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University, Australia Abstract Aaker (1997) developed a robust and reliable brand personality inventory, which is hypothesised to be generalisable across brand categories and it broadly reflects consumer personality characteristics. Aaker’s brand personality is not anchored to any particular personality theory and does not relate to any particular personality inventory. Brand personality generates descriptive information about the brand perceptions but it is not very informative of the kind of consumer that is likely to relate to the five-brand personality traits. This paper attempts to identify relationships between Aaker’s brand personality and consumer’s specific personality traits. Consumer’s self-concept is also intrinsically linked with brand and consumer personality characteristics. This paper tests the triangular relationships between the constructs of self-concept, and consumer and brand personality traits. The empirical research findings suggest that there is a link between consumer’s personality, brand personality and consumer’s self-concept. Brand Personality The premise that brands have anthropomorphic characteristics that ascribe specific human like personality traits is widely acknowledged in the literature (Schiffman et al, 2001; Aaker et al, 2004). The research on brand personality suggests that consumers select brands that are congruent with their needs and personality characteristics. Brand characteristics tend to be similar with consumer’s self-concept and personality traits, therefore behaviour choices are predictable if marketers identify consumer’s self-images and brand perceptions. Aaker’s (1997: 347) definition of brand personality is a collection of isomorphic characteristics with human personality traits. Aaker (1997) developed a reliable and generalisable brand personality construct, which has been tested with a number of product categories in the USA. The overall Aaker brand personality inventory structure and conceptualisation is original and bears no resemblance to Five Factor Inventory (FFI or the “Big Five” personality trait model) (Norman, 1963; Goldberg, 1990, 1993; McCrae and Costa, 1997). It is widely accepted that many personality inventories that have been used for research on branding issues have been directly imported from general psychology or have been developed in an ad hoc manner (Kassarjian, 1971; Aaker, 1997), and their usefulness are somewhat limited in predicting consumer choices (Plummer, 1985). The Aaker brand personality inventory has been developed to measure brand characteristics only without any connection to consumer personality characteristics. The Aaker brand personality inventory has demonstrated empirically psychometric rigour and therefore it is a valid and reliable instrument. However, the brand personality inventory is not related to any particular personality inventory and there are no direct associations between consumer personality and brand personality (Aaker, Kumar and Day, 2004; Aaker, Garolera and Benet-Martinez, 2001). Freling and Forbes (2005) found that brands with strong personalities are likely to generate positive attitudes with consumers, which are likely to result in evaluations that are more favourable. Strong positive brand personalities are more likely to be associated and contribute more towards the creation of a distinctive brand identity with a clearer market position. Freling and
Forbes suggest that brand personality could differentiate and create competitive advantage in the consumer’s minds for brands that otherwise are indistinguishable from their competitors. Brand equity is more likely to be stronger for brands that are clearly distinguished and differentiated in crowded consumer markets (Lovelock, 1984; Keller, 1993). Effective market segmentation and communication strategies would be possible if brand personality characteristics could be anchored with specific consumer market traits and other individual consumer psychometric characteristics, such as, self-concept. Identifying congruity relationships between brand image and consumer’s self-image would enable marketers to position and promote products more effectively with the appropriate target markets. Identifying more clearly symbolic brand personality meanings, consumer personality characteristics and the interrelationships between consumer self-image and brand image, would provide an integrated nomothetic approach to understanding the symbolic with the actual consumer needs. Understanding the relationships between brand and consumer personality would prove most invaluable, as personality constructs, are considered stable over a long timer and universally generalisable for all individuals and transcend cultural differences (Jung, 1921/1971; McCrae and Costa, 1997). Brand meaning and personality is found to transcend cultural boundaries and therefore coupled with consumer personality characteristics would be a valuable combination for marketing strategy purposes for all kinds of brands globally (Aaker and Schmitt, 2001; Escalas and Bettman, 2005).Thus the following hypothesis is proposed.
H1: Specific brand personality characteristics are positively related to consumer’s
Self Concept and Brand Self-congruity The use of personality as a predictor of self-congruity seems a natural extension of the selfconcept/Self-congruity theory because both constructs are closely related to each other (Markus and Nurius, 1986; Schiffman et al, 2001). According to Pervin and John (2001), selfconcept is often viewed as a component of personality. A number of researchers have suggested that there is a positive association between self-concept and brand image (Levy, 1959; Sirgy 1982; Sirgy and Su, 2000; Sirgy, Grewal and Mangleburg, 2000; Johar and Sirgy, 1991). Self-concept is hypothesised to consist of four components, actual self-concept, ideal self-concept, social self-concept and ideal social self-concept (Schiffman et al., 2001). Within this framework, actual self-concept refers to the present way in which individuals perceive themselves (reality), whereas the ideal self-concept represents the manner in which they would like to perceive themselves. Social self-concept represents the way individuals believe others perceive them, while ideal social self-concept represents the way the individual desires to be perceived by others. Self-congruity represents the degree of similarity between consumer’s self-image or selfconcept and that of brand. The degree of consistency between the self-image and brand image is self-congruity (Sirgy, 1982). The four aspects of self-concept compose the global selfimage, which is hypothesised to influence consumer choices of products/brands through selfimage with brand image congruity (Johar and Sirgy, 1991; Sirgy and Su, 2000). There is no clear position or evidence of whether ideal self-image is related to ideal product image and social self-image with social aspects of brand personality. Sirgy and Su (2000) suggest that consumers purchase product/brands that possess images or indicate specific types of either actual or aspiration brand images that are congruent with consumers multiplicity of self images, either actual or ideal ones. Congruity impacts are desirable because they influence
positively consumer’s self-image, but inconsistencies or incongruity is likely to result in feelings of inadequacy, and dissatisfied with their choices (Johar and Sirgy, 1991; Sirgy and Su, 2000). However, Kleijnen et al (2005) suggest that there is very little difference between actual and ideal self-image and therefore the measurement of congruence with brand images is very small and almost negligible. Bandura (1999) suggests that multiple conceptions of self cannot exist simultaneously, because it would require some sort of overseer self, enabling the management and coordination of the various selves, to determine which of the four aspects of self-image should engage with specific brand choice context. Therefore the overall or global self-concept is not truly divided into clear and independent separate segments, but rather there is a ‘core self’, which is able to determine appropriate modes of behaviour according to situational contexts and demands. Due to the conceptual criticisms, the multidimensional selfconcept perspective is reconceptualised into a unifying and integrative single global selfconcept. Global self-concept integrates all four self-concept component but it permits the measurement of the distinctive individual components of the construct as well. The proposed hypothesis is that:
H2: Global self-concept as a multidimensional construct, (entailing the four components
of actual self-concept, ideal self-concept, social self-concept and ideal social selfconcept) is positively related to brand image and consumer personality image. Methodology The research attempts to test the relationships between brand personality characteristics, consumer’s self image and consumer’s personality orientations. The context that has been chosen is fashion clothes items that consumers have bought recently. There are no specific instructions about the price levels, distribution outlets or type of clothing as long as they are considered to be relevant to the young consumer’s (students) self image. A purposive convenience sampling method was used to achieve a sample size of N=232 consumers. The sample is predominantly composed of young adults studying in a Victorian university with an average age of 22 years old, including 60% females and 40% males. The reasons for the choosing students in our sample are because they are mostly young age, tend to be fashion conscious and there is a strong likelihood that these type of consumers are more likely to choose carefully clothing items. From our qualitative research the findings suggest that young student consumes tend to be more concerned with self-image and brand image issues than any other age groups. The survey questionnaire instrument was developed based on the literature review and qualitative research findings. Aaker’s (1997) brand personality factors were tested during the focus groups and depth interviews and were adapted to suit the young target markets. The researchers tried to take into consideration the research context of buying fashionable clothing brands. The research instrument used thirty-six adjectives to describe all relevant brand personality factors and was scored as dichotomous items. The consumer personality items are taken from the Tourism Preferences Survey instrument developed by Gountas and Gountas (2001) and Gountas (2003). Small adaptations were made to suit the context of brand purchasing and demographic characteristics of the study. The personality orientations instrument contained thirty-two items which were scored on a five point Likert scale.
Data Analysis and Research Findings The brand personality items were scored on a dichotomous scale of yes or no and therefore the factor analysis produced meaningful groupings of personality factors but the Cronbach Alphas are consequently very low. The five personality factors obtained are similar to Aaker’s factors but there are some small differences (trendy-sophisticated, adventurous-exciting, plain-budget, rugged-masculine, intelligent-functional). The adapted four personality orientations (Gountas, 2003) produced four factors with low to reasonable Cronbach Alphas: Thinking (a=.69), Feeling (a=.70), Imaginative (a=.613) and Physical/sensing (a=.64). The overall global self-concept composite factor produced a very strong Cronbach Alpha (a=.80). The hypotheses were tested effectively by using structural equation modelling with three endogenous constructs, consumer personality orientation, brand personality and global selfconcept (see Figure 1). Consumer’s Personality
Figure 1: Integrated Self-brand Congruency Model consisting of three constructs, consumer’s personality orientation, global self-concept and brand personality All three endogenous constructs are interrelated and therefore all hypotheses are tested simultaneous. Each of the individual four personality orientations is tested separately with their respective brand personality items and global self-concept factor. The four micro-models of each personality orientation produced reasonable fit indices and therefore both research hypotheses are supported for all four micro-models (see Table 1). All four micro-model fit indices are positive and above the recommended thresholds, therefore the results suggest that all hypothesised relationships are positive and that there is a direct effect between personality orientation, brand personality and global self-concept. The CMIN/DE scores for all four micro-models are within the acceptable limits, and the CFI, TLI and RMSEA suggest that the hypothesised model fits the survey data well. The structural equations models suggest that overall the physical personality orientation micro-model performs better and the fit indices are better that all other models. The physical/sensing personality orientation is associated with materialistic values and material possessions and therefore it makes logical sense to be strongly related and therefore it can be used as a predictor variable with regards to purchasing goods and brands with symbolic (material wealth and aesthetic) value.
Table 1: Structural Equation Model Fit indices of the four integrated micromodels of personality orientations, brand personality and global self-concept constructs Personality CMIN/DE P CFI GFI AGFI TLI RMSEA orientation (acceptable (levels (acceptabl (acceptab (accepta (acceptable (acceptable
levels: 1-3) ≤.05) e levels ≤.90) le levels ≤.90) ble levels ≤.90) levels ≤.90)
Imaginative Feeling Thinking Physical
1.40 1.38 1.197 1.164
0.005 0.020 0.087 .180
0.925 0.957 0.965 .979
.952 .943 .937 .956
.932 .914 .910 .933
0.909 0.943 0.968 .973
0.042 0.041 0.029 0.027
Discussion and Implications for Marketers The research findings support the reliability of the Aaker brand personality instrument and the Gountas four personality orientations. The rather weak Cronbach Alphas are possibly due to the adaptation choices and the type of sample that was selected. The adaptation of any psychometric instrument needs to be carried out very carefully and be tested rigorously to fit well the new research context. Austin et al. (2003) tested Aaker’s brand personality instrument with young age consumer samples and suggest that there are limitations to the degree of generalisability of the instrument. They argue that the context and the product category may produce different effects and therefore researchers should use the Aaker brand personality instrument with care. The symbolic brand image is different according to the product category and the demographic characteristics of the consumers. This paper attempted to adapt appropriately the Aaker instrument and used a simplified scoring method with some success but it requires further research to establish whether there are cross-cultural differences that influence the results (Quester et al., 2000). The combination of brand personality, consumer personality and self-concept produces more comprehensive understanding of the possible reasons for which consumers choose different brands. The combined information from all three constructs enables marketers to develop more valid brand positioning strategies. Promotional and distribution strategies are more likely to be effective because the brands attributes and overall image reflect more reliably the consumer’s characteristics and needs. Future research should endeavour to improve the factor structure of the adapted brand personality, and personality orientations for the specific product/brand categories. More attention is required with the sample selection and the scoring methods of individual brand personality items. Overall, the research makes an original theoretical contribution because it successfully linked brand personality with consumer personality characteristics and identified that there is very little discriminant validity between the four components of self-image. The postulation of a global self-image construct that is composed of all four facets (actual, ideal, social, ideal social self- image) makes a lot of sense based on our research results and with the consumer’s self-perceptions during the qualitative research.
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