Trait Theory and Brand Personality Framework

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This paper discusses about Trait Theory and Brand Personality Framework in personality. Details of the two theories will be explained first, along with some real examples of how firms make use of personality traits to strengthen their brands. The shortcomings of the two existing theories will then be analyzed, and some measures developed by recent researchers will be introduced in order to overcome the weaknesses. I chose this topic because I am interested in psychology and personality traits. Many personality tests usually try to figure out interviewee’s personalities by asking questions regarding their behavior. This topic has a similar concept, but it is inversely about how marketers use personality theories to predict consumer’s behavior, so I am interested to understand more about it as it will be helpful when I become a marketer someday.

Personality refers to an individual’s relatively consistent responses to the environmental stimuli over time (Kassarjian & Sheffet, 1991). One of the most commonly used personality theories is Trait Theory, which focuses on the quantitative measurement of personality traits, or identifiable characteristics that define a person. Some specific traits that are relevant to consumer behaviour include: extroversion1; materialism2; self-consciousness3, need for cognition4 and frugality5 (Solomon, 2004). Because large numbers of consumers can be categorized according to various traits, this approach potentially can be used to segment markets. Many marketers endorse this idea as they try to create brand personalities that will appeal to different types of consumers.

Brand personality refers to the set of human personality traits that are both applicable to and relevant for brands (Azoulay & Kapferer, 2003). For instances, Apple has a branding strategy that focuses on the emotions. Its brand personality is about lifestyle, imagination, innovation, passion, dreams, aspirations, simplicity, people-driven product design, and about being a really humanistic company with a heartfelt connection with its customers (Marketing Minds 2009).

Nokia personality is similar to a trusted friend. Its specific message that is conveyed to consumers in its advertisement is "Only Nokia Human Technology enables you to get more out of life", clearly connects the technology and human side in an impressive way.

Red Bull personality is active and dynamic, so their consumers are usually youngsters or sports fanatics. Its conveyed message in recent campaign is “Red Bull gives you wings!”, each story in its advertisement gives people the impression that the Red Bull consumers are unique and do not conformed to the expectation of others.

In 1997, Aaker developed a Brand Personality Framework which encompasses five broad dimensions: Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication, and Ruggedness. Many popular firms can be categorized into these five dimensions. The characteristics of Sincerity are down-to-earth, honest, wholesome and cheerful (such as Marks & Spencer, Kodak and HSBC), Excitement are daring, spirited, imaginative and up-to-date (such as GAP, Pepsi and Red Bull), Competence are reliable, intelligent and successful (such as BBC, IBM and Volkswagen), Sophistication are upper class and charming (such as Mont Blanc, Mercedes and Rolex), and Ruggedness are outdoorsy and tough (such as Levi’s 501 and Tough). However, the Brand Personality Framework has the following shortcomings: The first one concerns the loose definition of brand personality that embraces several other characteristics such as age and gender besides personality (Azoulay & Kapferer, 2003). This induces a construct validity problem and leaves researchers uncertain of what they have actually measured: the perceived brand personality from a sender aspect or perceived user characteristics from receiver aspects.

The second one pertains to the non-generalizability of the factor structure for analyzes at the...
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