Brand Personality Dimensions

Brand personality refers to those human personality traits (sometimes developed cognitively) which are developed harmoniously with a brand, whether it is a product or a service. While branding a product or a service, especially if it is new, or is being launched in a new market, or is getting repositioned in a new or existing market, in depth understanding of all the dimensions of Brand Personality is of utmost importance to the product or service manager or the brand manager.

Consumers often describe products or services offered as brands (more often than not in their sub-conscious level of comprehension or brand association) by using descriptors of certain common personality traits. Marketers attempt to use this consumer behavior to create or reinforce these perceptions through strategies involving brand positioning or unique re-positioning. Now successfully positioning (or re-positioning) a brand’s personality within a product category requires the application of multiple measurement models and frameworks. This is to ensure that the branding manager can successfully disentangle a brand’s unique personality traits from those generic traits that are common across all the other brands in a similar product or service category and also from amongst its substitutes.

The dimensions of Brand Personality was initially proposed by Aaker (1997) in his famous brand personality framework consisting of 5 dimensions of every brand that impacts cognitive branding, brand association and brand recollection.  Again brand  association  appears  to  partially mediate the influence of the competence dimension of brand personality on brand attractiveness.

The 5 main dimensions of brand personality are Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication, Ruggedness. Consumers perceive sincere brands as being honest, not-exaggerating, truthful, and cheerful. Similarly consumers perceive exciting brands as being daring, adventurous, high spirited, imaginative, and somewhat with a sharp cutting edge (especially for certain technology gadgets like the Play Station). Consumers perceive Competence from product or service reliability, deliver-ability and from the success symbols from a brand. A brand that is perceived to be sophisticated is viewed as being charming and associated with a higher snob value and thus fit for the upper society, or to fulfill higher order needs from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Similarly rugged personality brands are perceived to have the features of being outdoorsy and tough.

Generally speaking, brand  personality  is likely to be more difficult to imitate by competing brands and substitute products,  than more tangible product attributes or service level dimensions. So marketing practitioners have the advantage of using it more suitably to  achieve more  sustainable  advantages  (Ang  and  Lim  2006),  for  creating  product or service level  differentiation  and positioning, which in turn ensures a Pull strategy and is more sustainable in the long run. This also creates the highly sought after greater Brand Equity, something for which in current times, branding and advertising managers spend millions (if not billions) of dollars upon.

Now, since high  brand  equity tends  to  occur when  consumers have  numerous  positive  and  strong associations, either in the conscious our sub-conscious level, related  to  the brand. Brand association, which  is defined as “anything  linked  in memory  to a brand” is one of  the major components of  brand equity, and is greatly affected by the brand personality dimensions. Brand association, not only results in high greater brand awareness but also creates greater brand recall and so has a distinctively positive correlation with brand equity since it can  represent brand quality and brand commitment. These in turn creates the initial platform for any product or service brand to harness the strength to pull consumers, i.e. implement a pull strategy.

Now brand name recognition with strong brand association can  successfully developed through  a carefully planned and panned out  long-term marketing strategy, which involves activities like advertising,  public relations, customer need identification, pricing,  understanding evolving market dynamics and subsequent product or service offering modifications. No wonder today, multinational companies and business firms are investing millions and billions of dollars in advertising and other forms of marketing communications in order to create greater brand awareness and also greater brand association, so as to be able to implement a pull strategy.

With time a more detailed brand personality structure evolved as managers attempted to understand the requirements of branding activities better through greater focus on consumer behavior.

By the way, do you know about how to create a marketing plan in a structured manner?

Also, Have you read our article on the Marketing Mix or the 4 Ps of Marketing?

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Arpan Kar

Professor at Indian Institute of Management
Dr. Kar is a Professor in Information Systems Management in Indian Institute of Management (IIM), one of the top institutions in Business Management education globally. He has extensive experience in teaching, training, consultancy and research. He has over 35 high impact publications. Prior to joining academia, he has rich experience in Cognizant Business Consulting and IBM Research Laboratory. He is the Editor of Business Fundas.
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