Publication Details

This article was originally published as Dolnicar, S, Rossiter, JR, The low stability of brand-attribute associations is partly due to market research methodology. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 25 (2), 2008, 104-108.


Using an experiment built into a longitudinal survey, we demonstrate that the low stability of consumers’ brand-attribute associations (see Rungie et al., 2005) can be partly explained by the prevailing methods used in market research, which can often lead consumers to construct temporary associations. To increase the proportion of stable brand-attribute associations, we recommend the following improvements in market research methods: use of a shorter, brand-prompted attribute association task; inclusion of an “don’t know this brand” option to isolate ratings of brands unknown to the individual; omission of the standard instruction to guess when uncertain; and, in cross-cultural studies, translation of instructions and attribute descriptions into appropriate first languages. Even with these improvements, however, the maximal stability of associations that brands can achieve is less than 100% after correcting for methodological influences. This imperfect stability may mean that consumers learn brand-specific attribute associations that are temporary but stable enough to lead them to try or re-try the brand, after which consumers replace the specific brand associations with a summary brand attitude.

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