A communications approach to building brand personality: The influence of celebrity gender, communication appeal and product involvement

Smit, Werner Antonio (2016-03)

Thesis (MComm)--Stellenbosch University, 2016

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY: The concept of symbolism can be traced back to Levy in 1959, and it is one of the roots that created research into self-expression, and created a foundation for brand personality research. Since then, the understanding of brand image perceptions, with specific focus on brand personality, has increased in importance. This increase was created by the shift to identity-based branding, the move from functional to symbolic differentiation, and the greater pressure to compete on a non-product attribute basis. Brand personality is proposed to be an important differentiating construct of brand image that can be used for brand positioning. Despite calls for research, the effect of communications on brand personality has received little research attention. Therefore, this study adopted a communications perspective with the purpose of assessing the influence of various communication-related aspects on brand personality and other consumer responses. Using a dominant positivistic approach, an experimental study with a 3 x 2 x 2 factorial design tested the influence of independent and interaction effects of the independent variables on the dependent variables. The independent variables consisted of celebrity gender, communication appeal and product involvement, whereas the dependent variables consisted of brand personality (dimensions, subdimensions, gender, and appeal), brand involvement, attitude (towards the brand and the advert), and purchase intention. Qualitative data was collected to develop the stimulus used in the main experiment, and the main experiment collected quantitative data through self-administered online questionnaires. The target population consisted of Generation Y individuals in the 18 to 24 year age range. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyse the data in relation to the research objectives. The results revealed that all three independent variables of celebrity gender, communication appeal and product involvement influenced brand personality, as well as brand personality gender and brand personality appeal. Moreover, the independent variables similarly influenced consumer responses of brand involvement, attitude and purchase intention, indicating the importance of building brand equity in a complementary manner through both brand personality knowledge and favourable consumer predispositions. Brand personality’s malleability illustrates the importance of managing it over time to create long-lasting brand equity. All three independent variables were effective when there was good celebrity-product, celebrity-brand, product category-celebrity and audience-celebrity fit, as well as when the brand personality was strong. Thus, this study found that brand personality can be built when the mentioned fit is present and when a brand is mature. Celebrity gender was the strongest influencer of brand personality and consumer responses, followed by communication appeal and product involvement. Celebrity gender’s influence showed that in most cases, the exposure to a male celebrity resulted in higher levels of brand personality or consumer responses compared to when there was no exposure to a celebrity. In contrast, exposure to a female celebrity resulted in lower levels compared to when there was no exposure to a celebrity. Moreover, celebrity gender’s power to influence brand personality gender was mixed. The communication appeals’ effects showed that it is possible to build brand personality in a rational and emotional way. The communication appeals were especially effective in building brand personality gender. Product involvement influenced consumers’ processing and communicated shared product associations. In some instances the three independent variables used in combination influenced each other’s effects. This indicates that when the goal is to maximise the communication-related elements’ ability to build a brand, the combined use thereof in communication needs to be managed carefully. The current study provides managerial insights by showing that all three factors could be used to build the brand personality or consumer responses, in order to build brand equity. Moreover, brand personality could be built to have varying degrees of functionalism or symbolism, or degrees of shared product or product category associations, that could be used as points of parity or difference to create competitive brand differentiation. Despite the findings, brand personality theory still has limitations such as conceptual scope. Therefore, future research should address the theoretical limitations to develop brand personality theory and consequently its use in the advertising industry.

AFRIKAANS OPSOMMING: Die konsep van simbolisme kan gedateer word vanaf 1959, en is een van die oorspronge waaruit navorsing in persoonlike uitdrukking geskep is, en waaruit die basis van handelsmerkpersoonlikheidsnavorsing gestig is. Vanaf dan, het die belangrikheid van handelsmerkewebeeldpersepsies, met spesifieke betrekking op handelsmerkpersoonlikheid, in belangrikheid vermeerder. Die vermeerdering in belangrikheid was geskep deur die verskuiwing na identiteitsgebaseerde bemarking, die beweging van funksionele na simboliese differensiasie, en die vermeerderende druk om op ʼn nie-produk gebaseerde basis te kompeteer. Handelsmerkpersoonlikheid is voorgestel om ʼn belangrike en onderskeidende konstruk van handelsmerkewebeeld te wees, wat kan gebruik word vir handelsmerkposisionering. Ten spyte van oproepe vir navorsing, het die effek van kommunikasie op handelsmerkpersoonlikheid min navorsingsaandag ontvang. Daarom het die huidige studie ʼn kommunikasie perspektief aangeneem, met die doel om die invloed van verskeie kommunikasie verwante aspekte op handelsmerkpersoonlikheid en ander verbruikersreaksies te assesseer. Deur middel van ʼn positivistiese benadering, het ʼn eksperimentele studie met ʼn 3 x 2 x 2 faktoriale ontwerp die onafhanklike en interaksie effekte van die onafhanklike veranderlikes op die afhanklike veranderlikes getoets. Die onafhanklike veranderlikes bestaan uit die beroemde persoon se geslag, kommunikasie-appèl, en produkbetrokkenheid, terwyl die afhanklike veranderlikes bestaan het uit handelsmerkpersoonlikheid (dimensies, subdimensies, -geslag en -appèl), handelsmerkbetrokkenheid, houding (teenoor die handelsmerk en advertensie), en aankoop voorneme. Kwalitatiewe data was ingesamel om die stimulus te ontwerp, wat in die hoof eksperiment gebruik was, en die kwantitatiewe data vir die hoof eksperiment was met ʼn self-geadministreerde aanlyn vraelys gekollekteer. Die teiken populasie het uit Generasie Y individue, tussen die ouderdom van 18 en 24 jaar, bestaan. Beskrywende en inferensiële statistieke was gebruik om die data te ontleed in verband met die studie doelwitte. Die resultate het geopenbaar dat al drie onafhanklike veranderlikes, naamlik die van beroemde persoon se gelag, kommunikasie-appèl en produk-betrokkenheid, drie afhanklike veranderlikes van handelsmerkpersoonlikheid; handelsmerkpersoonlikheid-geslag, en handelmerkpersoonlikeheid-appèl beïnvloed het. Verder, het die onafhanklike veranderlikes verbruikersreaksies van handelsmerkbetrokkenheid, houding, en aankoop voorneme in ʼn soortgelyke manier beïnvloed, wat die belangrikheid om handelsmerkekwiteit in ʼn aanvullende manier te bou deur beide handelmerkpersoonlikheids-kennis en gunstige verbruikerspredisposisies aandui. Handelsmerkpersoonlikheid se smeebaarheid illustreer die belangrikheid om dit oor tyd te bestuur, om langdurige handelsmerkekwiteit te skep. Al drie onafhanklike veranderlikes was effektief wanneer daar goeie beroemde persoon-produk, beroemde persoon-handelsmerk, produk kategorie-beroemde persoon en gehoor-beroemde persoon passing was, asook wanneer die handelsmerkpersoonlikheid sterk was. Daarom het die studie gevind dat handelsmerkpersoonlikheid gebou kan word wanneer die genoemde passing teenwoordig is en wanneer die handelsmerk volwasse is. Die beroemde persoon se geslag was die sterkste invloed van handelsmerkpersoonlikheid en verbruikersreaksies, gevolg deur kommunikasie-appèl en produkbetrokkenheid. Die beroemde persoon se geslag se invloed het in meeste gevalle geïllustreer dat die blootstelling aan ʼn manlike beroemde persoon na hoër vlakke van handelsmerkpersoonlikheid of verbruikersreaksies, in vergelyking met die die gebruik van geen beroemde persoon, gelei het. Daarop volgend wys die resultate dat blootstelling aan ʼn vroulike beroemde persoon na laer vlakke, as die van die gebruik van geen beroemde persoon, gelei het. Verder is dit bevind dat die beroemde persoon se krag om handelsmerkpersoonlikheid geslag te beïnvloed, gemeng was. Die kommunikasie appel-appèl se effekte het geïllustreer dat dit moontlik is om ʼn handelsmerkpersoonlikheid te bou in ʼn rasionale of emosionele wyse. Die kommunikasie-appèlle was veral effektief in die bou van handelsmerkpersoonlikheid-geslag. Produkbetrokkenheid het verbruikers se verwerking beïnvloed en gedeelde produkassosiasies gekommunikeer. In sommige gevalle het die drie onafhanklike veranderlikes, wat in kombinasie gebruik was, mekaar se effekte beïnvloed. Hierdie bevinding dui aan, dat wanneer dit die doel van die kommunikasie verwante elemente se vermoë is, om die bou van ʼn handelsmerk te maksimeer, moet die gekombineerde gebruik daarvan in kommunikasie versigtig bestuur word. Die huidige studie bied betuursinsigte, wat wys dat al drie faktore gebruik kan word om die handelsmerkpersoonlikheid of verbruikersreaksies te bou, om handelsmerkekwiteit te bou. Verder kan handelsmerkpersoonlikheid gebou word om wisselende grade van funksionalisme of simboliek, of gedeelde produk of produk kategorie assosieasies in te sluit, wat kan gebruik word as punte van gelykheid of verskil om mededingingde handelsmerkdifferensiasie te skep. Ten spyte van die bevindinge, het handelsmerkpersoonlikheid-teorie nog steeds limitasies soos konsepsionele omvang. Daarom moet toekomstige navorsing die teoretiese limitasies in terme van die ontwikkeling van handelsmerkpersoonlikheid-teorie, en gevolglik die gebruik daarvan in die advertensie bedryf, adresseer.

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