How Brand Personality Affects Purchase Decisions

Branding literally means distinguishing products from each other in order for the consumer to easily choose her favourite product. A brand is a valuable asset and branding is the process of creating that asset. Branding has a crucial element known as brand personality. This element is the line of communication between a consumer and a company. High-end popular brands with distinct personalities, such as Rolex (successful) and Cartier (sophisticated) provide an opportunity for customers to associate the brand’s personality with their self-image. Research has shown that consumers often choose and prefer brands with aspirational personalities in an attempt to affirm and enhance their sense of self. This blog underlines the role of brand personality and its influence on consumers’ decision-making.

Brand personality is conceptualised based on the way that people attribute personality characteristics to other people during everyday interactions. It involves the creation of a brand character who is the personification of the brand and describes its “inner” characteristics of it. The brand acts as a living, breathing partner in the relationship between the consumer and the brand.

Consumers always correlate products and services with brands, because they want to achieve mental satisfaction through the purchasing process (the feeling of being well serviced), get the best quality (usually from trusted brands) and want to spend less time on decision-making. More specifically, what distinguishes a brand from its competitors’ commodities and gives it equity is the sum total of consumers’ perceptions and experiences about the product’s attributes, the brand name and what it presents, and the company associated with the brand.

  • Brand personality positively affects purchase intention.

Brand personality is important for both convenient goods (like daily soap, toothpaste, and toilet cleaners) and shopping goods (like furniture and electronics). International private labels present these goods as aspirational, inspirational, highly desirable, and prestigious and consuming them is associated with more sophisticated personalities as compared to local private label products. Conglomerates also have their own brand personality. For some big corporations like Unilever, P&G and Johnson & Johnson, the brand’s core identity revolves around the products. For others, such as Mcdonalds or General Electric, core brand identity revolves around corporate brand values, and the product is instead part of the extended identity. Corporate branding involves all stakeholders and is targeted to both internal and external networks. Corporate brands have a small set of fundamental core values that define the brand. These core values are intrinsic to the firm.

For example, McDonald‘s fast food, when extended with different brand associations in different countries, created a dilution of brand personality and image. So there is a requirement of perceived fit between the extension and parent brand, so that brand image and personality will not be diluted.

  • Brand Personality’s affect on High and Low Involvement Products

For high-involvement products, the buyer usually spends a lot of time and effort searching for information and making the decision to purchase.

But low-involvement products are bought frequently and they require minimum thought and effort to buy them. Mostly, they do not have a great impact on the consumer’s lifestyle.

Consumers aren’t as motivated to engage in a lot of in-store decision-making when the product is purchased repeatedly and is relatively unimportant. Therefore, customers tend to use very simple choice rules or tactics that provide a satisfactory choice while allowing a quick and effortless decision. Consumers end up putting minimum cognitive effort and only make a satisfactory choice rather than an optimal choice for a low-involvement product.

For example, consumers exert considerably less effort in choosing detergent, salt or rice than in choosing lifestyle apparel, shoes or a car, which are all high-involvement products. A study on laundry detergent (a repeat purchase product) showed that customers engage in remarkably little in-store decision deliberation and the majority of decision-making happens in a very short time window while they are shopping in-store. Consumers consider price-related tactics and product-related experiences—such as product usage, repeated exposure to advertisements, influence by others in a social environment etc. major factors in preference and purchase decision for a low-involvement product. So the purchase of low-involvement products is mostly based on heuristics and tactics, rather than the symbolic meaning of the brand and its emotional characteristics.

Whereas high-involvement products like apparel and electronics carry symbolic meanings, image reinforcement or psychological satisfaction and reflect the consumer‘s social life, aspirations, fantasies and affiliations. They are purchased based on these emotional aspects. In high-involvement products, customers are aware of their own self-image and therefore use brand personality as a criterion for evaluating products, rather than only using heuristics. A study on sportswear clothing brands (a high-involvement product) and coffee brands (a low-involvement product) showed a higher brand awareness of high-involvement product brands compared to low-involvement product brands. Advertising played an integral role in the awareness of sportswear clothing brands but seemed relatively unimportant in the case of coffee. The brand name was important for coffee. But, the name and the logo played a role in students’ awareness of sportswear brands too. So brand personality is more important for high involvement products than for low involvement products.

For example, researchers used bottled water, cola soft drinks, biscuits etc. (low involvement products) to evaluate the effect of brand personality on the purchase decision. In the case of high-involvement products like lifestyle clothing, and shoes which carry symbolic and emotional aspects, brand personality is more important.

Researchers have also conducted experiments on soap dispensers, screwdrivers, table wines, coffeemakers, etc. In conclusion, brand personality has relevance for both low and high-involvement brands.

  • Brand personality increases consumer brand preference and purchase intention for both high and low-involvement products.

In low involvement situations, customers will seek less elaboration in product pitches and will be less motivated to process a message. Their attitude is formed by associating the messaging with an easy-to-process peripheral cue (CTA). The cues or “Call-To-Actions” are not stored in long-term memory and therefore the call-back of the ad or message will decay over time. Whereas in high involvement situations consumers will seek high elaboration, be highly motivated, and attitudes will be formed by central cues and the consumer’s call-back of the message or ad will be stable over time.

However, brand personality is important for both low and high-involvement product brands. By building a strong brand personality in low involvement products, the products attain a symbolic meaning and customers become attached to them. In high-involvement products, the brand personality will help customers remember the brand and become persistently attached to the message. When customers find that the brand personality of the product is in-line with their self-image, they show a favourable attitude towards the brand. The congruence between brand personality and self-image increases consumer satisfaction and the consumer-brand relationship.

Consumer satisfaction is also a big factor that helps strengthen brand loyalty and consumer-brand relationship. In the case of high involvement products the consumer-brand relationship quality mediates the effect of satisfaction on consumers’ brand loyalties, but for low involvement products satisfaction directly influences brand loyalty. Consumer research shows that high-involvement product brands have higher brand awareness compared to low-involvement product brands. Consumer-brand relationship quality increases brand loyalty more in high involvement situations than in low involvement situations. Therefore, brand personality is more important for high-involvement products than for low-involvement products. By building a strong brand personality in low involvement conditions, the products will get symbolic meaning and consumers will be attached to them. In high involvement situations, the brand personality will help build brand recall and brand attachment. Hence we can say that;

  • The effect of brand personality is greater for high-involvement products than for low-involvement products.

The presence of a prominent product endorser or celebrity in the advertisement will increase the impact on a low-involvement product more than on a high one. Similarly, the presence of strong positive arguments about the brand in the advertisement has a higher impact for high-involvement products than the low ones. The high involvement condition is processed by the central route and the low involvement condition is processed by the peripheral route.

For example, the Cadbury chocolate ad in India has the famous actor Amitabh Bachan in its advertisement. This influences the customer’s attitude towards the product. Similarly, ads for refrigerators, music systems, and laptops have strong arguments about the product, its features, and product-relevant information which will motivate the consumers and require a higher ability to process them. This leads to the two conclusions:

  1. In the case of low-involvement products, brand personality can be improved by famous endorsers.
  2. In the case of high-involvement products, brand personality can be improved by strong positive arguments about the brand.

 

Managerial Implication

 

The product markets continue to change rapidly. As the market is changing, companies need to distinguish their brand from that of competitors. Focus on positive brand personality building will improve brand preference, and purchase intention and also harmonise brand strategy across all products. Effective management of brand personality in light of changing market conditions and the firm‘s market expansion is crucial. For the accurate execution of these strategies, market research is needed to validate one’s propositions.

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