Multisensory perception in consumer brand valuation: A Neuromarketing Study of Abercrombie & Fitch Co.´s Branding Strategy´s Affect on Consumer Behavior and Brand Equity

Anne-Sophie Dyreborg Schrøder

Student thesis: Master thesis


Brands communicating from a multisensory platform are believed to have the greatest likelihood of forming strong emotional connections with consumers. Nevertheless new implications for managers have developed, as consumers’ valuation of the brand can be altered, if there is a perceived incongruence between the sensory stimuli presented. This study addresses what consequences multisensory branding has for brand equity. The case example is the apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF), as the company uses a multisensory branding strategy, as the only marketing tool while expanding into Europe. The objective is to analyze the consumer brand valuation by understanding how their multisensory perception shapes cognitive- and emotional decision-­ making as well as psychological engagement with the brand. The research is conducted through focus group interviews with Danish consumers representing the European mind set. Additionally environmental and economical factors in Europe affecting ANF’s shareholder value are assessed to connect the analysis to real world phenomena. The analysis revealed that when four senses are addressed simultaneously by different incongruent stimuli, multiple basic emotional systems activate creating confusion and conflicting reactions. The decision-­making process, which is driven by both unconscious intuitive emotions and conscious reasoning, overtly becomes rational responding to the conflicting emotions, resolving in avoidance behavior and negative brand valuation. Furthermore the brand is perceived as a negative stereotype and cannot function as an identity signal for potential European consumers as their cultural backgrounds bias valuations. The brand value is predominantly founded in the store experience, however its stereotypical nature is perceived as becoming mainstream. Additionally it is likely ANF will be influenced negatively by economic uncertainties in Europe like modest growth, high unemployment rates and inflation. The brand is also positioned in a highly competitive market with risk of being outperformed. It is concluded that if ANF’s brand equity is to be sustained, the company must find a balance in customizing the concept by becoming responsive to European consumer behavior and trends, without loosing the differentiating effects of the multisensory strategy. Indeed the multisensory brand experience offers a process generating value at deeper behavioral, emotional, cognitive, sensorial and symbolic internal level. However the findings offer insights to the implications of managing a multisensory concept, as brand equity only is positively affected when multiple sensory stimuli are congruent and subtle, engaging consumers at an unconscious cognitive psychological level.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2013
Number of pages145