A new study suggests that our brand preferences may impact our romantic relationships. If a dominant partner continually imposes their brand choices on us, this might wear down the relationship in the long run, researchers say.
The conversation around romantic compatibility is long and ongoing. All people have different reasons behind their choice of partners, and scientists explain that perceived compatibility is often related to
A new study led by Prof. Gavan Fitzsimons, from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University in Durham, NC, now suggests that something as apparently insignificant as a partner's brand preferences could sway relationship satisfaction.
"People think compatibility in relationships comes from having similar backgrounds, religion, or education. But we find those things don't explain how happy you are in life nearly as much as this notion of brand compatibility," says Dr. Fitzsimons.
The researchers' findings were reported in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Brand choices and power imbalance
Prof. Fitzsimons and his colleagues looked at the impact of incompatibilities between partners in terms of brand choices. They studies romantic partners' level of satisfaction within the relationship in the context of power relations between the two.
The researchers cited previous studies that highlighted the importance of power imbalance in society, suggesting that a more strong-willed individual might dominate a relationship, thereby imposing their own preferences and choices.
This can result in the more accepting individuals' rising sense of frustration and dissatisfaction over time, and the researchers found that this holds true for individual brand preferences in a relationship, as well.
Partners with more power in a relationship might not even notice that they are imposing their own preferences onto the partners with lower power. Thus, the low-power partners end up feeling dissatisfied or unable to influence choices within the relationship.
"If you are lower in relationship power and have different brand preferences than your partner, you're probably going to find yourself stuck with your partner's favorite brands [...] Most couples won't break up over brand incompatibility, but it leads to the low-power partner becoming less and less happy."
Study co-author Dr. Danielle Brick, Ph.D. student, Fuqua School of Business at Duke University
The researchers conducted six complementary studies in different settings, on individuals and on romantic partners, to test their hypothesis. Soda, coffee, chocolate, car, and beer brand preferences were targeted.
Are brand preferences a decisive factor?
Prof. Fitzsimons and his team achieved consistent results, indicating that the level of happiness in a relationship is, as expected, affected by partners' brand choices, all the more so in the case of a power imbalance.
"It's an extremely robust effect, we found it over and over and over again," says Prof. Fitzsimons.
Dr. Brick suggests that the importance of brand choices has shot up over the past decades as brands have come to be more significant in today's society. She suggests that it's high time we looked at brand preferences as a potentially decisive factor in relationships, as well.
She explains that, "[I]f you like Coke and your partner likes Pepsi, you're probably not going to break up over it - but 11 years into a relationship, when he or she keeps coming home with Pepsi, day in and day out, it might start to cause a little conflict."
"And if you're the low-power person in the relationship, who continually loses out on brands and is stuck with your partner's preferences, you are going to be less happy."