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The Effects of Brand Name on Quality Perception and Preference Serena D. Stevens Upper-Division Research Writing



Abstract Two experiments, one with 35 participants (13 male and 22 female, mean age = 21.5) and the other with 16(5 males and 11 females, mean age = 20.6), tested whether brand-name soymilk would be higher-rated than generic. Experiment 1: participants rated cups of soymilk, labeled with either brand-name or ambiguous symbols. No significant effects were found for soymilk type (F(1, 33) = .003, p = .959), label (F=1, 33) = .001, p = .978), or the interaction (F(1, 33) = .366, p = .549). Experiment 2: participants rated cups of identical soymilk, labeled as different brands. No significant results were found (t(15) = .824). This study indicated the need for research of taste perception among little-known brands.

& Durkin (2010) demonstrated that when cigarettes have plain packaging. But should they be? If the only difference between brand name and generic products is the pasted-on label. Among the profusion of products sit generic varieties. etc. 390). McCall and Lynn (2008) also found that elaborate descriptions of food on a menu affected consumers’ perceptions of quality more than simple descriptions (p. Sonka and Morganosky (2000). label information. The only difference between the two? One is brand-name and the other generic. Costa. Bogue and Ritson (2004) demonstrated that dairy products lower in fat are seen as more appealing when labeled “good for you” or “natural” rather than “light” or “low-fat” (pp. Park. including “brand name. 386. Wakefield. the health information on the wrapper of a nutrition bar affected participants’ views of its taste (as cited in Fichter & Jonas. Even before tasting a product. A person can hardly walk into a grocery store without noticing the plethora of goods available. consumers make preliminary judgments about it based on the packaging. 444).” The expected taste ratings of the cigarettes became more negative as the packaging became blander (pp. store type. 2008). Intrinsic quality cues have some research supporting their effects. consumers have more choice today than ever before. and Grunert (2009) explained that products have intrinsic quality cues. which include all physical characteristics of the product (including packaging) and extrinsic quality cues. these goods are often passed over for their more attractive counterparts.49. adolescents perceive them as being “boring” and “unattractive. In a study on packaging by Wansink. 43-44). the other $2. consumers may be paying a high price for no reason. 307).LABELING EFFECT ON TASTE 3 The Effects of Brand Name on Quality Perception and Preference Two products sit on a shelf—one costs $3. . price.” (p. Lower in price and usually packaged blandly.69. Germain. Krutulyte. information on origin.

or it could make the product less desirable because of the extra expense (p. Fichter and Jonas (2008) further define brand image as “the stereotype held toward a brand” (p. and Grunert (2009) showed that price’s reliance as an indicator of quality varies by culture (pp. A study by Krutulyte. 226). Costa. Olson. 319-320). Advertisers spend millions of dollars each year to familiarize the public with their brand images. 365). brand is seen as a “promise.LABELING EFFECT ON TASTE 4 Despite this research. 318-319). Ares et al. stating that the liking and purchase of a product depends on more than just the sensory details.. and Gambaro (2010) agreed. However. 2010. Brand has been cited among the “most important non-sensory factors affecting consumers’ choice decisions of food products” (Varela et al. and Haddock (1971). and Grunert (2009) asserted that extrinsic cues (such as brand name) are generally more influential than intrinsic cues (such as packaging) (pp. Price is “concrete and measurable. according to Jacoby. defined by Jacoby. a guarantee or contract with the manufacturer and a symbolic mean and sign of quality” (as cited in Varela et al. p. emotional cluster of meaning and symbols that the consumer attributes to a particular brand” (p. 873). Brand is communicated to the public through advertizing. 2010. Price has been interpreted as a determiner of quality.” so the consumer trusts it more than most cues concerned with quality (p. and Haddock (1971) as the “subjective. Gimenez. p. Ares. Costa. 571). Whatever effects price may have on quality perception are overshadowed by the effects of brand name. Varela. 570). The familiarity garnered from exposure to brand image leads to increased liking and increased quality perception . (2009) suggested that higher price could have one of two effects on consumer preference: it could cause the product to seem higher in quality. Krutulyte. Non-physical details such as brand and price influence consumers’ decisions (p. Olson. 873). 873). According to Keller (1998).

p. Makens also demonstrated in a second experiment that consumers believed better-quality turkey to be brand-name (p. “advertizing is the most important factor that influences the purchase of a new product” (p. Lesser-known brands saw no effect from brand name (p. 263). 135). p. 2009. the actual selection rarely matched the indicated preference (p. Gimenez. 262). However. Two researchers repeatedly found that participants were unable to distinguish among numerous brands of cola. when brand names were unknown. Multiple studies have demonstrated the remarkable effects of brand name. Pronko & Bowles. 1948. According to PetersTexeira and Badrie (2005). Fleishman (1951) found in a study on beer that. The first studies on brand name were conducted in the late 1940s. and when asked which they preferred. Additional limitations of brand name exist. 880). Ares. and researchers are finding that preference for brand name is not universal. 513). 227). Bowles & Pronko. high-recognized” brands. (2009) discovered . interest in brand name has picked up. 1949). repeatedly naming the three most popular brands no matter the combination of beverages (Pronko & Bowles. and consumers indicated an overall preference for the known brand (p. p. 1948. Makens (1965) found that two identical samples of turkey were rated differently when consumers were told that one was from a well-known brand. Varela et al. (2010) found that brand name affected quality perception in powdered drinks more than actual taste differences. 1994. and Deliza. In Allison and Uhl’s (1964) study on beer taste perception. Recently.LABELING EFFECT ON TASTE 5 (Wardle and Solomons. families favored a different brand of beer each day. Ares et al. 2008. 180. this positive effect was only demonstrated for the “premium. The sample supposedly from an unknown brand was rated significantly lower. all labeled bottles received higher scores than unlabeled. 365). even the lowest-rated labeled bottle was preferred over the highest-rated unlabeled bottle (as cited in Fichter & Jonas.

Jacoby et. Does brand name still have an effect on people when they are unfamiliar with the brand. 577). the results are inconclusive. at least when discussing beer. even to those unfamiliar with soymilk. but they are still commonly consumed. While soymilk consumption is on the rise. or is it because of the higher advertizing allotted to it? Silk soymilk was chosen for this study because it is among the most popular brands of soymilk. This shows that some brands do have quality differences. 1965). many people are still unfamiliar with or wary of this milk replacement. In 1965. . studying the effects of brand name with turkey meat (p. (1951) three brands of beer were consistently rated higher than the others. advertized heavily in magazines. These products may be obscure compared to beer. cola.LABELING EFFECT ON TASTE 6 that brand name was the most important factor for yogurt preference—but only among participants who cared the least about health (p. Even so. and two were generally avoided (pp. although all studies suggesting this have been conducted on beer. 261) and Varela et al. Is brand name seen as higher quality because of the brand. on the Internet. In another study on beer brands. and cigarettes. (2010) recently studied orange drink powder. 365). In Fleishman’s study. cola. The available research of the effects of brand name on quality perception and preference largely concern frequently consumed products whose brand names and brand images are linked tightly to the food itself—products such as beer. The possibility exists that brand-name products actually taste better than generic products. Silk is likely recognizable as brand name. 134-135). and cigarettes (Makens. Makens pioneered a new area of research. and via television commercials. or even the food itself? Little research has been done on products that are even more obscure than drink powder and turkey—products such as soymilk. al (1971) found that ultrapremium beer was rated higher than inexpensive regional beer when brand names were unknown (p.

participants were collected by sign-ups in the school cafeteria. Experiment 1 was a 2 x 2 mixed design. All participants were treated in accordance with the “Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct” (American Psychological Association. The within-groups variable was type of soymilk (Silk or generic). All were students at Union College. Method Overview Two experiments were conducted to investigate these hypotheses. 13 male and 22 female. 2010). Participants were assigned to groups using a random number table.LABELING EFFECT ON TASTE 7 The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of brand name on perceived quality of soymilk. the between-groups variable was labeling (brand-labeled or symbol-labeled). Experiment 2 contained 16 students. For both experiments. Nebraska. with ages ranging from 18-25 and an average age of 20.6. 5 male and 11 female. and that brand namelabeled soymilk will be preferred over the same soymilk labeled with a generic brand name. Participants The two experiments together contained 51 participants. emails sent to all students informing them of the research. and the dependent variable was taste quality. Experiment 1 contained 35 students. that symbol-labeled soymilk will differ in taste perception than the same soymilk labeled with brand names. Experiment 2 was a two-level within-groups design with the independent variable of labeling (Silk or generic) and had a dependent variable of taste quality. an obscure food product. with an ages ranging from 18-27 and an average age of 21. Participants received cookies for participating in this study. It is hypothesized that a well-known brand of soymilk (such as Silk) will be rated higher than a lesser-known or generic brand. .5. and a group on the social networking site Facebook. a Seventh-day Adventist college in Lincoln.

“*” and “%” indicated Silk and generic. The soymilk in the brand-labeled condition was correctly labeled. The participants were told the name of a soymilk and instructed to take a cup from the presented correctly-labeled tray and drink it. . Response options for taste of soymilk were organized in a Likert scale from (1) Bad to (5) Excellent. and participants again rated its taste. Questionnaires were printed on 11. Participants were asked to rate the taste of the soymilk on Part 2 of the questionnaire for Experiment 1 (Appendix B). options for frequency of consumption ranged from (1) Never to (5) Everyday or Every other day. paper cups. marked with the opposite label. respectively. They were asked to fill out the informed consent form (Appendix A) and the demographic information and information about frequency of consumption in Part 1 of the questionnaire for Experiment 1 (Appendix B). Participants arrived at the testing site and were randomly assigned to one of two groups: brand-labeled or symbol-labeled. Procedure Experiment 1.5 x 18 inch white paper in 12point Garamond font. Participants filled out a questionnaire on the taste of the soymilk and frequency of consumption. and in the symbol-labeled condition. the researcher collected the informed consent forms and made sure all had completed Part 1 of the questionnaire. The soymilk was served to participants in 3 oz. Next. filled half-full. When all participants arrived.LABELING EFFECT ON TASTE 8 Apparatus Both experiments used two brands of vanilla soymilk: Silk and Best Choice (a generic brand found at Super Saver). The tray was labeled either “Silk” or “Super Saver/Generic” for the brand-labeled condition and “*” or “%” for the symbol-labeled condition. a second tray of soymilk was presented. on trays labeled with the condition. The order of presentation was counterbalanced to avoid multiple treatment effects.

There was also no significant interaction (F(1. no significant effects were demonstrated. p = . 33) = . Although labeled differently.366. η² = .000) or for soymilk label (F=1. Order of presentation was again counterbalanced to control for multiple treatment effects. After collecting the informed consent form. η² = . p = . Results Experiment 1 A 2 x 2 ANOVA was performed to test the following hypotheses: brand of soymilk will affect the perception of taste so that Silk brand soymilk will result in a higher perception of quality than generic (Main Effect 1).549.959.011). the researcher told the participants to take a cup of soymilk from the tray marked “Silk” or “Generic” and rate its taste on Part 2 of the questionnaire. . label of soymilk will affect taste perception in that soymilk labeled with symbols will be rated as significantly different in taste from soymilk labeled with brand names (Main Effect 2). 33) = . including demographic information and information about frequency of soymilk consumption.05. Therefore. indicated no significant main effects for soymilk type (F(1. p = . and there will be a significant interaction between brand and label such that Silk brand and brand-labeled soymilk will produce the highest perception of quality.003. It is expected that Silk will consistently have higher ratings than generic and that brand-labeled will have higher ratings than symbol-labeled. Participants filled out the informed consent form (Appendix A) and Part 1 of the questionnaire for Experiment 2 (Appendix C).000). 33) = . Analysis using an alpha level of . A chi-square test was conducted to determine the effects of frequency of consumption on taste perception. brand-labeled Silk is expected to have the highest rating. The other tray was then presented.978.LABELING EFFECT ON TASTE 9 Experiment 2. However. η² = . the soymilk in both conditions was actually generic.001.

Indeed.752. p = . Table 2 C hi-square Test on Frequency of Soymilk Consumption x Generic Taste Rating Taste Rating Never Bad Poor Fair Good Excellent Total 1 1 1 0 0 3 Frequency of Consumption A few times A few times A few times per year per month per week 0 1 1 1 1 4 0 1 2 8 0 11 0 2 1 3 1 7 Everyday or Total every other day 0 1 4 5 0 10 1 6 9 17 2 35 . these results are not significant. χ² (16) = 11.LABELING EFFECT ON TASTE 10 Table 1 Chi-square Test on Frequency of Soymilk Consumption x Silk Taste Rating Taste Rating Never Bad Poor Fair Good Excellent Total 0 1 1 1 0 3 Frequency of Consumption A few times A few times A few times per year per month per week 0 1 1 2 0 4 0 1 5 5 0 11 1 0 2 3 1 7 Everyday or Total every other day 0 1 3 6 0 10 1 4 12 17 1 35 The results in Table 1 seem to show that there is little difference between those who drink soymilk regularly and those who do not.880.

148.423.6551) (t(15) = . Experiment 2 No significant effects were found for brand-labeling in this experiment. The hypothesis that. d = 7. .813. twotailed. SD = . Table 3 C hi-square Test on Frequency of Soymilk Consumption x Silk-Labeled Taste Rating Taste Rating Never Fair Good Excellent 1 0 0 Frequency of Consumption A few times A few times A few times per year per month per week 0 2 0 3 3 0 3 0 0 Everyday or Total every other day 0 3 1 4 7 8 1 16 Total 1 2 6 3 Note. these differences are not significant.6191) were not significantly different from those of the cup labeled “Super Saver/Generic” (M = 3. However. p = . p = . χ² (16) = 22.139.824. The taste results of the cup labeled “Silk” (M = 3.” From Table 3. it looks as though those who consume soymilk more frequently were more likely to rate the “Silk” higher. A chi-square test was used to determine whether frequency of consumption had an effect on taste perception. SD = . between two cups of identical soymilk. No participants rated the Silk-labeled soymilk “Bad” or “Poor. χ² (8) = 12. the cup with the label “Silk” would be rated as higher quality than the cup labeled “Super Saver/Generic” was tested using a repeated measures t-test.LABELING EFFECT ON TASTE 11 The results in Table 2 also seem to show little difference and are not significant.0782).625.139. p = .071.

451.822. p = .” The results in Table 4 also seem to show that those who consume soymilk more frequently tend to rate soymilk—regardless of the label—higher. χ² (8) = 7. one would expect participants to rate Silk higher when labels were included (Makens. Although the results were not significant for Experiment 1. 1965). and when only symbols were given. However. According to the research. it is interesting to note a few points about the data obtained. the Silk was rated higher. participants rated the generic soymilk higher than the Silk soymilk.” neither of these hypotheses were supported. No participants rated the Generic-labeled soymilk “Bad” or “Poor. and in the second experiment that scores for the cup labeled “Silk” would be higher than a cup of identical soymilk labeled “Super Saver/Generic. However. these results are not significant either. Discussion Although it was hypothesized in the first experiment that scores for the symbol-labeled soymilk would differ significantly from scores for the brand-labeled soymilk. the results show the opposite: when labels were included. Participants seemed to like Silk more when they .LABELING EFFECT ON TASTE 12 Table 4 C hi-square Test on Frequency of Soymilk Consumption x Generic-Labeled Taste Rating Taste Rating Never Fair Good Excellent 0 1 0 Frequency of Consumption A few times A few times A few times per year per month per week 1 1 0 2 4 0 1 2 0 Everyday or Total every other day 1 1 2 4 5 9 2 16 Total 1 2 6 3 Note.

880). a lesser-known product. lesser-known brands (and. the . p. then a few possibilities exist. 880). even though both cups were the same brand of soymilk. The results were also not significant for Experiment 2. college students. which could cause the demonstrated effect. Additionally. assumedly. It is also possible that the results could be due to students making a conscious effort to like Silk less because it is a name-brand. as suggested by Varela et al. Some participants may have had a reaction against name-brand goods because of views on company corruption or advertizing. Perhaps the participants. Even though these results are not significant. the experiments may have yielded different results if only participants familiar with soymilk had been studied. they are opposite of what was expected. (2010. However. have trained themselves to like generic foods because of the low cost. and the means exhibited the same strange reversal as seen in Experiment 1: participants rated the soymilk labeled as “Generic/Super Saver” the highest. Frequently buying generic products may actually make college students be more familiar with generic soymilk than with brand-name.LABELING EFFECT ON TASTE 13 did not know it was Silk and to like it less when they knew the brand name. As Varela et al. they believe they must like them better. If this study was accurate and brand name really has no significant effects. It is possible that Silk. products) saw little effect of brand name on taste quality perception (p. Although the chi-square analyses yielded no significant results. has not yet built up a strong advertizing base. Reasons for this switch could be many. (2010) found. This makes particular sense if a brand-name product receives its high taste expectations from advertizing—lesser-known brands are lesser-known because of less advertizing. since the results were not significant. it is possible that this reversal is due entirely to chance. Cognitive dissonance may set in when students buy generic goods: if they buy them instead of name-brand goods.

while this study did not yield significant results. the taste rating means would be similar even though the preferences were polarized. One participant noted that she preferred plain soymilk. but without more participants. Preferences on sweetness and vanilla flavoring may differ. according to Ares et al. therefore. it indicated the need for more research in the area of taste perception among little-known brands. the effects could not be shown. It is also possible that soymilk—of any kind—is an acquired taste. may correlate with rating soymilk low in taste. Perhaps consumers who enjoy soymilk are less affected by brand name. more exposure to advertizing about Silk. and it simply tastes better to those more acquainted with the flavor. people who care more about health are less affected by brand name (p. Frequent consumption would probably indicate familiarity with soymilk brands and. In conclusion. appealed to her more. sample sizes of 35 and 16 may not have been sufficient to test these hypotheses. choosing products based on their intrinsic quality rather than their extrinsic ones. soymilk is often seen as a healthier alternative to cow’s milk and. If half the participants preferred Silk and half preferred generic. This could be because health-conscious people might look more carefully at a product’s ingredients and nutrition information. (2009). Another possibility is that the two brands of soymilk differed dramatically in taste. so the generic one. but not necessarily in quality. A potential limitation of this study involves the sample sizes. with its blander flavoring. Although large enough for some phenomena. infrequent consumption. Participants noted that the Silk soymilk tasted sweeter and had a stronger vanilla flavor than the generic soymilk. 365). on the other hand. The nonsignificant results may have actually been significant.LABELING EFFECT ON TASTE 14 given information seems to show that frequent consumption of soymilk correlates with high taste ratings. Such research could help .

LABELING EFFECT ON TASTE 15 determine the true influence of brand name and whether advertizing is the main factor in brand name’s attractiveness. .

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All the information you provide in this experiment will be kept confidential. There are no obvious risks involved in study participation.LABELING EFFECT ON TASTE 18 Appendix A: Informed Consent Form This research is concerned with taste perception. You will be asked to sample two brands of soymilk and report on their taste. although those with an allergy to soy should not participate. and your name will not be attached to the data that you provide. You are free to withdraw from the experiment at any time without penalty. The entire experiment should take between five and ten minutes. Print name: _______________________________ Signed: _____________________________ Date: ______________________________ . I hereby indicate that I am informed of the nature of this research and consent to the use of the results by the researchers.

Silk [or Super Saver/Generic or * or %) Soymilk 1 Bad 2 Poor 3 Fair 4 Good 5 Excellent Super Saver/Generic [or Silk or % or *] Soymilk 1 Bad 2 Poor 3 Fair 4 Good 5 Excellent . 1 Never 2 A few times per year 3 A few times per month 4 A few times per week 5 Everyday or every other day Male Female Other/Prefer not to respond Part 2 Rate the taste of each cup of soymilk by choosing the number which most closely corresponds to your answer. Do not move on to Part 2 of the questionnaire until instructed to do so. Age: ______ 3. Part 1 1. Gender: 2. Indicate how often you drink soymilk by choosing the number which most closely corresponds to your answer.LABELING EFFECT ON TASTE 19 Appendix B: Questionnaire Experiment 1 Questionnaire Please respond to items in Part 1 as you wait.

Do not move on to Part 2 of the questionnaire until instructed to do so. Age: ______ 3.LABELING EFFECT ON TASTE 20 Appendix C: Questionnaire Experiment 2 Questionnaire Please respond to items in Part 1 as you wait. Indicate how often you drink soymilk by choosing the number which most closely corresponds to your answer. Part 1 1. Silk [or Super Saver/Generic] Soymilk 1 Bad 2 Poor 3 Fair 4 Good 5 Excellent Super Saver/Generic [or Silk] Soymilk 1 Bad 2 Poor 3 Fair 4 Good 5 Excellent . 1 Never 2 A few times per year 3 A few times per month 4 A few times per week 5 Everyday or every other day Male Female Other/Prefer not to respond Part 2 Rate the taste of each cup of soymilk by choosing the number which most closely corresponds to your answer. Gender: 2.