Extension to alliance: Aaker and Keller’s model
David Owen James
Henley Management College, Henley, UK
Purpose – Since publication, Aaker and Keller’s seminal paper on brand extensions has received acclaimed support and criticism. This paper aims to
return to the original work and extend the frameworks presented to brand alliances. The study seeks to examine the dimensions used in the original
model and attempt to identify whether the brand extension dimensions can be applied to brand alliances.
Design/methodology/approach – Using quantitative research techniques through a structured study using 11 real brands in eight hypothetical
alliances over 260 respondents, the study examines the reapplication of the brand extension framework to brand alliances.
Findings – The study has found that, though some extension elements apply to alliances, the role of ﬁt takes on particular importance, whereas
difﬁculty of making assumes a minor role, and that the basic extension framework can be applied to brand alliances.
Research limitations/limitations – The study used real consumer brands in hypothetical extensions and alliances with student samples from the UK.
Different results may be found using alternative samples and with real brands.
Originality/value – The paper adds value to the literature and to practitioners’ understanding of brand leverage by identifying that, though Aaker and
Keller’s study framework is applicable to brand alliances, the role of ﬁt between partners takes on a central role to the detriment of difﬁculty of making.
Keywords Brand extensions, Brand identity, Product management, Brand management, United Kingdom
Paper type Research paper
An executive summary for managers and executive
readers can be found at the end of this article.
Replications and extensions of previous studies are essential
for the development of knowledge and provision of support
for previous study ﬁndings. One area that has been the subject
of such replications is brand extensions (Bottomley and
In 1990, Aaker and Keller, hereafter referred to as A&K,
published their seminal work “Consumer evaluations of brand
extensions” in the Journal of Marketing (A&K, 1990;
Bottomley and Holden, 2001). Since publication, the model
and framework has stimulated substantial debate and analysis
(Shocker et al., 1994; Bottomley and Doyle, 1996; Carpenter
et al., 1998; Bottomley and Holden, 2001; Hem et al., 2003).
The discussion has progressed and comprises a number of
issues including the model’s application to international
perspectives (A&K, 1993; Sunde and Brodie, 1993), non-
student samples (Loken and John, 1993; John et al., 1998)
and service brands (de Ruyter and Wetzels, 2000).
A new discourse was initiated with the introduction to the
literature of a paper on brand alliances (Rao and Ruekert,
1994) and this opened up a new avenue for research and
analysis on brand leverage strategy. An expanding literature
base covering consumer-based brand alliances is evolving
(Park et al., 1996, Simonin and Ruth, 1998), including areas
including sponsorship and promotion (Varadarajan, 1986;
Ruth and Simonin, 2003) and brand equity (Washburn et al.,
2004). Absent from the studies on brand alliances however is
replication of the A&K brand extension model and
This paper seeks to help ﬁll this gap and add to the overall
literature on brand leverage by identifying if the A&K
framework can be successfully applied to brand alliances. It
attempts to verify which of the applicable variables from the
A&K model have relevance to brand alliances.
As a form of equity release, brand alliances present a viable
alternative to brand leverage as the value of extension
opportunities is questioned (Kumar, 2004). Rao and Ruekert
(1994) suggested that brand alliances take two on distinct
forms: of physical product integration or complementary use
In physical product integration, one brand cannot be used
without or separated from another. For example a Dell PC
with an Intel Centrino chip, Diet Coke and NutraSweet, an
M and M Cookie bar from Betty Crocker and Mars or Adidas
training shoes with Goodyear soles. In complementary use,
either of the brands involved can be consumed independently
from the other, as in the case of the various alliances between
consumer brands such as BMW and Bose and the iPod
Brand alliances are most effective when they are used to
improve and enhance signals of product quality that a brand is
trying to make to the market (Rao and Ruekert, 1994; Rao
et al., 1999). If the alliance signals lower levels of product
quality than the signals given off when the brands are used
separately, then the value of the proposed alliance would have
to be questioned.
Brand alliances can also be classiﬁed by the form they take,
either physical or symbolic. Physical alliances occur where two
or more brands are integrated into a new product in the form
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Journal of Product & Brand Management
15/1 (2006) 15– 22
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 1061-0421]