A new study has found that brand loyalty heavily influences consumers' perception of competitive brands.
The research team from Iowa State University, Ohio State University and College of William and Mary has found that loyal customers tend to perceive competitor ads differently.
"Consumers who are more loyal to a brand seem to search and process competitor brand information very differently than consumers who are less loyal to a brand," wrote the authors.
"When loyalty is high, consumers search for evidence that a competitor brand is not a good brand, contrary to the advertisement information," they added.
However, less loyal customers look for evidence to confirm that the competitor brand is a good brand.
"This search manifests in the identification of similarities between their preferred brand and competing brand, resulting in an overall perception that the two brands are alike."
In three related studies, researchers compared people who were very loyal to specific brand-name products such as Sony music players, Saucony athletic shoes, and Olympus voice recorders.
The researchers succeeded in changing the perceptions of low and high-loyalty participants by asking them to shift their focus from dissimilarities to similarities, or vice versa.
"The change in focus from searching for similarities to dissimilarities has implications for marketers."
Advertisements that are targeted toward consumers who are loyal to another brand may have to be structured differently," the authors added.
The study appears in Journal of Consumer Research.