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Abstract

There are many cases of rebranding and its numbers are growing. However, rebranding is still under research in the academic field, and there is no guideline on the effective way to change brand name. The objective of this paper is to integrate two inconsistent predictions from categorization theory and schema incongruity theory: a negative linear relationship (categorization theory) versus an inverted-U-shape relationship (schema incongruity theory) between brand name incongruity and consumer evaluation into one framework. Specifically, this study examines how the effect of incongruity between an existing brand name and a new brand name (hereafter called “brand name incongruity”) on the new brand name attitude differs depending on a consumer`s individual characteristics (need for cognition). The experiment demonstrates that consumers with a high need for cognition show a better attitude towards a new brand name when the brand name was rebranded moderately incongruent compared to congruent or extremely incongruent. Thus, the experiment demonstrates that there is an inversed U-shape relationship between brand name incongruity and new brand name evaluation for consumers with a high need for cognition. On the contrary, consumers with a low need for cognition show a better attitude towards a new brand name when the brand name is rebranded congruently compared to incongruent conditions (moderate incongruity and extreme incongruity). This result indicates that there is a negative linear relationship between brand name incongruity and new brand name evaluation. Key theoretical and managerial implications of the present study are as follows. This study integrates two alternative views of research on incongruity evaluation into one framework by demonstrating that need for cognition moderates the relationship between brand name incongruity and consumer evaluation. This present study provides a conceptual basis for understanding consumer evaluation towards a new brand name. Next, though rebranding is a very important decision making of brand management, there is no guideline on how to change a brand name. The findings of this research can suggest which degree of change is optimal when rebranding in order to utilize and strengthen existing brand equity. More specifically, when our target customer has high need for cognition, moderately incongruent rebranding can be optimal, whereas for those with low need for cognition, rebranding in accordance with existing brand name will be optimal.

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