Differentiation of secondary brand benefit associations : Are preferred brands any different?
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- Master Thesis 
The brand management literature focuses on differentiation of brand benefits. However, associative network theory has taught us that associations do not have independent meaning, but receive its content from surrounding nodes, i.e. secondary associations. Thus, we must study secondary brand benefit associations (SBBAs) in order to learn more about differentiation. We compared the SBBAs of preferred and acceptable brands using a randomized 4 (car-, beer-, grocery store- and clothing store categories) x 2 (preferred- and acceptable brands) factorial between subjects design. Furthermore, we investigated whether the same effects apply for products and services, thus providing a new and important contribution to the research on differentiation. The experiment was conducted online, with a sample of 818 current and former students at the Norwegian School of Economics. In accordance with the traditional view on brand differentiation, our experiment only investigated SBBAs with positive valence. We focused on four dimensions of differentiation: The first is the number of positive SBBAs. Secondly, instrumental differentiation is specific evidence for why a brand is better than the competitors on a driver. Finally, graded differentiation is to what extent a secondary association is shared with other brands, where dichotomous differentiation implies that it is solely connected to the brand. The results of our main study show that preferred brands had a higher number of positive SBBAs for both products and services. While only services had preferred brands with a higher score on instrumental- and graded differentiation. We also used regression analyses to test whether our differentiation dimensions could explain any variance in evaluations of brand benefits. Results showed that instrumental differentiation had a positive effect for product brands, whereas graded differentiation had a positive effect for service brands. The number of positive SBBAs had a positive effect for all brands, hence supporting the traditional view on brand differentiation.