Brand managers exhibit considerable effort to define intended brand associations to anchor in consumers' minds. They follow a credo deeply rooted in branding literature: intended brand associations drive consumer response and brand equity. This article investigates the benefits of a strong overlap of actual consumer brand associations and management-intended brand associations (brand association match). The article presents results from two large-scale studies (3353 and 1201 respondents) involving one consumer goods and one service brand with multiple operationalizations of consumer response (attitudinal and behavioral). The results show that consumers with high brand association match show more positive brand response. However, after accounting for the valence of associations match does not add explanatory power. This outcome challenges a key foundation of brand management. The discussion identifies reasons why match may not be necessary to achieve response and provides arguments why the results do not imply free play for brand managers.
Journal of Business Research, 2014, Vol 67, Issue 7