Overcoming the Early Entrant Advantage: The Role of Alignable and Nonalignable Differences

Zhang, Shi; Markman, Arthur B.
November 1998
Journal of Marketing Research (JMR);Nov98, Vol. 35 Issue 4, p413
Academic Journal
Prior research has focused on early entrant advantage rather than on theories that explain and predict how late entrants can surpass the early entrant's performance. In this research, the authors propose that learning about new brands is influenced by the way the attributes of later entrants compare with attributes of the first. In three experiments, the authors show that attributes that differentiate later entrants from the first entrant are better remembered and listed more often in judgment formation protocols if the attributes are comparable along some common aspect (i.e., they are alignable differences) than if they do not correspond to any attributes of the first entrant (i.e., they are nonalignable differences). The impact of greater memorability of alignable over nonalignable differences is that later entrants whose attributes are superior to those of the first entrant can come to be preferred over the first entrant when the attributes are alignable differences but not when they are nonalignable differences. These findings have important implications for product entry, differentiation, and positioning strategies.


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