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Journal of the Academy of Marketing Sci ence

Fall 1974, Vol. 2, No. 4, 651-658

B r a n d L o y a l t i e s :
Q u a l i t a t i v e ,
Q u a n t i t a t i v e , o r B o t h ?
Davi d R. Wheel er, D. B. A.
Bar uch Col l ege, The Ci t y Uni v er s i t y o f Ne w Yor k
Marketers wish that their firm's offerings will be perceived by
consumers, not as products, but as brands. Marketers hope that they can
cause consumers to discriminate among the various brands that are
available and to purchase the "cor r ect " brand. Marketing abounds with
examples of consumers learning to choose one product or store rather than
another. These consumer preferences have been termed "loyalties. "
Brand loyalty (in various semantic forms) is a part of any marketer' s
vocabulary. Brand loyalty has been defined (Engle, et al., 1968, p. 609) as
a sequence of brand choices or expressed as probabilities of repeat
purchases over time. Researchers (Brown, 1952) have found significant
consistencies in consumers' purchase behavior concerning various prod-
ucts. "The consumer' s tendency to develop brand l oyal t y is an important
advantage to the marketer of an established brand" (Sturdivant, et al.,
1970, p. 174).
Although brand loyalties seem to exist, a consistent operational
definition is lacking. Definitions of brand loyalty are not only elusive but
also numerous. Brand loyalty has been defined (Cunningham, 1956) in
terms of the proportion of purchases of the most popular brand. Jagdish
N. Sheth (1968) defined brand loyalty as the number of choices in
sequence during a stated length of time. Guest (1964) defined brand
l oyal t y as the consistency of brand purchasing over time periods up to
t went y years. There are several behavioral definitions of brand loyalty
which report actual purchasing behavior by consumers.
In this paper, the problems associated with quantitative and qualitative
approaches to brand loyalty are discussed. The position taken by this
author is that the exclusive use of only one of these approaches will lead
to a deficient model of brand loyalty because marketers need to
understand and predict consumer behavior.
A number of hypotheses have been advanced to explain why consumers
change brands. There is usually some empirical evidence for any particular
t heory. Theories of brand switching can be categorized as being behavioral
descriptions of internal psychological states. Qualitative models view
consumer purchasing as being caused by some factor as opposed to
occurring by chance. "The term l o y a l t y . . , has been used to. name the
commonly observed phenomenon that consumers do not distribute their
chocies randomly within a given product area" (Hansen, 1972, p. 322).
Behavioral descriptions of brand switching attempt to analyze consumer
behavior at a micro level. Various "internal" factors have been
conceptualized in order to explain brand switching behavior. These
descriptions of cognitive processes have included curiosity, disappoint-
ment, reassurance, availability of alternatives, and decisions.
Cognitive explanations of brand loyalty have been offered in some
recent explanations of consumer choice behavior. Tucker (1964) presented
experimental findings on the cognitive strength of loyalties.
While learning theories from psychological literature have been used in
attempts to explain the process of brand loyalty, the di chot omy between
connectionist and cognitive theories has not given marketers a unified
explanation of brand loyalty. Jacoby and Kyner (1973) have found
empirical support for a conceptual definition of brand loyalty. Their
definition is based on the idea that brand loyalty is a form of repeat
purchasing. Jacoby and Kyner' s conceptual definition includes the
following conditions: (1) purchasing that is nonrandom, (2) behavioral
responses, (3) temporal responses, (4) availability of alternatives, and (5)
behavior that is a result of a decision-making process. The major
contribution of Jacoby and Kyner' s article is in their development of a
logical framework that can be used to tie together two views of brand
loyalty: repeat purchases (behavioral) to underlying processes (cognitive).
Marketers have at t empt ed to find evidence that a postive relationship
exists between users (classified either as heavy or light) and brand loyalty.
If such a relationship could be found, a logical basis for segmenting
markets would exist. "Marketing literature abounds with references to
contrasts involving each of the dimensions [total purchases and brand
l oyal t y]. It is often argued that two of the most valuable market segments
to penetrate are the ' heavy hal f and those households that exhibit a high
propensity to be brand-loyal" (Frank, 1968, p. 53).
In studies of heavy and light product users, no discernible patterns of
loyalty, personality, or other characteristics have been shown. It would
appear that a brand-loyal customer could be positively correlated with
heavy users of that product. Research has failed to show that this is true.
Ronald E. Frank writes: " . . . the 'high brand-loyal' household apparently
has a profile of personality and socioeconomic characteristics that is
virtually identical to that of households exhibiting a lower degree of
l oyal t y" (Frank, 1968, p. 61). Dik W. Twedt (1964) believes that a heavy
user household is not readily identifiable except through analyses of
purchase behavior. Only very small differences were found (Gottlieb,
1958) in the personality characteristics between heavy and light users of a
brand medication.
The conclusions from the preceding discussion are that marketers have
classified product users into light and heavy categories, which are basically
not distinguishable from one another except by an arbitrary classification
scheme of the particular researchers.
Physical product differentiation is becoming less pronounced. Con-
sumers' abilities to discern physical differences among brands of products
in the market place are being hampered by firms producing nearly
identical products. "The ability to distinguish among the various
b r a n d s . . , may technically exist, but the magnitude is quite small and is
unlikely to be of great value in the market place" (Myers and Reynolds,
1967, p. 18).
As physical differences among products have declined, marketers have
advanced theories that brand switching is due to chance. "When
individuals have difficulty discriminating between stimulus situations,
behavior becomes random" (Engel, et al., p. 125). Purchases of coffee (a
product where brand differentiation is limited) are reported to be closely
approximated by a random Poisson process (Day, 1970, p. 68). In an early
experiment (Husband and Godfrey, 1934) involving subjects' abilities to
discriminate between cigarettes, correct recognition of the unmarked
cigarettes was no better than could be expected due to chance.
Partly due to the quantitative orientation of the researchers, attention
has been focused on various probabilistic models to explain brand
switching. These models attempt to represent behavior as some manner of
stochastic process 9 The particular stochastic model depends on the
assumptions made regarding the effects of experience on behavior 9 Brand
switching generally is presented stochastically in one of three models:
Bernoulli, Markov, or a linear learning model 9
A Bernoulli model of brand switching behavior assumes that previous
purchases have no effect on present purchasing. Each brand switching
probability remains constant from one purchasing period t o the next.
Massy, Montgomery, and Morrison (1970, p. 18) assume:
9 that households reevaluate the worth of the various brands at
discrete points in time, that the outcomes of the successive
evaluations (drawn from the distribution of probabilities) are
independent of one another, and that the purchase probabilities do
not change (i.e., the process is Bernoulli) between reevaluations.
Frank (1962) found evidence that probability of buying was constant over
a period of time for each buyer in his sample. If behavior has a constant
probability of occurring it is independent of purchase history.
Most researchers have presented brand switching in terms of a Markov
model. Markov models assume that the analysis of present purchase
behavior depends only on the immediately preceding purchase event and
any earlier history than that, is irrelevant. Ehrenberg (1965, p. 347)
explains this model as follows:
Markov brand-switching models aim in general to deal with
repeat-buying and brand-switching behavior, primarily for frequently
brought nondurable consumer goods. Consumer purchasing of
different brands within a single product field is usually analyzed for
successive equal periods of time, e.g., months or quarters 9
A third stochastic model that has been used to explain brand switching
is the linear learning model patterned after the generalized form presented
by Bush and Mosteller (1955). The assumption i f the linear learning model
is that " . . . the probability that a consumer will purchase a particular
brand is a function of what she has learned from past favorable
experiences with that brand" (Carman, 1966, p. 23). In the linear learning
model, a consumer' s behavior is affected by his previous brand choices.
" . . . The act of purchasing and using a particular brand is assumed to
affect the probability that this brand will be selected the next time the
product class is to be purchased" (Massy, et al., p. 141).
A linear learning model that has attracted considerable attention in
marketing is the one developed by Alfred A. Kuehn. Kuehn' s 1962 study
of brand l oyal t y at t empt ed to show that consumer' s brand choice behavior
can be represented as a linear stochastic process. Kuehn' s learning model is
patterned after the Bush-Mosteller model. Kuehn defined his linear model
in terms of the slopes and intercepts of two straight lines. The lines are
called "puchase operat or" and "rejection operat or. " These are explained
If the brand in question is purchased by the consumer on a given
occasion, the consumer' s probability of again buying the same brand
the next time that t ype of product is purchased is read from the
purchase operator. I f the brand is rejected by the consumer on a
given buying occasion, the consumer' s probability of buying that
brand when he next buys that type of product from the rejection
operator (Kuehn, p. 104).
Empirical support of this linear model came from a study that Kuehn
conducted from 1950-1952 on data from 600 Chicago families' sequential
purchase behavior. Brand switching patterns for Snow Crop frozen orange
juice was analyzed.
Even though Kuehn' s linear learning model seems to predict purchase
behavior quiet well from previous purchase history, there are some serious
defects present in the model. A problem of considerable importance is that
of estimating the four parameters. "I f this [determining t he parameters]
could be done a p r i o r i , the model might be a value to marketing
management for use in forecasting." Massy, Montgomery, and Morrison
(1970, p. 157) write: " . . . we cannot trust the specific predictions he
obtains or the implied estimates of parameters." Philip Kotler (1971, p.
506) points out two other problems with Kuehn' s stochastic learning
The purchase operator is t oo rigid in implying inevitable satisfaction
with use. Also, this mo d e l , . . , ignores the effect on brand choice of
variations in the marketing mix. It describes the buyer' s brand
purchase probabilities as being modified solely through past brand
Stochastic models are abstractions of the real world. They may be t oo
abstract to present completely the many faceted aspects of brand
switching. Probably no simple structure can do an adequate job. In the
typical stochastic model, the inputs are the sequence and the frequency of
brand purchases. Herein lies the stochastic model s' major weakness- t he
lack of incorporation of several i mport ant marketing variables (MacLach-
lan, 1972, p. 378). The influences and relationships of price, promot i on,
product , and distribution are not considered in the probabilistic models.
There is sufficient justification t o believe t hat stochastic models are not
able to adequately explain brand switching. Ehrenberg (p. 361) writes:
So far, it has never been shown t hat there is either any need or any
value in going beyond the nonstochastic flow model t ype of
interpretation. What is more, there is already ample evidence t hat
the probabilistic i nt erpret at i on would be impossible.
It may be t hat stochastic models may explain nothing about brand
switching. The value of these probabilistic models may lie in the
development of experimental work t o verify the brand switching
Researchers have presented various explanations of brand l oyal t y in
terms of either quantitative or qualitative models. The developers of brand
l oyal t y models have at t empt ed to formulate theoretical frameworks f r om
which brand-switching behavior could be predicted and explained.
Qualitative explanations of consumers behavior have not been successful in
accounting for the variance in the dependent variable. An ability to predict
behavior on the basis of a verbal model has not been a satisfying
experience for consumer researchers. The various quantitative models of
brand l oyal t y seem to predict consumer behavior more accurately than
have the qualitative models. Quantitative models suffer from a lack of a
consideration of " why" l oyal t y exists.
Brand l oyal t y needs to be defined in bot h qualitative and quantitative
terms. A brand loyal consumer not only must purchase a particular brand
consistently over time, but also the loyal consumer must have positive
psychological preferences for the brand under consideration.
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DR. DAVID R, WHEELER received his doct orat e in business administra-
tion from Texas Tech University in May, 1974. He is currently teaching at
Baruch College of the City University of New York. He was an assistant
professor of marketing at the University of North Dakota from 1972 to
1974. His primary teaching and research activities are consumer behavior,
principles of marketing, quantitative methods, and market research. Dr.
Wheeler has been employed as an engineer for an aerospace firm in Dallas,
as an auditor for the state of Texas, and as a meteorologist. Presently he is
engaged in research concerning multi-dimensional approaches to explaining
and predicting consumer behavior.