Reducing the Range of Alternatives

During search, the brand (and store) alternatives to the buyer’s product choice decision are identified. Although there may be many brands in existence in the product category (which we may call the total set of brands), the consumer is not likely to be aware of all of them. Thus, some brands will not be considered by the consumer because of this unawareness. Consequently the marketer seeks to make consumer aware of the availability of his brand and to supply them with sufficient information to evaluate it and hopefully purchase it. Brand names can be very valuable assets to a company. Those that are well known and have high quality associated with them sell at more than three times the rate of brands viewed as quite acceptable on quality. According to Total Research Corporation, the 20 brand names in the United States with the heights perceived value or brand equity among 190 brands in 55 product categories are in order Disney World /Disney Land Kodak, Mercedes Benz, CNN, hallmark Fisher Price, UPS, Rolex, Levi’s IBM, Arm & Hammer AT&T, Corning, LEGO, Maytag Rubbermaid, Hershey’s Tylenol, Sea World and Lenox.

Even among brands of which the consumer is aware however, are some that he would not consider purchasing for several reasons:

1) He may feel they are beyond his financial reach.
2) They are not perceived as adequate for his motives.
3) He has insufficient information on which to evaluate them.
4) He has tried and rejected them.
5) He is satisfied with his current brand.
6) He was received negative feedback from advertising or from word of mouth communication.

It has been suggested therefore that there actually exist three subsets of brands within the awareness set of alternatives (1) evoked set, (2) inert set, and (3) incept set.

The evoked set or consideration set consists of the few select brands evaluated positively by the consumer for purchase and consumption. These are the brands the consumer would be willing to consider further. The inert set consists of those brands that the consumer has failed to perceive any advantage in buying that is they are evaluated neither positively nor negatively. Perhaps the consumer has insufficient information on which to evaluate them, or she simply may not perceive them as better than the brands in her evoked set. The inept set is made up of brands that have been rejected from purchase considerations by the consumer because of an unpleasant experience or negative feedback from others. Thus, the brands in this set are evaluated negatively by the consumer and will not be considered at all in their present form. There is a consistent proportional tendency between positive and negative brand evaluations within a product category, and it is related to the size of the awareness set and the depth of information processing. Figure diagrams the elimination process leading to brand acceptance or rejections for a consumer considering purchase of a four wheel drive utility vehicle. An interesting finding is that consumers may not use the same variables for both evoked set formation and purchase Perhaps extrinsic factors (e.g. Unavailability due to lack of dealerships) are used to eliminate many brands early in the purchase deliberation; the factors intrinsic to the product itself (e.g. horsepower) may be used to make a purchase. Thus, brands may need to possess acceptable levels across both rejection and purchase variables.

Figure illustrates the size of the awareness and evoked sets of brands for a range of products. Notice that those favorably evaluated within the known brand alternatives are generally only one–third to one half of the awareness sets of brands is valuable to marketers because they are interested in moving their items into their evoked set. Only if consumer are aware of the brand and have evaluated it positively will it be purchased.