Our ‘beliefs’ about brands are nowhere near as stable and consistent as we think. As Ehrenberg-Bass’s work with re-contact surveys has shown, individual opinions about brands are much more volatile than top-line tracking data suggests.
The overall percentage of people who agree ‘Pepsi tastes better than Coke’ might stay the same from survey to survey. But that doesn’t mean that individual respondents are answering the same way each time. Look at the data more closely, and you’ll see that people answer research questions in a ’probabilistic’ way. They may lean slightly in favour of one brand or another, but they don’t have fixed beliefs.
Behaviour patterns are similarly fluid and messy. We like to think that people divide into distinct buying groups. But look at long runs of data, and you’ll find that real-life buying behaviour is much more ’agnostic’. Buyers of premium brands also buy Own Label; low-fat buyers also buy full fat; Coke buyers buy Pepsi.
Our opinions about brands fluctuate depending on mood and occasion. And so do our brand choices. In the morning, we feel healthy and go for low fat. In the afternoon, we want chocolate.