Extending Culturally Symbolic Brands: A Blessing or a Curse?
Results from four studies uncover a relatively automatic cultural congruency mechanism that can influence evaluations of culturally charged brand extensions, overriding the impact of perceived fit on extension evaluations. Culturally congruent extensions (i.e., when both the brand and the extension category cue the same cultural schema) were evaluated more favorably than culturally neutral extensions, which in turn were evaluated more favorably than culturally incongruent ones (i.e., cue two different cultural schemas). The effects emerged with both moderate and low fit brand extensions, as well as for narrow and broad brands. However, they only emerged when both the brand and the product were culturally symbolic, likely to automatically activate a cultural schema but did not emerge for brands low in cultural symbolism. The effects were driven by the processing (dis)fluency generated by the simultaneous activation of the same (different) cultural schemas by the product and the brand.
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