Although marketeers regularly speak about "brand personality," they rarely profile brands or products with the rigor of psychological tools (especially those used to profile people). Yet it is quite obvious that different brands have different reputations, and that we can only assess a brand's reputation by exploring consumers' perceptions.
A couple of decades ago psychologists identified the major dimensions underlying brand personality. This work, led by US psychologist Jennifer Aaker, suggested that perceptions of brands - and products - can be classified according to 5 major dimenions: (a) sincerity, (b) excitement, (c) competence, (d) sophistication, and (e) ruggedness. Related studies showed that people's choices are a reflection of the extent to which their own personality, specifically their self-image or identity, is congruent with the reputation of a brand. For instance, if you think of yourself as sophisticated you will prefer more sophisticated brands or products over their less sophisticated alternatives--and hopefully you will also be able to afford them, too! Likewise, if you see yourself as an exciting person you will prefer more exciting brands, and so forth. So far, most studies, and there aren't many, have focused on consumers' "Big Five" personality traits (Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness), which raises the question of whether other aspects of consumers' identity may predict what their favorite brands are. In our latest study, we explore the relationship between consumers' emotional intelligence (EQ) and their preferences for brands.
Ever since the publication of Daniel Goleman's 1995 best-seller on EQ, there has been a great deal of excitement within the business community for assessing employees' EQ. This is not surprising given that EQ appears to assess elements of human competence that are largely unrelated to IQ and crucial to facilitate team-performance, citizenship behaviour, and the capacity to remain calm under pressure. For the same reasons, one could imagine that consumers' EQ would influence their choices for different brands and products. For instance, people high in EQ tend to be altruistic, sincere, and optimistic; hence one would expect that they should prefer brands that are generally perceived as being altruistic, honest, and positive, etc. Moreover, given that brand personality consists of attributing human-like characteristics to brands (or making an attribution about a brand's reputation using traits such as those employed for describing people), one would also expect consumers' EQ to influence their attitudes towards people. Thus our latest study also explores how people's personality affects their preferences for different celebrities and public figures; specifically, whether these preferences are partly driven by the level of congruence between the raters' own identity and the celebrities' reputation.
The results should help us understand the connection between individual differences and consumer preferences, as well as revealing important information about the reputation of product and human brands. If you would like to take part in our study you can complete our very brief survey and get instant feedback on your results here.