From Mix-and-Match to Head-to-Toe: How Brand Combinations Affect Observer Trust

Isabelle Engeler, Kate Barasz

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Consumers use brands in many combinations, from mixing-and-matching multiple brands (e.g., Nike shoes, Puma shirt, and Asics shorts) to using products primarily or solely from one brand (e.g., Nike shoes, shirt, and shorts). This work explores how such combinations affect observers’ trust in another consumer’s recommendations. Comparing two combination types—mixed-brand combinations (where all/most branded products are from different brands) and dominant-brand combinations (where all/most branded products are from the same brand)—nine studies establish that observers tend to have less trust in recommendations from those who use dominant-brand combinations (studies 1A–1C). This is driven by inferences about how the products were chosen: observers believe others who use dominant-brand combinations placed relatively greater importance on the brand—a feature that often serves as a mental shortcut for choices—and therefore infer these consumers made quicker, less thoughtful decisions (studies 2A and 2B). While the effect diminishes when observers hold particularly favorable attitudes toward the focal brand (study 3), it can alter observers’ own downstream behaviors (e.g., social media following intentions, information seeking, and recommendation taking; studies 4A–4C). Together, the findings confirm that brand combinations elicit responses distinct from single brands, offering fruitful avenues for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)562-585
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • advocacy and influencer marketing
  • brand combinations
  • choice inferences
  • consumer trust
  • decision thoughtfulness
  • social influence


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