Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

When the Goal Is Creating a Brand Personality, Focus on User Imagery

Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

When the Goal Is Creating a Brand Personality, Focus on User Imagery

Article excerpt


Brand personality has been defined as "the set of human characteristics associated with a brand" (Aaker, 1997, p. 347). This definition encompasses demographic characteristics [i.e., gender, age, and socioeconomic status], lifestyle characteristics [i.e., activities, interest, and opinions], as well as human personality traits [i.e., warmth, concern, and sentimentality] (Aaker, 1996). A review of the brand personality literature reveals a veritable "laundry list" of marketing variables that have been conceptually associated with brand personality (e.g., Aaker, 1996; Aaker, 1997; Batra, Lehmann & Singh 1993; Keller, 1993; McCracken, 1993; Ogilvy, 1985; Plummer, 1984). However, empirical research demonstrating the effects of various marketing variables on brand personality formation is very limited (Aaker 1997; Batra et al., 1993).

Aaker (1997), in discussing areas for future research using the brand personality scale (BPS) stated, "The brand personality framework and scale developed in this research also can be used to gain theoretical and practical insight into the antecedents and consequences of brand personality, which have received a significant amount of attention but little empirical testing" (p. 354). She indicated a need to learn how a brand acquires a personality by determining the extent to which the various marketing variables conceptually associated with brand personality influence the construct. Aaker (1997) asserted that such research would contribute to an overall understanding of the symbolic use of brands and provide insight into the variables that influence and are influenced by brand personality.

This paper develops hypotheses regarding the influence of three types of brand associations: corporate associations, product attributes, and user imagery in creating a brand personality, and presents the results of an experiment that tests the hypotheses. The following sections summarize current thought regarding how each of these variables may contribute to brand personality formation and offer justification for including them as brand personality antecedents in the proposed model.


A schematic diagram of the conceptual model for this research is shown in Figure 1. The theoretical framework is adapted from Biel's (1993) model, and suggests that brand personality can be viewed as consisting of three categories of brand associations, those relating to the product itself, those relating to the maker of the product, and those relating to users of the product.


The focal construct in the conceptual model, brand personality, consists specifically of those associations that involve human characterizations (Aaker, 1997). This is consistent with the views of brand researchers who consider a brand's personality distinct from its larger image (e.g., Aaker, 1996; Batra et al., 1993; Biel, 1993; Plummer, 1984). Although few would disagree that a brand's personality is a part of its image, since the brand image is thought to encompass the entire set of associations consumers hold for a brand (Plummer, 1984), the same could be said of virtually any aspect of a brand of which consumers are aware. The focus of this study is specifically how the brand associations described in Biel's (1993) model influence that part of the brand image that makes up the perceived brand personality. It should be noted that Biel's (1993) model was conceptual in nature and has not been empirically tested.

Justification for applying the three categories of brand associations identified in Biel's model to brand personality formation may be found in the fact that each has been conceptually linked specifically with brand personality in other marketing literature (e.g., Aaker, 1996; Plummer, 1984). Furthermore, each meets important criteria of associations (accessibility and salience) that tend to become linked to personality trait inferences (Johar, Sengupta & Aaker, 2005; Wyer and Srull, 1989). …

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