Abstract: Understanding the coherence between the attributes of a brand is a key asset for marketers managing brand equity. This study proposes consumer causal maps as a powerful instrument to achieve this purpose. These maps shed light on how different consumer groups think about the brand. Compared to non-owners, brand owners have been able to develop more expertise regarding the specific brand, which leads them to have more extensive causal maps. An exception occurs for the category leader, for which owners and non-owners have equally extensive maps. The surprising finding of this study is that the leading brand seems to encompass the ingredients for the causal maps of the other brands in the category. The results highlight how management should address owners and non-owners differently, in particular if a brand is far from category leadership.
Keywords: brand maps, cognitive structure, cognitive causal mapping, expertise, ownership, snowboards