Consumption Symbols as Carriers of Culture: A Study of Japanese and Spanish Brand Personality Constructs

Consumption Symbols as Carriers of Culture: A Study of Japanese and Spanish Brand Personality Constructs

By Jennifer Aaker, Veronica Benet-Martinez, Jordi Garolera
2001Working Paper No. 1668

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. We conducted four studies to examine how the symbolic and expressive attributes associated with commercial brands are structured, and determine the degree to which this structure varies across three cultures. Relying on a combined emic-etic approach, we identified indigenous constructs of `brand personality' (Aaker, 1997) in two non-Anglo cultures (Japan and Spain), and compared these dimensions to those previously found in the United States. The results of 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 extended this set of findings to Spain. Results from these studies also identified brand personality dimensions common to both Spain and the United States (Sincerity, Excitement, and Sophistication), plus non-shared Spanish (Passion) and American (Competence and Ruggedness) dimensions. The meaning of the culturally-common and -specific brand personality dimensions is discussed in the context of cross-cultural research on values and affect, globalization issues, and cultural frame shifting.