A Methodology for Identifying Unobserved Categories When Consumers Assign Brands to Multiple Categories

Open Access
Blanchard, Simon
Graduate Program:
Business Administration
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 21, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Wayne S De Sarbo, Margaret G Meloy, Dissertation Advisor
  • Wayne Desarbo, Committee Chair
  • Margaret Grace Meloy, Committee Chair
  • Richard Alan Carlson, Committee Member
  • Duncan Fong, Committee Member
  • Consumer Psychology
  • Categorization
  • Unobserved Categories
  • Heterogeneity
  • Sorting Task
According to previous research, consumers naturally think of brands or products as belonging to multiple categories, depending on which of various available categories come to mind. To help marketers identify the categories that consumers naturally perceive, this study proposes a new statistical procedure, in which the identification of unobserved categories varies across consumers, and brands or products may span multiple categories. As illustrated with data from 25 U.S. restaurant brands and a synthetic example, this procedure accounts for different categorization phenomena and structures, including multiple-category memberships, different levels of abstraction, and graded memberships of category representations. Finally, it is also shown that creating assortments that more closely approximate consumers’ own category structures can facilitate their search, and ultimately, their satisfaction with their choice.