Consumption Symbols as Carriers of Culture

Consumption Symbols as Carriers of Culture

By
Jennifer Aaker, Veronica Benet-Martinez, Jordi Garolera
Journal of Personality & Social Psychology.
2001, Vol. 81, Issue 3, Pages 492-508

This research argues that the meaning embedded in consumption symbols, such as commercial brands, can serve to represent and institutionalize the values and beliefs of a culture. Relying on a combined emic-etic approach, the authors conducted 4 studies to examine how symbolic and expressive attributes associated with commercial brands are structured and how this structure varies across 3 cultures. Studies 1 and 2 revealed a set of “brand personality” dimensions common to both Japan and the United States (Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, and Sophistication) as well as culture-specific Japanese (Peacefulness) and American (Ruggedness) dimensions. Studies 3 and 4, which extended this set of findings to Spain, yielded brand personality dimensions common to both Spain and the United States (Sincerity, Excitement, and Sophistication), plus nonshared Spanish (Passion) and American (Competence and Ruggedness) dimensions. The meaning of these brand personality dimensions is discussed in the context of cross-cultural research on values and affect, globalization issues, and cultural frame shifting.