Since quality perception seems to be strongly related to actual purchasing behavior, especially brand loyalty (Jacoby 1971), perceived quality has generated considerable experimental interest (cfr. Olson and Jacoby 1972). A better understanding of the quality perception process requires knowledge of the cues used by the consumer in his alternative quality evaluation. From an information theoretic perspective, products and brands themselves are conceived to consist of an array of cues (e.g., price, brand name, packaging, color, etc...), each of these cues providing a basis for developing various impressions of the product (Cox 1962 Jacoby, Olson and Haddock 1971). Among those extrinsic [Olson and Jacoby (1972) refer to them as extrinsic cues for they are not parts of the physical product. They define intrinsic cues as product attributes which cannot be changed or experimentally manipulated without also changing the physical characteristics of the product itself (e.g. nature of the fiber, taste, special ingredients, etc...).] cues the relation between price and quality has been the most investigated during these last twenty years (Gabor and Granger 1964, McConnell 1968, Cooper 1970, Peterson 1970, Rao 1970, Monroe 1973, Woodside and Sims 1974, Olson 1977). This relation is now accepted as a positive non-linear one. Research has also shown the important role of brand names and brand packaging on quality perception. Brand reputation can be either a common surrogate indicator of product quality (Allison and Uhl 1964, Larzelere et al. 1965, Smith and Broome 1967, Myers 1967, Gardner 1971, Valenzi and Eldridge 1973, Freidman and Dipple 1978), or an effective strategy to reduce risk when ease of evaluation is low (Bauer 19609 Engel, Knapp and Knapp 1966, Lambert et al. 1980). Being almost a part of the product, packaging does not only act as a means of communication (Lincoln 1965, Gardner 1967) but may also interact closely with the evaluation of the product itself (Banks 1950, Brown 1958, McDaniel and Baker 1977, Miaoulis and d'Amato 1978).
When more than one extrinsic cue is investigated in studies, price and brand name are almost invariably included (Gardner 1970, Peterson and Jolibert 1976, Wheatley, Walton and Chiu 1977, Raju 1977). It is not the case in the present research which investigates through experimentation the combined effects of brand names and packaging on the perceived quality of coffee, a very popular food item daily consumed by 95% of the Belgian householders. The data used in this paper, were collected in an experiment conducted in June 1974 for one of the three most important firms competing in a particular variety submarket. At that time, the marketing managers were interested in determining the consumer attitudes for both their product and those of their two major competitors. Witnessing different patterns of market shares in the three typical regions of Belgium, they suspected the market to be heterogeneous in terms of attitudes.
The experimental design was a 3 x 3 x 3 factorial, consisting of three levels of packaging (i.e., blind test, brand disclosure, and regular retail presentation), three levels of regions (i.e., three representative cities of these regions), and three levels of product samples (i.e., three physically different samples of the product variety). Repeated measures were taken across the third factor. Thirty subjects were used in each of the nine experimental conditions.
The test group was composed of 270 variety users who agreed to participate in the study after having been randomly selected. After a brief interview on her consumption habits, each participant in the experiment was given free samples of the three brands, and a questionnaire to be picked up one week later.
Packaging information was manipulated by presenting the samples either in white bags with the variety name and a six-digit random number in place of the brand name, or in...