Visual Brand Identity of Product Design: How Consumers’ Ability to Identify a Product’s Brand Affects Product Sales
Title: Visual Brand Identity of Product Design: How Consumers’ Ability to Identify a Product’s Brand Affects Product Sales
Firms report difficulties in their efforts to equip products with a design that consumers immediately recognize as belonging to a certain brand, whilst the importance of such a visual brand identifiability for product success is currently unclear. The current research aims to fill this gap and draws from categorization theory to argue that consumers' efforts to assign a product design to a brand can lead to three mutually exclusive outcomes: (1) the product is correctly identified as belonging to its brand (brand identification), (2) it is mistaken for another brand (brand confusion), (3) it cannot be assigned to any brand (brand ignorance). Based on current psychological insights, we argue that these three outcomes have differential effects on product success. Accordingly, a comprehensive econometric analysis of sales in the automotive industry reveals three main findings with immediate implications for a firm’s product design strategy. First, brand identification has a strong positive impact on product sales that is independent of brand strength. Second, if a brand is not correctly identified, brand confusion is more harmful than brand ignorance. Third, even weak brands do not benefit from being confused with stronger brands and strong brands suffer strongly when being confused with weaker brands.