Purpose – This study aims to investigate the interaction between branding strategies, levels of perceived fit and consumer innovativeness on the evaluation of new products from the perspective of situational strength. Design/methodology/approach – Two experiments were conducted to empirically test the hypotheses. Findings – A significant three-way interaction of branding strategy, perceived fit and consumer innovativeness on the evaluation of the new products was found. A significant two-way interaction of branding strategy and perceived fit was also found. Situational clarity fully mediates the relationship between branding strategy and consumer product evaluations at various fit levels. Practical implications – The theory of situational strength may shed light on the selection of target market when managers launch new products. Innovative consumers are the target market for the new products under new branding or low fit sub-branding; under brand extension or high fit sub-branding, consumers are the target for the new products regardless of their degree of innovativeness. Originality/value – This is the first work to apply situational strength theory to a new product evaluation context. The theory provides a unified framework for explaining the cognitive processes involved when consumers use and combine marketing cues (i.e. branding strategies and fit levels) to evaluate new products; it also facilitates evaluating how the effects of consumer innovativeness are accentuated or attenuated based on various combinations of marketing cues. Most research on the evaluation of new products has examined the influence of consumer innovativeness, perceived fit or branding strategies as distinct entities. This study simultaneously examined the three.