دانلود مقاله ISI انگلیسی شماره 1987
عنوان فارسی مقاله

ارزیابی مصرف کننده از نام های تجاری (برند) تقلیدی : اثر نوع تقلید

کد مقاله سال انتشار مقاله انگلیسی ترجمه فارسی تعداد کلمات
1987 2012 10 صفحه PDF سفارش دهید محاسبه نشده
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عنوان انگلیسی
Consumer evaluation of copycat brands: The effect of imitation type
منبع

Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)

Journal : International Journal of Research in Marketing, Volume 29, Issue 3, September 2012, Pages 246–255

کلمات کلیدی
نام های تجاری (برند) تقلیدی - نوع تقلید - شباهت - نقض قوانین علامت تجاری
پیش نمایش مقاله
پیش نمایش مقاله ارزیابی مصرف کننده از نام های تجاری (برند) تقلیدی : اثر نوع تقلید

چکیده انگلیسی

Copycat brands imitate the trade dress of a leader brand to free ride on the latter's equity. Copycats can imitate the distinctive perceptual features of the leader brand, such as the lilac color of the Milka chocolate brand, or they can imitate the underlying meaning or theme of the leader brand, such as the “freshness of Alpine milk” theme in Milka. Marketing research and trademark law has focused primarily on the effects of feature imitation. In three studies, the authors demonstrate the success of theme imitation: Consumers consider feature imitation to be unacceptable and unfair, which causes reactance toward the copycat brand. Yet, even though consumers are aware of the use of theme imitation, it is perceived to be more acceptable and less unfair, which helps copycat evaluation.

مقدمه انگلیسی

Copycat brands imitate the trade-dress of a leading brand, such as its brand name or its package design, to take advantage of the latter's reputation and marketing efforts. Copycatting is pervasive. For example, Sayman, Hoch, and Raju (2002) observed that blatant package imitation occurred in one-third of the 75 consumer packaged goods categories that they studied. Likewise, in a United States survey, Scott-Morton and Zettelmeyer (2004) found that half of the store brands surveyed were similar to a national brand package in color, size, and shape. Most copycats imitate distinctive perceptual features of the leader brand, such as the color, depicted objects, and/or shape of the package or the letters and sounds of the brand name (Planet Retail, 2007). Thus, copycats imitate the lilac color of the Milka chocolate brand, the bull of the Red Bull energy drink, the spike-shaped bottle of Scope mouthwash,2 the specific letters of the Godiva chocolate brand name, as in “Dogiva”,3 or the Wal-Mart sound, as in Wumart.4 Feature imitation is a strategy that is often used to copy successful leader brands. This type of imitation has received most attention in the marketing and trademark literature (Finch, 1996, Howard et al., 2000, Kapferer, 1995, Loken et al., 1986, Miaoulis and d'Amato, 1978 and Zaichkowsky, 2006). Extant research has examined the confusion of copycat brands with leader brands due to various degrees of feature imitation (Howard et al., 2000 and Loken et al., 1986) and has investigated the influence of the degree of feature imitation on copycat evaluation (e.g., Van Horen and Pieters, 2012 and Warlop and Alba, 2004). Copycats, however, also use a strategy in which they imitate the underlying meaning or theme of a leader brand, such as the “wildcat” theme of the Puma sports brand, the “freshness of Alpine milk” theme of the Milka brand, or the “traditional, family-produced olive oil” theme of the Bertolli brand. Whereas in feature imitation the focus is on the imitation of one or more of the distinctive perceptual features of the leader brand, in what we term “theme imitation” the focus is on the imitation of the semantic meaning or inferred attribute(s) of the leader brand. To our knowledge, the present research is the first to examine how these different types of imitation influence consumer evaluation of copycat brands. Theme imitation has received much less attention than feature imitation in the marketing and trademark literature. For example, thirteen of the seventeen cases of copycatting that Zaichkowsky (2006, Chapter 4) documents in her analysis of trademark infringement address feature imitation, while only four cases address theme imitation. One reason for the emphasis on feature imitation might be that feature imitation is easier to detect and prosecute in a court of law; this, of course, does not imply that theme imitation is less effective. The present studies test the hypothesis that imitating the underlying meaning or theme of a leader brand may be a strategy that is more effective than feature imitation. This hypothesis incorporates the idea that when an underlying meaning or theme is imitated, it is likely to be perceived as more acceptable and less unfair than feature imitation because a meaning or theme activates diffuse associations that are not solely linked to the imitated brand. Feature imitations, on the other hand, imitate distinctive perceptual features that belong uniquely to the leader brand and are directly related to the leader brand. Such an imitation strategy is likely to be perceived as unacceptable and unfair and is in turn likely to cause reactance. The three studies described in this paper, which involve different product categories and different verbal (brand names) and pictorial (brand package) imitations provide support for this idea. 1.1. Imitation types An important precondition for brand imitation strategies to be effective is similarity to the leader brand. To make the leader brand relevant for the evaluation of the copycat, a connection or relation is required. Only then can transfer of knowledge and affect take place (Fazio, 1986). When knowledge of the leader brand is activated and is transferred to the copycat, similarity in the appearance of the brands is generalized to similarity in product quality, thus improving consumers' evaluation of the copycat (Finch, 1996 and Loken et al., 1986). Copycats most often imitate the distinctive perceptual features of leader brands (visual characteristics, text, sounds), thus showing a type of literal similarity to the leader brand (Gentner, 1983). In simple situations, one might gauge literal similarity between two objects by determining the extent to which they have common and unique features (Tversky, 1977). Thus, the hypothetical brands “Orme” and “Omer” are more similar than the brands “Orme” and “Osve” because the former share all four letters, whereas the latter share only two letters. It is this literal similarity on which most court cases dealing with intellectual property are based (e.g., Adidas Salomon AG vs. Scapa Sports, 2007, Mitchell and Kearney, 2002 and Unilever N.V. vs. Albert Heijn B.V., 2005). However, besides being literally similar through direct imitation of distinctive perceptual features such as letters, colors, shapes, and sounds, two objects can also be semantically similar to each other ( Bruce, 1981 and Job et al., 1992). Brands that copy the underlying meaning or theme of other brands aim to make use of the higher-order semantic meanings or inferred attributes of the leader brand. Thus, although the brands “Rome” and “Paris” are semantically similar, they show low literal similarity because they share only one letter, whereas the brand names “Rome” and “Orme” show high literal similarity: they share all four letters but are not semantically similar. In an extreme case, a copycat could even essentially imitate the theme of a leader brand without copying any of the latter's visual features. Thus, in theme copycatting, the copycat and the leader brand show commonalities with each other not through a display of identical features but instead through the higher-order meaning, theme, or relationship derived from these features. Of course, themes are displayed through various arrangements of perceptual features. In that sense, theme similarity usually entails at least some level of feature similarity. Therefore, some caution is needed in interpreting the difference between theme copycatting and feature copycatting in an absolute sense. The distinction between similarity in distinctive perceptual features and similarity in higher-order meanings or themes is common in the literature (Gentner, 1983, Gourville and Soman, 2005, Markman and Loewenstein, 2010 and Zhang and Markman, 2001). Feature imitation can occur through imitation of the letters of the leader brand's name (e.g., by replacing one or more letters of the name or by rearranging them) or through imitation of the distinctive perceptual features of the leader brand's package design (e.g., the red–white oval logo of Bertolli olive oil or the lilac wrapper of Milka chocolate). Because these distinctive features are exclusively associated with the leader brand, feature imitations are directly linked to the leader brand and will immediately activate a clear representation of the leader brand. Theme imitation can be effected by copying the semantic meaning of the brand name, such as “Spring” (water source) for Sourcy bottled water or by copying the global scene of the package of a leader brand (cows grazing in a meadow in the Alps) for Milka chocolate but presenting it in a visually different way. In contrast to feature imitations, theme imitations are not exclusively associated with the leader brand and will only activate associations that are indirectly linked with the leader brand via a higher-order semantic meaning or an inferred attribute. 1.2. Effectiveness of imitation strategy Feature copycats are directly linked to the leader brand and almost immediately activate a (positive) image, whereas theme copycats are only indirectly linked to the leader brand. Therefore, one might expect that feature copycats are better able than theme copycats to free-ride effectively on the leader brand's equity. It is probably this line of reasoning that makes feature imitation a popular copycat strategy. However, based on knowledge accessibility theories (Martin, 1986, Schwarz and Bless, 1992 and Wegener and Petty, 1995), we predict differently: we posit that feature imitation will be a less effective imitation strategy than theme imitation. Research on knowledge accessibility has demonstrated that contextually activated information influences people's impressions and evaluations of the target (Higgins, 1996 and Sherif and Hovland, 1961). The direction of such context effects on assessments of the target can be assimilative or contrastive. Assimilation occurs when evaluation of the target moves toward the contextually activated knowledge, whereas contrast occurs when evaluation moves away from this knowledge. Thus, when compared with luxurious watches like Rolex or Cartier, a moderately luxurious watch may be judged as more or less luxurious. Various factors determine whether evaluations become more positive or more negative in the vicinity of contextual information (Mussweiler, 2003). One such factor is the perceived appropriateness of the contextually activated information (Martin, 1986, Wegener and Petty, 1995 and Wilson and Brekke, 1994). When people are aware that contextual information influences their judgment, they consult their naïve beliefs or theories about the appropriateness of this influence (Petty, Brinol, Tormala, & Wegener, 2007). Such beliefs influence whether people make corrections to their spontaneous judgments (Wegener & Petty, 1995). In the marketplace, consumers are likely to consult their naïve theories of persuasion knowledge when they become aware of the influence of an imitation strategy (Campbell and Kirmani, 2000 and Friestad and Wright, 1994). When consumers perceive an imitation strategy to be unacceptable and inappropriate, they tend to correct for the positive feelings induced through similarity. We predict that consumers will perceive feature copycats as less acceptable and more unfair than theme copycats. Although both types of imitation operate through similarity associations related to the leader brand and make positive knowledge accessible, displays of literal similarity through imitation of the distinctive features of a leader brand are more likely to activate a distinct and clear representation of this brand (“Hey, this looks exactly like X”) because these features are directly linked to the leader brand. Imitation strategies involving literal similarity are therefore likely to be perceived as inappropriate and unacceptable and to cause reactance in consumers, resulting in negative evaluation of the copycat. Theme imitations, on the other hand, are more implicit and less tangible than feature imitations because the underlying meaning or theme is only indirectly linked to the leader brand. Furthermore, because themes are not only exclusively associated with the imitated brand but also with other objects, brands, or events, such imitation strategies will be perceived as more acceptable and less unfair than strategies in which distinctive perceptual features are imitated. The evaluative judgment of such copycats should be driven by the affective experiences that are activated by indirect associative links to the leader brand's attributes. These associations are likely to be pleasant and positive because they remind consumers of something they know (i.e., the leader brand), which feels familiar, fluent, and pleasant (Jacoby et al., 1989 and Moreland and Zajonc, 1982). The positive evaluations associated with the leader brand are likely to become infused into the evaluation of the copycat brand, similar to the way in which affect infusion occurs in other judgments (Forgas, 1995 and Schwarz and Clore, 1983). This should cause consumer's evaluation of the copycat brand to move in the direction of the leader brand (assimilation). 1.3. Overview of studies Three studies were conducted to test the idea that imitation type critically affects copycat evaluation and to probe the psychological process underlying this effect. We predict that theme imitations are evaluated more positively than feature imitations. To establish that theme imitation is indeed a successful imitation strategy, we predict in addition that theme copycats are evaluated more positively than differentiated brands that show no similarity (Hypothesis 1). Furthermore, we predict that theme copycats are evaluated more positively than feature copycats because imitating the underlying meaning or theme is perceived to be more acceptable and less unfair than imitating the distinctive perceptual features (Hypothesis 2). We tested these predictions using verbal stimuli (brand names, Study 1) and visual stimuli (brand packages, 3 and 4), using a large variety of product categories, and using themes that are either uniquely related to the leader brand (e.g., the wildcat for Puma shoes) or that belong to the whole product category (e.g., the water source for Sourcy bottled water). 2 and 3 examined the basic effect, and Study 3 investigated the underlying mechanism. Empirical support for the hypotheses would imply that copycat evaluation not only depends on how much is imitated (little versus much), about which we know already a great deal, but also on what is imitated (themes or features), about which we currently know very little. Support for the predictions would imply that imitating the underlying theme or meaning communicated by the leader brand is a more successful copycatting strategy than imitating its distinctive perceptual features. This would also have important implications for marketing and trademark law.

نتیجه گیری انگلیسی

In the marketplace, consumers can be confronted with two types of imitation: feature imitation and theme imitation. Building on knowledge accessibility theories, we proposed that these two imitation strategies affect copycat success differently. The three studies described in this article demonstrate that imitation of the underlying meaning or theme of a design is a more effective copycatting strategy than imitation of its distinctive perceptual features. This is important because feature imitation has received the most emphasis in the marketing and trademark literature. In 2 and 3, we establish the basic effect and show that theme imitation is more effective both when the theme is unique to a leader brand and when it is associated with the category as a whole. We show that this effect generalizes across product categories and transfers from evaluation to buying intentions and choice. Study 3 demonstrates that acceptability of the imitation tactic is an important psychological process that underlies the basic effect. As in other research on copycatting, the specific manipulations of feature copycats used in the present studies depend on the features used by the existing leader brands in the market; therefore, the appearance of the copycat relies strongly on features that are distinctive for the imitated leader brand (e.g., a specific type font or color). Because the type font was particularly distinctive in the package designs of the Milka and Bertolli brands, one may argue that it is the use of a specific font that accounts for the current results rather than feature imitation in general. However, our consistent findings using brand names in Study 1, where features and themes were manipulated merely by changing or rearranging letters, demonstrate the generality of the effects. These findings have implications for marketing theory and practice. First, to our knowledge, the present studies are the first to demonstrate that imitation type influences consumer evaluation of copycat brands. Because the majority of copycats are feature-based, the marketing literature has focused primarily on consumer responses to this type of imitation (Howard et al., 2000, Kapferer, 1995 and Loken et al., 1986) and on the effect of the degree of imitation on evaluation (Miaoulis and d'Amato, 1978, Van Horen and Pieters, 2012 and Warlop and Alba, 2004). The current research shows that, in addition to how much is imitated, what is imitated (theme versus features) is of crucial importance as well. The second feature of the current studies is that they build on and extend previous research on knowledge accessibility effects in essential ways. In our studies, the standard (leader brand) against which the target (copycat brand) was evaluated was activated by the target itself rather than being induced by contextual information as in most previous research (e.g., Mussweiler, 2003). Thus, our studies provide a strong test of the effects of imitation type on consumer evaluation. In addition, instead of manipulating the standard (e.g., an extreme versus a moderate standard; Smeesters, Mussweiler, & Mandel, 2010), our studies kept the standard (the leader brand) constant. A third significant implication of our results is that they challenge the prevailing idea in trademark legislation that copycats that imitate the distinctive perceptual features of the leader brand are the most perilous and require the most attention from the imitated leader brands. This idea is reflected in a recent decision of the European Court that only highly distinctive, but not less distinctive, features of brands can receive protection (DigiPos Store Solutions vs. Digi International, 2008). To explore this issue further, we surveyed a sample of 44 lawyers specializing in intellectual property at a trademark law conference in The Netherlands. The lawyers were asked to indicate the extent to which they believed a consumer would positively evaluate a product that imitated the highly distinctive perceptual features of a leader brand and a product that imitated several less distinctive features. (Both products were evaluated on a nine-point scale ranging from 1, definitely not, to 9, definitely yes). Indeed, lawyers believed that consumers would evaluate copycats that imitated the highly distinctive features more positively (M = 7.02, SD = 1.85) than copycats that imitated several less distinctive features (M = 5.50, SD = 1.55), F(1, 43) = 15.84, p < .001, ηp2 = .27. The current studies, however, demonstrate that the converse is true. This result suggests that (at least Dutch) trademark lawyers might be well advised to focus less on highly distinctive feature copycats because consumers evaluate those negatively. Instead, more attention should be directed to less distinctive theme copycats because consumers evaluate those more positively and do not perceive them to be unfair. The current findings therefore support attempts to patent the underlying meaning, theme or overall ‘look and feel’ of a product (see, for instance, Apple Computer Inc. vs. Microsoft Corporation, 1994 and Carbonell vs La Espanola-Aceites del Sur vs Koipe, 2009). For manufacturers of copycats, it may be worthwhile to consider investing in brand names or package designs that imitate the underlying meanings or themes of leader brands rather than their distinctive features. For manufacturers of leader brands, on the other hand, it is advisable to invest principally in the distinctive features of the package. Investing in visually unique package designs is not only important in enabling consumers to distinguish leader brands from other brands in a cluttered environment (Van der Lans, Pieters, & Wedel, 2008) and to facilitate brand recognition and recall, but, as the current research suggests, is also a powerful tool in warding off imitation attempts by other brands. For manufacturers of leader brands that are being “theme copied,” the present findings provide suggestions for tests and/or metrics to establish that theme imitation is occurring and that their brand equity is being unfairly hijacked by copycat brands. A question for future research concerns the exact roles that type and degree of similarity play in copycat evaluation. That is, do consumers prefer theme imitations simply because they are less similar than feature imitations and dislike feature imitations because they are too close to the leader brand (Carpenter & Nakamoto, 1989)? Do feature imitations tend to be evaluated more positively when they imitate the leader brand to a lesser extent? Due to the abstract, implicit character of theme imitations, it might indeed be the case that theme imitations are perceived as less similar than feature imitations. On the other hand, copycats that imitate a theme that is highly unique to a specific leader brand, might be perceived as highly similar as well. When all detergents but one depict soft objects on their packaging (e.g., a bear, duck, or baby) and one detergent displays a ruby, displaying a piece of jade is likely to be perceived as highly similar despite the fact that all the distinctive features of the packaging are different. However, we conjecture that even highly similar theme copycats would still be evaluated more positively than highly similar feature copycats. This is because the inferred attribute or semantic meaning imitated by the theme copycat is, in addition to being associated with the leader brand, also associated with other objects, brands, and events; thus, imitation will be perceived as less unfair than when the exact features of a brand are imitated. In a first attempt to address the issue of the influence of the type and degree of similarity, we conducted follow-up mediation analyses on the data of Study 3. In these analyses, similarity and similarity-squared were added to each of the two models described in Study 3 predicting brand evaluation. The results demonstrated that acceptability still mediated the positive evaluation of theme versus feature (β = .27, p < .001) and that familiarity-induced affect mediated the positive difference between theme and differentiated product (β = .78, p < .001), whereas similarity and similarity squared did not mediate the effects in either model (βSim = .23, p = .24; βSim2 = −.01, p = .70 and βSim = .18, p = .15; βSim2 = −.02, p = .11, respectively). This suggests that independent of the degree of similarity, the type of similarity – feature or theme – plays an important role in copycat evaluation. Another avenue for future research would be investigation of the role of time pressure or lack of processing resources during evaluation and choice. All our studies were conducted under fairly high levels of involvement, and participants had sufficient time to evaluate and choose the products. Perhaps feature imitations compete more effectively under low levels of involvement because correcting initially positive evaluations requires available resources. Future studies could also probe the effect of leader brand presence on the evaluation of theme copycats. The positive evaluation of theme copycats may dwindle when the situation prompts direct comparisons between copycat and leader brands because the advertising strategy used then becomes more apparent. On the other hand, evaluation could be unaffected because the imitated theme is not exclusively associated with the leader brand, and imitation of such themes may still be considered acceptable even when direct comparisons are made. Recently, the British Brands Group described copycats as products that “hijack distinctive features of a brand's packaging to trick shoppers into buying something they believe to be the brand” (Shelf Life, 2008). The present research reveals, however, that consumers may not be easily tricked by explicit hijacking of distinctive perceptual features. Instead, consumers appear to more easily fall prey to the persuasive appeal of copycats when these piggyback on the success of leader brands in a more implicit and less distinctive manner by imitating their themes.

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