Brand imitation strategy, package design and consumer response: what does it take to make a difference?
Drawing upon visual semiotics and creativity theories, this study investigated the effectiveness of brand imitation strategy on the package design of three different products among millennials. The products were male-targeted, female-targeted and gender-neutral. Three 2 x 2 x 2 between-subjects factorial experiments were conducted with three independent variables: shape (relevant vs. divergent), color (relevant vs. divergent) and icon (relevant vs. divergent) on three products: an energy drink (a male-targeted product), hair spray (a female-targeted product) and a breakfast cereal (a gender-neutral product). Participants’ attitude toward the leading brands served as a control variable. Dependent variables consisted of participants’ attitude toward the brand (Ab), attitude toward the product (Ap) and purchase intention (PI). The findings raised three theoretical implications. First, rather than iconography that imitated that of a leading brand, a similar color scheme was more powerful in influencing participants’ Ab, Ap and PI. Second, a more holistically similar design showed more impact on participants’ attitudinal and behavioral changes than a less similar design. Nevertheless, some “divergence” or distinctive design elements did positively influence participants’ brand and product attitudes, as well as their purchase intention, in relationship to the female-targeted product. More detailed theoretical implications are further discussed in the study. In addition, a conceptual model is proposed to better define brand imitation. Practical implications and study limitations are also included.