Meaning Transfer in a Cobranding Context: The Role of the Sensory Signature

Hwang, Euejung
Kim, Jungkeun
Waiguny, Martin
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

As people acquire knowledge of the world through their senses, a perceptual brand experience is the most effective and immediate source for a brand to create an impression in the mind of the consumer. A “sensory signature,” which is a unique sensory aspect of a brand, is a storehouse of brand-related information that distinguishes a brand from its competing brands. In this thesis the sensory signature of brand, because of its unique nature, is proposed as an effective brand cue that can help retrieve and activate brand meanings easily. This thesis argues that as the perceptual experience provided by a sensory signature is powerful enough to distinguish the brand from others, the sensory signature is expected to access brand memory easily and activate a wide array of brand meanings. Thus, using the Meaning Transfer Model and Grounded Cognition, this research aims to understand the efficacy of sensory signature in the transfer of brand meanings in a cobranding context by asking the following broad research question: Whether, and how does, a sensory signature contribute to the transfer of brand meanings in a cobranding context? The efficacy of sensory signature as an effective brand cue is investigated by conducting a series of five experimental studies. Using both explicit and reaction-time measures, Experiments 1 and 2 not only show that sensory signature can activate brand-relevant meanings, but they also verify sensory signature efficacy as an operable and effective brand cue that is comparable to the most widely used brand cues, such as a brand name. In particular, Experiment 2 shows the path through which the sensory signature drives the meaning transfer process, through using different types of brand meanings (i.e., perceptual and semantic brand meanings). Experiment 3 provides supporting evidence to show that the effects observed from Experiment 2 are derived from the signatory perceptual feature, the signature taste, and not from other taste-related characteristics. Experiment 4 investigates the impact of a verbal description of a sensory signature, assuming that the simulation of experiencing a sensory signature from reading the description will act as effectively in transferring brand meanings as an actual experience. Interestingly, however, the finding shows that a verbal description of the sensory signature is not effective in either transferring semantic brand meanings or positively influencing product attitude. Rather, the verbal description of key semantic brand meanings performs as an effective brand cue, positively influencing attitude toward the cobranded product. Experiment 5 shows that it is the presence of the product picture that can effectively encourage the simulation of a sensory signature. Combined, the findings of five experiments address the research question and demonstrate the efficacy of a sensory signature as an effective brand cue, that is comparable to a brand name in transferring brand meanings to a cobranded product. The thesis builds on prior research on cobranding, the Meaning Transfer Model, and Grounded Cognition by enriching the current understanding of the factors that shape and determine the attitude and subsequent behaviour of consumers when products are cobranded.

Sensory signature , Meaning transfer model , Grounded cognition , Modal priming , Reaction time measure
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