10 Days of Christmas…Consumerism: Day 7

Brands themselves can take on human characteristics. We often discuss brands and companies with words like, “caring,” “corrupt,” “smart,” or “innovative.” Commercials and advertising work to solidify or disabuse customers of these impressions, using imagery and language to massage customer opinions. And it works! Let’s see how easy it is to choose the correct adjective to describe a company.

Which of these brands is…1) Sophisticated, 2) Competent, 3) Active, 4) Laid-back?*Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 10.46.43 AM


You probably knew right away if you have any experience with these brands or their advertising (or you can find the answers at the bottom of this page). This quiz deals with something called brand personality, which is much like a person’s personality. In personality psychology, human personalities revolve around the so-called Big 5: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.1 The vast majority of human characteristics can be explained with some version of these 5 traits. But these same 5 factors do not hold for brands.2

Jennifer Aaker identified 5 different characteristics that define brand personality: Sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication and ruggedness.3 It is fairly easy to think of examples of these types of brands. Hallmark makes money off of their sincerity, and Mountain Dew still exists because of its ruggedness. But much like human personality, there are cross-cultural differences in which traits are most prized in brands. For instance, sincerity is appreciated in the US, Japan and Spain, while ruggedness is appreciated more in the US than in other countries.4

Brand personalities affect us in many ways. They drive our brand impressions, they form our brand evaluations and they contribute to our brand relationships. Marketers can harness this information to sell us goods. So, the next time that Publix commercial makes you cry, just remember that Publix is sincere and competent, and they want you to know it.

* Answers: A-1, B-3, C-4, D-2

  1. Judge, T. A., Higgins, C. A., Thoresen, C. J., & Barrick, M. R. (1999). The big five personality traits, general mental ability, and career success across the life span. Personnel Psychology, 52(3), 621-652.
  2. Caprara, G. V., Barbaranelli, C., & Guido, G. (2001). Brand personality: how to make the metaphor fit?. Journal of Economic Psychology, 22(3), 377-395.
  3. Aaker, J. L. (1997). Dimensions of brand personality. Journal of Marketing Research, 34(3), 347-356.
  4. Aaker, J. L., Benet-Martinez, V., & Garolera, J. (2001). Consumption symbols as carriers of culture: A study of Japanese and Spanish brand personality constructs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(3), 492-508.

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