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Asymmetric Promotion Effects and Brand Positioning


  • Bart J. Bronnenberg

    (University of Texas at Austin)

  • Luc Wathieu

    (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)


Several studies have shown that promotions of national brands yield more effect than those of store brands (e.g., Allenby and Rossi 1991, Blattberg and Wisniewski 1989). However, the evolution of price-quality data available from over the last 15 years seems to reveal a reduction of the quality gap between store brands and national brands, while price differences remain substantial. Simultaneously, the share of private label brands has increased ( 1994). In this context, we study whether we can maintain a view of the world where national brands may easily attract consumers from store brands through promotions, whereas store brands are relatively ineffective in attracting consumers from national brands by such means. We analyze consumer reactions to price discounts in a parsimonious preference model featuring loss aversion and reference-dependence along dimensions of price and quality (Hardie, Johnson, and Fader 1993, Tversky and Kahneman 1991). The key result of our analysis is that, given any two brands, there is an asymmetric promotion effect in favor of the higher quality/higher price brands if and only if the quality gap between the brands is sufficiently large in comparison with the price gap. Thus, the direction of promotion asymmetry is not unconditional. It depends uniquely on the value of the ratio of quality and price differences compared to a category specific criterion, which we call Φ. If the ratio of quality and price differences is larger than this criterion, the usual asymmetry prevails; if such is not the case, the lower quality/lower price brands promote more effectively. More precisely, our model predicts that cross promotion effects depend on two components of brand positioning in the price/quality quadrant. First, we define a variable termed “positioning advantage” that indicates whether, relative to the standards achieved by another brand, a given brand is underpriced (positive advantage) or overpriced (negative advantage). Promotion effectiveness is increasing in this variable. Second, cross promotion effects between two brands depend on their distance in the price/quality quadrant. This variable impacts promotion effectiveness negatively and symmetrically for any pair of brands. “Positioning advantage” and “brand distance” are orthogonal components of brand positioning, irrespective of the degree of correlation between available price and quality levels in the market. Empirically, we investigate the role of brand positioning in explaining cross promotion effects using panel data from the chilled orange juice and peanut butter categories. We compute the independent positioning variables, “positioning advantage” and “brand distance,” from readily available data on price and quality positioning after obtaining our estimates of Φ. We next measure promotion effectiveness by estimating choice share changes in response to a price discount, using a choice model that does not contain any information about quality/price ratios. Finally, we test the relation between the two positioning variables and the promotion effectiveness measures. The data reveal that in the orange juice category lower quality/lower price brands generally promote more effectively than higher quality/higher price brands. In the peanut butter data the opposite asymmetry holds. In both cases, inter-brand promotion patterns are well explained by the positioning variables. An attractive feature of our model is that, in addition to the direction of promotion asymmetries, it also explains the extent of those asymmetries. A further interesting aspect of this approach is that we go beyond a categorization of brands into price tiers. For instance, lower tier brands in our data may promote more effectively than one national brand but less effectively than another. Consistent with our theoretical predictions, the data presented here seem to confirm that such cases occur because the lower tier brand offers a favorable trade-off of price and quality differences compared with one national brand and a less favorable trade-off compared with the other. The content of this paper is potentially relevant for brand managers or retailers concerned with predicting the impact of their promotions. The paper is of particular interest to marketing scientists who study the performance of store brands versus national brands and may also appeal to those who wish to explore the marketing implications of behavioral decision theory. Finally, our investigation does not reject Blattberg and Wisniewski's (1989) finding, shared by Allenby and Rossi (1991) and Hardie, Johnson, and Fader (1993), that national brands have a advantage in promotion effectiveness. Rather, it formalizes when this principle advantage is overruled by positioning disadvantages of such brands.

Suggested Citation

  • Bart J. Bronnenberg & Luc Wathieu, 1996. "Asymmetric Promotion Effects and Brand Positioning," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 15(4), pages 379-394.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormksc:v:15:y:1996:i:4:p:379-394

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    Cited by:

    1. Tao Chen & Baohong Sun & Vishal Singh, 2009. "An Empirical Investigation of the Dynamic Effect of Marlboro's Permanent Pricing Shift," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 28(4), pages 740-758, 07-08.
    2. Steenkamp, J-B.E.M. & Nijs, V.R. & Hanssens, D.M. & Dekimpe, M.G., 2002. "Competitive Reactions and the Cross-Sales Effects of Advertising and Promotion," ERIM Report Series Research in Management ERS-2002-20-MKT, Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), ERIM is the joint research institute of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) at Erasmus University Rotterdam.
    3. G. Dekimpe, Marnik & Hanssens, Dominique M. & Silva-Risso, Jorge M., 1998. "Long-run effects of price promotions in scanner markets," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1-2), pages 269-291, November.
    4. M. Billur Akdeniz & Roger J. Calantone, 2017. "A longitudinal examination of the impact of quality perception gap on brand performance in the US Automotive Industry," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 28(1), pages 43-57, March.
    5. repec:pal:jorsoc:v:60:y:2009:i:1:d:10.1057_palgrave.jors.2602524 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Ter Braak, A.M., 2012. "A new era in retail : Private-label production by national-brand manufacturers and premium-quality private labels," Other publications TiSEM ca6b716b-bcd3-4a09-aa00-d, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    7. Serdar Sayman & Stephen J. Hoch & Jagmohan S. Raju, 2002. "Positioning of Store Brands," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 21(4), pages 378-397, June.
    8. Baltas, George & Doyle, Peter, 2001. "Random utility models in marketing research: a survey," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 115-125, February.
    9. Rutger van Oest & Philip Hans Franses, 2003. "Which Brands gain Share from which Brands? Inference from Store-Level Scanner Data," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 03-079/4, Tinbergen Institute.
    10. Raj Sethuraman & V. Srinivasan & Doyle Kim, 1999. "Asymmetric and Neighborhood Cross-Price Effects: Some Empirical Generalizations," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 18(1), pages 23-41.
    11. Shi, Lijia & Gao, Zhifeng & Chen, Xuqi, 2014. "The cross-price effect on willingness-to-pay estimates in open-ended contingent valuation," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 13-21.
    12. Fabian Bergès & Daniel Hassan & Sylvette Monier-Dilhan, 2013. "Are Consumers More Loyal To National Brands Than To Private Labels?," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65, pages 1-16, May.
    13. van Heerde, H.J. & Helsen, K. & Dekimpe, M.G., 2005. "Managing Product-Harm Crises," ERIM Report Series Research in Management ERS-2005-044-MKT, Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), ERIM is the joint research institute of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) at Erasmus University Rotterdam.
    14. Csilla Horváth & Dennis Fok, 2013. "Moderating Factors of Immediate, Gross, and Net Cross-Brand Effects of Price Promotions," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 32(1), pages 127-152, July.
    15. Danijela Mandić, 2009. "Long-term impact of sales promotion on brand image," Tržište/Market, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Zagreb, vol. 21(2), pages 235-246.
    16. Amrouche, Nawel & Zaccour, Georges, 2007. "Shelf-space allocation of national and private brands," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 180(2), pages 648-663, July.
    17. Deleersnyder, B. & Dekimpe, M.G. & Steenkamp, J.E.B.M. & Koll, O., 2007. "Win-win strategies at discount stores," Other publications TiSEM 34fbe624-0ee7-4c52-b640-7, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    18. Kuo, Chia-Wei & Yang, Shu-Jung Sunny, 2013. "The role of store brand positioning for appropriating supply chain profit under shelf space allocation," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 231(1), pages 88-97.
    19. Raphael Thomadsen, 2007. "Product Positioning and Competition: The Role of Location in the Fast Food Industry," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 26(6), pages 792-804, 11-12.
    20. Sivakumar, K., 2003. "Price-tier competition: Distinguishing between intertier competition and intratier competition," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 56(12), pages 947-959, December.
    21. Deleersnyder, B. & Dekimpe, M.G. & Steenkamp, J-B.E.M. & Koll, O., 2005. "Win-Win Strategies at Discount Stores," ERIM Report Series Research in Management ERS-2005-050-MKT, Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), ERIM is the joint research institute of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) at Erasmus University Rotterdam.
    22. Groznik, Ana & Heese, H. Sebastian, 2010. "Supply chain interactions due to store-brand introductions: The impact of retail competition," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 203(3), pages 575-582, June.
    23. Harald Van Heerde & Kristiaan Helsen & Marnik G. Dekimpe, 2007. "The Impact of a Product-Harm Crisis on Marketing Effectiveness," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 26(2), pages 230-245, 03-04.


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