Brand Concept Maps: A Methodology For Identifying Brand .

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DEBORAH ROEDDER JOHN, BARBARA LOKEN, KYEONGHEUI KIM, andALOKPARNA BASU MONGA*Understanding brand equity involves identifying the network of strong,favorable, and unique brand associations in memory. This articleintroduces a methodology, Brand Concept Maps, for eliciting brandassociation networks (maps) from consumers and aggregating individualmaps into a consensus map of the brand. Consensus brand mapsinclude the core brand associations that define the brand’s image andshow which brand associations are linked directly to the brand, whichassociations are linked indirectly to the brand, and which associationsare grouped together. Two studies illustrate the Brand Concept Mapsmethodology and provide evidence of its reliability and validity.Brand Concept Maps: A Methodology forIdentifying Brand Association NetworksUnderstanding brand equity involves identifying the network of strong, favorable, and unique brand associations inconsumer memory (Keller 1993). Consumers might associate a brand with a particular attribute or feature, usage situation, product spokesperson, or logo. These associationsare typically viewed as being organized in a network in amanner consistent with associative network models ofmemory (see Anderson 1983). This association networkconstitutes a brand’s image, identifies the brand’s uniqueness and value to consumers, and suggests ways that thebrand’s equity can be leveraged in the marketplace (Aaker1996).Ideally, firms should be able to measure this network ofbrand associations to obtain a brand map, such as the onefor McDonald’s in Figure 1. This map not only identifiesimportant brand associations but also conveys how theseassociations are connected to the brand and to one another.First, the map pinpoints several associations that are connected directly to the McDonald’s brand, such as “service”and “value,” and therefore are more closely tied to thebrand’s meaning. Second, the map shows how other associ-ations are connected to these close brand associations. Forexample, “hassle-free,” “convenient,” and “fast” are connected to the “service” association. Third, the map showsadditional linkages between associations. For example, several core associations—“meals,” “value,” and “service”—are connected to one another but are not connected to othercore associations, such as “social involvement.”However, methodologies for producing brand maps havebeen slow to emerge. Many methods are available for eliciting brand associations from consumers, ranging from qualitative techniques, such as collages and focus groups, toquantitative methods, such as attribute rating scales andbrand personality inventories. Techniques such as multidimensional scaling are helpful in understanding howbrands are viewed and what dimensions underlie these perceptions, but these techniques do not identify brand association networks—that is, which associations are linkeddirectly to the brand, which associations are indirectlylinked to the brand through other associations, and whichassociations are grouped together.Two categories of techniques that differ in the way theyderive brand maps are promising in this regard. The first,which we refer to as “consumer mapping,” elicits brandmaps directly from consumers. Brand associations areelicited from consumers, who are then asked to constructnetworks of these associations as links to the brand and toone another. Illustrative of this approach is Zaltman’sMetaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET), which uses qualitative research techniques to identify key brand associationsand then uses in-depth interviews with respondents touncover the links between these brand associations (Zaltman and Coulter 1995). The second category of techniques,which we refer to as “analytical mapping,” produces brandmaps using analytical methods. Brand associations are*Deborah Roedder John is Professor and Curtis L. Carlson Chair inMarketing (e-mail: djohn@csom.umn.edu), and Barbara Loken is Professor of Marketing (e-mail: bloken@csom.umn.edu), Carlson School ofManagement, University of Minnesota. Kyeongheui Kim is Assistant Professor of Marketing, University of Toronto (e-mail: kkim@Rotman.Utoronto.Ca). Alokparna (Sonia) Basu Monga is Assistant Professor ofMarketing, University of Texas at San Antonio (e-mail: alokparna.monga@utsa.edu). Contributions of the first and second author were equal.The authors thank Kent Seltman and Lindsay Dingle from the MayoClinic–Rochester for their participation and support. They also thank LanNguyen Chaplin for help with stimuli development and data coding. Thisresearch was sponsored by McKnight grants from the Carlson School ofManagement and funding from the Mayo Foundation. 2006, American Marketing AssociationISSN: 0022-2437 (print), 1547-7193 (electronic)549Journal of Marketing ResearchVol. XLIII (November 2006), 549–563

550JOURNAL OF MARKETING RESEARCH, NOVEMBER 2006Figure 1BRAND MAP FOR MCDONALD’SSource: Reprinted with permission of The Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group, from Building Strong Brands, by David A.Aaker (1996). Copyright by David A. Aaker. All rights reserved.elicited from consumers, but analytical methods are used touncover the network of brand associations. Illustrative ofthis approach is network analysis, which uses consumerperceptions about brands and derives the structure of brandassociations through network algorithms (see Henderson,Iacobucci, and Calder 1998).Despite these developments, barriers remain in makingbrand-mapping techniques more accessible to marketingpractitioners. In consumer mapping approaches, the processof eliciting brand maps from individual consumers andaggregating these individual maps into a consensus brandmap can be labor intensive and require specialized expertise. For example, ZMET requires the use of lengthy personal interviews conducted by interviewers trained in several base disciplines, such as cognitive neuroscience andpsycholinguistics. Analytical mapping techniques offer aless labor-intensive process for generating maps through theuse of quantitative analyses, but such techniques requireknowledge of statistical techniques that are unfamiliar tomost marketing researchers. For example, network analysisis a well-known technique in sociology, but it is unfamiliarto most marketing research firms.In this article, we offer a new consumer mappingapproach, called Brand Concept Maps (BCM), to answerthe need for a more accessible and standardized method forproducing brand maps. Our approach is easier to administerthan existing consumer mapping techniques, such asZMET, and does not require specially trained interviewersand large time commitments from respondents. In addition,the BCM offers a flexible approach that is capable of beingused in many research settings, even with large sample sizesthat cover diverse market segments. Compared with existing analytical mapping techniques, such as network analysis, our approach offers a standardized approach for aggregating individual brand maps using a relativelystraightforward set of rules that do not require knowledge ofspecialized statistical techniques.The remainder of the article proceeds as follows: Webegin by providing more background on consumer mappingmethods and describe ZMET and BCM in detail. Next, wediscuss the first study; we describe the BCM methodology,illustrate its application, and provide evidence of its reliability (split-half reliability) and validity (nomologicalvalidity). We then present a second study that provides evidence of convergent validity, comparing results from theBCM technique with more conventional ways of measuringbrand perceptions. In the final section, we evaluate thestrengths and weaknesses of the BCM approach as well asits usefulness for brand management.CONSUMER MAPPING TECHNIQUESConsumer mapping techniques can be described in termsof three stages. The first is the elicitation stage, in whichimportant brand associations are elicited from consumers.In the second stage, consumers map these elicited associations to show how they are connected to one another and to

Brand Concept Mapsthe brand. In the third stage, researchers aggregate theseindividual brand maps and associated data to produce a consensus brand map.In this section, we describe how these stages are accomplished in the most well-known consumer mapping technique, ZMET, and in our technique, BCM. We also evaluateeach technique in terms of criteria that are important acrossmany branding applications: ease of administration, flexibility across research settings, and quality of the obtaineddata in terms of reliability and validity.ZMETDescription. Zaltman’s Metaphor Elicitation Techniqueis designed to “surface the mental models that drive consumer thinking and behavior” (Zaltman and Coulter 1995,p. 36). It can be used for understanding consumers’thoughts about brands and product categories (Zaltman andCoulter 1995).In the elicitation stage, a small number of participants,typically 20–25, are recruited and introduced to the topic ofthe study (brand). Participants are then given instructions totake photographs and/or collect a minimum of 12 picturesof images that will convey their thoughts and feelings aboutthe topic. Seven to ten days later, participants return withthe requested materials and engage in a two-hour personalinterview to elicit constructs. The personal interview usesqualitative techniques that tap verbal constructs, such asKelly’s repertory grid (respondents identify how any two ofthree randomly selected pictures are similar but differentfrom a third stimulus) and laddering exercises (respondentsspecify a means–end chain that consists of attributes, consequences, and values). The interviews also include severalactivities aimed at eliciting visual images that represent thetopic of interest. Interviewers are specially trained in theseelicitation techniques and are familiar with base disciplines(e.g., cognitive neuroscience, psycholinguistics, semiotics)underlying ZMET.This is followed by the mapping stage, in which participants create a map or visual montage using the constructsthat have been elicited. The interviewer reviews all the constructs that have been elicited with the respondent and thenasks him or her to create a map that illustrates the importantconnections among important constructs.In the aggregation stage, researchers construct a consensus map that shows the most important constructs and theirrelationships across respondents. Interview transcripts,audiotapes, images, and interviewers’ notes are examinedfor the presence of constructs and construct pairs (two constructs that are related in some manner). After coding thesedata, the researchers make decisions about which constructsand construct relationships to include in the consensus mapbased on how frequently they are mentioned across respondents. The final map contains the chosen elements witharrows to represent links between constructs.Evaluation. The primary advantage of ZMET is the thoroughness of the procedures for eliciting brand associations;it uses multiple qualitative research techniques to tap verbaland nonverbal aspects of consumer thinking. Eliciting brandassociations in this manner is well suited to situations inwhich prior branding research is limited or in which deeperand unconscious aspects of a brand need to be better under-551stood (Christensen and Olson 2002). Reliability and validityalso seem promising. On the basis of validations with survey data, Zaltman (1997) reports that constructs elicitedusing ZMET generalize to larger populations, though thevalidity of relationships between constructs (associations)in consensus maps is still at issue (Zaltman 1997).The most significant drawbacks of ZMET are related toaccessibility and ease of administration. Accessibility topractitioners is limited because the procedures for producing brand maps are not standardized and involve expertjudgment. The technique is also difficult to administer, andthe process is labor intensive (Zaltman 1997). Respondentsmust be willing to undergo two interview sessions anddevote additional time to prepare pictures and images forthose interviews. Interviewers with specialized trainingdetermine the composition of the consensus maps throughtime-consuming reviews of interview materials. Theserequirements limit the flexibility of using ZMET acrossresearch settings, such as focus groups and mall-interceptstudies. In addition, because the elicitation, mapping, andaggregation stages are so intertwined, ZMET offers littleflexibility for firms with extensive prior brand research thatalready know the associations consumers connect to theirbrand but want to understand how these associations arestructured in the form of a brand map.BCMBackground. The BCM methodology is based on a familyof measurement techniques called concept maps. Conceptmaps have been used for more than 20 years in the physicalsciences to elicit knowledge people possess about scientificconcepts and how they are interrelated to one another(Novak and Gowin 1984). Procedures for obtaining conceptmaps are flexible, ranging from unstructured methods, inwhich respondents generate their own concepts and developconcept maps with few instructions, to structured methods,in which lists of concepts are provided and concept mapping proceeds with the aid of explicit instructions and concept map examples (for a review, see Ruiz-Primo andShavelson 1996). Recently, Joiner (1998) used an unstructured form of concept mapping to obtain brand maps fromindividual consumers. Participants were given a brief set ofinstructions, including an example concept map, and wereasked to generate a concept map for a brand by thinkingabout the things they associated with the brand and drawinglines between these associations to show how they wereconnected.However, existing work on concept maps does not offerprocedures for aggregating individual maps into consensusmaps. Individual concept maps obtained using unstructuredmethods present many of the same difficulties as those thatZMET poses. Therefore, procedures for obtaining individual maps need to be designed with aggregation in mind. Todo so, the BCM incorporates structure into the elicitation,mapping, and aggregation stages of concept mapping, as wedescribe subsequently.Description. The BCM method provides a map showingthe network of salient brand associations that underlie consumer perceptions of brands. In the elicitation stage,researchers identify salient associations for the brand.Existing consumer research can be used for this purpose, or

552JOURNAL OF MARKETING RESEARCH, NOVEMBER 2006a brief survey can provide the necessary information. Theprocess for identifying salient associations should conformto four criteria, guided by procedures for obtaining salientbeliefs in attitude research (e.g., Fishbein and Ajzen 1975).1First, data used to identify salient associations should begathered from the same consumer population as the onebeing used in the mapping stage. Second, data used to identify salient associations should be based on consumerresponses to open-ended questions (e.g., “When you thinkof [brand], what comes to mind?”). Open-ended questionsallow consumers to voice whatever brand associations aremost accessible and important to them in their own words.Third, the most frequently mentioned brand associationsshould be selected to form the final set. For our procedure,we include brand associations that at least 50% of respondents mentioned. Fourth, in selecting the exact phrasing forsalient brand associations, it is important to retain wordingthat the consumers use rather than wording that researchersor managers more commonly use.To begin the mapping stage, respondents are asked tothink about what they associate with the brand. Salientbrand associations (selected from the first stage) mountedonto cards are shown to respondents to aid in this process.Respondents are asked to select any of the premade cardsthat reflect their feelings about the brand. As a check toensure that all salient brand associations have been includedon the cards, blank cards are made available for respondentswho want to add additional associations to the set. Then,respondents are shown an example of a BCM and are giveninstructions on building their own brand map. Respondentsuse the brand associations they have selected and connectthem to one another and to the brand, using another set ofcards with different types of lines (single, double, or triple)to signify the strength of the connection betweenassociations.In the aggregation stage, individual brand maps are combined on the basis of a set of rules to obtain a consensusmap for the brand. As we describe subsequently, these rulesrequire no specialized knowledge of quantitative or qualitative research methods. Frequencies are used to construct aconsensus map, showing the most salient brand associationsand their interconnections.Evaluation. The BCM method incorporates structure intothe elicitation, mapping, and aggregation stages to provide atechnique that is easier to administer and analyze. Interviewers need minimal training, and respondents can complete the mapping procedure in a relatively short time (15–20 minutes). The BCM method also provides flexibility.Prior consumer research can often be used in the elicitationstage, enabling researchers to proceed with the mappingand aggregation stages without further time and expense.Respondents can complete brand maps relatively quickly,making the technique suitable for many data collection settings and affording the opportunity to collect larger samplesthan ZMET. This, along with more standardized aggrega1The BCM elicitation procedure differs from standard elicitation procedures in attitude research in at least two respects. First, the open-endedelicitation questions may differ somewhat from standardized elicitationquestions about favorable and unfavorable attributes (or consequences)used in some attitude research (Fishbein and Ajzen 1975). Second, thenumber of associations used for the BCM procedure is typically larger thanthe 7 rule used in some attitude research (Fishbein and Ajzen 1975).tion procedures, enables firms to collect brand maps for different market segments or geographic areas.However, the BCM has drawbacks as well. In most cases,the BCM reveals accessible brand associations and connections. However, associations that require more in-depthprobing are unlikely to surface with this technique. Most ofthe representations are verbal in nature as well. Furthermore, the reliability and validity of consensus brand mapsusing BCM requires examination. Although individual concept maps may be valid, consensus maps pose additionalchallenges, particularly with regard to aggregation bias thatcan adversely affect reliability and validity.We address these issues in Study 1. We illustrate the useof the BCM in a real branding context and provide additional details about the elicitation, mapping, and aggregation procedures. We also evaluate reliability and validity forthe BCM methodology.STUDY 1In this study, we illustrate the use of the BCM in the context of a premier health care brand, the Mayo Clinic. Thisafforded us several opportunities to test the capabilities ofthe BCM technique. First, the Mayo Clinic is a complexbrand with many salient brand associations, such as “leaderin medical research,” “best doctors in the world,” and“known worldwide.” This complexity provided a strong testof the BCM because large numbers of brand associationscan be combined in almost infinite ways in a network structure, making it difficult to obtain a consensus brand map.Second, the Mayo Clinic brand elicits a wide variety ofassociations, including attributes (e.g., “best doctors in theworld”), personality traits (e.g., “caring and compassionate”), and emotions (e.g., “it comforts me knowing thatMayo Clinic exists”). This provided an opportunity to testwhether the BCM would be a

brand’s equity can be leveraged in the marketplace (Aaker 1996). Ideally, firms should be able to measure this network of brand associations to obtain a brand map, such as the one for McDonald’s in Figure 1. This map not only identifies important brand associations but also conveys how these associatio

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