Line Extension Asymmetry: Higher Quality Line Extensions Help, Lower Quality Extensions Do Only a Little Harm

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"Managers often extend brands to different quality levels. Adding lower priced variants is a particularly popular option for fighting the growing number of retailer brands. Such a move may increase sales, but it also risks diluting brand image. This study examines such line extensions by testing middle-quality brands that offer higher or lower quality line extensions. According to the results, the adverse effects of brands’ lower quality versions seem to be overestimated. Higher quality line extensions improved overall brand perception and evaluation far more than lower quality extensions damaged them. This asymmetry prevailed in multiple product classes and for various dimensions of brand evaluation such as brand attitude, brand expertise or brand innovation. In general, consumers seem to prefer broader product lines. Even if lower quality extensions reduced brand prestige, there was hardly any effect in the overall evaluation. The negative quality association was tempered by increased perceived brand innovation and positive variety effects. However, lower quality extensions are not harmless in every case. Managers are well advised to consider all branding options and to analyze possible effects, not only on the brand but also on the individual product. "

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  • Ahluwalia Rohini (2008) “How Far Can a Brand Stretch? Understanding the Role of Self-Construal” Journal of Marketing Research Vol. 45 (June) pp. 337§-§350.

  • McCarthy Michael S.; Timothy B. Heath; Sandra J. Milberg (2001) “New Brands Versus Brand Extensions Attitudes Versus Choice: Experimental Evidence for Theory and Practice” Marketing Letters Vol. 12 (February) pp. 73§-§88.

  • Zimmer Mary R.; Subodh Bhat (2004) “The Reciprocal Effects of Extension Quality and Fit on Parent Brand Attitude” Journal of Product & Brand Management Vol. 13 (1) pp. 37§-§46.

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