A brand concept maps approach : in what sense are preferred brands different from acceptable brands?
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- Master Thesis 
Extensive literature has been written on brand positioning and on the importance of differentiation for its success. However, little research has been dedicated to understand how differentiation works in the mind of consumers. In this thesis, we focus on bringing some clarity to this gap by providing some insights on how preferred brands are differentiated from the rest. Our research builds on Suppehellen’s (2014) theory, which states that differentiation is driven by secondary associations. We seek to answer the following two questions: In what sense does the preferred brand differentiate from acceptable brands? To what extent is the differentiation of preferred brands moderated by the product involvement? We use the BCM method developed by John, Loken, and Kim (2006) in order to create associative network for preferred and acceptable brands in the smartphone and beer categories. By comparing the number of associations, their connectivity, and their content on preferred vs acceptable brands we uncover important implications for theory on brand positioning and differentiation. We found that preferred brands are different from acceptable ones in the number of secondary associations they have, but not on the number of primary associations. We also found that the content for associations for preferred brands is moderated by the consumer’s level of involvement, with preferred smartphone brands having more benefit associations, more personality trait associations, and less negative associations, while preferred beer brands having more attribute associations. Finally, we discovered that associative networks of preferred brands have stronger links among its associations but no significant difference in the interconnectivity of its associations in comparison with acceptable brands.