Commentators: Laura Heymann (William & Mary)
How do we think about brand commitment? Measuring brand commitment through purchasing, and also through identity formation (do you enjoy talking about the brand with friends?). Those may be distinct/distinguishable. Can be committed to Trader Joe’s for their food and not committed as a matter of identity. Can false memory creation operate differently depending on the kind of commitment we’re talking about?
Does false creation of memory differ in other ways from how advertising creates false beliefs: e.g., if I buy this product I will be more popular. It is leading the consumer to have some attitude, belief, interaction with the product—no different from anything else where the ad creates a conception that is not rooted in reality and the marketer hopes it will lead to future purchase.
What are the legal implications? Does it make us more willing to regulate advertising, and in what ways?
Jeremy Sheff (St. John’s)
Neat paper, result that is consistent with everything we’ve learned so far about how consumers process information and how that can be affected by loyalty. False positives are problems for policy but good for the trademark owner, as are true negatives that the committed consumer discounts. Policymakers and TM owners therefore will disagree over the desirability of the effect you identify and what we should do it, before you even get to the interests of competitors and consumers.
Regulatory framework is not going to be TM-based, but rather advertising based, and that may raise significant First Amendment concerns.
Montgomery: some studies have shown false memory created by being told about incidents; what she’s showing is a moderating effect of other factors.
Commitment: the measure is emotional attachment to a brand, which can occur even when we don’t buy the brand: can love Aston Martin without having any effect on buying behavior.
Heymann: do people believe they’re really being asked about a brand? False Subway “Artisan” brand sandwich might be descriptive term.
Montgomery: if they didn’t think Artisan was a brand, you’d expect that different groups would all have had the same baseline of false memory of trying it, but you actually see differences depending on their commitment to the brand. (I’m not sure it has to be a brand in the TM sense as long as it’s a type.)
Rao: problems of confirmation: suppose you’ve just said you’re committed to the brand—you might then feel like you have to say you’ve used it.
Montgomery: we’ve tried to correct for that by brand usage measures, including examples of nonadvertised variants, and we don’t see differences except for the products in the (fake) ads/reviews. Counterhypothesis: brand experience means you know which is real so you’ll know you didn’t try the fake product. It wasn’t that high-commitment people were more knowledgeable, but commitment seems to be independent.
Ethical debate: what should we be improving in ads? If you take brand attributes v. describing brand experiences in detail, the latter creates false memories. Exposure to information itself can create false memories compared to a situation in which we just ask “what’s your experience with [fake variant]?” This also happens at the brand level, not just the brand variant level. So this is important for people who are considering purchases in the marketplace.
Another implication: we can actually develop commitment in people by giving them vivid information in false claims. A bit scary!
False positives/false negatives: if you expose committed people to negative false information, encourages them to develop positive fake memories about the product. They’re spontaneously creating false memories as a protective measure. From a policy perspective, we should be concerned about that!
McKenna: another reason dilution is bunk.
Montgomery: research next—implications for competitors.
McGeveran: how important is the incremental step from “I expect Artisan sandwiches to be good because I like Subway” from “I remember trying Artisan sandwiches” in terms of the impact on consumer behavior?
Montgomery: indirect experience v. direct. Reading an ad and having an experience differ in strength of resulting opinion, so the link to behavior changes quite a bit. Feel very strongly about liking and correlate very strongly to purchase behavior. Nature of claim matters: a sentence on a blog won’t necessarily do this, but a vivid description might.
Schlosser: would you see similar effects in people committed to a negative evaluation?
Montgomery: we chose commitment because it’s deep in the marketing literature; we could have looked for confidence in judgment which would have accommodated negative valences. She thinks they’d still see similar effects—one study took brand preference into account and gave positive information about a nonpreferred brand.
Schlosser: compare political campaigns: you get counterarguing with arguments from the other side. If it’s really commitment that matters, it shouldn’t matter what the valence is.
Montgomery: if you really hate Chick-fil-A, you might be readier to develop false memories; but on the other hand if you don’t go to Chick-fil-A, you might think it implausible that you actually ate there.
Heymann: still not convinced that questions go to emotional commitment and not just repeat purchasing. False memory of product experience might not be used to confirm/disconfirm a pure identity or values based commitment to the product (Aston Martin example). Would I think I don’t like Chick-fil-A sandwiches because I dislike the company? If I’m emotionally committed to a brand, my feeling of experience with a sub-brand might not interact with identity formation.
Montgomery: positive experience might not change emotional commitment?
Heymann: might overlap but might not. Your commitment might not have anything to do with experience. Now that we know people react in this way, what does that mean to commitment?
McKenna: related to plausibility point. One might develop a view that one’s had a Subway Artisan sandwich because that’s plausible based on eating other Subway sandwiches. If you just like the company but don’t eat there, that’s less plausible.
Montgomery: yes, with no experience, plausibility goes down. Though commitment and experience do tend to go hand in hand. Tested stuff that the population did have experience with (and McKenna points out that it wasn’t a car by Subway). Did test by frequency of consumption and still saw effects of commitment.
Schlosser: plausibility is dependent on how you operationalize false memories—do you remember eating? is different from do you remember seeing an ad for this/hearing about this?
Goldman: Maybe there’s no such thing as bad press from a marketing perspective. Any information to hypothetical buyers can be processed as positive—exposure. It isn’t false memories per se, but getting any attention at all.
McKenna: how does this relate to the literature on how mere exposure increases likeability?
Montgomery: people try to protect their commitments to brands they love: counterarguing, minimizing spillovers, etc. Negative information can eventually become too strong, though.
McKenna: normatively: how much are we shaping TM law for the committed v. uncommitted consumers? Committed consumers are very robustly protected against dilution. Are brands at risk of losing uncommitted consumers/those they haven’t gotten yet (why are they “entitled” to those again?).
Schlosser: attitude accessibility: one study found something counterintuitive—the more accessible an attitude was, the more susceptible you are to errors in fact. (Couldn’t recall what the errors were.)
McKenna: in TM, there is a Q of whether a really well-known brand will be more resistant to confusion because small differences are more easily detectable, or more easily confused because it’s strong.
Schlosser: people are very motivated to justify what they think their choice was, even if you swap their choice—e.g., ask them to pick more attractive person of two, then ask them to explain why they chose the other one; they don’t notice the swap.
Yen: resistance shows up in other areas—perspectives on healthy eating, etc.
Montgomery: we’ve looked at this—approach v. avoidance. I avoid McDonald’s versus I choose to eat in a healthy way. Actually easier to implant a false memory of affirmative choice. Tell them to imagine that they’re making a healthy choice; don’t tell them to imagine staying away from McDonald’s. It’s also harder to generate imagery about avoidance. Trying to find domains in which people can easily imagine approach v. avoidance. Imagine “staying out of the sun”—can imagine how they’d do that. Or imagine “wear sunscreen.” Those are two different types of behaviors that are both visualizable. And there is still a difference: wear sunscreen works better.
Joe Urbany (Notre Dame, Marketing): What are the welfare implications of translating this to the legal system? Own research on reference pricing—sale price/was $499 v. sale price/was $799, where that’s made up. People will say they don’t believe the initial price, and yet it influenced their attitudes and intentions. Court case in Colorado: company would sell something very briefly at a high price and then say it was on sale the rest of the year. AG figured it out and sued. Consumers say they were injured because they believed, and later found the product at a lower price later. Court found advertiser guilty and fined $8000 after a huge trial. AG’s not going to bring more cases, because of cost/benefit—even though the impact on consumer welfare was clear.
Committed people are going to buy no matter what, while less committed are influenced—can you interpret purchase intentions along a welfare line? Do your results suggest less harm to welfare from false memories? How many people are non-committed (and do we know they’re harmed?).
Montgomery: would say that even high-commitment people are more likely to buy because they think they’ve already done so. For low-commitment people, the implications are larger. She believes high-commitment effects are also important. Low-commitment people are better off, because the brand doesn’t take a welfare hit in terms of false memories.
Deborah Gerhardt: what motivates commitment? Do you think of the brand as a trusted friend?
Montgomery: yes. It’s a kind of self-defense. If you have a close friend and you hear something negative, it injures you to hear something bad about someone you like and implicates your judgment about who your friends are.
Yen: there’s a level of commitment that’s beyond that, where you subsume something into your identity in an intimately personal way. More than friendship—constitutive/like a parent-child relationship.
Montgomery: some people connect with the brand; there’s a wide literature on that. I see the brand as a reflection of myself; begins as a behavioral thing and then develops over time. We can also manipulate brand commitment by asking people to evaluate a brand, take their picture, advertise them with the brand.
Schlosser: what does loyalty mean? Can be habit or can be overlap between brand and self-identity. But there’s still a lot of disagreement about what loyalty is.
RT: my question is like McKenna’s and others’: normatively, so what if preferences change? Regulators shouldn’t necessarily even be concerned with false memories unless they are false memories of non-taste-based claims/non-puffery.
Garcia: failures of recall: research by Park & Schwarz: the Moses illusion—how many of each animal did Moses take on the Ark? People say “two.” That’s false recall. But if you put it in a difficult font, they scrutinize the question more and produce the correct answer. Confusion/effort is supposed to be bad, but has the ironic effect of sharpening the mind.
Yen: consider research on racist biases. In that area, we talk about debiasing.
Schlosser: we are better at identifying biases in others’ thinking than our own.
Montgomery: once I tell you that your memory is false, you won’t believe me. Intervention has to come before the memory is formed. Prior to incorporation of the information into memory. Research on memories of 9/11: accounts initially after were compared to accounts after, and they differed, and people insisted that their initial accounts weren’t theirs.
Schlosser: interesting to see under which conditions people stop defending (may be self-defense against embarrassment of being wrong).
Montgomery: we don’t know the answer yet.