A Study of Japanese and Spanish Brand Personality Constructs

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Research Paper No. 1668R
CONSUMPTION SYMBOLS AS CARRIERS OF CULTURE: A STUDY OF JAPANESE AND SPANISH BRAND PERSONALITY CONSTRUCTS Jennifer Aaker Verónica Benet-Martínez Jordi Garolera May 2001 Forthcoming in Journal of Personality & Social Psychology

RESEARCH PAPER SERIES

GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS STANFORD UNIVERSITY

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CONSUMPTION SYMBOLS AS CARRIERS OF CULTURE: A STUDY OF JAPANESE AND SPANISH BRAND PERSONALITY CONSTRUCTS

Jennifer Aaker University of Stanford

Verónica Benet-Martínez University of Michigan

Jordi Garolera Universitat Pompeu Fabra

This research argues that the meaning embedded in consumption symbols, such as commercial brands, can serve to represent and institutionalize the values and beliefs of a culture. Relying on a combined emic-etic approach, we conducted four studies to examine how the symbolic and expressive attributes associated with commercial brands are structured, and how this structure varies across three cultures. Studies 1 and 2 revealed a set of ‘brand personality’ dimensions common to both Japan and the United States (Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, and Sophistication), as well as culturespecific Japanese (Peacefulness) and American (Ruggedness) dimensions. Studies 3 and 4, which extended this set of findings to Spain, yielded brand personality dimensions common to both Spain and the United States (Sincerity, Excitement, and Sophistication), plus non-shared Spanish (Passion) and American (Competence and Ruggedness) dimensions. The meaning of the culturally-common and -specific brand personality dimensions is discussed in the context of cross-cultural research on values and affect, globalization issues, and cultural frame shifting. “The Marlboro Man is an egoistic ideal; at home in his universe, master of his destiny. Thus, the Marlboro Man has come to symbolize individualism and independence.” (Vacker, 1992) Traditional research in both cultural and crosscultural psychology has focused on culture-based effects by identifying the influence of culture on the individual (culture-affects-psyche; see Cooper & Denner, 1998). However, the reverse relationship also exists; individuals influence culture (psycheaffects-culture) by the creation of institutions, symbols, and practices that carry and validate particular cultural meaning systems (DiMaggio, 1997; Kitayama et al., 1997; Shore, 1996). In this research, we rely on this bi-directional conceptualization of culture to examine how cultural meaning is represented in the minds of individuals. We argue that, similar to cultural icons (e.g., Hong et al., 2000), reasons (e.g., Briley, Morris, & Simonson, 2000), and public messages (e.g., Kim & Markus, 1999), consumption symbols such as commercial brands (e.g., Marlboro cigarettes) can serve as carriers of culture. That is, the meaning embedded in brands can serve to represent and institutionalize the values and beliefs of a culture. To test this premise we raise the following question: To what degree are the symbolic and à à Ervsr…ÃGÃ6hxr…ÃT‡hs‚…qÃ7ˆ†vr††ÃTpu‚‚yÃT‡hs‚…qÃVv‰r…†v‡’0ÃWr…yvphÃ7rr‡Hh…‡tr“Ã9rƒh…‡€r‡Ã‚sÃQ†’pu‚y‚t’ÃVv‰r…†v‡’ÂsÃHvpuvth0ÃE‚…qvÃBh…‚yr…hÃà 9rƒh…‡€r‡Ã‚sÃ@p‚‚€vp†ÃhqÃ7ˆ†vr††ÃVv‰r…†v‡h‡ÃQ‚€ƒrˆÃAhi…hÃÃUurÃsv…†‡Ã‡‚Ãhˆ‡u‚…†Ãp‚‡…viˆ‡rqÃr„ˆhyy’ÃhqÃh…rÃyv†‡rqÃvÃhyƒuhir‡vphy…qr…ÃÃUurÃhˆ‡u‚…†Ã‚ˆyqà yvxrǂÇuhxÇurÃs‚yy‚vtÃvqv‰vqˆhy†Ãs‚…Çurv…Ãv†vtu‡ÃhqÃv‡ryyrp‡ˆhyƈƒƒ‚…‡Ã…rth…qvtÇuv†Ã‚…x)Ã6yr‘hqr…Ã7vryÃH‚‡†r……h‡Ã7‚h€ˆ†hÃT‡r‰rÃ8‚yrÃ6v€rrÃ9…‚yr‡à 6†hx‚ÃC‚†uv‚ÃCrrwˆtÃFv€ÃAv‚hÃGrrÃHvpuhryÃH‚……v†ÃhqÃSh‰vÃQvyyhvÃÃXrÃhy†‚ÇuhxÃSr†rh…puÃD‡r…h‡v‚hyÃHh…xr‡vtÃD‡ryyvtrprÃ8‚…ƒ‚…h‡v‚Ãhqà Hh…xr‡vtÃTpvrprÃD†‡v‡ˆ‡rÃs‚…Çurv…Ãsvhpvhyƈƒƒ‚…‡ÃÃ8‚……r†ƒ‚qrprÃp‚pr…vtÇuv†Ã€hˆ†p…vƒ‡Ã†u‚ˆyqÃirÃhqq…r††rqǂÃErvsr…ÃGÃ6hxr…ÃT‡hs‚…qÃ7ˆ†vr††ÃTpu‚‚yà $ 'ÃHr€‚…vhyÃXh’ÃT‡hs‚…qÃVv‰r…†v‡’ÃT‡hs‚…qÃ86Ã(#"$$...
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