Consumers Pick Brands Similar to Themselves
Factors which determine consumer preferences for certain brands are not limited just to income, age and social status; other important considerations are the brand's ‘personality’ and whether it fits with that of the consumer, according to Natalia Antonova, Associate Professor of the Department of Organizational Psychology and Head of the Psychology of Consumer Behavior Research and Study Group, and Veronika Morozova, member of the Group.
Consumer brands are increasingly seen as integral to everyday life, and loyalty to a certain brand often serves as a means for self-expression and asserting one's identity, particularly among young people.
Recently, psychologists have increasingly been examining brand loyalty in an attempt to explain the reasons behind individual preferences for certain brands and to find ways to maintain brand loyalty.
Antonova and Morozova’s study confirmed a strong relationship between consumers’ identities and their preferred brands; in fact, one's loyalty to a specific brand appears to be in direct proportion to the degree of similarity between their own and the brand’s ‘personality’.
The study included 150 respondents aged 18 to 25 – an age group believed to be particularly focused both on asserting their identity and using branded products.
Brands as Persons
Even early studies of brands back in the 1930s found a strong emotional attachment between consumers and their chosen brands. Today, researchers use terms such as consumer-brand relationship, and Susan Fournier metaphorically describes brands as living people endowed with human traits and who interact with consumers.
The study's authors used Jennifer Aaker's model to describe brand personality as it relates to the consumer's identity. Her model uses five dimensions, similar to those often used to describe human personalities, to characterise brands, namely sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication and ruggedness. The predominance of certain characteristics in a brand's personality determines the brand-consumer relationship.
According to a hypothesis commonly found in textbooks, the greater the correspondence between a consumer's individual characteristics and the brand's 'personality', the higher the likelihood that the consumer will prefer this particular brand.
However, the study's authors suggest that a consumer's perceived identity and self-image have even more bearing on their relationship with a certain brand. In addition to Aaker's brand personality model, the researchers used its modified version to assess consumer personalities, asking respondents to rate themselves on the same five dimensions used to describe the brand personality.
The survey conducted as part of the study asked the respondents about their preferred clothing brands, as clothes are believed to be closely associated with one's self-image and often used as a means of self-expression and self-presentation.
Brands Match Identities
The study's findings confirm that the greater the difference people perceive between their own and the brand's identity, the lower their brand loyalty – determined using a separate questionnaire – and vice versa.
It was found that matches along the lines of excitement, sophistication and ruggedness were associated with higher brand loyalties than correlations on the scales of competence and sincerity. According to the authors, "brand loyalty apears to be driven by those aspects of brand identity which create a desired visual image," as opposed to such personality characteristics as sincerity and competence which are not necessarily visible to an outsider.
According to the authors, the study's findings can inform brand communication strategies and serve other purposes, such as education and counselling of young people, by providing a better understanding of various factors influencing personality development in the context of brand communication.
* The study was carried out as part of the project Brand Perception By People with Different Consumer Strategies supported by the HSE Academic Fund Programme.
February 15, 2016