PhotoDo you prefer Pepsi or Coke? Be careful, because your answer may have important implications for your relationship with your significant other.

In a recent study, researchers from Duke University found that preferring different brands can affect couples’ happiness more than other important relationship factors like shared interests or personality traits. Researcher and marketing professor Gavan Fitzsimmons says the surprising finding is more widespread than previously thought.

"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," he said.

Feeling stuck

But how could such a trivial difference be so important to the survival of a relationship? The researchers say that couples who have low power in their relationship – meaning that either person feels that they can’t shape their partner’s behavior – can often feel trapped by their partner’s preferred brand.

"If you are a different religion than your romantic partner, you know that if this is an issue you can't work through, then the relationship isn't going to last," said lead author Danielle Brick. "Conversely, if 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."

Finding common ground

The researchers say that their findings are constant across several different brands of consumer products, including coffee, chocolate, beer, and even cars. Brick says that these differences become increasingly important depending on how big a part the brand plays in a couple’s lives. The researchers say that their findings have important implications for romantic partners and companies who sell these products.

"People who are looking for love should maybe consider including brand preferences on their dating profiles. There's also an opportunity for marketers to seek to be the family brand. Even if two partners have slightly different brand preferences, if they can adopt a joint brand that both are happy about, that might increase happiness for a partner who would otherwise feel unsatisfied," said Fitzsimmons.

"Some brands are marketed as family-oriented, but that's not the same as reaching out to everyone in the family," he adds. "It's tricky, but firms that get it right can have their brand associated with happiness and harmony -- and there's nothing better than that."

The full study has been published in the Journal of Consumer Research.


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