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EMAC 2019 Annual Conference

Mix-and-Match vs. Head-to-Toe: How Brand Combinations Affect Observer Inferences and Trust

Published: May 28, 2019


Isabelle Engeler, IESE Business School; Kate Barasz, Harvard University


choice inferences; brand combinations; advocacy and influencer marketing


Consumers use brands in many combinations—from mixing and matching multiple brands (multi-brand combination) to using only a single brand (mono-brand combination). Seven studies examine how such brand combinations affect observers’ trust in these target consumers’ recommendations. While managers believe mono-brand users will be most credible in promoting their products (Pre-Study), observers disagree: even when both target consumers bought the same focal product (e.g., Nike shoes), observers are significantly less likely to trust the mono-brand user’s recommendation for that product. This reduced trust is driven by inferences about how the focal product was purchased: observers believe mono-brand (vs. multi-brand) users placed relatively greater importance on the brand and therefore were less careful in considering which item to buy. In turn, reduced trust affects observers’ own behaviors (e.g., purchase intention). Implications for brand influencer strategies are discussed.