Title

Brand-Extension or Self-Extension? Using Avatars to Study the Effects of Self-Image Congruence on Brand-Extension Evaluation

Date of Award

5-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Embargo Date

8-21-2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Marketing

Advisor(s)

Tridib Mazumdar

Keywords

Social sciences, Self-image congruence, Brand extension, Avatars

Subject Categories

Marketing

Abstract

This dissertation investigates the effect of self-image on brand-extension evaluation in the context where self-images are influenced by an avatar. Prior studies have demonstrated the positive effects of self-image congruence on brand evaluation. The brand-extension literature has found that the congruency between the parent-brand and the extension influences the brand-extension evaluation, with moderately incongruent extensions having a stronger effect than either highly incongruent or highly congruent extensions. Missing in the past research is the role of congruency in the self-image/brand relationship, within a brand-extension evaluation context. The brand-extension evaluation literature seems to suggest that, while evaluating a brand-extension, the consumer's focus abandons the parent-brand/consumer relationship and shifts completely towards the parent-brand/brand-extension relationship. Thus, this dissertation had two objectives. The first objective was to confirm that consumers integrate self-image congruence into their brand-extension evaluation process and that this integration will affect their assessment of the brand-extension. The second objective was to show that a consumer's perception of self-image congruence (between the consumer and a particular brand) can be altered via avatar while encountering brand-extensions online.

The findings suggested that: [1] avatars indeed influence a consumer's perception of self-image congruence when encountering brands in a digital environment; furthermore, there is a stronger effect when the products of the brand are typically consumed in a public manner, compared to products that are privately consumed; and [2] self-image congruence affects a consumer's evaluation of a brand-extension, such that, highly congruent and moderately incongruent extensions are evaluated evenly, counter-arguing the traditional effects of the moderately-incongruent hypothesis. The steady increase in the number of companies implementing user-controlled avatars in various media outlets (e.g. - company websites, videos games, advergames, and virtual worlds) validates the managerial relevance of these findings.

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