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Brand Familiarity and the Purchase Process

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  • 0:05 What is a Brand?
  • 0:55 Brand Familiarity and…
  • 2:15 Purchase Involvement
  • 3:31 Brand Familiarity
  • 6:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kelly Roach

Kelly earned her Master of Mass Communication from Arizona State and has taught consumer behavior and communication courses at the undergraduate level.

The brand of a product is like its personality. In this lesson, we'll discuss the different levels of brand familiarity and how they can impact the decision making process.

What Is a Brand?

What is a brand? At first glance, you might think of a brand as only a name or symbol - something that helps you identify and recognize specific products or services. However, if you look closer, you'll see that there is much more. A brand is more than just a catchy name, fancy color scheme, or slick typography - it goes far beyond aesthetics.

Brands develop personalities in the consumer's mind based on their product attributes and how the consumer views that specific product relative to others in the market. Even more, brands are like promises from companies to consumers, ensuring they'll get what they expect each time they purchase that specific item and that the product attributes and quality will remain unchanged. When items are similar, brands can also help the customer make distinctions between competing products.

Brands go beyond aesthetics and have personalities from the viewpoint of the consumer.
Brands Have Personality

Brand Familiarity and Confidence

Over time, the more we are exposed to a brand, the more familiar it becomes. If a brand continues to meet our expectations, it can even become preferred in the mind of the consumer. Familiar brands are like a cozy blanket or your favorite pair of jeans - they make us feel confident and secure and always seem to fit just right.

How do they give us confidence? Let's talk French fries for a minute. There are many different drive-thrus that offer those delectable, golden-fried spuds. While they're all delicious, often times there is one brand that just seems to stand out among the others.

The point is, when you pull up to that first window at your favorite drive-thru and place your order, you're confident those fries are going to hit the spot. You're familiar with the brand and know the characteristics of those fries, compared to others out there, are exactly what you're looking for. Because of brand familiarity, you feel sure you made the right decision before you even got to the window to pick up your order.

When you make your way to that second window, grab your bag of favorite fries, and reach in to steal one or two for the road, you're confident that fry is going to be all you hoped for and expected. When it is, you're a satisfied customer - you're happy with your decision, and your preference is reinforced. Now that you're beginning to see the power of a brand and brand familiarity, let's look at how it can impact purchase decisions.

Purchase Involvement

As you can imagine, there are many types of consumer purchases, all with different levels of involvement, or how much time we spend considering alternatives before making a purchase. The level of involvement used to make a decision can be thought of like a continuum, ranging from virtually no thought to very high involvement with points all along the line.

Different types of consumer purchases have different levels of product involvement.
Product Involvement

While French fries might rank fairly low on the involvement scale, they still make for a good example to evaluate the different types of brand familiarity. Typically, lower involvement purchases rely more on how familiar you are with a brand - your preferences for and confidence in that brand - since you don't invest much time in your decision-making process. You simply refer back to what you know and go.

This is one of the places that confidence I mentioned comes in to play: you feel secure in your snuggly brand blanket because you are familiar with the brand and know you're making a good choice without going through the gamut of alternatives.

Purchases that require more thought, like the decision process you went through for the car you're taking through the drive-thru, typically do require more time and thought or involvement, so you probably don't just rely on brands that are top-of-mind. You might ask friends or family members, or look online to find alternatives to research and consider.

Brand Familiarity

Along with different levels of involvement in purchase decisions, there are also different levels of brand familiarity - five of them, to be specific: brand insistence, brand preference, brand recognition, brand non-recognition, and brand rejection. Using our low-involvement French fry scenario, let's see how the different levels of familiarity can impact the purchase decision process.

Brand insistence is when nothing else will do. It's the highest level of brand loyalty. No other brand can fill in as a substitute. In our French fry example, let's say your absolute favorite fries are the waffle cut ones from the Chicken House. Unfortunately, your lunchtime craving hits on a Sunday, and Chicken House is closed. Rather than head toward another drive-thru for fries, you head back home and heat up a plate of leftovers. By not accepting what you consider an inferior substitute, your entire purchase decision as a consumer changed. Instead of choosing to patronize another chicken or hamburger joint, you avoided a purchase entirely.

Brand preference is when you have a favorite brand over all the others but will entertain alternatives when forced to find a replacement. So, when you're starving on a long road trip and the only place for the next 30 miles is Burger Prince, you go ahead and make a stop for some fries, rather than wait until you get to a Lucky B's, where you normally stop for a fry fix. You still purchase something in the same category but only what you believe to be an acceptable substitute for your most favorite.

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