The phenomenon of Brand Rejection
A discussion with Jati at the Univ. of Toulouse1 about Brand Rejection got me thinking. Current literature of the subject is pretty sketchy, though there's been research conducted. I have in past commented on 'Brand Avoidance'. Let me now turn to Brand Rejection.
Rejection can either be a pre-purchase or a post-purchase act. The difference between the two is critical in managing fallouts that come from rejection.
Pre-purchase rejections are driven by 'states of mind' (read, consumer psychological set) that form negative judgements about brands. That is, the consumer isn't favourably disposed to the brand in question even before he buys it. Again, this kind of rejection can either be a fallout of pre-purchase analysis of the 'known' set, or it can even be the brand being rejected summarily, sans any evaluation. Let me illustrate. Consumers, on evaluating brands in the known set, categorise some as being 'inept'. The inept set gets rejected. A contrast to this is the other possibility where a brand though known, doesn't find place in the set to be evaluated, because the consumer engages in 'summary rejection' driven by a psyche that isn't disposed favourably towards it. For example, the 'country of origin' can be a reason why the brand is rejected. Even before rational analysis. Such rejection can turn into a mass act, termed 'boycott'. 'Perceived associations' can at other times be the cause for rejections. Take the case of the clothing brand Hoelzer Reich, that has come under fire for using Nazi-esque imagery in their clothing. This resulted in their use being banned at the World Extreme Cage fighting sport. Nazi associations are frowned upon. Even a semblance of such association can prove fatal. Tommy Hilfiger knows what its like to be at the end of a rumor where he featured as having made racist remarks on Oprah. None of it was true. Yet the 'stain' wouldn't go away.
Post purchase rejections are based on consumption evaluations. Lousy value delivery can get the brand to be banished, even forever, from a consumer's consideration set. Like for me, Trackon courier is as good as dead. Once bitten twice shy, as they say.
Eliminating pre-purchase rejection requires a change to be effected in consumer psyches. Communication becomes the key in such scenarios. The audience in question has to be persuaded via communiques, to change their mindset. The chances of it happening are strengthened if the brand in question can use neutral sources (read, PR) to mouth the persuasive message. Post-purchase consumption based judgements (read, rejection) can only be changed by better value delivery. Communiques are of no help. Also, the 'once bitter, twice shy' consumer may be unwilling to take a chance, again. Which means, the lure to get the consumer to try has to exceedingly strong. Promos may be required to initiate a 'second try'.
As much as brands need to know reasons why they are preferred, they also need to decipher why they aren't. That is, if they aren't. And when they try and decipher that, the start would be taking cognizance of the fact that rejection could have been either a pre- or a post-purchase act.
Knowing that becomes imperative in knowing what to do. To change it.
Note: Read a paper of whether Brand Rejections exist, here.