The Effect of Brand Name Suggestiveness on Consumer Decision Making：The Moderating Roles of Consumer Need for Cognition and Expertise
SUN Jin, ZHANG Hong-Xia
Brand name is considered as a major asset for a firm. A good brand name can enhance brand awareness and serve as an important means to build brand equity. One emerging research area in branding is about the suggestiveness of brand names. Prior research shows that a suggestive brand name conveying descriptive or persuasive information about the product category can better induce consumers’ favorable brand evaluations than nonsuggestive brand names. However, little research has examined the impact of consumers’ individual characteristics on the effectiveness of suggestive brand names. Our research investigates this very issue. Specifically, we aim to examine how consumers’ individual characteristics (i.e., expertise and need for cognition) interact with brand name suggestiveness in inducing consumers’ ad attitude, brand attitude, and purchase intention. We hypothesized that a suggestive brand name would only lead to more favorable ad attitudes, brand attitudes and purchase intention than nonsuggestive brand names among consumers of low expertise and those with low need for cognition. We also examined the three-way interaction among expertise, need for cognition, and brand name suggestiveness. We hypothesized that the interaction between need for cognition and brand name suggestiveness depends on the levels of consumer expertise. Three experimental studies were conducted to examine the above predictions. The first study 1 employed 2 (brand name suggestiveness: suggestive vs. nonsuggestive) × 2 (expertise: high vs. low) between-subjects design with 128 university students. The results of ANOVA analysis indicated that, compared with nonsuggestive brand name, low expertise consumers showed more favorable ad attitudes, brand attitudes, and purchase intention towards the suggestive brand name. Study 2 employed 2 (brand name suggestiveness: suggestive vs. nonsuggestive) × 2 (need for cognition: high vs. low) between-subjects design with 144 university students to investigate the role of consumer need for cognition in affecting the use of suggestive brand name. The results showed that consumers had more favorable ad attitudes, brand attitudes, and purchase intention for a suggestive brand name (vs. nonsuggestive brand name) only among consumers with low need for cognition, not among those with high need for cognition. Study 3 examined the three-way interaction among brand name suggestiveness, consumer expertise, and need for cognition with 299 university students. The results showed that, for consumers of low expertise, a suggestiveness brand name (vs. nonsuggestive brand name) generated more favorable ad attitude, brand attitude, and higher purchase intention regardless of the level of need for cognition. However, for consumers of high expertise, the interaction effect between brand name suggestiveness and need for cognition was not significant. That is, the main effect of brand name suggestiveness was nonsignificant either in the low or high need for cognition group. As expected, for consumers of moderate expertise, the interaction effect between brand name suggestiveness and need for cognition was significant; and the suggestive brand name superiority effect depends on the level of need for cognition. The results across the three studies provide new insights into the research on brand name suggestiveness by showing the moderating effects of individual cognitive characteristics (i.e., expertise and need for cognition) in the construction of consumer preferences. Besides the theoretical contributions, the present research also offers important implications for managers on advertising strategies and the optimal use of meaningful brand names in building brand equity.