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The controversy continues. Dyson, Farr, and Hollis, and Baldinger and Rubinson (Dyson, Farr, and Hollis, 1997; Baldinger and Rubinson, 1997) have responded to my doubts and criticisms (1997a) of their search for the Holy Grails of either Brand Equity or Attitudes-Predicting-Behavior (Dyson, Farr, and Hollis, 1996; Baldinger and Rubinson, 1996). Their points include:
1. That there is a need for some kind of Brand Equity concept (e.g., "Strong" and "Weak" brands).
2. That prescription is preferable to description.
3. That there are not only many possible whys and wherefores for Double Jeopardy but also doubts about the evidence for DJ anyway.
4. That deviations from such a lawlike relationship are more useful than the relationship itself.
5. That dynamic markets are more exciting than near-steady-state ones. (Or: What drives market share?)
These are not uncommon beliefs. Unfortunately, they are not sustainable, as I see it. This I now briefly rehearse. I comment also on this kind of controversy (which in principle is good) and on the issues of confidentiality and proprietary blackbox techniques (which I see as mostly pointless and even harmful).
Paul Feldwick (1996) has recently stressed that
(a) We need to manage brands with a view to their long-term market position, and also when necessary put a value on them as assets, and indeed buy or sell them.
(b) We can do all this (as well as we can) without assuming the existence of anything called Brand Equity. In fact we might find the whole area easier to understand if we stopped using those words altogether.
I agree. BE is not so much wrong as unnecessary: Nobody has yet said what BE is, how to measure it in tangible terms, or how it palpably helps over and above taking note of the brand's market share - not even Larry Light (1997), the president of the Coalition for Equity, at the 1997 ARF Annual Conference. I supported my negative view of BE with three illustrations at the same conference (1997b):
1. That even just the traditional brand-loyalty measures neither predicted nor postdicted the highly dramatic 10-year movements in the U.S. instant coffee markets that have occurred. (No trace of BE showing up there. I stress that brands' market shares do of course at times change, sometimes dramatically but always rather slowly.)
2. How different brands' price sensitivities vary consistently and dramatically (three-fold) simply with market share. (No BE needed.)
3. That attitudinal "Intentions-to-buy" were consistently abnormally high for fading brands and low for growing new ones (i.e., were counterintuitive to BE). But they were neatly explained simply by how intentions-to-buy relate to past usage behavior and current market shares.
At the '97 ARF Annual Conference, Larry Light quoted examples of consumers either switching to other stores or delaying a purchase when their usual brand was out of stock. That, of course, reflects that there is brand-loyalty, e.g., habitual propensities-to-buy. But it says nothing, and Light shed none, on anything bigger and better than market share, i.e., on anything like "Brand Equity."
He also quoted Baldinger and Rubinson's (1996) current example of attitudes supposedly predicting who will move in and out of the brand's loyal-users group next year. But that is a case of light brand-users obviously not buying it so often (e.g., this year but not next year) and …