Examination of the Effect of Congruity in Marketing
Congruity is a critical research construct in marketing, whose application is ubiquitous, including brand extensions, product designs, advertising, celebrity endorsements, brand alliances, event sponsorships, and others. It refers to the similarity, fit, or consistency between two objects (brands, persons, events, organizations, etc.). In the current marketing literature, however, many key questions on this topic are still left to answer. The three essays of my dissertation aim to address three
... different issues related to the effect of congruity. First, when companies design their brand extension strategies, they already realize the importance of congruity (i.e., choosing a new product category fitting well with the parent brand). However, the current marketing research on this topic shows contradictory predictions and results, in terms of the magnitude of the congruity effect together with other relevant factors to determine the success of brand extensions. Therefore, in order to address this research issue, the first essay of my dissertation provides a conceptual and meta-analytical review of the congruity literature for brand extensions. First, the congruity hypothesis effect pattern (consumers respond better to congruity than to moderate incongruity, which they respond better to than to extreme incongruity) is found to be the dominant effect pattern of congruity for brand extensions, and the overall mean effect size of congruity between a brand extension category and the parent brand is positive and of small to medium size. Second, the main theoretical mechanism proposed in this literature is shown to focus on categorization and affect-transfer theories. Third, various theoretical moderators and methodological moderators of the congruity effect are also found to be significant. Overall, congruity is significant and very relevant from a managerial perspective, but it is far from being the sole determinant of success for brand extensions. iii Second, although a sizable literature on brand extensions argues that the congruity between a parent brand and an extension product has a positive effect on consumer reception of the extension, the application of this literature is limited because of a lack of understanding of what "brand-extension fit" really is. The second essay of my dissertation develops a measurement scale of Brand Extension Fit (BEF) consisting of two core dimensions, engineering-based and market-based congruity, each measured by three items. The proposed scale represents a synthesis and extension of past work on congruity measurement, and is further validated with two separate datasets. Unlike uni-dimensional measures of fit -such as similarity, fit, consistency -used in most of the brand extension literature, the proposed Brand Extension Fit scale provides guidance for opportunity identification, idea generation, understanding the pros and cons of various alternatives, and the building of a marketing plan around a chosen alterative. Third, the last essay of my dissertation focuses on the causal link between extreme incongruity and weirdness -two under-studied but very important topics in marketing. This essay, built on the extreme incongruity literature in product designs, investigates the research question: what makes products weird? This essay, via a series of experiments, presents convergent evidence that extreme incongruity between a product design and its own product category schema is a key antecedent of weirdness, because of a failed sense-making process. Furthermore, facilitating information for sense making can significantly decrease the weirdness perception. Moreover, although extremely incongruent products are weird and consumers like less and are less willing to buy them, those same consumers are more willing to share information about these products than about regular ones. iv PREFACE This thesis is an original work by Qian (Claire) Deng.