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Journal of Promotion Management, 19:167–187, 2013

Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC


ISSN: 1049-6491 print / 1540-7594 online
DOI: 10.1080/10496491.2013.769472

Creating Online Brand Personality: The Role


of Personal Difference

HWIMAN CHUNG
New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA
EUIJIN AHN
Yeongnam University, Kyung-San Si, South Korea

This study explores the concept of online brand personality, cre-


ation of online brand personality, and the role of personal differ-
ence in terms of advertising effectiveness – memory and attitude.
The primary research question is whether individual’s matching
personality to online brand creates different responses toward on-
line brand in terms of advertising effectiveness, such as memory,
attitude and behavior. The results found that: first, website struc-
ture is an important factor on subjects’ attitude toward the website;
second, individual’s personality is an important moderator on the
effects of website structure; and third, individual’s personality and
brand personality have a significant interaction effect on attitude
and behavioral intention.

KEYWORDS Online brand, brand personality, personality


difference, online brand structure

Companies are trying to build or create a brand personality because good


brand personality increases consumer preference, consumer loyalty, and,
eventually, sales (Aaker, 1997). Brand personality is said to be one of the
core dimensions of brand equity (Aaker, 1997). As Belk (1988) has described,
brand personality is about how consumers attach a human personality to
the brand itself rather than what brand does to consumers. Despite this
considerable interest in brand personality, there is relatively little research
on this topic in consumer behavior literature. Although a number of studies

Address correspondence to Hwiman Chung, MSC 3J, P.O. Box 30001, Department of
Journalism and Mass Communications, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003,
USA. E-mail: hchung@nmsu.edu

167
168 H. Chung and E. Ahn

support the arguments that human personality may be a viable metaphor for
understanding consumers’ perception of brand images, these have suffered
due to the lack of both a consensual theory and a consensual taxonomy of
brand personality traits (Aaker, 1997).
While the conceptualization of brand and human personality may be
similar, the two constructs vary in their antecedents as well as the distinct
roles they serve. It is still questionable whether we can apply human per-
sonality traits to commercial brands as results from several studies indicate
that descriptors of human personality structure are not suitable and are not
replicated when describing commercial brands (Aaker, 1997; Caprara et al.,
2001; Sung & Tinkham, 2005). Marketing researchers have shown, however,
that people and brands can be described as being warm, rugged, sophisti-
cated, and so on (e.g., Aaker, 1997; Sung & Tinkham, 2005). Hence, a brand
could be characterized as exciting, up-to-date, masculine, and honest just as
one could describes a human. In recent research, Aaker (1997) developed
an inventory of brand personality descriptors and the so-called “Big-Five”
brand personality dimension, which many consumer researchers have sub-
stantiated and also have questioned (Chung & Ahn, 2008; Sung & Tinkham,
2005).
At the same time, relatively little attention has been paid to the question
of whether these brand personalities can be created. Marketing scholars have
shown that brand personalities can be formed and influenced by consumers’
direct or indirect interactions with the brand (e.g., Plummer, 1985). There are
many different antecedents of brand personality, such as advertising, product
itself, package, distribution, sales promotion, product usage experience, cul-
ture, and so forth (Batra, Lehmann, & Singh, 1993). Plummer (1985) argues
that brand personality can be formed through three basic sources: marketing
communications, actions within market, and actions outside market. Out of
these three basic sources, marketing communication perspective on brand
personality is becoming interesting with the rise of new media, such as World
Wide Web, mobile advertising, and so forth. The new media offers a different
marketing environment from traditional marketing media (TV, radio, maga-
zine, newspaper, and outdoor) in that they offer a two-way communication
(Steuer, 1992; Pavlik, 1996), instead of one-way, mass communication.
One of the most important new features the World Wide Web (WWW)
can offer is “interactivity” with medium (Pavlik, 1996). Even though interac-
tivity is a concept of continuum (Steuer, 1992), other traditional media do
not have as much a degree of interactivity. Because interactivity is capable of
enabling real-time, two-way, and fast interactions between consumers and
advertisers, it will be very interesting and important for advertisers and mar-
keters to investigate the effects of interactivity on the formation of brand per-
sonality. With interactive technologies rapidly transforming the marketplace
and our society, the once-passive consumers (because of traditional media)
are now empowered to become active and interactive. One thing that is clear
Personality and Structure 169

is that this interactivity has some positive effects on consumers in terms of


attitude, memory, and behavioral intentions. Therefore, as these interactions
have some positive impact on consumers in some perspectives, it can be rea-
sonably argued that there exists a relationship between interactivity and atti-
tude, memory, and behavior. And, if it has a positive relationship with those
variables, we can assume there will exist a relationship between interactivity
and brand personality. This study focuses on the online brand personality
and its creation through manipulating the concept of “interactivity.”

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
Brand Personality
The term, “brand,” is officially defined as “a name, term, sign, symbol, or
any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or service as distinct from
those of other sellers” (O’Guinn et al., 2003, p. 21). As Plummer (1985) has
stated, brand can be described in terms of three different classes of charac-
teristics: physical attributes, functional characteristics, and brand personality.
For the purpose of this study, a brand personality is defined as a set of hu-
man characteristics associated with a given brand (Aaker, 1997). By using the
brand, consumers are likely to create expectations about the features, per-
formance, and benefits of the brand. Beyond such expectations, consumers
often ascribe a brand identity with human personality attributes and this, in
turn, leads to the symbolic use of the brand (Hawkins et al., 2001). This
association is termed “animism”; namely, consumers attribute human quali-
ties to an inanimate object, in this case, a brand (a celebrity, for example,
promoting a brand), or even to their own or ideal self (Fournier, 1998).
And, just as a person can be differentiated by his or her personality, so
can a brand characterization differentiate a brand from a competitor’s brand.
Brands will be able to have meanings in themselves and add meanings to
the consumer’s life through their status as partners in a relationship with the
consumer (Caprara et al., 2001). Consider the symbolism conveyed to the
consumer and expressed to others by the consumer with a Harley-Davidson
motorcycle. Harley-Davidson represents itself as more than just a motorcycle
or a means of transportation, especially to the people who own and ride
them. Harley’s mantra, “It’s a journey, not a destination,” brings to mind
vivid images of spiritual freedom, masculinity, patriotism, and adventure.
Thus, “Harley-Davidson” goes beyond its physical attributes and functional
benefits. This “something” (different from other brands) will, or may be, a
brand’s unique personality (or meaning) to consumers. According to Belk
(1988), consumers use a brand’s personality to define their sense of self. They
buy a brand (e.g., product or service) to define who they are. Therefore,
Harley-Davidson buyers are trying to represent how patriotic they are, how
strong (in other words, macho) they are, and how spiritually free they are.
170 H. Chung and E. Ahn

Brand personality research has progressed in the development of


standardized and cross-cultural brand personality dimension (Aaker, 1997;
Aaker, Benet-Martinez, & Garolera, 2001; Sung & Tinkham, 2005). Aaker’s
(1997) extensive studies in brand personality show that consumers as-
sign personalities to brands. Aaker (1997) developed a theoretical frame-
work of the brand personality construct by identifying five dimensions of
brand personality—Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication, and
Ruggedness—and the nature of dimensions of brand personality. In this
study, Aaker (1997) proposed the framework of brand personality dimen-
sions as a reliable, valid, and universal way to measure brand personality.
The framework has been proven to be robust across a number of products
and service brands (Aaker, 1997). Further, J. L. Aaker and colleagues com-
pared those brand personality constructs across cultures. They identified a
set of brand personality dimensions that share similar meaning in Japan and
the United States as well as other dimensions carrying more specific cultural
meaning. These findings of similarities and differences in basic structure were
also supported by a recent study by Sung and Tinkham (2005) in the United
States and Korea.

Brand Personality and the New Media


As consumer researchers agree, the main tool for creating or developing a
brand’s personality is through a company’s marketing communication activi-
ties, such as advertising, sales promotion, events, and public relations. Dean
(1994) argued that a brand’s personality can also be created or developed
through a company’s activities within the market place (e.g., introducing
many new products in the market) or outside the marketplace (e.g., images
of company owners). In particular, marketing communication activities as
an antecedent on brand personality (Aaker & Biel, 1993) becomes impor-
tant with the rise of interactive technologies and environments, especially
the WWW because a particular medium in which the brand appears can
contribute to the brand personality.
The WWW offers a somewhat different marketing environment from
that previously available through traditional retail and communication chan-
nels. Traditional media such as television, radio, print, and outdoor have
had to suffice with one-way consumer communication, and, therefore, re-
tail environments have been forced to deal with the limited providing of
information to consumers. However, the WWW enables two-way commu-
nications with consumers, can easily modify the information based on the
request from the consumers, and offers a tremendous amount of informa-
tion to the consumers. In an attempt to differentiate between the offline
and online world, it is important to identify which characteristics of informa-
tion communication would serve to enhance brand personality perceptions
Personality and Structure 171

and whether a significant difference in these characteristics exists between


traditional media and the Internet environment. However, before address-
ing these questions, a more fundamental question should be answered. Can
brand personality exist in a way that offline brand personality exists? In order
to answer this question, we have to verify whether personalities can be at-
tributed to computers and whether these personalities can be associated with
the specific online brands. In the following section, we will discuss these two
issues.

Online Brand Personality and Social Response Theory


Recently, two studies tried to explore online brand personality (Chung et.
al, 2006; Okazaki, 2006). Chung and Ahn (2007) directly applied Aaker’s
Big-Five personality to the online brands. They could not find any similari-
ties between online brand and offline brand personality. However, Okazaki
(2006) did find some possible applications of Aaker’s Big-Five (1997) per-
sonality to online brands. The main problem of the study is that the study an-
alyzed websites of multi-national corporations using content analysis, rather
than measuring consumers directly. As the research analyzed websites, the
findings might be derived from website structure rather than from how con-
sumers think about the brands. Further, the websites are mostly famous
offline brands, which make it difficult to generalize those results to the pure
online brands.
Then, can we assume that online brands have personalities as offline
brands have? Moon (2000) suggested that online brand personality will be
able to exist in a way that offline brand personality exists and it can be eas-
ily created with simply manipulating external communication cues. Moon
and Nass (1996) suggested that people do attribute personalities to comput-
ers. They found that a simple manipulation of a computer’s “personality”
(in their study, dominant and submissive personalities were manipulated)
created significantly different perceptions of the computer on the domi-
nance/submissive attribute of their subjects. That is, people not only con-
sider the dominant computer more dominant and the submissive computer
more submissive, but they also ranked them to be more or less akin to
themselves in accordance with their own dominance/submissiveness scores.
This confirms previous findings in the offline environment, indicating that
people do, in fact, assign personality to nearly everything (Belk, 1988), in-
cluding computers, which subjects often treat as a human being. We often
hear people talk of their computers as if they were friends or people. Just as
personalities are attributed to computers, so they can be attributed to unique
online brands. As a result, people orient themselves psychologically even to
the voices generated by computers (Nass et al., 1997). That is, two voices
originating from the same computer would be considered distinct, whereas
172 H. Chung and E. Ahn

the same voice coming from two different computers is considered as one
entity. On the other hand, different researchers have shown that in computer
interfaces of computer agents, people might orient themselves toward the
agent, not the computer hardware (Nass et al., 1995). Therefore, people asso-
ciate the features presented by the computer with the entity associated with
those features (agents or voices), rather than with the computer hardware
itself. Hence, we can argue that a unique online brand can be such an entity
generated by the computer in the computer interface environment, such as
the WWW. It will also be reasonable to assume that any characteristics would
be associated with online brands rather than the hardware itself. That is, peo-
ple will develop some associations with “Yahoo” based on its characteristics
provided by the entire “Yahoo” (Yahoo’s marketing communication activi-
ties), not by the “Yahoo” web pages. Imagine accessing “www.amazon.com.”
Even though we can link to “Amazon.com” using different computers at dif-
ferent locations, we all can access to a unique brand, “www.amazon.com.”
Therefore, it is fairly reasonable to conclude that an online brand can have
a personality attributed. And, in this study, we focus on pure online only
brand, such as “amazon.com,” “yahoo.com,” or “google.com,” not online
website of offline brand, such as “bmw.com” or “kellog.com.”

Creation of Online Brand Personality


As discussed earlier, brand personality is formed through consumers’ di-
rect or indirect interaction with brand, and through many different sources.
Among those sources, we argue that communication perspectives (such as
marketing communication including advertising through traditional media)
will be the most important indirect interaction with brands to consumers.
Moon’s researches on computers (2001) have suggested creating computer
personality is relatively easy by simply manipulating the external commu-
nication cues of the computer to create computer personality. These cues
include computer’s name, the order of communication, different phrasing,
and confidence level on computer. Their studies found that subjects easily
perceived the computers’ different personalities. Hence, we can assume that
we can create online brand easily as in Moon’s studies.

FEATURES OF ONLINE: INTERACTIVITY


The term “interactivity” has been widely used in different disciplines long be-
fore new media came into being. However, it is usually agreed that the major
difference between new media and traditional media is interactivity (Morris
& Ogan, 1996; Rafaeli & Sudweeks, 1997). Previous studies have defined the
term “interactivity” from different perspectives. Rafaeli (1988) defined “in-
teractivity” as “a variable quality of communication settings” (p. 111) based
Personality and Structure 173

on the assumption that a reciprocal, two-way communication is a common


desire for both the communicator and the audience. Contrary to Rafaeli’s
definition of interactivity, however, other scholars defined interactivity based
on the notion of control. Williams, Rice, and Rogers (1988) suggested that
interactivity can be defined as a three-dimensional construct. It includes
control, exchange of roles, and mutual discourse. Control refers to the con-
tent, timing, and sequence of a communication act, searching out alternative
choices. Similarly, Neuman (1991) refers to interactivity as the “quality of
electronically mediated communications characterized by increased control
over the communications process by both sender and receiver” (p. 25). Shih
(1998) also focused on the degree of control of the medium as the main
dimension of interactivity. Control is defined in Shih’s study as “the ability
to modify the causal relation between a person’s intentions or perceptions
and the corresponding events in the world” (p. 657). Hence, to Shih, the
degree of interactivity depends on whether the user can control the flow of
information.
It can be conceptualized that the interactivity with the medium is funda-
mentally the ability to control information flow. Highly interactive aspects of
the web ad are that users can choose the information flow through clicking
one of many given options and users can actively traverse the information.
Instead, the linear presentation does not give a user any kind of options
to choose, and users are passively exposed to product information. Even
though three web ad structures are currently categorized in the Internet con-
text, we can also place those structures into two broad categories in terms of
presenting information to consumers: linear structure and interactive struc-
ture. In this study, linear structure is defined as the web ad structure that
does not give web users any freedom to move or choose, and interactive
structure is defined as the web ad structure that gives web users control over
their move or choice while they are surfing the website.
Recently, Chung and Ahn (2008) showed the effects of interactivity on
traditional advertising effectiveness. That is, interactive website creates more
a favorable attitude and memory on consumers. Further, their study also
examined the role of personality in the context of new media. What they
found is very interesting to this study as their findings support our possible
hypotheses for this study. They found that people with a dominant per-
sonality prefer an interactive ad instead of a linear ad, and vise versa for
people with a submissive personality. The concept of interactivity in their
study was also defined as “control over information flow” (Steuer, 1992).
In this study, our main hypothesis is that an interactive feature (controlling
information flow) will facilitate the creation of online brand personality and
perception of online brand personality in the association of people’s per-
sonality difference. Hence, we, in this study, will focus on the effects of
interactive features with the association of brand personality and individual
personality.
174 H. Chung and E. Ahn

Research Question and Hypotheses


The main research question is whether we can create online brand person-
ality, whether individual’s matching personality to online brand creates dif-
ferent responses toward online brand, and finally whether interactive feature
is working as a mediator in this process. Interactivity was the differentiating
factor that facilitates the creation of online brand personality (Chung & Ahn,
2008). We followed the reasoning by Chung and Ahn in this study. In this
study, we manipulate three variables—brand personality, subject personal-
ity, and interactivity—to create a 2 × 2 × 2 study. We expect two-way and
three-way interactions in this study.
As interactivity allows users to control their own information search and
as the users have full freedom to move, an interactive website will be better
liked by website users. Interacting with the website can possibly arouse
website users. Hoffman and Novak (1996) called this type of arousal “flow”
and Kim and Biocca called it “presence” (1997). This type of flow or presence
helps users have a different feeling while they are surfing the website since
they feel like they are moving someplace else or they feel like they are
already in another place. Hence, this arousal might be positively related to
a user’s attitude toward the site. In this sense, the interactive structure will
obviously be better for obtaining a favorable attitude from the users than
linear structure.
As previously discussed, users with dominant personalities will be more
likely to have a favorable attitude toward the interactive web sites. As they
are decisive and want to take charge of what they are doing, it is obvious
that users with a dominant personality prefer to choose the information they
want to see. However, users with a submissive personality will have the
opposite response. That is, they are more likely to prefer the linear web
site since they are “unauthoritative” and “indecisive.” Therefore, we expect
a significant two-way interaction between website structure and individual
personality on attitude. Further, as we previously argued, as the interactivity
gives subjects the control over their information flow, perception of online
brand personality will be stronger to those subjects who are exposed to the
interactive website than subjects who are exposed to linear ad. Therefore, the
effects of online brand personality perception are expected to be extended
further than the mere association of the personality with the brand.
As previously discussed, social response theory posits that people tend
to treat computers as social actors even when they know that computers do
not possess emotions, intentions, or “selves” (Moon, 2000; Reeves & Nass,
1996). In more detail, social response theory argues that people respond to
computers by exhibiting social behaviors when computers present a set of
human-like characteristics such as language or interaction. In social response
theory, computers are regarded as communication sources (“social actors”
in the theory), and people’s interaction with computers having human-like
characters lead to subsequent future interaction with the same computer
Personality and Structure 175

since people tend to develop relationships with the same computers. As


a result, people show more preference toward the computer (as a social
actor) that has the matching personality with them (in other words, dominant
personality people prefer dominant computer).
Based on these theories and findings, we expect the same interaction
found in Moon’s study (2000). That is, users with dominant personalities
will be more likely to have a favorable attitude toward the interactive web
sites. As they are decisive and want to take charge of what they are doing,
it is obvious that users with a dominant personality prefer to choose the
information they want to see. However, users with a submissive personality
will have the opposite response. That is, they are more likely to prefer
the linear web site since they are “self-doubting,” “timid,” “unauthoritative,”
and “indecisive.” Therefore, instead of actively looking for and controlling
information, users with a submissive personality will like the information
that is given by the web site.
Therefore, we suggest the following hypotheses regarding interactivity
and personality:

H1: An interactive structure of a website will have superior impact on users’


attitude toward the website.
H2: There will be a significant interaction between subject’s personality and
website structures on users’ attitude toward the website.
H3: Subjects exposed to interactive website will view the dominant (submis-
sive) online brand as more dominant (submissive) than subjects exposed
to linear website.
H4: Subjects whose personality is matched to the online brand personal-
ity will show more favorable attitude toward online brand than subjects
whose personality type was not matched with the online brand, regardless
of website structures.

A final hypothesis to be addressed in this study is the propensity of


purchase (purchase in that website). Measures of website perception (as a
brand), liking, and satisfaction with the website are all important for the
creation of a strong website. However, for many of the online businesses
today, it is the act of the final purchase that is critical. Therefore, a measure
of the purchase likelihood is also included in this study. Along similar theo-
retical lines as those hypotheses, it is expected that subjects in the interactive
condition will show overall higher propensity to purchase than subjects in
non-interactive condition. Further, it is also expected that matched person-
ality condition will exhibit a higher propensity to purchase than subjects in
non-matched condition. Therefore:

H5a: Subjects in interactive condition will show overall greater propensity


to purchase likelihood than subjects in non-interactive condition.
176 H. Chung and E. Ahn

H5b: Subjects in matched personality condition will show greater propensity


to purchase likelihood than subjects in non-matched personality condition.
H5c: Subjects in matched personality condition will show greatest propensity
to purchase likelihood when they are exposed to the interactive structure
than the linear structure.

METHOD
Overview
To test the suggested hypotheses for this study, a 2 (personality difference:
submissive vs. dominant) × 2 (online brand personality: submissive vs. dom-
inant) × 2 (website structure: linear vs. interactive) between-subjects full
factorial design was used.

STIMULUS MATERIAL
The computer website was used in the main experiment for the study. Efforts
were given to make the website look more professional and real based
on suggestions from students in authors’ previous studies. As most subjects
suspected the reality of a website because of relatively poor website features,
care was taken to create a realistic website for this study. For this study, the
intro-page was used to make the website look authentic. The intro-page has a
so-called “intro” creative showing some laptops in diverse positions with the
message of “Welcome to E-Computer. The place you can find the computer
for you and your family at the cheapest price” and asked subjects to “Click
here to skip intro.” Once subjects click the intro page, they were led to the
first page. From the first page, there were total of fifteen pages on the website.
Website includes information such as About Company, Contact, Customize
Your Computer, Shopping Cart, Check Out, and so forth. However, subjects
were not able to actually purchase any computer from the website. We used
the exact same format for the linear structures and interactive structures. For
the interactive structure, we offered as many of the hyperlinks as we could
in order for subjects to feel free to click any link provided on the page.1 In
contrast, the linear condition, subjects had to scroll down to the bottom of the
page and then click the button placed at the bottom to move to the next page.

Online Brand Personality Manipulation


Following Moon’s (2000) procedure, two manipulations were used to create
online brand personality: by displaying phrased message through pop-up
windows and by displaying the confidence level of website through pop-up
window.
Personality and Structure 177

PHRASING OF THE MESSAGE DISPLAYED BY THE COMPUTER


A pop-up window was used to manipulate the website’s personality. Each
time subjects clicked the hyperlink or button at the bottom of the page
to move to the next page (for linear website), a pop-up window with a
message was displayed. For the dominant personality, messages that have
strong language expressed in the form of assertions and commands were
displayed. The message was: “You must browse more and further. You must
consider purchasing computer on this site. This is the best deal for you. Buy
it now. Don’t miss this chance,” and so forth. For the submissive personality,
messages were: “Perhaps you might wish to browse further. You may wish
to consider buying a computer here. This will be a good deal for you,” and
so forth.

WEBSITE’S CONFIDENCE LEVEL


At the bottom of the pop-up window was the website’s confidence level for
its promised item displayed (e.g., “how confident are we you will find the
computer you are looking for?”). Dominant personality displayed an average
confidence level of 9.5 on a 10-point scale, and the submissive personality
displayed an average confidence level of 3.0 on a 10-point scale.

Subjects and Procedure


Undergraduate students in introduction courses for mass communication and
advertising were asked to participate in the study from a large southwestern
university for extra credit. Students were first asked to sign-up for one of 12
experiment sessions. A total of 184 students signed up for the experiment and
166 students participated in the actual experiments. Those students signed
up for the study were instructed to complete a personality questionnaire
in the class. The experiment was conducted in the computer lab, where
materials were shown on 17” monitors. Students were asked to come to
the computer lab for the time they signed up for. At their arrival, students
were guided into a computer lab. The experiment coordinator gave students
a card, which had a log-in number for the study. Based on personality
scores,2 researchers already decided the numbers for the students. Numbers
1–84 were assigned for the dominant students and 85–172 were assigned for
the submissive students. Log-in numbers were randomly assigned students
within each group; hence, students within each personality were assigned
randomly into four different conditions based on website structures and
brand personality. Once they received the log-in number, students were
asked to sit at any computer. As in the previous studies (e.g., Chung & Ahn,
2007), it was important to keep the subjects’ involvement level constant. To
do this, we decided to maintain a high level of involvement. Hence, students
178 H. Chung and E. Ahn

were told that they were participating in an important experiment and they
were among a small and selected group of students whose opinion was
being sought by the company of the new website. They were also told that
their opinions were very important and would be heavily weighed in the
decision to create a new website. After the instruction, they were asked to
type their log-in number to get access to the experimental website. Subjects
were given 20 minutes to surf the site. After they viewed the website, they
were asked to move to the questionnaire and answer a series of questions
regarding dependent variables, such as attitude, involvement, personality
perceptions, purchase intention, and perceived interactivity.

Measures
Measures for dependent variables (i.e., personality perception, attitude to-
ward the website, and purchase likelihood) were taken immediately after
subjects finished surfing. The dependent variables used for evaluation in this
study are presented in the following sections.

PERSONALITY PERCEPTION
Following Moon and Nass’ study (1996), online brand personality was mea-
sured using two sets of indices developed in Moon and Nass’ study. A
10-point Likert scale was used to measure brand personality. For the dom-
inant personality, the following items were measured: aggressive, assertive,
defends own beliefs, dominant, forceful, independent, makes decisions eas-
ily, analytical, and competitive (α = .87). For the submissive personality, the
measured items were: submissive, unaggressive, yielding, shy, and timid (α
= .84). Both indices were in a reliable range.

WEBSITE STRUCTURE
The perception of the website structure differences were evaluated to test
whether our manipulation worked for the subjects. To accomplish this, as in
the previous study (e.g., Chung & Ahn, 2007), subjects’ interactivity percep-
tion with the website was determined. A five-item scale among items, used
in Chung and Ahn’s study (2007) and Cho and Leckenby’s study (1999), was
used to measure subjects’ interactivity perceptions (α = .85).

ATTITUDE TOWARD THE WEBSITE (AWAD)


A multi-item, 7-point semantic differential scale, which was used to measure
attitude toward the website in several other studies and has been proven
Personality and Structure 179

generally reliable (e.g., MacKenzie & Lutz, 1989), were used to measure
attitude toward the website. Further, this study incorporated some other
items, specifically developed to measure website attitude by Chen and Wells
(1999). Those include the following anchors: (un)/favorable, like/dislike,
(un)/interesting, (un)/appealing, and (un)/satisfactory (α = .78).

PURCHASE LIKELIHOOD
Purchase likelihood was measured by offering 4 computers to subjects by
asking them how likely they purchase that computer from the website they
just worked with. Subject were then asked to indicate how likely they would
purchase each product using a10-poing scale (α = .82).

RESULTS

The hypotheses were tested based on a 2 (personality difference: submissive


vs. dominant) × 2 (online brand personality: submissive vs. dominant) × 2
(website structure: linear vs. interactive) between-subjects analysis of vari-
ance (ANOVA). Before the final analysis, three covariates, personal involve-
ment with the computer, personal involvement with the web, and self-rated
product knowledge (computer knowledge), were used in each analysis. As
a covariate, none of them was significant in the analysis.

Data Screening
The data collected were examined for violations of normality and outlier
contamination so that, if necessary, appropriate data transformations could
be executed to correct for abnormal skewness and kurtosis levels. First,
statistics were calculated to determine the mean and standard deviation for
each 8 groups. Then, univariate normality was checked by examining uni-
variate skewness, kurtosis, and outlying case. Further, bivariate scatterplots
were used to check for outliers and relationships among variables. Most of
variables seemed to be within the +/−3 range of ratio of statistics to stan-
dard error within each of the independent variables. Therefore, it seems to
be normal. And, finally, multivariate outliers were also checked by using
Mahalanobis’ Distance (critical value for Mahalanobis’ distance χ 2 = 27.88,
d.f . = 9 at p = .001). No single case was identified as outlying cases in terms
of Mahalanobis’ Distance. Therefore, for the final analysis, all cases were
included.
180 H. Chung and E. Ahn

TABLE 1 Descriptive Statistics for Scales Used in the Experiment

Manipulation

Brand Website Brand Personality Interactivity Attitude Purchase


Personality Personality Structure Dominant Submissive Perception website Intention

Dominant Dominant Interactive 4.32∗ 2.23 4.44 4.67 4.30


Linear 4.09 4.10 2.74 4.41 3.47
Submissive Interactive 3.16 4.43∗ 3.31 3.84 3.20
Linear 2.69 4.03 2.93 3.48 2.68
Submissive Dominant Interactive 3.48 2.59 2.63 3.77 2.89
Linear 3.64∗ 2.48 2.78 3.35 2.60
Submissive Interactive 2.64 4.44∗ 3.35 3.72 3.15
Linear 2.53 4.23 3.49 3.52 3.81
∗ Statistically significant.

Manipulation Checks
Experimental manipulation for brand personality and website structures were
conducted by two separate ANOVAs, one with personality and one with in-
teractivity perceptions as the dependent variable. Three experimental factors
(personality, brand personality, and website structure) were used as inde-
pendent variables. Results of ANOVAs showed a significant main effect for
brand personality on dominant personality (F[1, 158] = 162.569, p < .01,
ω2 = .50) and on submissive personality (F[1, 158] = 275.979, p < .01, ω2 =
.64), and a significant website structure effect on perception of interactivity
(F[1, 158] = 18.432, p < .01, ω2 = .10). Table 1 shows the results of manip-
ulation checks and a summary of cell means and standard deviations of all
measures.

Hypotheses Testing
In this study, the between-subjects factors were personality, online brand per-
sonality and website structures. We expected some two-way and three-way
interactions for this study. For each dependent variable, ANOVAs and
planned comparisons were performed.

HYPOTHESIS 1
In Hypothesis 1, we expected an overall greater impact of interactive struc-
ture on attitude toward the website regardless of personality difference. As
expected, results of ANOVA on attitude show a significant main effect of
website structure on attitude (F[1, 158] = 10.342, p < .01, ω2 = .06). Then,
simple main effects of website structure within personality and brand per-
sonality were run to see whether the significant main effect of structure go
Personality and Structure 181

TABLE 2 Mean Scores on Personality Perceptions

Personality Perceptions
Brand Personality Website Structure Dominant Perception Submissive Perception p

Dominant Interactive 3.905 2.405 p > .15


Linear 3.870 3.288
Submissive Interactive 2.901 4.433∗ p < .01
Linear 2.614 4.134
∗ Statistically significant.

beyond the personality and brand personality. As expected, simple main


effects of structure within each level of personality were significant for dom-
inant personality subjects (F[1, 158] = 6.862, p < .01, ω2 = .04), not for
submissive personality subjects (p > .057). Further, simple main effects of
structure within each level of brand personality were significant for dominant
personality subjects (F[1, 158] = 8.399, p < .01, ω2 = .05), not for submis-
sive personality subjects (p > .057). Hence, interactive structure shows an
overall greater impact on subjects’ attitude toward the website. However,
those significant effects are only within dominant personality subjects and
with dominant brand personality conditions.

HYPOTHESIS 2
Hypothesis 2 expects a significant two-way interaction between structure
and individual personality. ANOVA results did not confirm our expectation
of significant two-way interaction (p > .607). Regardless of personality differ-
ence, interactive structure was preferred by subjects. However, simple main
effect analysis shows that website structure had, as we expected, a stronger
impact on subjects with dominant personality (p > .01). Structure effect was
not significant to subjects with submissive personality.

HYPOTHESIS 3
Hypothesis 3 expects an interaction between structure and brand personal-
ity perceptions. We expected that subjects in interactive structure will see
dominant (or submissive) brand personality as more dominant (or more sub-
missive) than subjects in linear structure. ANOVAs on dominant personality
perception and submissive personality perception were run. Only one signif-
icant interaction was found on submissive personality perceptions (F[1, 158]
= 46.653, p < .01, ω2 = .23). For dominant personality perception, interaction
was not significant (p > .15). Table 2 shows mean scores for each condition.
As seen in the table, subjects in submissive brand personality with interac-
tive structure perceived submissive brand personality as more submissive.
182 H. Chung and E. Ahn

This case was true to subjects in dominant brand personality with interactive
structure, but this was not statistically significant. Interestingly, subjects in
dominant brand personality with linear structure perceive submissive brand
personality as more submissive than subjects in interactive structure.

HYPOTHESIS 4
We expected in Hypothesis 4 that matching personality between subjects and
brand will create more favorable attitude toward the brand (website). The
results of ANOVA on attitude show a significant main effect by personality
and brand personality, and significant interaction between those two factors.
Table 2 shows the mean comparison of each condition. Unlike our expecta-
tion, marginal mean comparison shows that brand personality manipulation
was a significant factor on attitude for dominant personality subjects (F[1,
162] = 51.682, p < .01, ω2 = .24), not for submissive personality subjects (p >
.23). For submissive personality subjects, brand personality manipulation did
not show a significant increase on attitude toward the website. This finding
is somewhat different from the finding in Moon and Nass’s study (1996).

HYPOTHESIS 5A, 5B, AND 5C


Hypothesis 5a expects the main effect by website structure on purchase
intention, and hypotheses 5b and 5c expects two-way and three-way inter-
actions among independent variables. These hypotheses were also tested
through ANOVA on purchase likelihood. First, as expected in Hypothesis 4,
results confirmed a significant main effect of website structure on purchase
intention (F[1, 158] = 5.373, p < .05, ω2 = .03). Subjects in the interactive
website showed greater purchase intention than subjects in linear website,
although the mean scores were relatively lower than expectation.
Hypothesis 5b also expects a two-way interaction between subjects’ per-
sonality and brand personality manipulation on purchase intention. Result of
ANOVA confirmed a significant two-way interaction between personality and
brand personality (F[1, 158] = 64.340, p < .01, ω2 = .29). Simple main effect
analysis showed that brand personality manipulation has greater impact on
subjects with dominant personality (F[1, 158] = 51.682, p < .01, ω2 = .24;
p = .23 for submissive personality subjects). In other words, dominant per-
sonality subjects with dominant brand personality showed greater/greatest
purchase intention.
Hypothesis 5c expects a three-way interaction among all three inde-
pendent variables on purchase intention. Unlike our expectation, there was
no significant interaction among three independent variables on purchase
intention. Website structure was not a significant factor on purchase inten-
tion above/beyond subjects’ personality and brand personality manipula-
tion. Simple main effect analysis shows that different websites create greater
Personality and Structure 183

purchase intention under the condition of either dominant subjects’ with


dominant brand personality or submissive subjects with submissive brand
personality. Therefore, website structure works for subjects with dominant
personality or subjects who are exposed to dominant brand personality.

CONCLUSION AND DISCUSSION

Brand personality has been a topic of discussion in the marketing for a long
time. What has been found is that people easily have emotional attachment
to brands, and this emotional attachment greatly influences people’s pur-
chase behavior. Recently, this brand personality has been explored on new
media context (e.g., Chung & Ahn, 2007). Recent studies applied Aaker’s
Big Five approach (1997) to the online specific brands, such as “ebay.
com,” “yahoo.com,” and so forth. However, none of the recent studies
have tried to manipulate the brand personality on new media context. This
research was the first attempt to manipulate online brand personality to test
its effects on subjects’ attitude and behaviors. Applying Moon and Nass’s
(1996) reasoning and method, this study argues that online brand personal-
ity can be easily manipulated and can be easily created. Hence, people will
easily respond to online brand personality manipulation.
Based on Moon and Nass’ (1996) study and social response theory,
this study suggested six hypotheses of some main effects and two-way and
three-way interaction effects among the variables of individual personality,
online brand personality, and website structures on subjects’ attitude and
behavioral intentions.
First, study results found that website structure is an important factor
on subjects’ attitude toward the website. Subjects prefer the website that can
allow them to move freely, instead of being controlled by website structure.
In addition to attitude, subjects show more favorable behavioral intention on
the website that can allow them to have a total freedom. Second, individual’s
personality is an important moderator on the effects of website structure.
That is, dominant personality subjects prefer more interactive structure than
linear structure. Third, individual’s personality and brand personality have
a significant interaction effect on attitude and behavioral intention. Domi-
nant personality subjects showed more favorable attitude toward the website
with dominant personality. As a result, matching personality between sub-
jects and brand created more favorable attitude toward the brand (website).
But, this case is only for those subjects with dominant personality. Finally,
results confirmed a significant two-way interaction between subjects’ per-
sonality and brand personality manipulation on purchase intention. In other
words, dominant personality subjects with dominant brand personality show
greater/greatest purchase intention. However, a three-way interaction among
all three independent variables on purchase intention was not supported by
184 H. Chung and E. Ahn

this study. Unlike our expectation, there was no significant three-way inter-
action among three independent variables on purchase intention. Website
structure was not a significant factor on purchase intention above/beyond
subjects’ personality and brand personality manipulation. Results showed
that website structure works for subjects with dominant personality or sub-
jects who are exposed to dominant brand personality.
This study was the first attempt to manipulate online brand personality
to test its effects on subjects’ attitude and behaviors. As Moon and Nass’s
(1996) study, this study also confirms that online brand personality can be
easily manipulated through simple external communication tools. In addi-
tion to this, this study was the first attempt to test the website structure
effects with individual’s personality with online brand personality manipula-
tion. Some hypotheses suggested in this study were supported by the data,
and some were not. This study also aims to contribute to recent research in
interactive advertising by documenting the different impact by an individ-
ual’s personality and website structure. Although past research in hypertext
communication has documented attitudinal and behavioral differences across
hypertext structures, there has been no single study on the structure effects
in the Internet context in relation to online brand personality. The find-
ings in this study provide some meaningful insights into recent findings in
personality literature. For example, Moon (2000) showed that people tend
to respond to computers by exhibiting social behaviors when computers
present a set of human-like characteristics such as language or interaction.
Moon found that people usually react with computers as they do with other
people; people tend to consider that computers have personality and, there-
fore, people develop relationships with the computers, and they exchange
intimate information with computers. As a result, people are more attracted
by the computer having a similar personality. Moon suggested that creating
a personality trait in the computer context (i.e., in the Internet context or
on-line brand context) will be possible, will help a company develop more
personalized relationships with consumers, and eventually obtain more in-
teractions with consumers. For dominant personality consumers, they are
more likely to be attracted to the on-line brand that has a similarly dominant
personality, and vise versa.
The most important finding from this study is that online brand could
have a type of personality using different structures or different external
communications. As the study of Moon (2000) showed, subjects tend to re-
spond to online brands more favorably when online brands present a similar
personality. In this study, subjects tend to prefer the matching online brand
and showed greater behavioral intention on the matching online brands.
Hence, it will be possible for companies to easily create a personality trait in
the new media context, to have more personalized relationships with con-
sumers, to obtain more interactions with consumers, and to eventually illicit
more behaviors (such as purchase) from consumers.
Personality and Structure 185

Practically, this study shows marketers how they can use the website
and manipulate the personality using different types of structures. First, com-
panies should try to create more interactive website structures. Interactive
website was preferred by subjects regardless of their personality. Simply giv-
ing more options could increase consumers’ attitudes and behaviors to the
website. Second, companies should sometimes try to communicate with con-
sumers in different ways. As consumers may have different personalities and
prefer matching websites to their personality, it is important for companies to
use diverse communications with consumers. For example, companies can
communicate either submissive way or dominant way. In this way, compa-
nies’ websites can appeal to diverse audiences and maximize website impact
on consumers’ attitudes or behaviors. In addition to communication, compa-
nies can also use diverse types of structures to maximize the impact. Compa-
nies previously thought that simply creating a diverse website was the best.
However, this study shows that they should try to build a website matching
consumers’ personalities. Finally, companies will get more interactions with
consumers and will get more intimate information from consumers if they
offer diverse structures and communications to consumers. This, eventually,
will increase consumers’ final behavior—purchase.
Some limitations for this study should be addressed: first, in this study,
because of experimental complexity, interactivity was manipulated based on
the concept of “control of flow.” As communication scholars have pointed
out, interactivity is multi-dimensional, not uni-dimensional. Second, some
of the effect sizes of factors were lower than expected. It may be due to
the experiment or the uni-dimensional interactivity. Future investigation is
recommended on this result.

NOTES

1. www.e-computer.com was used by the authors in their previous studies and was registered by
the authors. The e-computer.com website name was verified as an unused domain on the Internet by
authors at the time of this study. And, to get the subjects to be exposed to all the information, subjects
were told that they should see all the information in the website. To maximize the structure difference,
subjects were not allowed to click the back button in the Internet browser.
2. Before the experiment, the Bem Sex Role Inventory was administered to the students. Students
were categorized as being either dominant or submissive, according to their responses to the BSRI
subset: students with subset scores of 0.5 or more standard deviations above the mean were classified as
dominant; students with subset scores of 0.5 or more standard deviations below the mean were classified
as submissive. Of 184 students who initially completed the questionnaire, 172 students were identified as
either dominant (84) or submissive (88). Those students were asked to sign up for experiment sections.

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