The Impact of anonymity in elicitation of brand associations : theoretical and empirical developments
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Effective brand management requires a thorough understanding of the consumer. In particular, managers need to know which associations consumers have for their brands. In this study, we address the role of anonymity in interviews designed to elicit brand associations from consumers' memories. First, the concept of anonymity is examined in order to arrive at a useful definition. Based on a review ofpotential psychological motives for response distortion and a review of the nature ofbrand associations, we derive two types of anonymity; social - and self anonymity. Social anonymity is defined as the degree to which respondents believe that someone else can identify him or her as a respondent. Self anonymity denotes the extent of outer-directed awareness during an interview, or in other words, the lack of self-focus. An experiment involving 205 undergraduate students was conducted to test the effects on elicitation outcomes of different techniques selected to induce different types of anonymity. Specifically, techniques offering selfanonymity (such as third-person questioning) were deemed more effective in alleviating motives ofresponse distortion than techniques offering no anonymity or social anonymity (such as self-administered questionnaires). Self-anonymity was expected to be more effective because this type of anonymity guards against both socially-directed and intra-psychic motivations for response distortion. In support of this contention, for a brand with latent symbolic associations, self anonymity was shown to evoke different and more valid associations than a non- anonymity condition. Moreover, self-monitoring was found to be a significant negative moderator of the ability of associations to predict brand attitudes when no anonymity was provided, whereas no such effect of self-monitoring was observed for associations elicited under conditions of self anonymity. This finding supports a motivational explanation of the effects of self anonymity observed in this study.