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Corporate Advertising Pass-through onto the Brand: Some Experimental Evidence

Author(s): Daniel A. Sheinin and Gabriel J. Biehal

Source: Marketing Letters, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Feb., 1999), pp. 63-73
Published by: Springer
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Letters10:1 (1999): 63-73
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Corporate ontotheBrand:
Some Experimental
CollegeofBusinessand Management, ofMarylandat CollegePark,R.H. SmithSchoolof
Business,3454 VanMunchingHall, CollegePark,MD 20742,

CollegeofBusinessand Management, ofMarylandat CollegePark,R.H. SmithSchoolof
Business,3447 VanMunchingHall, CollegePark,MD 20742,


While researchers and managershave speculatedthatcorporateadvertising can have an impacton brand

knowledge,to date thereis no empiricalsupportforsuch "pass-through." We reporton a laboratorystudy
manipulating thepresenceorabsencein a brandad ofretrieval
cues forsubjects*
pre-existingbrandknowledge.We foundevidenceof pass-through, but it was moderatedby theretrievalof
subjects'pre-existing Ourresultshavetheoreticalandmanagerial and suggesta
numberof interesting forfuture
opportunities research.

Key words: Corporateadvertising,


Corporateadvertising, whichcommunicates information about a company,represents

over$9 billionin annualspending(Belch and Belch 1996). Designedprimarily to build
corporateimage or increase investment (Javagli,Traylor, Gross and Lampman1994;
Schumann, HathcoteandWest1991),corporate advertising mayalso influence consum-
ers' knowledgeaboutproductsmarketed by the corporation (Hartigan and Finch 1986;
Winkleman1985). This influence is criticalforbrandmanagersto understand because
theyhave the responsibility forbuildingand managingconsumers'brandknowledge.
Whilepreviouscorporatead researchhas focussedon classification schemesbased on
different messages and targets, and the for
implications corporateimage (Rothschild
1987; Schumannet al. 1991), it has not discussedin-depthor empirically examined
possible"pass-through" to brand knowledge. Moreover, priorbrand researchhas empha-
sizedtheuse ofbrandadvertising tacticswithout considering possiblecontributions from
corporate advertising.
In thispaper,we proposepass-through occurs,but is moderatedby theretrieval of
consumers'pre-existing brandknowledge.We reporton empiricalevidenceconfirming
thesepropositions in a lab setting. In an experiment, to formcorporate ad knowledge we
first all
expose subjects to thesame corporate ad. Next,they see a brandad in
differing the
presenceor absenceof retrieval cues forknowledgeaboutboththecorporate ad and an
already known brand.Product beliefs and evaluations are thenexamined forpass-through.

In thenextsection,we discusstheexperiment's
theoreticalbackgroundand presentre-
Afterdescribingourresults,we discusstheoretical
and managerial
and future
implications, researchdirections.

1. Conceptualdevelopment

1.1 Theoretical

In general,researchshowsexposureto an ad leads consumers to formknowledgeabout

it,which is storedin memory(MacKenzie, Lutz and Belch 1986).Thus,consumers form
knowledge about ads
corporate followingexposure them, to which is stored as partof
theircorporateknowledge. This processis consistent withcorporateadvertising's tradi-
tionalpurposeto buildand maintain a positivecorporate image(Rothschild1987; Schu-
mannet al. 1991).
In additionto corporatead knowledge,consumershave brandknowledgestoredin
memory. Both corporatead and brandknowledgecontainbeliefs,affect,and attitudes
(Garbett1983;MacKenzieet al. 1986;Keller1993),all ofwhichmayhavean impacton
product evaluations. Typically,consumers' productevaluations arebasedon a combination
of stimulusinformation and knowledgeretrieved frommemory(Lynchand Srull 1982;
Alba andHutchinson 1987). Knowledgeretrieval, in turn,is influenced byretrievalcues,
likenamesor identifying labels.Suchcues activateknowledgein memory, leadingto its
retrieval(Keller1987). Corporatead andbrandknowledgeretrieval cues maythusinflu-
enceproductevaluations by causing consumers to retrieve and use certain partsof their
Retrieved corporate ad knowledgemaypass through andinfluence productevaluations
in a numberof ways. For example,consumersmay use theirretrieved corporatead
knowledge to infernew product beliefs.New beliefs are inferred using retrieved knowl-
edge (Fiske and Pavelchak 1986). For example, if consumers see a product froma
company which they recall advertises its environmental concerns, theymay inferthe
company's are
products environmentally safe.Such inferred beliefstherefore originatein
corporate knowledge but become associated with advertised products.
Consumersmay also change existingproductbeliefsusing retrieved corporatead
knowledge.Existing beliefs can changethrough processingnew, relevant information
(Crocker, Fiske and Taylor1984). For example, if consumers are exposed to a productad
froma companywhichtheyrecalldoes corporate on
advertising quality issues,theymay
strengthen existingproductqualitybeliefs.Finally,ifconsumers eitherinfernewproduct
beliefsor changeexistingones,theymaychangetheirexistingproductattitudes.

1.2 Researchpropositions

Withinthisgeneralframework, a lackofempirical
workleavesunanswered twoimportant
questions:(1) can corporatead knowledgepass-through ontoconsumers'knowledgeof
productsmarketed bythecorporation? and (2) whatfactorsmoderatepass-through?

To addressthefirst questionwe startwitha product ad without brandretrievalcues,and

compareproductevaluations withand without corporatead retrieval
cues. Thisprovides
a straightforward testof pass-through. In thissituation,we expectcorporate ad retrieval
cues,likethecorporate name,willcause consumers to havedifferent
As previouslyindicated,consumersmake productevaluationsin the contextof their
retrieved knowledge(Lynchand Srull 1982). Thus,usingtheprocessespreviously de-
scribed,corporate ad knowledgeretrieval cues shouldlead to greaterpass-through.
The secondquestionconcernsmoderators ofpass-through. Sincemuchresearchshows
information processingis influenced by theretrievalof consumers'pre-existing knowl-
edge (Alba,Hutchinson and Lynch1991),it seemslikelythatpass-through willbe simi-
larlyaffected. Therefore, we nowconsidera productad withbrandretrieval cues,likethe
brand'sname.If thecomparative impactof thepresenceand absenceof corporatead
cues differs
retrieval whenbrandretrieval cues arepresent versusabsent,we can conclude
pass-through is moderated by theretrieval of consumers'brandknowledge.
In thissituation,we expectno changein productevaluations ofcorporate
regardless ad
retrievalcues. Althoughsuch cues maystillhelp consumersretrieve theircorporatead
knowledge, fortworeasonstheyareless likelytouse ittomakeproductevaluations. First,
consumers areless likelytouse a particularknowledge sourceifseveralsourceshavebeen
retrievedfrommemory (Alba et al. 1991). Second,sinceshort-term memory has limited
capacity,consumers retrieving multipleknowledge sourcestendtouse themostdiagnostic
one andplace less emphasison or completely disregardothers(Lynch,Marmorstein and
Weigold1988).As corporate ad knowledgeshouldbe less diagnosticforproductevalu-
ationthanbrandknowledge and ad information, productevaluationshouldbe unaffected
by corporatead retrieval cues in the presenceof brandretrievalcues. Therefore, the
retrieval brandknowledgeshouldmoderate corporatead knowledge pass-

2. Method

2.1 Pretests

To guidestimulusdesign,we conductedtwopretests usinga numberof open-ended and

scaled questions.The first
(n = the
82) identified attributes subjectsassociatedwith
"good"and"bad"corporations, andinvolving product The following
categories. corporate
werementioned by at least33% of subjects:financialsuccess,environmental
friendliness, management brandquality,diversity
quality, and under-
graduatehiring.Theseattributes wereused to designthecorporatead and as dependent
shoes,athleticshoes,bluejeans, and backpacks.
The secondpretest(n = 73) established perceptionsof and attitudes
productcategories,selectedbrandswithinthem,andpossiblecorporate names.Based on
theresultswe selectedthehikingshoe category. Subjectshad thefollowingstrongand
categorybeliefsabouthikingshoes: rugged,availablein a varietyof colors,

durable,waterproof,has extra support,fashionable,and stylish.These productcategory

attributeswere used to design a brand ad which would contain the retrievalcue manipu-
Our brand name selection balanced two considerations.On the one hand, a brand for
which subjects had strongbeliefs and attitudes,which are difficultto change (Crocker et
al. 1984), would be unlikelyto show pass-through.On the otherhand, the moderating
hypothesisassumes subjects have some pre-existingbrand knowledge. The "New Bal-
ance" brandname met our design needs. Pretestsshowedthat,comparedwithothertested
hiking shoe brands, like Nike and Timberland,subjects were moderatelyfamiliarwith
New Balance, had neutralattitudestowardit, and did not know the corporatemanufac-
turer.Subjects associated the brand with good quality,design and comfort,which were
used as dependentmeasures.
Finally,because we wanted subjects' corporate knowledge to stem exclusively from
exposure to the corporatead, we evaluated six fictitiouscompanynames. All had some a
priori reasonable link with the testedproductcategory,but no expected recognitionas a
corporate name. Therefore,we chose "Shenandoah" as the corporate name. Detailed
pretestresultsare available fromthe authors.

2.2 Ad stimuli,retrievalmanipulationsand design

The corporatead headline was, "Young Managers Are Our Future."The picture,taken
froma real ad, was a 4x2.5 inch color photograph,centeredon an 11x8.5 inch page. It
showedthreeyoungprofessionals,an Asian woman,and African-Americanand Caucasian
males. The copy describedthe corporationas follows: "At the Shenandoah Company our
young designersare leading us into the global business future.Each year,we hire hun-
dreds of top college graduates in business and engineering.They are responsible for
developing 17 productswhich received qualityawards fromleading consumermagazines
in 1994. In additionto hiringmanygraduates,we provideinternshipsforcollege students
in environmentalstudies. Our internsreceive college creditwhile they help us develop
productswhich can be completelyrecycled.We are proud to have received a Presidential
AchievementAwardforour effortsin environmentalimprovement. Our youngtalentis the
main reason we have grown 25% a year to reach $1 billion in global sales of outdoor
products."Finally,the Shenandoah company name was placed at the bottomof the ad.
Because they are central in knowledge representations(Keller 1993; Mitchell and
Dacin 1996), we used the company and brandnames as retrievalcues. Thus, the Shenan-
doah company name was placed at the bottom of the brand ad in the corporationad
retrievalcue presentconditions,and the New Balance name was insertedin the brand ad
copy in the brand retrievalcue presentconditions.
The brandad headline was, "The Look of RightNow." Two picturesshowed individuals
engaged in rugged outdoor activities.The thirdshowed the hiking shoes, which had no
brand identificationon them. Finally,the copy was: "Our [New Balance] shoes are the
hip-hopway to climb a mountain,a trailand a campus. [New Balance]. Go anywhere.Do
anything."Note the corporatead informationwas not directlyrelatedto productquality.

Thus, the studywas a 2 (corporatead retrievalcue present/absent)

x 2 (brandretrievalcue
present/absent)between-subjectsdesign. The absent/absentcondition representedthe
baseline to test forpass-through.

2.3 Subjects

Subjects were undergraduate juniors and seniorsat a largeAtlanticRegion stateuniversity

who received extraclass creditas a participationincentive.The original sample size was
182, but 20 subjectswere eliminatedbecause theywere unfamiliarwiththe New Balance
brand name. Since these subjects did not have pre-existingbrand knowledge, retrieval
cues would be ineffective.Thus, the finalsample size was 162.

2.4 Experimentalprocedure

Subjects were testedin groups of about fifteenin a 30-minutesession. They received one
questionnairebooklet which they filled out individually.Subjects firstread general in-
structionson using the booklet, then received task instructions.They firstremoved the
corporatead froman envelope, and were instructedto "...look at the ad carefullyand
thoroughly, much as you would if you saw an ad thatinterestedyou. As you examine the
ad you should tryto relatethe ad to yourown personal attitudes,lifestyleand concerns."
Subjects could take as much time as they liked on the task. Upon completion,they
returnedthe ad to the envelope, and thenwrote down theircorporatead thoughts.Next,
theyfilledout nine companybelief items.Finally,theyrecordedtheirattitudestowardthe
company and the corporate ad. To clear short term memory,a simple distractortask
Subjects thenread instructionsabout the brand ad task, which were identicalto those
used previously.Next, they removedthe brand ad froman envelope, examined it, and,
afterreturningit to the envelope, wrote down theirbrand ad thoughts.They then rated
seventeen beliefs which could originate in four sources, namely the corporate ad, the
brand ad, and theirpre-existingbrand and product categoryknowledge. Subjects then
indicatedtheirattitudestowardthebrandand brandad. Next,theycompletedquestionson
brand and category familiarity, product category usage and involvementlevel, demo-
graphic information,and the importance of the corporate attributesdescribed in the
corporate ad. They were also asked to guess the researchpurpose (none did). Finally,
subjects were fullydebriefed,eitherin-class or upon completingthe questionnaire.

2.5 Measures

Attitudetoward the brand,AB, was the sum of three seven-pointsemantic differential

scales anchored by dislike/like,bad/good, and negative/positive.
Attitudestoward the
brand ad, corporatead, and the corporation(ABad,Acad, and A^, respectively)used the
same scales.

We measuredbeliefsin two ways.First,ninecorporateand seventeenbrandbeliefs

weremeasuredusingseven-point semanticdifferential
Second,corporatead and brandad beliefs,used forstructuralmodelling,werederived
fromsubjects'thought Twoindependent
protocols. coderstrainedbytheauthors codedthe
protocolsforbeliefvalence(positive, A log ofcodingdiscrepancies
indicateda 98% agreement betweenthetwocoders.To controlforindividualdifferences
in thenumberofthoughts, twoindiceswereformed bydividinga subjects
's totalnumber
by totalcorporate(brand)ad thoughts.
of positivecorporate(brand)ad thoughts

3. Results

3.1 Preliminary

We performed threefactoranalyseswithvarimaxrotation to refineand checkmeasures.

The firstused theninecorporate beliefs,and theresultingScreeTestrevealeda single-
factorsolutionaccountingfor40% of variance.The fourbeliefsunderlying thefactor
weresummedto developthecorporate beliefsmeasure,Bc (Cronbachalpha= 0.84). The
second factoranalysisof the seventeenbrandbeliefsrevealeda three-factor solution
accounting for 60% ofvariance.
The were
factors as
interpreted brand
representing quality
(Cronbachalpha= 0.84),brandimage(Cronbachalpha= 0.85) andcorporate-ad derived
in thecorporate
beliefs,thatis, beliefsoriginating ad subjectsassociatedwiththebrand
(Cronbachalpha = 0.71). Finally,a confirmatory factoranalysisto checkthevalidityof
thefourattitude constructsshowedtheconstructs werevalidand independent (AGFI =
.869, RMR .068,/?< .0001).

3.2 Data Analysis

First,task involvement, categoryfamiliarity, categoryinvolvement, brandfamiliarity,

brandinterest, and brand knowledge were examined as covariatesin 2 (corporatead
cue) x 2 (brandretrieval
retrieval cue) ANCOVAs.None were Then,to testthe
2 x 2
researchpropositions, (corporatead retrieval) (brand cue) ANOVAswere
runwithdifferent dependent variables.Finally,to exploretheprocessesunderlying AB
formation, we estimated equationsmodels.
Withbrandqualityas thedependent variabletherewas a significant effect
= 9.81; /?< 0.01; co2= .04; see Figure1, GraphA). WithNew Balance absent,
brandqualitywas stronger whenShenandoah was present(M = 5.40) versusabsent(M =
4.61; t39 2.72; p < 0.01). However, with New Balancepresent, brandqualitywas the
= =
samewhenShenandoahwas present(M 4.92) and absent(M 5.29;p > 0.10). This
generalpattern of resultswas foundwiththeothermeasures.

_ , A name
u- A
-Graph 6, - v. , cue
5.40 Present
Brand 5 - -^^^C^
quality ^^--^^^
4 -

T __
5 -
4.51 Present

Corporatead- 4 - ^ '
derivedbeliefs : ^**"***
^^^- 3.77 Absent

3 - 3.42


" i.71 Present


toward 4 -
thebrand,AB ^^^^-^^^^
3 - 3.53

Present Absent

Figure1. The threesignificant


Withbrandimageas thedependent variabletheinteraction was weaker(F3 158=

3.39; p < 0.07; co2= .02). WithNew Balance absent,brandimagewas stronger with
Shenandoah present(M = 5.04) versusabsent(M =4.16; t39=2.49;/?< 0.05. However,

withNew Balance present,brand image was the same when Shenandoah was present(M
= 4.72) and absent (M = 4.71; p > 0.90).
When corporate-adderivedbrandbeliefs were the dependentvariable therewas also a
significantinteractioneffect(F3 158= 5.12;/? < 0.05; o>2 = .02; see Figure 1, Graph B).
Without the New Balance cue, corporate-ad derived beliefs were strongerwith the.
Shenandoah cue present(M = 4.51) versus absent (M = 3.77; t39 = 2.10; p < 0.05).
However,with the New Balance cue these beliefs were the same when Shenandoah was
present(M = 3.42) and absent (M = 3.70; p > 0.30).
Finally, with AB as the dependentvariable there was a significantinteractioneffect
= =
(^3,158 7.01; p < 0.01; co2 .03; see Figure 1, Graph C). WithNew Balance absent,
AB was more positivewith Shenandoah present(M =4.71) versus absent (M - 3.53; t39
= 3.83;/? < 0.001). However,withNew Balance present,AB was the same when Shenan-
doah was present(M = 4.24) and absent (M = 4.27; p > 0.90). All these results are
consistentwiththepropositionthatpass-throughoccurs,but is moderatedby the retrieval
of subjects' pre-existingbrand knowledge.
One reviewersuggestedexaminingthe potentialmoderatingeffectof brand familiarity
on pass-throughin the corporatead and brandretrievalcues presentcondition.Familiarity
was a significantmoderatoron brand attitude(p < .05), but not on brand quality,brand
image, or corporatead-derivedbeliefs (each p > .20). Thus, at least on brand attitude,
corporatead pass-throughwas significantly less when subjects were more familiarwith
the brand.
Next, to examine the processes underlyingpass-through,structuralequations were
estimatedforeach experimentalcondition.Guided by previousresearch(MacKenzie et al.
1986), the models included relationshipsamong corporatead beliefs (BCad) and attitude
(AcadX corporate beliefs (Bc) and attitude(Aq), brand ad beliefs (BBad) and attitude
(ABad), and brand quality (BB) and attitude(AB). BCad and BBad were derived from
subjects' thoughtprotocols.We also ran structuralequations using brandimage insteadof
brand quality.Because the resultsare similar,we reportonly the relationshipsspecified
The model forsubjects exposed to brand ads with Shenandoah but withoutNew Bal-
ance retrievalcues had good fit(AGFI = 0.99, RMR = 0.0008,/? < 0.21). Overall, there
are two interestingfindings(see Figure 2, Model A). First,Aq^ showed a dual-mediation
effectof BCad on both Bc and Aq. This findingis consistentwith the literatureon brand
advertisingimpacts(MacKenzie et al. 1986). Second, pass-throughwas foundat boththe
relatedto BB, and ACadand Ac were
belief and the attitudinallevels (Bc was significantly
both significantly relatedto AB, respectively).
The model for subjects exposed to brand ads containingboth Shenandoah and New
Balance cues had moderate fit(AGFI = 0.81, RMR = 0.0060, p < 0.69). The results
(Figure 2, Model B) also show a dual-mediationeffectof Acad on Bc and Ac. However,
therewas no evidence of corporateadvertisingpass-throughonto eitherbrand beliefs or
attitudes.Instead,only BB significantly explained AB. The resultsforthe remainingtwo
conditionsare essentiallythe same, thatis, therewas no evidence of pass-through,and we
do not describe them further.

A. CorporateAd RetrievalCue Present- BrandRetrievalCue Absent

/^ "N .3977(5.78) ^Y^ ^\

VJ*Cad^ ~^2^C*&J
I .3031(4.17)^,^-^^^^ ^^T^V
.2455(336) ^\

.5580(9.25) W^A^I
/ >y " 1666
/ 3032(3.91) X \Ui)

J783/ ^rT^) '4133(6J6) */a"^)

(2.95) V^Bad^/ I /
.1933 - -^^^^^V^Bad^/ / /
\ .1260(1.63) ^0^^^^ .1960(2.16) //

7^« "N .2451(3.51) *J^~JT\

y vj^u-/
B. CorporateAd RetrievalCue Present- BrandRetrievalCue Present

/^ "N .4572(3.64) S\ X
\»c*a) ~^k*^*a)
I T"^
3501 (2.91) .2983(2.59)

/^T^N .6515(535) *y^A^\

\^Bcy h^Ac^)

/^ \ .2599(1.92) /^l ^\


(?> ^\ .2426(1.72) ^/^A ^

Figure2. Structural

4. Discussion

The experiment demonstrates thatcorporatead pass-through to brandknowledgecan

occur,but is moderatedby the retrievalof consumers'pre-existing brandknowledge.
Further, eventhoughcorporatead information was notdirectly relatedto brandquality,
whenpass-through occurredbothbrandbeliefsand attitudes wereaffected. By providing
empiricalvalidationof pass-through, our researchconfirms managers'and researchers'
intuitions(Hartiganand Finch1986;Winkleman 1985) and extendsthecorporate adver-
tisingliterature. It also extendsthebrandliterature, by broadening thescope of ad pro-
cessingmodelsand givingadditionalinsights intotheimportance ofadvertising memory
on consumers'brandinformation processing.
Ourresultshaveimportant implicationsforbrandmanagers.Ifbrandmanagerswantto
takeadvantageof positivecorporatead knowledge, theyshouldconsiderusingcertain
tactics,like addingcorporatead symbolsor slogansto brandads, or includingthecor-
poratenameprominently in theirproductnames.Suchtacticsmayhelpconsumers trans-
fertheircorporate ad knowledgeontothebrand.Also,theyshouldmeasurecorporate ad
knowledgeinTrackingStudiesto understand itsrolein brandad effectiveness andbrand
The significance oftheresultsreported heredependson a numberof limitations com-
monto muchacademicadvertising researchdesignedtounderstand fundamental process-
ing phenomena,like studentsamplesand a single,forcedad exposure.Otherstudy
limitations suggestinteresting avenuesforfuture research.We did notmeasureevalua-
tions of corporateand brandnames,but different relativeevaluationsmay moderate
pass-through. For example,extremely negativeevaluationsof thecorporatenamemay
pass through regardlessof brandknowledgeretrieval. Futureresearchshouldexamine
how differences in evaluationsof corporation and brandnamesmoderatepass-through.
In addition,we manipulate brandknowledgeretrieval, butnotbrandknowledgeitself.
We used New Balance, a moderately familiarbrand,but futureresearchmightshow
pass-through differs greatly forfamiliar versusunknown ornewly-introduced brands.This
wouldbe consistent withourfinding thatfamiliarity
moderated pass-through ontobrand
attitude. Understanding suchmoderating effectswouldhelpguidemanagers' of cor-
porateadvertising, forexample,to preparemarketsfornew productlaunches(Garbett
Finally,we exposedall subjectsto thesame corporate corporatead er-
ad. In reality,
tisinguses a varietyof messagesand creativestrategies (Garbett1983). Futureresearch
mayshowpass-through is influenced bythetacticsemployed in corporate For
example,3M's corporate advertising itsinnovative
illustrates positioning a
using picture
of its Post It Notes product,a tacticwhichmay encouragepass-through. In sum,we
believeresearchintocorporate advertisingpass-through has much to offerbothmanagers
and academicresearchers alike.


The authors, thankProfessor

whocontributed RichardM. Durand
and twoanonymous on an earlierdraft.


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