Friday, 25 June 2010

Branding - a candidate for unfair commercial practice?

In the past few years more and more attention is being devoted to branding and its (negative) effects on consumers. I have just read about another research that shows even more clearly how big the influence of branding on consumers is.

Melanie Dempsey and Andrew A. Mitchell tested the power of branding by conditioning consumers to like or dislike certain brands that they made up. The consumers were not aware of the conditioning, however, when they were later asked about brands they were supposed to 'get to like' - indeed, they liked them without being able to give a reason why. The researchers called it 'I like it, but I don't know why' effect. This sounds alarming, but what is even more worrying is that when later the consumers were given facts about these brands that contradicted their conditioning, they still preferred products of the brands that they 'got to like'. This means that they chose certain inferior products only because they had received positive branding message about them.

Shouldn't branding be considered an unfair commercial practice then and banned? Apparently it materially distorts the economic behaviour of an average consumer whom it reaches - which is the definition of the unfair commercial practice (Article 5 of the Directive 2005/29/EC on Unfair Commercial Practices). Oh, yes, the other part of the definition mentions that commercial practice needs to be contrary to the requirements of professional dilligence to be considered unfair. So far branding has been allowed and is not seen as contrary to the requirements of professional dilligence. Hopefully, with more research, that will change.

The article on this research may be found at the website of neurosciencemarketing and science daily. The paper of the two researchers has been published in the Journal of Consumer Research:
Melanie Dempsey and Andrew A. Mitchell. The Influence of Implicit Attitudes on Consumer Choice when Confronted with Conflicting Product Attribute Information. Journal of Consumer Research, December 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment