Beyond Uniqueness: Brand Benefit Differentiation

There are a lot of popular bottled water brands, but how to differentiate from competition? In August, Alexander Farestvedt Hem defends his thesis «Beyond Uniqueness: Developing and Testing a New Typology of Brand Benefit Differentiation» for the PhD degree at NHH.
PhD Defense

29 July 2019 11:04

Beyond Uniqueness: Brand Benefit Differentiation

On Friday 9 August 2019 Alexander Farestvedt Hem will hold a trial lecture on a prescribed topic and defend his thesis for the PhD degree at NHH.

Alexander Farestvedt Hem
Alexander Farestvedt Hem, PhD Candidate at the Department of Strategy and Management, NHH.

Prescribed topic for the trial lecture:

Positioning has always been an important issue. The article of Park, Jaworski and MacInnis (1986) is a classical contribution. How is it possible to update and improve this model based on existing research?

Trial lecture:

10:15 in Aud Karl Borch, NHH

Title of the thesis:

Beyond Uniqueness: Developing and Testing a New Typology of Brand Benefit Differentiation


Theory on consumer-based brand equity (CBBE), the dominant theory of branding, holds that unique associations are the main source of brand differentiation. However, the focus on unique associations as the main strategy for developing brand equity has recently been called into question.

Alexander Hem's dissertation consists of three articles that challenge and expand the traditional perception of differentiation in CBBE by suggesting that uniqueness is just one of several possible forms of differentiation.

The first article draws on network theories of human memory and develops a fourfold typology for brand benefit differentiation. In addition to uniqueness (termed categorical differentiation), three new forms of differentiation are identified: graded, instrumental, and structural differentiation. It is argued that the meaning of benefits may vary across brands according to the strength of benefit associations (graded differentiation); in terms of how much associations contribute to the meaning of benefits (instrumental differentiation); and in terms of how such associations are structured or interlinked (structural differentiation). All of these variations in benefit networks may lead to differentiated meanings.

The second article provides preliminary support for the new typology by identifying all four types of benefit differentiation in aggregated association maps.

Article 3 shows that structural and graded differentiation have positive effects on benefit evaluation and brand attachment, respectively, while categorical differentiation (uniqueness) has negative effects on both benefit evaluation and brand attachment. These findings support and extend the recent critiques of CBBE theory’s focus on uniqueness.


12:15 in Aud Karl Borch, NHH

Members of the evaluation committee:

Professor Leif Hem (leader of the committee), Department of Strategy and Management, NHH

Professor Klaus G. Grunert, Aarhus University

Professor Chunyan Xie, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences


Professor Magne Supphellen (main superviso), Department of Strategy and Management, NHH

Professor Debborah Roedder-John, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota.

The trial lecture and thesis defence will be open to the public.