers again ate branded Tostitos tortilla chips and salsa, but were told that the chips and salsa were various combinations of ‘Brand A’ and ‘Brand B.’ Some participants were told that the brands had conducted joint research and design on the two products, while others were told that the brands had coordinated on matters unrelated to taste, such as coupons and distribution.

The team found that consumers who were told the brands had coordinated on matters unrelated to taste still enjoyed chips and salsa from the same brand more than chips and salsa from different brands.

While all consumers enjoyed the chips and salsa more when told that the brands had conducted joint product research and design – regardless of the brands they were told they were consuming.

"There is no universal answer to which brand a consumer likes the most,” said the authors. “The brand a consumer prefers for a particular product depends on the brand of other products with which it is being combined.”

“A company that offers products that are consumed together will have an advantage over other rival brands that do not offer both individual products, since consumers will want to have matching brands," they concluded.

Source: Journal of Consumer Research
Published online ahead of print
“Brands as Product Coordinators: Matching Brands Make Joint Consumption Experiences More Enjoyable”
Authors: Ryan Rahinel and Joseph P. Redden

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