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A comparison of brand personality and brand

user-imagery congruence
Brian T. Parker
School of Journalism & Mass Communication, Florida International University, Miami, Florida, USA
Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to compare the brand personality and brand user-imagery constructs in congruity theory to examine their
relationship in the image congruence model as a basis of modeling brand attitudes for publicly and privately consumed brands.
Design/methodology/approach A total of 272 surveys measured subjects self-image perceptions and subjects perceptions of brand personality
and user-imagery. Congruence measures were used as indicators of the difference between respondent self-image and each brands image, and served
as independent variables in stepwise regressions with brand attitude as the dependent variable.
Findings The results indicated that, for publicly consumed brands, user-imagery-based congruence measures contributed more often to the
explanatory power of the model. For privately consumed brands, brand personality congruity produced significant regressions but did not account for a
large portion of explained variance, while user-imagery only entered one private brand model.
Originality/value Brand personality and brand user-imagery are often used interchangeably in self-congruity theory research. Although both
constructs have received past research attention, no studies have compared them in the same study. The study fills the gap in the literature and
enhances the usefulness of the self-brand congruity model, providing a knowledge base for determining an overall brand positioning strategy.
Keywords Self assessment, Brand image, Brand identity
Paper type Research paper

self-congruity model maintains that favorable brand attitudes


result as the similarity (i.e. congruence) between brand image
and consumer self-image increases.
The dominant paradigm in self-brand congruity research
defines self-brand congruity as a comparison of self-image
with a brands user-imagery. Brand user-imagery is a
consumer perception of a brands typical user (Sirgy, 1986).
Researchers traditionally operationalize self-brand congruity
by measuring brand user-imagery and respondents self-image
perceptions, and then calculate distance scores that represent
the image congruence between brand and self (Birdwell,
1968; Dolich, 1969; Graeff, 1996; Grubb and Grathwhohl,
1967; Sirgy, 1986). To facilitate the present research agenda,
the author refers to this paradigm of self-brand congruity
measurement as user-imagery congruity (UIC).
In a slightly different paradigm, researchers interested in
brand personality have applied the self-congruity framework
towards its investigation. Rather than employing user-imagery
to assess brand image, researchers employ the brand
personality construct in its place (Aaker, 1996; Hogg et al.,
2000). In other words, researchers operationalize self-brand
congruity by comparing brand personality and self-image
measures as the basis of distance (i.e. congruity indicators)
scores. The author refers to this paradigm as brand
personality congruity (BPC).
In the latter approach, researchers make the assumption
that brand personality and user imagery are theoretically
transposable, or at best, overlooked their conceptual
differences and the implications using the terms
interchangeably. Brand personality and brand user imagery
are complementary brand image constructs; however, the
literature clearly indicates these two constructs have
conceptual distinctions (Aaker, 1996; Patterson, 1999;
Plummer, 2000). Moreover, self-congruity and brand
personality research are separate research streams. Selfcongruity theory development occurred decades before the

An executive summary for managers and executive


readers can be found at the end of this article.
Image is a bridge that connects individuals to the brands they
consume in the marketplace. Both brand image and
consumer self-image are often critical factors that drive
purchase behavior. The image that a person has of her/himself
often influences the brands individuals purchase (Belk, 1988;
Plummer, 2000; Sirgy, 1982; Zinkham and Hong, 1991). The
simple presence of a particular brand (e.g. Gucci, Porsche, or
Nike) can serve to define a person with respect to others,
particularly when social identity is involved. By choosing
brands with particular image associations (e.g. sophisticated
or sporty), individuals can communicate to others the type of
person they are or want to be seen as, in turn enhancing their
own self-image and psychological well-being (Aaker, 1996;
Graeff, 1996; Grubb and Grathwhohl, 1967; Keller, 1993;
Underwood et al., 2001).
Self-congruity theory suggests that favorable brand
attitudes are partially a function of the image congruence
phenomenon, a mental comparison that consumers make in
regards to the similarity or dissimilarity of a brands image and
their own self-image (Dolich, 1969; Gould, 1991; Graeff,
1996; Sirgy, 1982, 1986; Sutherland et al., 2004). Selfcongruity is generally characterized as the match or
mismatch between consumer self-image and a product
image, brand image, or company image (Sirgy, 1986). The
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
www.emeraldinsight.com/0736-3761.htm

Journal of Consumer Marketing


26/3 (2009) 175 184
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 0736-3761]
[DOI 10.1108/07363760910954118]

175

A comparison of brand personality and brand user-imagery congruence

Journal of Consumer Marketing

Brian T. Parker

Volume 26 Number 3 2009 175 184

advent of the brand personality construct, yet no studies have


directly compared these two constructs within the selfcongruity framework.
The objective of this study was to explore this gap in the
literature by empirically comparing the brand personality and
user-imagery constructs in the same study. To date, much
brand personality research has focused on the development of
the construct and assessment tools, not its theoretical
relationship to other brand image constructs. This study
utilized these concepts to advance the understanding of how
we conceptualize self-brand congruity and to determine if
researchers can transpose brand personality in the congruity
model for user-imagery. If these two constructs have
empirically independent effects on brand evaluations, then
this theoretical distinction should be documented and
considered in future self-brand congruity research.

then use standard calculations to determine the difference or


distance between the image measures (Gould, 1991; Graeff,
1996; Sirgy, 1982, 1986; Sutherland et al., 2004). Because
such calculated congruity indicators are typically the focal
point of analysis, the conceptualization and measurement of
both self-image and brand-image is of central importance in
self-brand congruity research. The self-image construct has
received the most attention, while little attention has been
paid to brand image and its different dimensions within the
domain of self-congruity.
Self-image
Self-image, in the most basic sense, refers to the way in which
one perceives her/himself to be as an individual, called a selfperception (Grubb and Grathwhohl, 1967; Graeff, 1996).
Self-image is a multidimensional perception of ones self that
changes from situation to situation, and is comprised of at
least two major dimensions: the real/actual-self and, the
ideal-self (Aaker, 1999; Gould, 1991; Graeff, 1996; Sirgy,
1982, 1986; Sutherland et al., 2004). The real/actual self (i.e.
me as I am), is ones perceptions of the self as now
experienced, and the ideal self (i.e. the good me), is ones
perceptions of the self as an imagined ideal, the image of the
self as one desires to be (Grubb and Grathwhohl, 1967;
Rogers, 1959; Sirgy, 1982).
The construct self-image is central to the discipline of social
psychology, and a key variable in understanding not only
consumer behavior but also human behavior in general.
According to psychologist Carl Rogers (1959), a central figure
in self and personality theory, every individual is motivated by
a fundamental actualizing tendency that serves the purpose
to develop all abilities in ways that maintain and enhance
ones self-image (i.e. self-enhancement).
In order to garner proper interpretation of his/her social
performance, individuals attempt to control both
environmental settings and personal attire (Grubb and
Grathwhohl, 1967). In regards to consumer market behavior,
possessions and items (e.g. products and brands) are used
as symbolic communication devices in the social interaction
process to project a proper image and garner favorable
reactions (Belk, 1988; Grubb and Grathwhohl, 1967). In
other words, self-enhancement occurs through associations
with goods that have desirable social meaning that also bring
favorable reactions from significant references.

Review of relevant literature


The notion that brands communicate information beyond
functional product utility that is important to the consumer
motivates an important area of brand research. Levy (1959)
often receives credit for initiating this debate, arguing that
consumers are not functionally oriented and market behavior
is significantly affected by the symbols used to identify
goods, primarily the image projected by different products
and brands. Scholars from across disciplines (e.g. psychology,
anthropology, and consumer behavior) argue this is the case
because individuals often use symbolic brand meaning for
personal-expression and social communication (Belk, 1988;
McCraken, 1986; Zinkham and Hong, 1991).
Introduced above, the central premise of self-congruity
theory is put forward by the image congruence hypothesis.
The hypothesis suggests that, as the similarity, that is
congruence, between ones self-image and a brands image
increases, so should the favorability of brand attitudes and
hence the likelihood of positive action (e.g. purchase) in
regards to that brand (Gould, 1991; Graeff, 1996; Sirgy,
1982, 1986). Numerous studies on a variety of product
categories and services have produced results supportive of
the image congruence hypothesis and provide evidence that
self-brand congruity also affects related constructs such as
brand satisfaction, preference, purchase intentions, and
choice (Birdwell, 1968; Dolich, 1969; Erickson, 1996;
Grubb and Grathwhohl, 1967; Graeff, 1996; Levy, 1959;
Malhotra, 1981; Ross, 1971; Sirgy, 1982).
Research provides evidence that a number of variables
moderate the relationship suggested by the image congruence
hypothesis. Self-brand congruity is not an important driver of
consumer brand attitude in all product categories, nor does it
drive consumption equally for all individuals (Dolich, 1969;
Gould, 1991; Graeff, 1996; Hogg et al., 2000; Sirgy, 1982).
In particular, conspicuousness of brand use (i.e. private versus
publicly consumed), and consumers self-monitoring
behavior each are evidenced to play an important
moderating role in the relationship between self-brand
congruity and brand evaluations (Aaker, 1999; Gould,
1991; Hamm and Cundiff, 1969; Landon, 1974; Zinkham
and Hong, 1991).
Central to self-congruity theory are the two constructs:
self-image and brand image. In order to study the
congruity phenomenon, researchers typically employ
techniques to measure these two image perceptions and

Brand image
Brand image has long been recognized as an important
concept in marketing. The general theory is that consumers
link strong, favorable, and unique associations to a brand, in
their memory, if they favor the brand image (Keller, 1998).
For the consumer, brand image can be based on direct
experience with the brand, as well as through promotion of
the brand, and even through observation of what kind of
people use the brand or times when the brand is best used
(Patterson, 1999).
Further, brands can be associated with certain types of
people and reflect different values or traits. By choosing
certain brands, an individual can communicate to others or
themselves the type of person they are or want to be (Keller,
1998). Essentially, brand image is a subjective perception, a
mental representation of functional and non-functional
information regarding the product or service (Patterson,
1999). Brand image is built in the memory of the consumer
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A comparison of brand personality and brand user-imagery congruence

Journal of Consumer Marketing

Brian T. Parker

Volume 26 Number 3 2009 175 184

and is defined by the perceptions and associations held in the


memory of the consumer (Keller, 1998). One important part
of this subjective perception for brand image are the symbolic
concepts brand personality and user-imagery.

Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication, and


Ruggedness) and 15 facets. To date, the BPS is the only
published and most widely employed brand personality
measure, shown to be reliable and generalizable across
different brands and product categories.

Brand personality
The personified brand captivated the attention of
communication researchers, particularly in the decades of
the 1980s and 1990s. Ogilvy (1983, p. 14) suggested that
products and brands have personalities that can make or
break them in the market place. Research has supported the
contention that brands develop unique personalities that can
serve as units of observation and analysis (Aaker, 1997;
Plummer, 2000; Sutherland et al., 2004). Brand personality is
the act of applying human characteristics or traits to a brand,
inducing consumers to think of a brand as if it had person like
qualities (Aaker, 1997). For example, consumers
characterized the brand personality of Oil of Olay as
upscale and aspirational, while Absolut vodkas brand
personality has been characterized as cool, hip, and
contemporary (Aaker, 1997; Plummer, 2000).
Associating human personality characteristics with a brand
is possible because people anthropomorphize, that is, transfer
human characteristics to inanimate objects on a regular basis
(Bower, 1999; Boyer, 1996). Typical examples are animating
a pet rock or when one references an object, such as a
motor boat by saying, she is a beauty. Not only do
individuals view the inanimate object as she/he would another
person, but also treats the object as another person (Boyer,
1996).
Evidence suggests companies that employ brand personality
as a part of an overall positioning strategy, when properly and
consistently communicated can affect consumer perceptions
in far more enduring ways than other communication
strategies (Burke, 1994). This differentiate facilitates
consumer choice by simplifying the decision process,
increases awareness and attachment (i.e. builds loyalty), and
enhances the favorability a brands image (Phau and Lau,
2001; Sutherland et al., 2004). Plummer (2000, p. 81),
suggests brand personality plays a critical role in the for me
choice, or I see myself in that brand choice.
A brands human personality traits result from any direct or
indirect contact an individual has with the brand (Aaker,
1997; Plummer, 2000). Direct source brand personality traits
originate from any individual associated with the brand (e.g.
endorsers, spokespersons, company CEO, and family
members), and transfer to the overall brand personality
perception. In comparison, indirect brand personality traits
originate from such informational sources as product
attributes, product category, brand name and symbol,
advertising approach, price, and demographic characteristics
(e.g. gender and social class). Overall, human characteristics
associated with a brand are drawn from many possible
sources, resulting in a global perception of a brand as if it has
an enduring human like personality.
Aaker (1997) advanced a framework of the brand
personality construct and a set of scales that tap into
construct dimensions. The Brand Personality Scales (BPS)
are grounded in a framework that psychologists have
advocated as a comprehensive classification of human
personality. Each BPS personality dimension is subdivided
into facets that provide indicators of each dimension. In total,
the standard BPS measures five personality dimensions (i.e.

Brand user-imagery
The majority of self-congruity research falls in the consumer
behavior domain and traditionally has focused attention on
different aspects of consumer self-image and limited the
conceptualization of brand image to the consumers view of
the typical brand user (Birdwell, 1968; Dolich, 1969; Graeff,
1996; Hogg et al., 2000; Landon, 1974; Sirgy, 1982). Userimagery is a stereotyped perception of the generalized user
of a particular brand, depicted by human characteristics
associated with that brand user (Sirgy, 1982). For example,
Izod shirts may be depicted as being for yuppies or Oakley
sunglasses are for surfers and snowboarders.
User-imagery is similar to brand personality, in that both
concepts represent human characteristics associated with a
brand. However, user imagery simply represents a
prototypical person and likely plays a role in the overall
brand personality formation. On the other hand, brand
personality is a more encompassing perception of a brands
composite image, derived from multiple source inputs such as
product endorsers, celebrity spokesperson, and animated
characters.
The purpose of this study was to extend congruity theory
research to determine if brand personality and brand userimagery can be used interchangeably in Self-congruity theory.
Since there are no published reports of such a comparison,
there were no grounds to develop or test specific hypotheses.
The authors intent was to determine if brand user-imagery
based congruity (UIC) and brand personality congruity
(BPC) have independent effects on brand evaluations for
publicly and privately consumed brands (i.e. high versus low
in conspicuousness of use). Specifically, this study addressed
three research questions:
RQ1. What is the relationship between UIC and BPC
congruities when used simultaneously in brand
attitude prediction models?
RQ2. Are their differences in the amount of explanatory
power between UIC and BPC congruity types in brand
attitude prediction models?
RQ3. How does brand conspicuousness of use (public versus
private brands) influence the explanatory power of
BPC and UIC congruities in brand attitude prediction
models?

Methodology
This study employed survey research to compare the
predictability of UIC and BPC in the self-congruity model.
Preliminary research generated an extensive list of brands
highly relevant to respondents, used to select the units of
analysis for the study. Questionnaire refinement occurred via
two pre-tests on sub samples of the target population. A
convenience sample of 272 (n 272) undergraduate college
students participated in the primary survey, recruited from
undergraduate courses at a large southern university.
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A comparison of brand personality and brand user-imagery congruence

Journal of Consumer Marketing

Brian T. Parker

Volume 26 Number 3 2009 175 184

Brand selection procedure


Preliminary research identified a set of brands:
.
judged relevant and meaningful to a sample of target
respondents;
.
that had unique described images; and
.
were readily available and consumable by either female or
male respondents.

technique attempts to capture the congruity experience


directly and does not require calculating distance scores.
Rather, UIC is operationalized as the average on each scale
for each brand; the lower the average, the more congruence
experienced between brand and self.
Brand personality self-congruity (BPC) measurement
Presently, researchers have not developed a global measure
similar to the user image congruity scales that incorporates
the brand personality construct. To overcome the
methodological flaw of using different scales to measure
consumer and brand personality (Bellenger et al., 1976), BPC
was operationalized by employing Aakers (1997) 15 item
BPS descriptors and traditional self-brand congruity
techniques by measuring brand personality and respondent
self-image with the same set of personality descriptors. BPS
image scores provided the base for calculating BPC self-brand
congruity indicator scores for each brand. The BPS measures
five facets of brand personality, employing indicators of each
dimension displayed in Table I.
There are two primary reasons to use the BPS personality
descriptors in self-brand congruity research. First, the BPS
was derived in research employing techniques outlined by
Malhotra (1981), who developed a process of scale
development for measuring self, person, and product
concepts, which is commonly applied in congruity research.
Second, the BPS scales have been used in self-brand
congruity research (Aaker, 1999).
Brand personality and self-image were characterized with
five-point Likert scales (1 not at all descriptive to
5 extremely descriptive) by indicating the number that
best described the brand as a person. After characterizing
each brands personality, the respondents used the same
scales to characterize their own self-image.
BPC self-congruity was operationalized as the distance
between respondents self-image scores and brand personality
score calculated with the distance-squared model, depicted in
Equation 1. With this approach, congruity varies by distance:
the larger the d-score (distance) between brand and the
respondents personality, the less congruity, and the lower the
d-score between the brand and the respondents personality,
the higher the congruity:

Given verbal instructions, participants listed and


characterized the image of three brands that they use
primarily in a public situation and three used primarily in
private situations. Participants used two adjectives to describe
each brand based on free associations. Frequency of free
association was determined to be a good preliminary
assessment of each brands image (Malhotra, 1981).
This procedure generated a list of over 200 brands. From
this list, the researcher selected four public and four private
brands to serve as the units of analysis. Four brands of each
type were sufficient to achieve the research objectives and not
overly cumbersome to respondents, allowing enough time to
complete the questionnaire. The criteria utilized to select the
brands were: frequency of mention, relative homogeneity of
the product categories, and distinctiveness of image.
The public brands selected for the study were all clothing
apparel brands (Banana Republic, Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike
and Birkenstock) each mentioned frequently and had distinct
free association image descriptions from each other. The
brand Birkenstock was not mentioned as frequently as the
other three brands, however, it was selected for the study
because its free association image was very distinct. The
private brands selected that were mentioned frequently and
had distinct free image associations were Nabisco, Charmin,
Sony, and Tropicana.
Survey instrument
The questionnaire collected basic demographic data including
gender, ethnicity, and age. Familiarity ratings for each brand
were cataloged to allow for the exclusion of subjects not
familiar with any of the brands. Brand attitude was measured
utilizing a three-item, seven-point attitude scale (favorable/
unfavorable, good/bad, and likeable/unlikable), commonly
used to measure brand attitude and operationalized as an
index of three semantic differential scales (MacKenzie et al.,
1989).
User-image self-congruity (UIC) measurement
The researcher employed Sirgy et al.s (1997) user-image
based global self-congruity scales to measure UIC. For each
brand analyzed, respondents were instructed to first describe
the brands typical user and then characterize congruence
with their self-image, repeating the following procedure for
each brand:

n
X


2
P ij 2 S ij

i1

where:
Pij
Sij

Take a moment to think about [Brand x]. Think about the kind of person
who typically uses [Brand x]. Imagine this person in your mind and then
describe this person using one or more personal adjectives such as stylish,
classy, masculine, sexy, old, athletic, or whatever personal adjective you can
use to describe the typical user of [Brand x].

brand image perception (i) of individual.


self-image (i) of individual (j)

Table I Brand personality scale (BPS) dimensions and indicators

Once you have done this, indicate your agreement or disagreement to the
following statement: [Brand x] is consistent with how I see myself (actual
self-congruity).

After characterizing the brand user image, participants


marked their responses on five point Likert scales (e.g.,
1 strongly agree to 5 strongly disagree) in regards to the
self-image statements above for their actual self-image. This
178

Sincerity

Brand personality
Excitement Competence Sophistication Ruggedness

Down-to-earth
Honest
Wholesome
Cheerful

Daring
Reliable
Spirited
Intelligent
Imaginative Successful
Up-to-date

Upper class
Charming

Outdoorsy
Tough

A comparison of brand personality and brand user-imagery congruence

Journal of Consumer Marketing

Brian T. Parker

Volume 26 Number 3 2009 175 184

(r 0.383) positive association. Notable, for Banana


Republic the correlation (r 0.189) between congruity
types was positive, yet weak.
While significant, and accounting for a moderate
percentage of explained variance, both UIC and BPC
congruities were related to brand attitudes for two of the
four public brands (i.e. Nike and Birkenstock). Overall, the
stepwise regression models (Tables II V) showed that for
public brands, UIC type congruity consistently provided the
most explanatory power in attitude models. A presentation of
each brands final regression model follows.
For Nike (Table II), the stepwise procedures resulted in two
models. The first model (R2 0.227) incorporated the UIC
indicator, explaining about 23 percent of the variance in the
attitude measure. The second model incorporated the BPC
measure (R2 0.254) and increased the variance explained to
about 25 percent.
The regression procedures for Birkenstock (Table III)
produced a two-model solution similar to Nike. The first
model (R2 0.339) incorporated the UIC indicator and
accounted for about 34 percent of the variance in the
dependent measure. The second model (R2 0.385)
included the BPC indicator and increased the explained
variance slightly, by about 5 percent.
For the other two public brands, that is, Abercrombie &
Fitch and Banana Republic (Tables IV and V), BPC congruity
did not add significant explanatory power in the brand
attitude models. For Abercrombie & Fitch, the UIC indicator
accounted for about 49 percent of the variance explained in
the regression model (R2 0.487). Similarly, the regression
model for the brand Banana Republic showed that the UIC
indicator accounted for about 39 percent of explained
variance (R2 0.391).

Results
Descriptive statistics
Of the 272 complete surveys, the majority of the respondents
were females, (n 170) 62 percent, while 38 percent were
male (n 102). Respondents represented the full range of
college classifications; with 24 percent freshman (n 66), 17
percent sophomores (n 46), 38 percent juniors (n 101),
and 22 percent seniors (n 58); 87 percent of respondents
were between the ages 17 and 21.
Familiarity ratings for each brand were measured to exclude
respondents from analysis that were not familiar with a
particular brand. As planned from preliminary research, each
brand had high levels of familiarity. However, the brand
Birkenstock did display low familiarity ratings for 37 of the
272 total respondents (i.e. two or less on a seven-point scale).
Hence, the analysis for Birkenstock was limited to 235
respondents, while 272 surveys were deemed useful for the
other brands.
For the public brands, Nike ranked highest on the attitude
index (6.10), Banana Republic second (5.42), Abercrombie &
Fitch third (4.98), and Birkenstock displayed the lowest
attitudinal rating (4.54). For the private brands, Sony ranked
highest (6.29), Tropicana second (5. 35), Nabisco third
(5.25) and Charmin the lowest (4.98), though still a favorable
attitude evaluation. Examination of the internal consistency
via Cronbachs Alpha reliability coefficients showed high
reliability for the brand attitude indices for all eight brands
(ranged between 0.9699 and 0.9433).
Congruity analysis
Analysis involved correlation and multiple regressions to
address the research questions. Correlation analyses
demonstrated the strength of association between UIC and
BPC congruity indicator scores for each analyzed brand.
Stepwise multiple regressions were used to explore the
relationship between the distances between self-image, brand
personality, user-imagery and brand attitude towards the eight
selected brands. There were two independent variables, each
representing UIC and BPC congruity indictor scores.
Procedures followed the approach to multivariate model
building outlined by Hair et al. (1998). From the stepwise
procedures, the researcher compared R2 and beta weight
values to determine which congruity indicator explained the
most variance, adding the most explanatory power to the
model.
Importantly, negative correlations between self-brand
congruity indicators and brand attitude scores, and the
corresponding negative regression coefficients, indicate a
positive relationship between higher congruity and the
dependent measure. This is because according to theory, as
the congruity score goes down, which indicates a closer
distance between self-image and brand-image (i.e. higher
congruity), brand attitude scores should increase.

Private brands
Similar to the public brands, correlation analysis
demonstrated a positive association between UIC and BPC
congruity types for each analyzed brand. However, in contrast
to the public brands, the strength of association between the
two congruity types was consistently weaker across brands.
Correlation coefficients for each private brand are as follows:
Tropicana (r 0.189), Nabisco (r 0.236), Sony
(r 0.383), and Charmin (r 0.176).
For the private brands (Tables VI-VIII), congruities were
only significant for three brands. Neither of the congruity
measures were significant in the attitude model for the brand
Charmin. For two of the private brands (i.e. Nabisco and
Tropicana) the BPC congruity measure entered the model
first, accounting for the most explained variance. However,
when BPC entered the model, the explained variance is
typically minimal. For one private brand (i.e. Sony), UIC
entered the model first, accounting for most of the explained
variance, however, BPC did enter the model and increased
the explanatory power.
The stepwise procedures for the brand Nabisco (Table VI)
resulted in two models. The first model incorporated the BPC
(R2 0.084) indicator and accounted for about 8 percent of
explained variance in the dependent measure. The second
model (R2 0.111) included the UIC indicator and
increased the explained variance slightly by about 3 percent.
For the brand Tropicana (Table VII), only the BPC
measure entered the model and accounted for a moderate
amount of explained variance (R2 0.129). Out of the eight

Public brands
Correlation analysis demonstrated significant positive
associations between UIC and BPC congruities for each
analyzed brand. However, the strength of association differed
across brands. For Nike, there was a weak positive
relationship (r 0.268) between UIC and BPC. For
Abercrombie & Fitch UIC and BPC were moderately
related (r 0.458). Birkenstock also showed a moderate
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A comparison of brand personality and brand user-imagery congruence

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Brian T. Parker

Volume 26 Number 3 2009 175 184

Table II Stepwise regression of self-brand congruities on attitude toward Nike


Unstandardized coefficients
B
Std. error

Model
1 Constant
User-imagery congruity (UIC)
2 Constant
User-imagery congruity (UIC)
Brand personality congruity (BPC)

7.332
2 0.566
7.480
2 0.423
2 0.196

Standardized coefficients
Beta

Sig.

20.357
20.166

44.890
2 8.457
42.077
2 4.392
2 2.038

0.000
0.000
0.000
0.000
0.043

Standardized coefficients
Beta

Sig.

27.050
2 10.211
24.262
27.980
23.867

0.000
0.000
0.000
0.000
0.000

0.163
0.067
0.178
0.096
0.096

20.477

R2
0.227

0.254

Table III Stepwise regression of self-brand congruities on attitude toward Birkenstock


Model
1 Constant
User-imagery congruity (UIC)
2 Constant
User-imagery congruity (UIC)
Brand personality congruity (BPC)

Unstandardized coefficients
B
Std. error
7.157
2 0.769
7.947
2 0.640
2 0.157

0.265
0.075
0.328
0.080
0.041

20.583
20.485
20.235

R2
0.339

0.385

Table IV Stepwise regression of self-brand congruities on attitude toward Abercrombie & Fitch
Model
1 Constant
User-imagery congruity (UIC)

Unstandardized coefficients
B
Std. error
8.004
20.973

Standardized coefficients
Beta

Sig.

R2

20.698

37.179
2 15.202

0.000
0.000

0.487

Standardized coefficients
Beta

Sig.

R2

20.626

42.908
2 12.394

0.000
0.000

0.391

Sig.

R2

0.261
20.166

80.843
3.966
80.843
3.558
2 2.267

0.000
0.000
0.000
0.000
0.025

Standardized coefficients
Beta

Sig.

R2

0.247

55.011
3.431

0.000
0.001

0.129

0.216
0.064

Table V Stepwise regression of self-brand congruities on attitude toward Banana Republic


Model
1 Constant
User-imagery congruity (UIC)

Unstandardized coefficients
B
Std. error
7.410
20.761

0.173
0.061

Table VI Stepwise regression of self-brand congruities on attitude toward Nabisco


Model
1 Constant
Brand personality congruity (BPC)
2 Constant
Brand personality congruity (BPC)
User-imagery congruity (UIC)

Unstandardized coefficients
B
Std. error
6.276
0.307
6.278
0.276
2 0.172

0.078
0.077
0.077
0.078
0.076

Standardized coefficients
Beta
0.290

0.084

0.111

Table VII Stepwise regression of self-brand congruities on attitude toward Tropicana


Model
1 Constant
Brand personality congruity (BPC)

Unstandardized coefficients
B
Std. error
5.707
0.356

0.104
0.104

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Journal of Consumer Marketing

Brian T. Parker

Volume 26 Number 3 2009 175 184

Table VIII Stepwise regression of self-brand congruities on attitude toward Sony


Model
1 Constant
User-imagery congruity (UIC)
2 Constant
User-imagery congruity (UIC)
Brand personality congruity (BPC)

Unstandardized coefficients
B
Std. error
5.682
2 0.458
5.685
2 0.405
2 0.330

Standardized coefficients
Beta

0.118
0.118
0.116
0.117
0.117

brands examined, this is the only one to produce a model with


only the BPC measure explaining variance in brand attitude.
Unlike the other two private brands, Sony resulted in two
models (Table VIII) that first incorporated UIC rather than
BPC. UIC accounted for a slight amount of variance
(R2 0.077), and the addition of the BPC indicator slightly
increased explained variance to about 12 percent.

20.278
20.245
20.200

Sig.

48.137
2 3.886
49.072
2 3.455
2 2.817

0.000
0.000
0.000
0.001
0.005

R2
0.077

0.116

imagery are complementary constructs, though they do have


independent effects in the self-congruity model.
Determining when user imagery does and does not play an
important role in an overall brand personality in itself will
shed light on the self-brand congruity phenomenon, and help
strategists isolate what aspects of a brand image drive positive
attitudes. In other words, user-imagery type congruence may,
at times, be more important than other brand image facets
and should be central in a brand personality strategy. It is
possible that the opposite may also be the case in regards to
brand personality and related symbolic brand associations.
While these results are based on a non-random sample of
university students, the results illustrate the practical
implications of this type of research. Public brands, high on
UIC should be positioned towards a desired and stereotyped
user-image. On the other hand, private brands that are less
dependent on user-image associations should be positioned
with using brand associations other than stereotyped user
characteristics.

Discussion and implications


Among the significant regressions, the self-brand congruity
measures produced significant regressions, but did not
account for a large portion of explained variance. Overall,
results suggest that unique self-brand congruities (UIC and
BPC) based on different brand image drivers increased the
explanatory power in most brand attitude models.
BPC measures added to the explanatory power of the
model in five of the eight tests. However, when BPC entered
the model, the increase in explained variance was typically a
small percentage. Interestingly, when BPC was significantly
related to favorable brand attitudes, it was for the lower
evaluated brands. This finding was unexpected and
implications require future investigation.
Findings demonstrated that for public brands, UIC
measures provided the best predictor of brand attitude
across all brands. For public brands, a stronger association
was evidenced between UIC and BPC than was the case for
private brands. In contrast, for private brands, brand
personality based congruity (BPC) provided a better
predictor in the attitude models for two of the analyzed
brands. Sony, judged by respondents as a private brand,
produced a model more like the public brands, in that UIC
was the best predictor. This may be because Sony has a large
range of product offerings consumed both publicly and
privately.
The distinction found between public and private brands
was an important contribution of this study. Results suggest
that user-imagery may be a more important congruity driver
for public brands, while a more general image (i.e.
personality) may be more important for private brands. This
may indicate that user-imagery is not active or salient for
private brands. This finding illustrates that these two
constructs should not be used interchangeably, particularly
when publicly consumed brands are involved.
If brand user-imagery and brand personality are
theoretically transposable in the self-congruity model, then
results should have been similar across brands, and
correlations between congruity types more robust. The
results did show a consistent positive association between
the examined congruities, yet the relationship was only
moderately strong at best. Brand personality and brand user-

Conclusions
Brand personality is an integral part of brand image and is
important for product differentiation in the marketplace. The
central goal of this study was to determine the contribution of
brand personality as a transposable construct for brand userimagery in the traditional self-brand congruity model and if
the two brand image constructs independently contribute to
the prediction of favorable brand attitudes. The results
suggest that brand personality based self-brand congruity
should be treated as a separate construct. In particular, brand
personality researchers need to account for the user-imagery
construct, rather than simply using brand personality in its
place, because it alone may drive the overall personality
position for publicly consumed brands. Overall, the usefulness
of the self-brand congruity model is enhanced by making
salient the importance of isolating different brand image
facets as the basis of self-brand congruity measurement. This
exploratory study advanced the usefulness of the selfcongruity model for brand personality research.

Limitations
The main limitation of this study was that it relied on a
convenience sample of university students, not necessarily
representative of all university students or the general
population. The sample was also skewed with more women
(62 percent) than men (38 percent). Results of this study
should not be generalized beyond the group of students in the
sample.
The study was also limited by the use of personality
measures not intended for self-congruity research. The BPS
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Journal of Consumer Marketing

Brian T. Parker

Volume 26 Number 3 2009 175 184

scales were not originally developed to assess respondent selfimage, even though they are based on image descriptors used
in decades of brand image research. Further care must be
taken in replication and construct validation studies to
address this issue. Other measures of brand personality may
have produced different results.

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Future research
Future research should use probability sampling methods of
other populations and more accurate measures of behaviors.
The development of measures for identifying socially
conspicuous and image-based brands would help researchers
avoid having to make assumptions about the social
conspicuousness and image-based nature of objects under
study. Because self-brand congruity measures did not explain
large amounts of variance, future research should focus on the
identification and testing of other variables that will increase
the explanatory power of the model.
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(1997), the technique of calculating congruity scores using
the same scales to measure both respondent self-image and
brand image perceptions are hampered by methodological
flaws. To address this issue, future research would benefit
from the development of a global type BPC measure,
similar to the global user-imagery measure or other innovative
techniques that would aid in the measurement of the brand
personality self-brand congruity construct.
Finally, researchers should examine individual brand
personality dimensions to determine if particular dimensions
are more predictive in a self-brand congruity model.
According to Aaker (1997), the brand personality
dimensions Sophistication and Ruggedness differ from
any known major dimension of human personality, and
suggest that these two dimensions may relate to or tap into
brand personality dimensions that individuals desire, but do
not necessarily have. In other words, consumers may
experience congruence with one dimension and not another.
By doing so, the brand personality construct may contribute
more explanatory power in self-congruity attitude models.

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Brian T. Parker

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are often influenced by the image an individual has of him or


herself. This self-image is a multidimensional perception
that is situation-dependent and includes real and ideal-self
components.

Self-image and brand-image


The image of a brand reflects the unique qualities consumers
associate with it and can result from direct experience or be
formed through promotional activities. Brands are often
associated with different types of people, traits and values. By
consuming certain brands, people can convey to others the
type of person they are or wish to be regarded as. An example
would be selecting brands for their association with sportiness
or sophistication. The choice of products helps individuals to
augment their self-image and psychological well-being and
also acquire the approval of others deemed important to
them.
Congruity between product or brand-image and consumer
self-image is imperative. Analysts have measured this
congruity by the closeness of match between self-image with
the brands user-image. The user imagery of a brand relates to
consumer perception of a brands typical user such as a
particular shirt being suitable for yuppies.
Researchers have long advanced the notion that brands
have symbolic as well as utility value. It is claimed by some
scholars that consumers are not functionally oriented and
that their consumption behavior is substantially influenced by
the symbols that convey specific product and brand images.
This symbolic brand meaning often forms part of their selfexpression and socially communication. Studies have shown
that increased congruence between self-image and brandimage impacts on attitudes towards a brand reflected in such
as preference, satisfaction and purchase intention.
Evidence does exist, however, that image congruence is
moderated by several variables including product category,
whether the brand is consumed in public or in private, and
the self-monitoring behavior of consumers. It is also noted
that self-brand congruity will not impact equally on all
individuals.
Some researchers have used the term brand personality
to reflect the fact that brands are often attributed with human
characteristics and qualities. These personality traits can be
direct or indirect and respectively originate from individuals
linked to the brand or from a range of information sources
that include such as product attributes, product category and
price among others. It is argued in that brand personality is an
effective means of positioning products since it increases
consumer awareness and attachment.
Belief exists that the brand user-image and brand
personality constructs are interchangeable. However, Parker
does suggest that brand personality provides a more
encompassing perception of a brands image. One objective
of the current study is to compare brand personality and
brand user-imagery to see if the two can in fact be
interchanged.

Further reading
Broniarczyk, S.M. and Alba, J.W. (1994), The importance of
the brand in brand extensions, Journal of Marketing
Research, Vol. 31, pp. 214-28.

About the author


Brian Parker PhD is an assistant professor of advertising and
public relations at Florida International University. He is an
expert in consumer behavior, branding, and statistical
analysis. He earned a doctorate in mass communication at
the University of Florida, and his academic background
includes psychology as well as advertising theory and practice.
Dr Parker teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses
in research methods, communication theory, media planning,
and account planning. He can be contacted at:
parkerb@fiu.edu

Executive summary and implications for


managers and executives
This summary has been provided to allow managers and executives
a rapid appreciation of the content of this article. Those with a
particular interest in the topic covered may then read the article in
toto to take advantage of the more comprehensive description of the
research undertaken and its results to get the full benefits of the
material present.

Study and outcome


University students were recruited and out of the 272
respondents, 170 were female and 102 male; 87 percent were
aged between 17 and 21. Preliminary research led to brand
being chosen for the study based on their meaningfulness to
the respondents, having unique images, ready availability and

The image of a brand and self-image of consumers are both


recognized as key drivers of purchase behavior. Such decisions
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Journal of Consumer Marketing

Brian T. Parker

Volume 26 Number 3 2009 175 184

consumption by either gender. From the list generated, four


public and four private brands were selected.
A questionnaire was distributed and participants were asked
to indicate familiarity with and attitude towards each brand.
Individuals were excluded from brands they were not familiar
with. Demographic information was also collected. To
measure User-image self-congruity (UIC), respondents had
to describe each brands typical user and then indicate what
would be congruent with their own self-image. A similar task
relating to brand personality self-congruity (BPC) then
followed.
For public brands, analysis revealed significant positive
associations between UIC and BPC congruities in each case.
The extent of the association did however vary across brands.
Overall, UIC type congruity better explained attitude on a
consistent basis. For two of these brands, the explanatory
power provided by BPC congruity was not deemed
significant.
The association was likewise positive between UIC and
BPC congruity in the case of private brands. However, the
strength of association between the two constructs was
consistently weaker.
Findings suggest that both UIC and BPC based on
different brand image drivers can help explain attitudes
toward different brands. Contrary to expectations, BPC was
associated with favorable brand attitudes for brands that
respondents evaluated lower. For public brands, UIC best
predicted brand attitude and UIC was more closely linked to
BPC than with private brands.
BPC proved a more accurate predictor of attitude for two of
the analyzed private brands. Respondents deemed Sony a
private brand but seeing UIC was the best predictor of
attitude, it functioned more like a public brand in that
respect. Parker believes this could be down to many Sony
products being suitable for both private and public use.

Findings revealed a significant distinction between private


and public brands. User-imagery was found to be a more
important congruity-driver for public brands and a more
general image like personality more important for private
brands. An assumption here is that user-imagery is not
relevant for private brands.
The author points out that similar results across brands
would have indicated that brand-user imagery and brand
personality are interchangeable. That this did not occur
invites the conclusion that the two constructs are instead
complementary and possess independent effects.
Marketing recommendations and further research
Study findings may help marketers realize the need to
determine when user imagery plays a salient role in order to
identify which aspects of a brands image positively influence
consumer attitude. Parker believes this indicates the
importance of user-image type congruence at certain times
and recommends its inclusion at the core of brand positioning
strategies. Specifically, public brands rated highly on UIC
should be aimed at a desired and stereotyped user-image,
while brand association should be deployed to position private
brands as user characteristics are less important in that
context.
The convenience sample of students used limits study
findings as does the imbalance between the number of male
and female respondents. Generalization beyond this sample is
therefore not possible. Future work expanding on this
research could also explore the effect of individual
personality dimensions to see if consumers experience
congruence with certain dimensions but not others.
(A precis of the article A comparison of brand personality and
brand user-imagery congruence. Supplied by Marketing
Consultants for Emerald.)

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