Susan Fournier, Harvard University
[ to cite ]:
Jennifer Aaker and Susan Fournier (1995) ,"A Brand As A Character, A Partner and A Person: Three Perspectives on the Question of Brand Personality", in Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, eds. Frank R. Kardes and Mita Sujan, Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22 : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 391-395.
Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, 1995 Pages 391-395 A BRAND AS A CHARACTER, A PARTNER AND A PERSON: THREE PERSPECTIVES ON THE QUESTION OF BRAND PERSONALITY Jennifer Aaker, Stanford University
Susan Fournier, Harvard University
Introduction and Objective of Session
The idea of a brand personality is familiar and accepted by most advertising practitioners (e.g., Plummer 1985) and many marketing academics (e.g., Gardner and Levy 1955). For decades, researchers have argued that brand personality is an important topic of study because it can help to differentiate brands (e.g., Crask and Laskey 1990), develop the emotional aspects of a brand (e.g., Landon 1974) and augment the personal meaning of a brand to the consumer (e.g., Levy 1959). However, although brand personality is intuitively appealing and, as a result, has received considerable academic attention, it has been criticized on a number of dimensions; conceptual, methodological and substantive. First, at the conceptual level, there is still some ambiguity over what a brand personality is. How should it be defined and conceptualized? How (or when) is it different from brand image and/or user imagery? The answers to these questions have important implications for managers and academics interested in understanding the larger questions of why brand personality is important and how brand personality works. Second, at the methodological level: how is brand personality best measured? While most researchers generally rely on qualitative methods, such as photo-sorts, free associations, psychodramatic exercises (cf. Levy 1985) these open-ended techniques are often dropped in the later stages of research as marketers look for more quantitative ways to detect and enumerate differences among their brands (Blackston 1993), the most common of which is the differential semantic scale (e.g. Birdwell 1968; Plummer 1985). However, studies using such scales are limited since the "right" way to compile the adjectives has not yet been determined. [Some researchers have used adjectives extracted from personality inventories used for detecting emotional instability, schizophrenia or neuroticism (e.g., Maheshwari 1974). Others simply use attributes most related to the products being tested (e.g., Birdwell 1968; Schewe and Dillon 1978). Moreover, regardless of how the adjectives are selected, reliability and validity problems are generally not addressed. (See Sirgy 1982 for a more complete review of these and other measurement difficulties).] Clearly, a brand personality research program should flow from the conceptual definition that guides it. Moreover, it would likely include both qualitative and quantitative methodologies in order to retain the advantages of both. However, what those methodologies are, and how they work together to articulate the conceptualization remain unclear. Third, at the substantive level: what does personality do for a brand? What are the implications of having a brand personality? What marketing activities create or alter it? In the past, researchers have suggested that brand personality is most important when used as a research tool to identify personal meaning for the consumer (King 1989). Others assert that brand personality is needed as information for creatives when developing advertising (Lannon and Cooper 1983). Still others have suggested that brand personality should be seen as a more global construct: a key determinant of brand...