Brand Compatibility

Brand Compatibility


– There’s been a lot of
work done over the years on understanding brands,
and typically we think about an individual’s
relationship with a brand. You’re an Apple user, or
you’re a Budweiser fan or whatever the case might be. Today, we’re going to add
an extra wrinkle to it by recognizing that many of us don’t live our lives in silos. We don’t live by ourselves. Rather, we live with someone else. Oftentimes a romantic partner. When you live with a romantic partner, you not only have your
own brand preferences, you are going to live with
their brand preferences. So, we started talking a little bit, and when I say “we” I should acknowledge this is work that Danielle Brick did. Was a former Ph.D student at Fuqua. As part of her dissertation
research, Danielle worked with myself, with my
sister Gráinne Fitzsimons, who’s a professor in the Management area, and with Tanya Chartrand, who’s my wife and also a faculty member
in the Marketing area. So, the four of us worked on this project where we were interested
in how my brand preferences might align with my
partner’s brand preferences and whether that makes
a difference at all. We started acknowledging and recognizing that sometimes our brand
preferences align perfectly, right? I might like Bud Light, and if my partner likes
Bud Light, that’s great. We align, we’re compatible. We call it brand compatibility. So we’re really compatible there. The question though is, what
happens if you don’t align on compatibility with your
partner in terms of brands? What if you’re brand incompatible? At some level, it sounds
like, oh, big deal. They like Bud Light, I like Coors Light. Who cares? Well it turns out that you should care because it has a big impact. We’re actually going to draw a link between brand compatibility, or lack thereof, and how
happy you are in life. And that sounds kind of crazy, okay, but let me sort of walk you through a little bit of the logic here. Imagine that you have
a different connection to a brand than your partner does. So, I’m a big Diet Coke person. Imagine that my partner, my
wife, is a Diet Pepsi person. It’s probably fairly likely
that a reasonable amount of the time, I’m going to be subjected to Diet Pepsi instead of Diet Coke. If she does the grocery shopping, she might buy Diet
Pepsi and bring it home, and then, I get Diet
Coke, or I get Diet Pepsi instead of my Diet Coke. Alright, so that might not seem like a big deal if it only happens once. But what if I’m a Colgate
person and she’s a Crest person, and now, there’s Crest in the bathroom. What if she’s a Starbucks person, and I’m a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee person. We’re on our way to
commute into work together. We’re only going to stop at one spot. Guess where we’re stopping. Starbucks instead of
Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee. All of these little brand
incompatibilities add up to lead to one partner
maybe not feeling so great about the brand choices
that they’re getting to make in their life. And so that lack of, sort of,
brand compatibility plays out where one partner kind of gets their way, and another partner oftentime doesn’t. One of the things that we
look at in relationships is how much power do you
have in the relationship. So, if you’re a high power
person, we think about that as you have the ability to
influence your partner. If you’re a low power person though, you don’t really have a strong ability to influence your partner. If we’re brand compatible,
it’s a perfect world. Life’s great. We both get what we want all the time. Now let’s introduce brand incompatibility. Now, if you have a different
brand preference than me and you’re high power, you’re
going to get what you want. If I’m low power, I’m not
going to get what I want. As a result, the low power
person gets repeatedly overlooked in terms of what brands they would like. Maybe again, not such a big deal. You might not think it matters that much. As we started investigating,
Danielle dug deeper and deeper, we found that it actually has
an enormous impact on people, and in fact, we go the whole way down to how satisfied you are with your life. If you are incompatible
brand-wise with your partner, you end up much less happy in life. Not with your brands, not
with your consumption choices, but with your actual life
than you otherwise would be. We can push it even further. Danielle looked to see what
are the, maybe this is just compatibility in general,
and maybe I’m not happy in my life because I’m incompatible with my partner in general. So we looked at all the things. If you think about, if
you asked your grandma, what makes a good partner
in a relationship? What would your grandma say? She’d say well, they should
be from a similar background. They should have similar
educational backgrounds. Maybe same religion. Maybe they should have the
same political affiliations, the same beliefs about
what’s valued in life, etc. So Danielle took all of those things. We measured all of those in real couples. We also measured how compatible
people were on their brands. Did an analysis of all of these
things, and lo and behold, what pops out as essentially
the only really meaningful compatibility dimension to
predict life satisfaction? Brand compatibility. Alright, so it’s not about
whether you’re the same religion. It’s not about whether you
have the same education, etc. It’s about whether you have the
same brands as your partner. Now again, that sounds kind of crazy, but if you think it through,
if you start a relationship with somebody, and they
seem great, but they’re of, let’s say, a different
religious faith than you. You’re either going to
work that out real quickly, or you’re going to split up. Now imagine you start dating someone, and they’re really smart, they’re funny, they think you’re really
smart, you’re really funny. It’s a great connection, and you find out that you’re a Diet Coke person, and they are huge Diet Pepsi fans. Are you really going to
kick this person to the curb because they like Diet Pepsi
and you like Diet Coke? My guess is the answer is no. So now, play that out. What have you signed up for? You have signed up for
a life of Diet Pepsi in the fridge when you want Diet Coke. You’ve signed up for a life
of, at the end of the day or the beginning of the
day, you go in there to get your favorite brand,
and boom, it’s not there. Your partner’s brand is there. Similarly with the toothpaste,
similarly with cars, with coffee, with all of these things. We call it death by a thousand brand cuts. Over and over and over
again, until you die, you will be subjected
to the brand preferences of your partner that are incompatible with your brand preferences. And thus we find that
it’s really this notion of compatibility on brand
that’s a huge driver of how happy people are. So, how does this play out? Well first off, one of
the things that we think one might want to do
early in a relationship is think about does the person have similar brand
preferences to me or not, and if the answer is no, go
against what grandma says, and maybe kick that person to the curb and don’t worry so much
about whether they are big, whether they align perfectly with you on education, on religion, etc. It’s really about the little things, and in this case it seems little. Brand compatibility, how can it matter? Don’t find yourself in a lifetime
of a thousand brand cuts.

2 thoughts on “Brand Compatibility”

  1. Doesn't brand incompatibility relate to power? if you are powerless in relationship (XXX), then you are unhappy. How about if you share power and you get Diet Coke(what I like), but not Bud light (husband). It seems like the best thing B4 you get in a relationship is to check is how you negotiate power differences. Am I missing something?

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