Brand competition in consumer packaged goods: Sustaining large market advantages with little product differentiation

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In direct competition between national brands of consumer packaged goods (CPG), one brand often has a large local share advantage over the other despite the similarity of the branded products. I present an explanation for these large and persistent advantages in the context of local competition on perceived quality or brand image. The main result of the analysis is a relation between varying degrees of product similarity and equilibrium outcomes of local share advantages. Namely, I find that asymmetric quality positioning and associated local share advantages emerge especially when competing brands are objectively similar. Conversely, local share asymmetries based on brand positioning occur less when brands are dissimilar. This paper provides two reinforcing intuitions for this result. First, if brands are objectively similar, different levels of investment in local quality perceptions co-exist in equilibrium in the same market, because this investment is often borne as fixed cost. Also, early movers will invest in high perceived quality, whereas late movers have less incentive to invest because of demand sharing and increased price competition. Second, if the local advantages are shared by competitors across markets, the persistence of these advantages is reinforced by multimarket contact. Even when local brand building is free, firms may not want to improve perceived quality in their “weak” markets if it initiates retaliation by the competition in their “strong” markets. The increase in multimarket profits from collusion is large when the products are similar, because price competition looms large.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-107
JournalQuantitative Marketing and Economics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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