Towards a Deeper Understanding of Store Branded Lookalikes: Similarity Judgment and Price Influence

Zhou, Li (2016) Towards a Deeper Understanding of Store Branded Lookalikes: Similarity Judgment and Price Influence. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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The development of store branded lookalikes (SBLs) imitating established manufacturer national brands has long been a source of friction and dispute between brand manufacturers and retailers. It is evident that retailers often use a close positioning strategy on store brands (SBs) to imitate the look and appearance of leading national brands (NBs) on a wide range of fast moving consumer goods. It is, though, less clear why and how a me-too store brand is perceived to be a lookalike to an imitated national brand. At issue is a fundamental question: What makes a store brand lookalike and imitated national brand look alike? Precisely to what extent do the different packaging features, both in isolation and in tandem, trigger in the consumer’s mind similarity between the two goods? Furthermore, the overall market outcome from the introduction and use of lookalike packaging on store brands is also not clear or evidenced, especially its effect on pricing and more generally how this impacts national brand/store brand competition as well as well as competition between competing retailers each purveying their own store brand. Does offering a closer lookalike allow a retailer to price the store brand higher and close the price gap with the imitated national brand? Does offering a closer lookalike allow a retailer to price higher than rival retailers offering less close lookalike store brands?
This thesis seeks to provide some answers to these important questions that have so far received relatively little attention in marketing research. The analysis is based on undertaking different studies of consumers’ perceptions gathered through structured surveys regarding actual national brand and store brand equivalents as well as through experiments in manipulating features of store brands (to control for individual effects) to understand how consumers form judgments over product similarity. Along with additional information provided by respondents on their own backgrounds and their shopping behaviour, this primary data is supplemented with secondary data on market features and outcomes, including market share and sales performance data as well as prices, to allow for consideration of contextual aspects that might influence similarity perceptions and also for analysing how the degree of perceived similarity relates to the price gap between competing products. Collectively, the studies undertaken and
reported in the thesis provide several new and perhaps counterintuitive insights to improve our understanding of this prevalent marketing phenomenon and its effects on market outcomes as well as the nature of competitive rivalry in positioning and selling FMCG products.
On the issue of what makes a brand and a lookalike look alike, the analysis shows that whether consumers perceive a store brand to be a lookalike is initially derived from the physical similarity of its packaging, which is primarily determined by colour, size & shape, and imagery. However, the analysis shows that the context matters. Specifically, the findings show that consumers’ degree of brand loyalty and brand familiarity, as well as their perception of the retailers’ store work together to influence the perception of similarity for a particular pairing of a national brand and the intended equivalent me-too store brand. Accordingly, different consumers will perceive the same product pairings differently based on their experience, tastes and broader perceptions.
Regarding the nature of NB and SBL prices, it might be expected that high packaging similarity of SBLs will bring more intense price competition between the SBLs and the targeted NBs they imitate and among competing SBs. There is indeed evidence for this here. However, again, the context is shown to be important. Several marketing context indicators were considered in analysing the price competition between the products. A key finding is that the price gap tends to be wider for NBs that have growing sales (measured by a higher sales turnover compared to the previous year) or have higher market shares in a given category. In contrast, the price gap between an SBL and targeted NB tends to be lower the greater market power of the SBs in a category (measured by store brands share of category sales) and the strength of rival manufacturer brands in the same category (captured by relative brand shares). In terms of cross-retailer rivalry, an SBL tends to be priced more closely to a competing SBL the higher is SB familiarity and the greater the relative strength of the retailer (measured by its retailer market share). In contrast, higher category share held by store brands is found to allow for a wider price gap between competing SBLs. All these effects were tested in numerous FMCG product categories from across the
different leading grocery retailers in the UK, which adds a degree of reassurance about the generality to the studies conducted in this thesis.
The findings reported in the thesis add to the existing literature in five significant ways. First, it confirms that colour, when treated in isolation or in tandem with other packaging features, is the most important packaging cue that determines the physical similarity of SBLs. Second, it reveals how various contextual indicators, such as brand loyalty, brand familiarity, and store image, can moderate the similarity perception process. Third, it demonstrates that the close packaging position of an SBL to a targeted NB will intensify the price competition between the NB manufacturer and the retailer. Fourth, it highlights the strategic importance of SBs in assisting retailers with cross-store competition where retailers compete amongst themselves through their SBLs. Fifth, it reveals the necessity of considering the influence of several frequently mentioned marketing performance indicators in this price competing process and these moderate or accentuate the packaging similarity effect, such as the targeted NB manufacturer’s market strength, the general market strength of the SBs, and the competition intensity in the NBs’ market.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > Norwich Business School
Depositing User: Users 7376 not found.
Date Deposited: 24 Jun 2016 08:51
Last Modified: 24 Jun 2016 08:51


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