The Meaning of Brand Names to Children: A Developmental Investigation

Gwen Bachmann Achenreiner, Deborah Roedder John

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


We explored the way that children use brand names in making consumer judgments. Brand names can serve as a simple perceptual cue that identifies a product as one people are familiar with or one they associate with certain perceptual features. Brands can also be associated with symbolic or conceptual meanings, conveying status, prestige, or trendiness. We proposed that young children relate to brands on a perceptual level, whereas older children relate to brands on a conceptual basis as well. We examined this proposition in an experiment conducted with children 8, 12, and 16 years of age. Participants were asked to evaluate an advertised product (e.g., athletic shoes) with a familiar brand name that was either popular (e.g., Nike®) or less popular (e.g., Kmart®). The advertised product was physically identical in both cases, allowing us to explore whether the brand name had meaning for children apart from its name familiarity or perceptual features. The use of conceptual brand meanings was assessed by asking participants to make several types of brand-related judgments including evaluations of the advertised product, impressions of the owners of the advertised product, and evaluations of possible extensions of the popular brand name advertised. Results indicate that by the time children reach 12 years of age, they use brand names as an important conceptual cue in consumer judgments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-219
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Consumer Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003

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