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A mixed method approach to understanding

brand personality
Raj Arora
University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, Kansas, USA, and

Charles Stoner
Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois, USA
Abstract
Purpose This paper aims to use a mixed method (qualitative and quantitative) approach to exploring product personality. It also aims to focus on the
personality dimensions of two retails stores (Target and Wal-Mart) and two athletic brands (Adidas and Nike). While personality has been investigated
in marketing settings, the focus has been limited to using quantitative scales. This approach has the potential of leaving out rich details of personality
not captured by the scale, thereby offering little helpful information for advertising copy writers. While qualitative approaches may lack the formal test
of hypotheses, they afford rich narrative that adds important insights about the products and practical help for advertising development.
Design/methodology/approach The study is based on a concurrent, two-studies design where qualitative and quantitative data are both collected
and analyzed separately (concurrently or sequentially). A survey is used to measure the personality dimensions based on Aakers five personality
dimensions. In addition, various personality dimensions are explored using in-depth, one-to-one interviews; grounded theory framework; and QDA
software that is especially suitable for text analysis.
Findings The findings reveal lack of convergence in personality dimensions. While full convergence is not expected due to method and sample
characteristics, the findings revealed important dimensions that appeared only in either the qualitative or quantitative analysis. For example, the
attributes of competence, sophistication, and ruggedness failed to emerge in the qualitative analyses.
Research limitations/ implications Caution is advised in extrapolating the results beyond the issues investigated in the study.
Practical implications The findings help marketers in formulating effective product design, positioning, and promotion strategies.
Originality/value Most of the research on the subject of personality has been designed around Aakers five dimensions of personality. There has
been some variation to the instrument to capture dimensions such as nurturance, and integrity, ruggedness, and sophistication. However, there is a void
in qualitative research that is oriented towards discovering (rather than testing) the dimensions of personality. This paper uses qualitative research
methodology, specifically a grounded theory framework, to discover the personality of products, and to compare these outcomes with Aakers fivedimensional scale.
Keywords Brand image, Brand identity, Qualitative research
Paper type Research paper

and pragmatic potential of the concept of brand personality.


Brand personality recognizes the symbolic and emotional
meaning that taps consumer appeal and affects purchase
decisions (Govers and Schoormans, 2005; McCracken, 1986;
Holman, 1981). Indeed, an ever-growing and diverse range of
entities has centered attention on brand personality as a
means to distinguish products and services (Smith et al.,
2006; Venable et al., 2005; dAstous et al., 2006; Kumar et al.,
2006; Opoku et al., 2006; Wesley et al., 2006).
Although the significance of branding has been broadly
recognized and well- documented, the expanding role of
branding serves to underscore its topical importance.
Distinguishing brands based on physical attributes and
functionality have been the traditional foci. However,
attention to the arena of brand personality has expanded in
recent years, in part due to the difficulty of product
differentiation based on functionality and quality (Veryzer,
1995).
Interestingly, as one would expect in any relatively new
arena of inquiry, the study of brand personality has spawned
both interest and criticism. At the heart of the research
reported here is recent concern about whether traditional
brand personality scales adequately capture the nuanced and
idiosyncratic nature of brand personality across varied
contexts. Accordingly, the purpose of this study is to

An executive summary for managers and executive


readers can be found at the end of this article.

Introduction
The scene is striking. It is dusk as a lone automobile
powerfully ascends a mountain, moving toward the stately
Prince of Wales Hotel, sitting atop a bluff, overlooking
picturesque Waterton Lake and the town of Waterton,
Alberta, Canada. Arriving at the hotel entrance, the door
opens and a black-tie attired couple emerges. The
advertisement drips with images of luxury, quality, and
elegance the exact images, the exact sense of personality,
that Lexus hopes its audience will receive.
Drawing upon the pioneering work of Aaker (1997),
marketers have been intrigued by the conceptual implications
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
www.emeraldinsight.com/1061-0421.htm

Journal of Product & Brand Management


18/4 (2009) 272 283
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 1061-0421]
[DOI 10.1108/10610420910972792]

272

A mixed method approach to understanding brand personality

Journal of Product & Brand Management

Raj Arora and Charles Stoner

Volume 18 Number 4 2009 272 283

explore and examine how an understanding of brand


personality is affected through the utilization of a mixed
methodology (qualitative and quantitative) research design.
We seek to provide a better understanding of how the use of
both qualitative and quantitative methodologies provides
richer perspectives of brand personality measurement than
scale-based approaches alone.

Consequently, a range of arguments indicates that brand


personality provides a mechanism for marketers to distinguish
or differentiate products and services. Further, since brand
personality appears to be less imitable than other product
attributes, the dimension of brand personality may yield a
more sustainable competitive advantage (Ang and Lim,
2006).
In summary, brand personality provides a form of identity
for consumers that conveys symbolic meaning for themselves
and for others (Holman, 1981; Solomon, 1983). Consumers
appear to prefer brands that are similar to their own
personalities, and they prefer brands that project a
personality that is consistent with their self-concepts.
Importantly, when consumers choose cognitively congruent
brands, they may be expressing their personal identities and
projecting their unique personalities.

Review of literature
Perspectives on brand personality
Aaker (1997) defined brand personality as the set of human
characteristics that consumers associate with a brand. In this
manner, attention to the emotional and symbolic, pseudo
human personality aspects of a brand provides a consumer
with additional reasons beyond utilitarian or functional
characteristics, to connect with a brand (Keller, 1998).
Aakers framework represented an adaptation of the Big
Five personality model, prominent in psychological research
(Norman, 1963; Tupes and Christal, 1958; McCrae and
Costa, 1989; John, 1990; Piedmont et al., 1991; McCrae and
Costa, 1989). Her framework was comprised of five brand
personality dimensions: sincerity (wholesome, honest, downto-earth), excitement (exciting, imaginative, daring),
competence
(intelligent,
confident),
sophistication
(charming, glamorous, smooth), and ruggedness (strong,
masculine).
Evidence suggests that brands do indeed possess
personalities that is, research respondents have been able
to ascribe personality characteristics to brands (Aaker, 1997;
Venable et al., 2005). Critically, to the extent that brands
develop unique personalities, they can be differentiated in the
consumers minds and accordingly choice preferences can be
affected (Freling and Forbes, 2005; Crask and Laskey, 1990).
McCracken (1986) even suggested that consumers might
search for brands with a personality that coincides with and
reinforces the self-concept they wish to project, offering
additional considerations for the impact of the brand
personality concept.
The conceptual linkages relevant to brand personality
include self-congruity theory (Sirgy, 1982; Graeff, 1996).
Self-congruity theory holds that consumers compare their
self-concept with the image that a brand projects, and in turn,
prefer brands that are consistent with their self-concept.
Studies have found support that consumers choose products
and services that they feel possess personalities that are similar
to (congruent with) their own personalities (Linville and
Carlston, 1994; Phau and Lau, 2001). Consistent with this
line of reasoning, consumers prefer brands that are similar to
the consumers personality. Arguments suggest that when
consumers use self-congruent brands, it can be an expression
of their personal identity (Kumar et al., 2006). Indeed, as
Belk (1988) has suggested, products may be a means of selfexpression. As such, brand personality helps to develop an
emotional loyalty among consumers.
In addition, strong and favorable brand personalities may
offer consumers a sense of emotional fulfillment, offering
further evidence of brand personality congruence (Aaker,
1999). In an analogous study, Govers and Schoormans
(2005) found that the realization of product-personality
congruence positively affected consumer preference. Freling
and Forbes (2005) found support that brand personality
positively affects product evaluations and purchase intentions.

Measuring brand personality


Most studies have attempted to extend Aakers original work
by exploring new areas of market application. These studies,
with few exceptions, have begun with Aakers brand
personality framework and scale and offered unique
variations that were drawn from a particular market context.
For example, Smith et al. (2006) utilized Aakers framework
but found that it did not fully capture the characteristics of a
membership-based sports organization. Consequently, they
added the dimension of innovation to the original five
dimensions suggested by Aaker.
Many uncertainties remain. Some researchers have
suggested that consumers interactions with brands are
simply too complex to be captured fully by Aakers
framework (Smith et al., 2006). Azoulay and Kapferer
(2003) have argued that Aakers scale, as well as other
scales of brand personality, merges a number of dimensions of
brand identity rather than specifically measure brand
personality. They contend that the effect is conceptual
confusion in branding research and limitation in branding
applications. A few studies have attempted to explore brand
personality without a priori acceptance of Aakers framework.
For example, Venable et al. (2005) explored the impact of
brand personality on charitable giving in a nonprofit context.
These authors conducted a series of mixed method studies
(focus groups, qualitative assessment, and subsequent
empirical analysis) and concluded that integrity, nurturance,
sophistication, and ruggedness were the four key dimensions
of brand personality for nonprofit organizations.
While accepting the importance of Aakers work, Austin
et al. (2003) question the generalizability of Aakers
framework. Freling and Forbes (2005) argue that
advancements in the study of brand personality have been
restricted by limited theoretical or qualitative grounding.
Being intrigued by and theoretically compelled by these
observations and conclusions, studies must investigate brand
personality and offer validation of Aakers framework, without
the obvious bias of the a priori use of the framework as the
basis for analysis.
The significance of qualitative and mixed methods
research approaches
It has been shown that the qualitative and quantitative
research methods have different assumptions and goals of
inquiry. For example, one of the goals of qualitative research
is to capture subjective realities from the perspectives of
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A mixed method approach to understanding brand personality

Journal of Product & Brand Management

Raj Arora and Charles Stoner

Volume 18 Number 4 2009 272 283

participants (phenomenology). As such, researchers attempt


to select information rich respondents. Quantitative
researchers believe in a single quantifiable reality, measured
(collapsed) from a large sample of respondents.
There seems to be little doubt that qualitative data offers
different perspectives and helps provide a richer and more
complex picture of the situation at hand (Creswell, 2002).
However, even though qualitative research has been a
mainstay in certain fields (for example, education and
nursing), social scientists generally prefer to rely on
statistically rigorous quantitative methods (Srnka and
Koeszegi, 2007). To some degree, the use of mixed
methodologies (qualitative and quantitative) helps mitigate
purists concerns and provides the needed depth of
understanding.
Despite the benefits of qualitative research methods, the use
of thee tools in marketing is still very limited. Bezborodova
and Bennett (2004) investigated the reasons for the limited
use of qualitative methods, especially emphasizing the
reluctance of available software to analyze the transcripts.
One of the major reasons provided for the limited use was the
long and steep learning curve to achieve a high level of
familiarization with the software. Another reason provided
was the time pressures of commercial research practice,
leading to a financial concern over the resulting expense such
approaches would encounter.
There are a variety of different methods available to the
qualitative researcher. Among the more commonly used
methods are phenomenology, grounded theory, narrative
psychology, and focus groups. Each of these methods provides
an approach to data collection that is appropriate given the
specific purposes of the research investigation. For example,
the goal of phenomenology is to study the phenomenon from
the perspective the experiences and meanings ascribed by the
individual. Thus one selects individuals who have actually
experienced the phenomenon and can describe the details of
the experience and the context within which the experience
takes place.
Grounded theory on the other hand is used as an inductive
tool to explore and build a theoretical framework based on
rich transcripts and field notes. Thus, grounded theory relies
on both positivistic elements as well as interpretive elements
of qualitative research to develop theory. Focus groups on the
other hand, maintain the spirit of rich interpretive data using a
group setting instead of a one-to-one interview. This affords
the benefit of a dynamic setting to explore new streams of
thought or to obtain feedback on existing objects (products,
advertisements, events, etc.).
Qualitative research proponents have argued that the
perspectives and language of subjects experiencing a
phenomenon should guide theory development (Strauss and
Corbin, 1998; Charmaz, 2000). For this inquiry on
personality, grounded theory offers distinct benefits over
other approaches (Glaser and Strauss, 1967).

theory. In grounded theory, one begins the data collection


with a general set of questions related to the focal topic. The
theoretical framework is built and refined from the data. In
this sense, it is a theory building tool, rather than a theoryconfirming tool. The grounded theory approach contains
both positivistic elements (based on direction of inquiry) and
interpretive elements (based on respondents interviews).
The quantitative aspect of the two-studies design was a
survey instrument designed to capture Aakers five personality
dimensions. Thus, two questionnaires (interviewers guide for
qualitative portion) were developed for data collection. The
first questionnaire was a structured questionnaire that was
based on Aakers (1997) five personality dimensions. Since
each of the brands measured in the study reflected multiple
products, respondents were instructed to consider the entire
product line in responding to the questions. Respondents
were asked to indicate the extent to which each item reflected
their perception of the object under consideration. A six-point
scale was used with end points of zero (indicating that the
item does not reflect the object) and five (indicating that the
item describes the object perfectly). The questionnaire
contained personality traits that were adapted from the
relevant literature in academic and trade sources and focused
on capturing major personality traits. A sample of the type of
items included in this questionnaire were: friendly, customer
focus, dominant, exciting, serious/lively, orderly,
disorganized, relaxed/tense, traditional, innovative, and open
to change.
Second, the interviewers guide was developed to capture
the personality dimensions. The brand personality dimensions
for this phase were drawn from earlier research and findings in
personality.
The interviews followed a semi-structured, open-ended
questionnaire format. Semi-structured interviews allow for a
focused and in-depth conversation. The respondents can
express their responses in any level of detail and the
interviewer can choose to go to the next question or probe
for further elaboration or clarification. Furthermore, since the
purpose of the research was to explore personality dimensions
from the respondents perspective, the questionnaire
contained both general as well as focused (on personality
traits) questions. The questions were developed based on
theoretical and applied work in personality. However, the
coding and the resulting framework that emerged were based
on the study of transcribed interviews.
In order to capture a full-range of impressions, participants
were encouraged to provide detailed examples and stories of
their experiences or perceptions with the brands in question.
These interviews were recorded and transcribed for analysis.
Respondents and data collection
Respondents for the study were residents of a major
metropolitan area in the Midwest. The sample size for the
quantitative study was understandably much larger than the
sample size for the qualitative portion. The number of
respondents for the quantitative analysis was 322. They were
evenly divided on gender (approximately 50 percent of each
group). Approximately 11 percent were high school
graduates; 30 percent had some college course work; and 40
percent had earned college degrees. The sample was tilted
towards younger audiences. In fact, 70 percent were under
and 30 percent were over 35 years of age.

Method
Item generation
A mixed methodology, based on a concurrent, two-studies
design was utilized (Srnka and Koeszegi, 2007). In twostudies design the qualitative and quantitative data are both
collected and analyzed separately (concurrently or
sequentially). The qualitative design was based on grounded
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Raj Arora and Charles Stoner

Volume 18 Number 4 2009 272 283

Results

For the qualitative portion, Creswell (2002) has


emphasized the importance of selecting respondents that
will provide rich and complex responses to questions.
Consistent with this purpose and understanding, 32 subjects
were selected. Participants were informed that the study was
being conducted for academic purposes and that the
investigators were grateful for their help.

Factor analysis of personality dimensions


The first phase of analysis utilized exploratory factor analysis
of the quantitative data. The initial solution, with minimum
eigenvalues set at 1.0, resulted in an eight- factor solution.
Although the eigenvalue rule suggested an eight-factor
solution, the scree plot of eigenvalues suggested a fourfactor solution. The eigenvalues and the proportion of
variance (in parenthesis) for the first eight factors were:
12.36 (29.43), 5.3 (12.22), 2.77 (6.58), 2.65 (6.31), 1.48
(3.54), 1.32 (3.15), 1.20 (2.84), and 1.05 (2.51). The plot
(not shown here) revealed that it became almost horizontal
after the first four factors. In the interest of comparing it with
Aakers five-factor solution, we rotated the first five factors.
Table I shows a comparison of our five-factor solution with
the five major dimensions of Aakers solution. The pattern of
loading shows a convergence with the loadings of Aakers
personality attributes. Some exceptions are highlighted in
Table I. The loadings as well as the dimension in Aakers
analysis are shown. For example, in our analysis, the attribute
wholesome has a loading of 0.58 and loads on the
excitement dimension, whereas in Aakers analysis, it
loaded on the sincerity dimension. In a similar manner,
the attributes reliable and hard working load on
sincerity in our study, whereas they loaded on
competence in Aakers study. The major difference is in
the items under the sophistication dimension. These items
loaded on excitement in our current study. This may be a
function of data reduction. As noted earlier from the scree
test, our analysis leans towards using a four- factor solution
rather than a five- factor solution. In our case, the factors
sophistication and excitement converged to a single
dimension. For ease of interpretation, loadings of less than
0.5 are not shown in Table I.

Selection of brands
Since the focus of the study was on brand personality, we
included brands that were dominant in the market, known to
consumers, and that had a distinct image in the market. We
did not include brands that intuitively appeared to be obscure
or bland in terms of personality. Since personality perceptions
may vary by product and by brand, we chose to include close
competitors in order to compare the differences in
personality. With these factors in consideration, one pair of
brands from the retail segment and another pair of brands
from the shoes and accessories category were selected for
study. Specifically, Wal-Mart and Target stores represented
the retail segment, and Nike and Adidas represented the shoes
and accessories segment.
Coding personality dimensions
Consistent with the procedures of grounded theory research,
the questions were developed based on theoretical and applied
work in personality. However, the coding and the resulting
framework that emerged were based on the study of the
transcribed interviews. The codes were not created from the
questions in the interviews. Rather, they emerged from the
meaning contained in the responses. In developing the
building blocks of personality, care was exercised to interpret
the meaning of the code (and the statement) and then bring
like codes together to build a concept.

Qualitative dimensions of personality


Computer-aided analysis of qualitative data
In recent years, there has been considerable interest in
computer-assisted qualitative data analysis (CAQDAS)[1]. In
choosing a software package one must consider the goals of
the study and the compatibility of the software with that goal.
The central tenet common to all of these software packages is
the coding of the qualitative responses.
Here, researchers can interpret the meaning of the to build
a concept. Alternatively, researchers can use one of several
software programs. Based on our extensive reviews of various
software packages, QDA Miner was particularly suited to join
the codes to build the concepts in the current study. Unlike
many other qualitative software packages, QDA Miner
provides tools for statistical analysis, as well as the graphical
display of these results. QDA Minor provides clustering
results in the form of a dendrogram. In addition to standard
coding of text and text retrieval, QDA Miner can investigate
co-occurrence of codes within a paragraph or within the entire
interview. These code co-occurrences can be further
investigated in the form of similarity among cases to plot
the results in the form of a cluster diagram, or a
multidimensional scaling plot or proximity to any selected
code. Since our focus was on discovering various personality
traits and how these traits grouped together, QDA Miner was
particularly valuable and relevant.

Overall personality dimensions


The first stage of the qualitative analyses explored the overall
personality dimensions. This set included all four brands
under investigation. The input for the qualitative analyses was
the various interviews. The QDA Miner has several different
procedures for analyzing the qualitative data. Here, once the
interviews were coded, Jaccards coefficient of similarity (JCS)
was utilized to cluster the co-occurrences of various
personality codes. The JCS ranges from zero to one and can
be interpreted similar to a correlation coefficient. QDA Miner
builds a dendrogram of the resulting cluster solution.
Consequently, researchers may use the value of JCS in
interpreting the cluster solution. The resulting solution is
shown in Figure 1.
The analysis from QDA Miner revealed several distinct
personality dimensions and also revealed a lack of
correspondence between Aakers five dimensions with
respect to the number of dimensions as well as the items
within the personality dimensions.
We did not expect to find strong convergence between the
qualitative findings from QDA and Aakers scale for two
fundamental reasons. First, the analysis was not confined to
items from Aakers scale. Second, the resulting dimensions
reflected aspects of the four brands under investigation rather
than generalized personality dimensions.
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A mixed method approach to understanding brand personality

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Raj Arora and Charles Stoner

Volume 18 Number 4 2009 272 283

Table I Factor loadings of personality traits


Personality attribute
Down to earth
Family oriented
Small town
Honest
Sincere
Real
Wholesome
Original
Cheerful
Sentimental
Friendly
Daring
Trendy
Exciting
Spirited
Cool
Young
Imaginative
Unique
Up to date
Independent
Contemporary
Reliable
Hard working
Secure
Intelligent
Technical
Corporate
Successful
Leader
Confident
Upper class
Glamorous
Good looking
Charming
Feminine
Smooth
Outdoorsy
Masculine
Western
Tough
Rugged

Sincerity

Excitement

Personality dimensions
Competence

Sophistication

Ruggedness

0.77
0.73
0.57
0.78
0.78
0.70
0.75

0.58 sincerity
0.53 sincerity
0.66
0.54
0.84
0.79
0.64
0.85
0.81
0.76
0.78
0.74

0.53 competence
0.57 competence

0.61
0.77
0.82
70

0.66 sophistication
0.72 sophistication
0.76 sophistication

0.52 sophistication
0.82
0.72
0.85
0.86

The findings revealed that a large number of items belonged


to one cluster This cluster included items such as authority,
dominance, forward looking, fun, lively, friendly,
reliable, trustworthy, customer focus, and relaxed.
Collectively these items appeared to be captured by the
sincerity and excitement dimension. Among the items
shown in Figure 1 from this cluster that were not included in
Aakers scale are tense, and open to change. The next
cluster included the items low prices, reactive, and
unimaginative. This is followed by high prices and not
trendy. These two clusters may be unique to the brands in
this study. Finally, Aakers three clusters of competence,

sophistication, and ruggedness failed to emerge in this


analysis.
In the next section we explore personality dimensions
between the competing sets of brands. First, we look at the
Nike and Adidas brands; next we explore the similarities and
differences between Target and Wal-Mart brands.
Nike versus Adidas
The resulting solution for Nike is shown in Figure 2. Nike
appeared to have a clear personality (image) with respect to
being an innovative company. The top three items
authority, forward looking, and innovative appeared
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A mixed method approach to understanding brand personality

Journal of Product & Brand Management

Raj Arora and Charles Stoner

Volume 18 Number 4 2009 272 283

Figure 1 Overall personality dimensions

Figure 2 Personality characteristics of Nike

to suggest a strong position in the market as an innovative


company. For example, one respondent noted:

Another respondent expressed it as:


I think down to earth because people wear it everywhere. I just dont see a lot
of flashy Nike stuff. The people might be flashy but I dont think Nike
makes.

Some of the new ads, their ads are always pretty interesting to watch. The
new ones with Kobe Bryant, they are different and kind of edgy. Some of the
new soccer ads are pretty interesting.

Doing a similar analysis for Adidas revealed a slightly different


personality. The first two items to form a cluster were
customer focus and relaxed. Next, several traits clustered
together. These were the items of practical, trustworthy,
honest and forthright, forward looking, and friendly
(see Figure 3). Some of the statements that subjects attributed
to Adidas trustworthiness were:

Another subject expressed:


In some of the lines, very creative and cutting-edge and the thing that
everybody wants. Specifically their basketball lines, not so much with
everyday wear they just kind of go with the flow nothing new or crazy and
they do a lot of throwback which is kind of popular, everyone is doing that
now. But with their high-end basketball shoes I would say definitely.

Yes they are because of the brand and it being well accepted all over. They
are definitely trustworthy when it comes to soccer.

Still another subject stated:


Nike is very creative. They are the most original sports gear company I can
think of. They are always using the new technology air-absorb, etc.

Another respondent stated:


Id say they are both trustworthy. Mainly with respect to their products, you
know what you are going to get.

The next cluster contained the down-to-earth and


practical personality traits. Consider the statements from
one of the respondents:

Finally, we examined the differences in brand personality


between Nike and Adidas. This is shown in Figure 4. The
findings indicated that while Nike was perceived as an
authority or dominant force in the market place, it was

Down to earth I would say. It is just the simplicity of Nike. When you are
wearing it you dont have to worry about wearing it with a certain type of
clothing because you can wear it with everything.

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A mixed method approach to understanding brand personality

Journal of Product & Brand Management

Raj Arora and Charles Stoner

Volume 18 Number 4 2009 272 283

Figure 3 Personality characteristics of Adidas

Figure 4 Personality differences between Nike and Adidas

also perceived as being high in prices. Adidas was seen as


stronger on customer focus, and Adidas was perceived as
more friendly and practical.

The dendrogram for Wal-Mart is shown in Figure 6. WalMart, similar to Target, was also seen as an authority and
dominant store in the market place. Clearly, their low
prices was an additional trait. Furthermore, the store was
viewed as having courteous staff and was perceived as
trustworthy. However, the atmosphere was seen as tense.
The trait friendly had a lower similarity index than did
Target. Wal-Mart also was distinct on customer focus and
expediency.
Finally, Figure 7 shows the major differences between
Target and Wal-Mart stores. Wal-Mart was perceived as
higher in dominance in market and offering low prices.
On the negative side, the shopping environment of Wal-Mart
was seen as more tense. Target was seen as higher on

Target versus Wal-Mart


The major personality characteristics of Target and Wal-Mart
were examined next. The dendrogram (Figure 5) showing the
clustering of items for Target revealed that Target was seen as
an authority and as a dominant store in the market place,
one that was friendly, customer focused, and
dependable. Respondents considered it a fun place to
shop. The store was organized and provided a relaxed
atmosphere. Target was also seen as down-to-earth,
honest, and forthright.
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A mixed method approach to understanding brand personality

Journal of Product & Brand Management

Raj Arora and Charles Stoner

Volume 18 Number 4 2009 272 283

Figure 5 Personality characteristics of Target

Figure 6 Personality characteristics of Wal-Mart

Figure 7 Personality differences between Target and Wal-Mart

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A mixed method approach to understanding brand personality

Journal of Product & Brand Management

Raj Arora and Charles Stoner

Volume 18 Number 4 2009 272 283

Managerial implications and applications

customer focus, fun and lively place to shop, and


innovative.

The use of computer software for analyzing the rich narratives


of qualitative research is limited in academic as well as the
research industry (Bezborodova and Bennett (2004). The
major reasons are the time constraints time to develop
expertise in using the tools and the time requirements of the
marketplace. Thus, one of the goals of this paper was to show
that these tools have the potential for major contributions in
research and that through the judicious use of qualitative and
quantitative tools, marketers can obtain richer data than by
relying on either single method.
Clearly, marketers will continue to utilize quantitativelydriven data to guide and drive key decisions. Decision making
which is void of such a foundation would be regressive and
problematic. However, as revealed in this study, rich,
meaningful, and highly relevant data can emerge from
careful qualitative analysis. These data can both augment
and extend that derived from more traditional scale-based
approaches. Accordingly, the overall quality of the decision
process can be positively enhanced.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of the mixed methodology
reported here comes in the area of advertising, particularly the
development of creative advertising strategy. Within the
context of brand personality, advertisers must help consumers
associate meaning (symbolic and emotional, as well as
functional) with the brand in question. Quantitative
research provides an objective base for such decisions. As
such, understandably, the data drive the creative appeal.
However, the nuance of personality that can be exacted
through careful qualitative assessment simply adds creative
richness and the promise of a more accurate connection
between advertising and consumers. Looking carefully at the
points of similarities and differences between qualitative and
quantitative assessments allows marketers to capture a more
complementary and expansive brand perspective than is
offered from either method in isolation.

Summary
In the current study, the quantitative data (rating scale)
supported the five major dimensions of personality as
designated by Aakers original work. However, there was a
lack of correspondence between the quantitative and
qualitative dimensions of personality. Here, the qualitative
data provided fuller and richer perspectives than those
attained through the rating scales. Largely, this enhanced view
came from the narrative nature of the qualitative investigation.
Respondents (consumers) expressed their personal
impressions of their usage, experiences, and feelings towards
the brands being studied. In turn, the respondents own
words provided the basis for drawing brand characteristics.
This study found that Nike was perceived as a reliable and
trustworthy brand. However, it was also perceived as a
relatively expensive brand. While these impressions appeared
to be quite salient to the consumers choice process, these
items were revealed only through our qualitative assessment.
The rating scales did not capture these items. In short, these
items were missing from the standard quantitative analyses.
Importantly though, the quantitative analysis (not shown in
table form) revealed key differences in perceived personality
between Nike and Adidas. For example, Nike rated
statistically significantly higher than Adidas on items such as
original, trendy, exciting, imaginative, and up-to-date. On the
other hand, Adidas was rated significantly higher than Nike
on items such as down-to-earth, family oriented and small
town.
Looking at the quantitative and qualitative assessments
provides a broader and more complete image. The rating
scales suggest that Nike has captured a more trendy,
contemporary, and perhaps edgier feel than Adidas.
These could be utilized to differentiate and justify the added
perceived expense of Nike over Adidas. However, the
qualitatively revealed themes of trustworthiness and
reliability offer a different angle or means of connecting
with potential consumers. The Nike brand impressions seem
to indicate that consumers sense that with Nike, one gets
what they pay for (presumably a consistently reliable
product).
In a similar manner, the rating scales revealed that Target,
with statistical significance, was perceived as more of a smalltown store than Wal-Mart. Additionally, Target scored
significantly higher than Wal-Mart on items such as
cheerful, trendy, exciting, cool, and contemporary. These
appear to be dramatic differences in brand personality.
However, the qualitative assessments revealed that
Wal-Mart was perceived as a trustworthy and courteous
brand with low prices. Further, one of the critical qualitative
differentiators between Target and Wal-Mart seemed to be the
contrast between the perceived relaxed atmosphere of Target
and the tense atmosphere of Wal-Mart. Again, this key
impression, an impression that may drive at least some
patronage decisions, was not captured through the standard
rating methodology.

Note
1 There is a web site devoted to CAQDAS that has
important links to articles and conferences on the subject.
Several software packages are available; most of these are
available commercially. For a good review article on
various software packages and their corresponding
features, see the article by Lewins and Silver (http://
caqdas.soc.surrey.ac.uk/ChoosingLewins&SilverV3Nov
05.pdf). Software developers keep updating their software
as new digital technologies become available, but this
article covers major names in CAQDAS.

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About the authors


Raj Arora (PhD Claremont University) is Schutte Professor of
Marketing at University of Missouri-Kansas City. His
research and publications are in the areas of consumer
behavior (consumption emotions, involvement, framing, and
credibility) and services marketing (service quality levels,
consumer choice in health care).
Charles Stoner (DBA Florida State University) is Robert
A. McCord Professor of Management at Bradley University.
His current research and publications are in the area of
behavioral impacts of connectivity, with special attention to
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Volume 18 Number 4 2009 272 283

life balance and adversity. Charles Stoner is the corresponding


author and can be contacted at: crs@bumail.bradley.edu

different perspectives and a richer and more complex


picture of the context being analyzed. It is further argued
that the degree of understanding it enables cannot be
achieved through quantitative study alone. Marketing has,
however, been slow to incorporate qualitative methods, not
least because of the potential cost incurred in purchasing and
learning to use the software necessary for analyzing the data
that is generated. Focus groups, phenomenology and
narrative psychology are among the recognized qualitative
research methods but the authors felt that grounded theory
was a more appropriate tool in this context. A key feature of
this approach is that it enables new theory to be developed
from the research data.
Midwest residents were recruited for the two-part study,
with 322 participating in the quantitative section of the work
but just 32 in the qualitative part in order to provide the depth
of response deemed necessary. The quantitative element
involved a structured questionnaire relating to Aakers five
personality dimensions. An extensive list of personality items
was included and participants were asked to indicate the
degree to which each item mirrored their perception of the
four brands under analysis. In order to generate focused and
in-depth conversation, a semi-structured questionnaire was
used for the qualitative part of the study. To enable direct
comparison of personalities, two brands were chosen from
within the retail and sportswear products segments. The retail
sector was represented by Wal-Mart and Target, with Nike
and Adidas as their sportswear counterparts.
Analysis of the quantitative data revealed considerable
equivalence with Aakers personality framework.
Nevertheless, one notable difference was that certain
attributes loaded in a different dimension to the one
indicated in the original model. This led to Arora and
Stoner fusing sophistication and excitement into a single
dimension, resulting in an amended four dimensional
construct.
Software used for qualitative assessment must be
appropriate for the specific study and QDA Miner met the
necessary criteria for the current project, not least because it
permits several different analysis procedures. The analysis
here indicated several differences from the five personality
dimensions in terms of both number of dimensions and
content within each one. Since the study had a specific rather
than general focus and thus permitted the inclusion of
dimensions external to the model, this finding was not
unexpected. For example, two categories deemed possibly
unique to the study brands were identified, while the
competence, sophistication and ruggedness dimensions were
found to be irrelevant.
Through analysis of respondent answers, the authors were
able to determine that Nike and Adidas are perceived as
having different personalities. The presence of items like
authority, forward looking and innovative reflects
Nikes image as a creative brand, while other significant
traits referred to the company being considered down to
earth yet charging high prices. In contrast, Adidas was
identified as being trustworthy, honest, friendly and customer
oriented.
Some of the Adidas traits also applied to Target and the
brand was additionally perceived as organized and an
authority in its sector. The low price and market dominance
of Wal-Mart was noted, but its tense shopping environment

Executive summary and implications for


managers and executives
This summary has been provided to allow managers and executives
a rapid appreciation of the content of the article. Those with a
particular interest in the topic covered may then read the article in
toto to take advantage of the more comprehensive description of the
research undertaken and its results to get the full benefit of the
material present.
Consumers have traditionally used physical and functional
attributes as a means of distinguishing one brand from
another. However, marketing managers have found it
increasingly tough to differentiate their offerings on these
aspects alone. One outcome has been growing interest in
recent years in the concept of brand personality.

Brand personality
With origins in psychology research, brand personality
posits that products and brands have symbolic and
emotional appeal that can influence consumer purchase
decisions. Brand personality enables consumers to form
closer attachments to certain brands because of the human
characteristics they have ascribed to them. It is believed that
consumers seek those brands whose personalities reflect the
concept of themselves they want to project to others based
upon their real or ideal selves. Brands that provide
better congruence with their own personalities typically
appeal most and can result in the consumer becoming loyal
to the brand in both behavioral and emotional terms.
Various studies conducted since pioneering work from
Aaker in the late 1990s have supported these notions and
likewise highlighted the value of brand personality to
marketers because it may be less easy to replicate than more
tangible product features.
A model for measuring the concept emerged from Aakers
findings. It posits that brand personality is comprised of five
separate dimensions, with each incorporating a range of
attributes and characteristics. These sincerity, excitement,
competence, sophistication and ruggedness dimensions have
been utilized as a framework for many brand personality
studies. Others have questioned the applicability of the
framework to all contexts and have modified the dimensions
accordingly. For instance, an additional dimension relating to
innovation was used to enhance one study of a
membership-based sports organization.
A blended approach
Other scholars recognize the value of Aakers work but argue
that brand personality is too complex a concept to be fully
explained by this model alone. Some have used alternative
methods in their brand personality investigations, while a
mixed method approach utilizing such as focus groups,
qualitative evaluation and empirical assessment has been
explored within a study of nonprofit organizations.
In the present study, Arora and Stoner further explore the
idea of incorporating qualitative research into the
measurement of brand personality. Those advocating such
an approach believe that it offers subjective realities,
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Raj Arora and Charles Stoner

Volume 18 Number 4 2009 272 283

contrasted sharply with the greater friendliness attributed to


Target, which was deemed a fun place to shop.

edgy than Adidas and therefore justified in charging higher


prices. On the other hand, the perceived trustworthiness of
Adidas provides scope for a different marketing angle.
Ultimately, the combined approach to analysis has
particular significance to advertising strategy. Armed with
greater knowledge of the range of symbolic, emotional and
functional meanings consumers associate with a particular
brand, marketers will be better positioned to develop more
inspired and effective advertising campaigns.

Marketing implications
The study highlighted the obvious limitations of depending
on a single type of analysis. On the other hand, blending
quantitative and qualitative forms can help realize a much
deeper insight into consumer perspectives. Further
illustration of this was provided by the fact that qualitative
analysis of the study brands revealed key personality traits that
were not detected through the regular quantitative method.
The difference in atmosphere between Target and Wal-Mart
stores was one example. Arora and Stoner note the potential
for this particular finding to drive patronage decisions as
might the knowledge that Nike is perhaps trendier and more

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