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RESEARCH PAPER SERIESGRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESSSTANFORD UNIVERSITYResearch Paper No. 1668RCONSUMPTION SYMBOLS AS CARRIERS OF CULTURE:A STUDY OF JAPANESE AND SPANISH BRANDPERSONALITY CONSTRUCTSJennifer AakerVerónica Benet-MartínezJordi GaroleraMay 2001Forthcoming in Journal of Personality & Social Psychology
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ÃÃErvsr ÃGÃ6hxr ÃThs qÃ7vrÃTpuyÃThs qÃVvr v0ÃWr yvphÃ7rrHh trÃ9rh rÃsÃQpuytÃVvr vÃsÃHvpuvth0ÃE qvÃBh yr hÃÃ9rh rÃsÃ@pvpÃhqÃ7vrÃVvr vhÃQrÃAhi hÃÃUurÃsv ÃÃhu Ãp virqÃrhyyÃhqÃh rÃyvrqÃvÃhyuhirvphyÃ qr ÃÃUurÃhu ÃyqÃyvxrÃÃuhxÃurÃsyyvtÃvqvvqhyÃs Ãurv ÃvvtuÃhqÃvryyrphyÃ Ã rth qvtÃuvÃ x)Ã6yrhqr Ã7vryÃHr hÃ7hhÃTrrÃ8yrÃ6vrrÃ9 yrÃ6hxÃCuvÃCrrwtÃFvÃAvhÃGrrÃHvpuhryÃH vÃhqÃShvÃQvyyhvÃÃXrÃhyÃuhxÃSrrh puÃDr hvhyÃHh xrvtÃDryyvtrprÃ8 hvÃhqÃHh xrvtÃTpvrprÃDvrÃs Ãurv ÃsvhpvhyÃ ÃÃ8 rqrprÃppr vtÃuvÃhp vÃuyqÃirÃhqq rrqÃÃErvsr ÃGÃ6hxr ÃThs qÃ7vrÃTpuyÃ$ ÃHr vhyÃXhÃThs qÃVvr vÃThs qÃ86Ã(#$$ $Ã Ãryrp vpÃhvyÃhÃirÃrÃÃhhxr 5tihs qrqÃ Ãr vph5vpurqÃCONSUMPTION SYMBOLS AS CARRIERS OF CULTURE:A STUDY OF JAPANESE AND SPANISH BRAND PERSONALITY CONSTRUCTSJennifer Aaker Verónica Benet-Martínez Jordi GaroleraUniversity of Stanford University of Michigan Universitat Pompeu FabraThis research argues that the meaning embedded in consumption symbols, such ascommercial brands, can serve to represent and institutionalize the values and beliefs of aculture. Relying on a combined emic-etic approach, we conducted four studies toexamine how the symbolic and expressive attributes associated with commercial brandsare structured, and how this structure varies across three cultures. Studies 1 and 2revealed a set of ‘brand personality’ dimensions common to both Japan and the UnitedStates (Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, and Sophistication), as well as culture-specific Japanese (Peacefulness) and American (Ruggedness) dimensions. Studies 3 and4, which extended this set of findings to Spain, yielded brand personality dimensionscommon 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 personalitydimensions is discussed in the context of cross-cultural research on values and affect,globalization issues, and cultural frame shifting.“The Marlboro Man is an egoistic ideal; at home inhis universe, master of his destiny. Thus,the Marlboro Man has come to symbolizeindividualism and independence.” (Vacker, 1992)Traditional research in both cultural and cross-cultural psychology has focused on culture-basedeffects by identifying the influence of culture on theindividual (culture-affects-psyche; see Cooper Denner, 1998). However, the reverse relationshipalso exists; individuals influence culture (psyche-affects-culture) by the creation of institutions,symbols, and practices that carry and validateparticular cultural meaning systems (DiMaggio,1997; Kitayama et al., 1997; Shore, 1996). In thisresearch, we rely on this bi-directionalconceptualization of culture to examine how culturalmeaning is represented in the minds of individuals.We argue that, similar to cultural icons (e.g., Hong etal., 2000), reasons (e.g., Briley, Morris, Simonson,2000), and public messages (e.g., Kim Markus,1999), consumption symbols such as commercialbrands (e.g., Marlboro cigarettes) can serve ascarriers of culture. That is, the meaning embedded inbrands can serve to represent and institutionalize thevalues and beliefs of a culture.To test this premise we raise the followingquestion: To what degree are the symbolic andexpressive attributes that people perceive in socially-constructed entities, such as commercial brands,organized similarly or differently across cultures?More specifically, to what degree do basicdimensions of brand personality, defined as a set ofhuman-like attributes associated with a particularbrand (Aaker, 1997), carry universal or specificcultural meaning? Insight into this question will shedmore light on the degree to which culture and psycheare mutually constituted and how culture-specific anduniversal human needs are carried through thecreation, perception, and use of non-human symbolicobjects such as brands. Further, from a more appliedperspective, the role that culture may play in people’sperception of consumer goods needs to be examinedagainst the assumption that market globalizationmakes all of us psychologically more similar(Hermans Kempen, 1998).The Dynamic Role of Cultureand the Meaning of Commercial BrandsMuch of the research in cross-culturalpsychology has conceptualized culture as a broad,domain-general, and stable set of value tendencies(e.g., individualism-collectivism, power distance;Hofstede, 1980). In this light, the portrayal of culture
2 AAKER, BENET-MARTÍNEZ AND GAROLERAis of an abstract, encompassing structure, one that isoften indexed by nationality and examined in light ofits influence on individuals’ behavior. Anotherperspective is that culture is more fragmented anddynamic, a set of subjective contexts and situationsthat are constructed and experienced by theindividual (Cross Markus, 1999; Hong et al.,2000). Two key issues within this perspective arethat: (a) culture is best conceptualized in terms of themeaning derived from and added to everydayexperience, and (b) individuals and culture areinseparable and mutually constitute each other. Inlight of these views, the study of how culturalmeaning and individual psychological tendenciesinfluence each other becomes critical (Shweder Sullivan, 1990). In the present research, we suggestthat one way to study the mutual constitution of theindividual and culture is by examining the structuralproperties of non-human, symbolic objects such ascommercial brands.Commercial Brands: Carriers of Cultural MeaningReferred to as “consumption symbols” orcultural icons (McCracken, 1986), commercialbrands have significance that goes beyond theirphysical properties, utilitarian character, andcommercial value. This significance rests largely intheir ability to carry and communicate culturalmeaning (Douglas Isherwood, 1978; Richins,1994). Culture-specific meaning typically resides inthe more abstract qualities of the commercial brandthat provide primarily symbolic or value-expressivefunctions to the individual (Shavitt, 1990), what iscommonly known as ‘brand personality’ attributes.That is, in contrast to the utilitarian attributesassociated with commercial brands (e.g., Levi’s jeansare durable) which tend to demonstrate limitedvariability in meaning or importance across cultures(Aaker Maheswaran, 1997), the symbolic andexpressive functions provided by a brand (e.g., Levi’sallows for the expression of independence, strengthand masculinity; Solomon, 1986) tend to vary to alarger degree due to the fact that individuals vary intheir needs and self-views (Fiske et al., 1998; Han Shavitt, 1994; Kim Markus, 1999).The process by which material objects come topossess meaning has been studied in detail byanthropologists (e.g., Douglas Isherwood, 1978;Levi-Strauss, 1966, p. 116, Solomon, 1986). Oneinstitution that has received attention in the context ofcommercial brands is advertising, which works as amethod of meaning transfer by bringing the consumergood and a representation of culture together withinthe frame of an advertisement (McCracken, 1986).The mechanics of this method begin with theadvertising agency charged with the promotion of thecommercial brand. Based on marketing researchwhere individuals are asked what characteristics ofthe commercial brand are important to them and whatneeds are served by the commercial brand,advertisers determine what characteristics of thebrand will be communicated in the advertisement(Lannon, 1993; Plummer, 1985). In this light,individual needs serve to influence the creation ofbrand meaning. At the same time, however, thecommunication of these cultural icons inadvertisements influences reality and ultimatelyindividuals’ attitudes and behavior (Belk Pollay,1985; Kim Markus, 1999; Shore, 1996). Thus, thebi-directional relationship between culture and theindividual is captured in both the process of creatingthe commercial brands and the process by whichbrands are communicated to and used by individuals.Note that the above processes of culturalmeaning creation and redefinition occur over timeand involve many different fragments of society (e.g.,consumers, companies, technology, political andcultural institutions). Given this complexity, it isdifficult to design specific studies to explicitly modelthese mechanisms and their directionality that are notde-contextualized or over-ambitious. Accordingly, inthe present research, we focus instead on providinginsight into a slice of this phenomenon by examiningsome of its perceptual and structural elements: howindividuals organize the symbolic and expressiveattributes associated with commercial brands andhow this organization may vary across cultures.To serve as a basis for the current research, wedraw on work that has explored the meaning ofcommercial brands by examining how brandpersonality attributes are structured in the minds ofindividuals in the United States (Aaker, 1997). Inthis research, the process of meaning identificationinvolved a set of studies whereby individuals wereasked to rate a representative set of commercialbrands on a battery of personality attributes. Resultsof exploratory and confirmatory factor analysesshowed that American individuals perceive brandperceptual space in terms of five personalitydimensions (see Figure 1). These dimensionsinclude: Sincerity, represented by attributes such asdown-to-earth, real, sincere and honest; Excitement,typified by attributes such as daring, exciting,imaginative and contemporary; Competence,represented by attributes such as intelligent, reliable,secure and confident; Sophistication, represented byattributes such as glamorous, upper class, goodlooking and charming; and Ruggedness, typified byattributes such as tough, outdoorsy, masculine andwestern.Note that at least three of the above dimensions(Sincerity, Excitement, and Competence) resemblepersonality dimensions that are also present in humanpersonality models such as Big Five.iSpecifically,
CARRIERS OF CULTURE 3Sincerity is defined by attributes related to warmthand honesty that also are present in Agreeableness,Excitement captures the energy and activity elementsof Extraversion, and Competence denotesdependability and achievement similar toConscientiousness. The links between Sophisticationand Ruggedness and the Big Five are less clearhowever. Compared to Sincerity, Excitement, andCompetence (which seem to capture relatively basictendencies that may apply to both humans andbrands), Sophistication and Ruggedness capture moreaspirational images associated with wealth and status(e.g., Lexus automobiles, Monet jewelry) orAmerican individualism (e.g., Levi’s jeans, Harley-Davidson motorcycles) that may be more specific tocarriers of culture such as commercial brands.In the current research, we examine the extent towhich Aaker’s (1997) structure of personalityattributes associated with commercial brands differsacross cultural contexts; that is, how much doSincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophisticationand Ruggedness connote culture-specific vs. moreuniversal meaning? In addressing this question, wehope to provide insight into the degree to whichcultural meaning, as influenced by individuals withina cultural context, is conveyed and consequentlycommunicated to individuals both within and acrosscultural contexts (Bond, 1994b).Values and Cultural ProductsOne literature that may contribute insight on thisquestion is that on values. Schwartz (1994), forexample, proposes a taxonomy of seven distinct typesof cultural-level values organized around the twodimensions of: (1) Conservatism vs. Autonomy thatrelate to social conservatism vs. openness to changeand (2) Hierarchy/Mastery vs. EgalitarianCommitment/Harmony that relate to self-enhancement vs. self-transcendence (Schwartz,1992). The seven value types, Conservatism,Intellectual Autonomy, Affective Autonomy,Hierarchy, Mastery, Egalitarian Commitment, andHarmony, were identified through a psychometricallyrigorous procedure involving more than 60 culturalgroups (Schwartz, 1994; Schwartz Bilsky, 1990;Schwartz Sagiv, 1995). Note that although thesedimensions capture universal needs, cultures varyconsiderably in their standing along these dimensions(see Table 7.3 in Schwartz, 1994). These differencesin the locations of cultures along the above sevenvalue dimensions reflect differences in the degree towhich each value type is embraced by a particularculture. To illustrate, valuing the social aspects ofMastery (self-assertion and getting ahead of otherpeople) seems particularly important in the UnitedStates. In contrast, more collectivistic societies suchas Asian and Latin cultures stand out as placingparticular emphasis on Harmony needs (keepingbalance and peace with nature and people).There is some variation within collectivistcultures, however, in their value discrepancies withthe United States. Southern Mediterranean culturessuch as Spain, Greece, and France, for instance, haveparticularly high scores compared to both the UnitedStates and Asian cultures on Affective Autonomy(valuing novelty, creativity, and having an excitinglife) and Egalitarian Commitment (voluntarycommitment to promoting the welfare of others).Note that one particularly useful aspect of Schwartz’svalue taxonomy is that country differences such asthose we just described, can be used to interpretcultural differences in norms, attitudes, behavioralpatterns, and important macro socio-economicvariables (e.g., Gouvenia Ross, 2000; Schwartz,1994; 1999; Schwartz Ross, 1995).The attributes that structure the meaning ofcommercial brands in the United States (Aaker,1997) seem to align themselves with several ofSchwartz’s cultural value types for which the UnitedStates has moderate to high scores. For instance, aclose inspection of the attributes that define Sincerity(e.g., family-oriented, real, small-town), suggests thatthis dimension may capture brand perceptionsassociated to Conservatism needs (emphasis onfamily security and safety, being stable and polite).Terms defining Excitement (e.g., unique, exciting,young), on the other hand, suggest a link withAffective Autonomy needs (valuing novelty andcreativity, having an exciting life). Competence(e.g., reliable, successful, intelligent) appears to berelated to Mastery needs (emphasis on being capableand successful, demonstrating competence), andSophistication (e.g., upper class, glamorous, smooth)to Hierarchy needs (value of social status andprestige, having wealth). Finally, Ruggedness (e.g.,masculine, tough, western) appears to be less directlyrelated to a specific value orientation, although someof the attributes may encompass elements fromMastery (being independent, daring) and lowEgalitarian Commitment (detachment from others).This dimension is reflected in popular Americanmovies (The Quiet Man, Stagecoach and High Noon;Kim Markus, 1999) as well as popular Americancommercial brands (Harley-Davidson, Marlboro,Levi’s; Solomon, 1986), and appears to representinstitutionalized American values such as strength,masculinity, and ruggedness.One way to assess the particular culturalsignificance of Ruggedness relative to the other fourdimensions and Aaker’s (1997) findings in general isto compare the American dimensions against thoseuncovered in other cultures. By doing so, thepossible culture-specific psychological values and
4 AAKER, BENET-MARTÍNEZ AND GAROLERAneeds served by commercial brands in the UnitedStates and other cultures can be more clearlyascertained. In the present research, we specificallyaddress two potential hypotheses. Both are based onthe premise that commercial brands are symbols thatcan carry cultural meaning (McCracken, 1986;Richins, 1994); however, they differ in theirpredictions of the degree of cross-cultural similarityin the perceptual representation of the brands. Thefirst possibility is that the perceptual structure mayremain largely robust across cultural contexts. Thatis, since the basic kinds of values held by individualsas well as the organization of these values, i.e., theirinter-correlation pattern, tend to be similar acrosscultural contexts (Schwartz, 1992; 1994), themeaning conveyed in commercial brands may also belargely universal. That is, the number and nature ofthe basic dimensions that organize brand personalityperception will be similar across cultures given thatthe kinds of values people have (and may seek tofulfill through commercial brands) are also universal.Dimensions very similar to those uncovered by Aaker(1997) in the United States should therefore alsoemerge when the structure of brand personalityperception is examined in other cultures.An alternative possibility, however, is thatdifferent cultures have somewhat uniqueorganizations of the brand representational space thatare reflective of cultural differences in valueemphasis. In other words, it is possible that thestructure of brand meaning perception is mainlyassociated with the importance of the value thatbrands provide for consumers in a given culture. Ifindeed brand meaning is created to reflect the needsand values held by individuals within a culture(McCracken, 1986), there may be some cross-culturalvariance in the meaning connoted in commercialbrands and the organization of this meaning (e.g.,number and nature of the basic dimensions). Forinstance, as discussed earlier, Schwartz (1994) showsthat Harmony is a value that is endorsed by EastAsian cultures to a greater degree than Westerncultures such as the United States. Indeed, keepingbalance or maintaining harmony is respected as oneof the highest virtues by Confucius (Kim Markus,1999). Further, the interdependent goal ofharmoniously fitting in with others, with its emphasison fulfilling various social roles and maintainingconnections with others, plays a larger role indetermining overall life satisfaction in East Asianrelative to North American cultures (Kwan, Bond, Singelis, 1997; Oishi et al., 1999). These findingssuggest that, to the degree that a particular value typesuch as Harmony varies in its importance acrosscultural contexts, we may observe evidence ofculture-specific meaning that relates to this particularvalue in cultures that embrace allocentric beliefs andharmony-oriented values (Fiske et al., 1998;Schwartz, 1994).In sum, although the research reviewed abovedoes not allow us to predict a specific perceptualstructure of commercial brands, it does suggest thatthere may be some cultural variance in how they arerepresented in the minds of consumers. Culturalvariation in values and needs may influencecommercial brand perception in two inter-relatedways: by influencing the content of marketingcommunications that are used to create and developcommercial brands and, at the same time, byinfluencing the kinds of attributes individuals focuson when perceiving brands (Belk Pollay, 1985). Itis through these processes that cultural differences inthe structure of brand personality perception mayarise. The current research relies on a combinedemic-etic approach to determine the degree to whichindividuals across cultures share a similar perceptualrepresentation of commercial brands.Methodological OverviewChoice of CountriesMany cross-cultural researchers have argued thatmultiple cultural groups are needed in order todisentangle the influences of the various culturaldimensions that may underlie the observeddifferences (Bond, 1994a). The present researchfocuses on two countries, an East Asian culture(Japan) and a Latin culture (Spain). These twocountries were chosen for several reasons. First,relative to members of Anglo American cultures,individuals from East Asian and Latin cultures tendto be less idiocentric and more allocentric (i.e., higherin desire for interdependence and harmony; Marín Triandis, 1985; Oishi et al., 1999, Schwartz, 1994;Wierzbicka, 1991, but see Matsumoto, 1999; Takano Osaka, 1999). These value differences may relateto variation in brand personality perception.Second, although individuals in Japan and Spaincultures both score relatively high on allocentrism,they differ on other dimensions. Perhaps mostnotably, individuals in Latin cultures, relative thosein East Asian cultures, place special value severalsocio-emotional behaviors related to AffectiveAutonomy needs, namely, sensation seeking(McVeagh, 1990), emotional intensity (Benet-Martínez, 1999), and simpatía (Triandis et al., 1984;for more details, see Marín Marín, 1991; Marín Triandis, 1985). Therefore, the selection of Japanand Spain provides a context that allows for potentialreplication since both cultures share an endorsementof allocentric values, but also an extension wherebythe values unique to Mediterranean cultures such asSpain may be identified.Finally, from a methodological standpoint, Japan
CARRIERS OF CULTURE 5and Spain are in similar stages of industrial andeconomic development and spend approximately thesame percentage of the GNP on advertising ascompared to the United States (1.0% for Japan, 1.5%for Spain, 1.1% for the United States). Thus, severalvariables that could account for cultural differencesin communication styles and possibly bias the resultsof this research will be kept relatively constant.The Combined Emic-Etic ApproachAn important issue in cross-cultural research isthe distinction between emic (indigenous) andimposed-etic (imported) approaches to data collection(Berry, 1969). Emic approaches explore a particularpsychological construct from within the culturalsystem, whereas imposed-etic approaches studybehavior from outside the cultural system. With theemic approach, instruments, and theories indigenousto the target culture are developed by relying on asystematic process that generates a set of culture-specific attributes and stimuli. Imposed-eticapproach instruments, in contrast, are either importedin their original form or translated into the locallanguage (Enriquez, 1979).The question of whether imported (i.e.,translated) measurement tools overlook importantdomains of the local culture is the foundation of aclassic debate in cross-cultural psychology, the emic-etic issue (Berry et al., 1992). On the one hand, animposed-etic strategy is useful in that it makes cross-cultural comparisons feasible given that quantitativejudgments of similarity require stimuli that areequivalent, but its use may distort the meaning ofconstructs in some cultures or overlook their culture-specific (emic) aspects. On the other hand, an emicstrategy is well suited to identify culture-specificqualities of a construct, i.e., it is ecologically valid.However, its use makes cross-cultural comparisonsdifficult. Given the opposing advantages anddisadvantages of the emic and etic approaches, onesolution to the emic-etic debate has been to pool bothapproaches into what is known as a combined emic-etic approach (Hui Triandis, 1985). This approach,compared to emic or imposed-etic approaches,provides a more complete and unbiased picture of thedegree of cross-cultural overlap and specificitybetween constructs (for examples, see Benet-Martínez Waller, 1997; Church Katigbak, 1988;Yang Bond, 1990).In our study, the application of a combined emic-etic approach involves the following steps: First,indigenous attributes relevant to the target concept(e.g., commercial brands) are isolated in the newcultures and their underlying dimensional structureidentified (Japan in Study 1; Spain in Study 3). Next,using an independent set of participants, this set ofemic-based attributes is combined with attributesidentified in the United States, and the overlapbetween the emic and imposed-etic dimensionsunderlying these two sets of attributes is measured(Aaker, 1997; Studies 2 and 4). This approach doesnot bias the results in favor of universality, anoutcome that is often associated with the imposed-etic approach (McCrae Costa, 1997). Further, it ismore consistent with the perspective of cultureadopted in this research, where cultural knowledge isa “lens” that colors people’s perception of objectsand messages in the environment (McCracken,1986). By allowing for cultural variations in theform or meaning of personality attributes to berepresented (Church Katigbak, 1988), the emic-derived set of attributes is more likely to reflect theculture-specific lens through which people see.STUDY 1Identification of Indigenous JapaneseBrand Personality DimensionsThe objective of Study 1 was to determine howJapanese individuals perceive the perceptual space ofcommercial brands as defined by personalityattributes. We first generate a set of culture-specificattributes and stimuli, and then identify theperceptual representation of brands through a factor-analytic procedure involving attribute ratings on a setof brands by Japanese individuals.MethodStimuli SelectionTwo criteria guided the selection of commercialbrands to serve as stimuli. First, to enhance therepresentativeness of the sample of stimuli, weselected commercial brands in product categories thatserve both symbolic and utilitarian functions.Therefore, we randomly selected 24 productcategories that were shown to vary on these twofunctional dimensions (Ratchford, 1987, Appendix).Six of the categories were highly symbolic or value-expressive (e.g., apparel, alcohol, fragrances), sixwere utilitarian (e.g., laundry detergent, medication,toothpaste) and twelve scored relatively high on bothsymbolic and utilitarian dimensions (e.g.,automobiles, beverages, toys). Second, to enhancefamiliarity of the sample of stimuli, well-knowncommercial brands were selected. Thus, a pretestwas conducted where Japanese participants (n = 46,50% female, mean age = 30.2), who were graduatebusiness students enrolled in a full-time MBAprogram, were invited to participate in a study onbrands. Paid $7 for their participation, theparticipants were asked, “What is the first brand thatcomes to mind when you think of this product
6 AAKER, BENET-MARTÍNEZ AND GAROLERAcategory”? The most frequently listed brands in eachof the 24 categories were identified.Although the relatively large number of brandsallows for greater variance in brand personality types,it also increases the chance of participant fatigue.Thus, to minimize potential fatigue, the 24 brandswere randomly grouped into six sets of four brands.Each group was composed of one symbolic brand,one utilitarian brand and two symbolic/utilitarianbrands, such that each brand group contained asimilar profile of brands. For example, Group 1contained Suntory Old whiskey, Denter T toothpaste,Pocari Sweat beverage, and Mercedes Benzautomobiles. In this way, the brand groups’ profilewas similar to that of the total sample of brands.Finally, one well-known brand (Coca-Cola) was usedas a control and included in each of the groups inStudy 1 to assess the variation of perceptions ofpersonality attributes for a given brand across groups.Thus, the result was a set of 25 brands that weremeaningful to the target culture.Personality Attribute SelectionThe selection of brand-related attributesfollowed a three-step process similar to the one usedin Aaker’s (1997) study. First, to ensure familiarityand relevance of the attributes, a free-association taskwas conducted where Japanese participants (n = 50,40% female, mean age = 28.2) were asked to writedown all the personality attributes that first come tomind when thinking about well-known brands in 10product categories (three symbolic, three utilitarian,and four symbolic/utilitarian), a process that yielded138 attributes. Second, to maximize the contentrepresentation of personality attributes, 71 additionalattributes were compiled from three sources that relyon brand personality research in Japan (Japaneseadvertising agency, client company, and researchsupplier) and 44 more that were representative of theBig Five personality dimensions (e.g., John,Donahue, Kentle, 1991), as in Aaker (1997).Finally, from the total set of 253 personalityattributes, three groups of attributes were eliminatedbecause they were redundant (n = 61; e.g., reliablearose from the free association task as well as fromJohn et al., 1991), ambiguous (n = 25; e.g., slight,unfocused, rigid), or relatively irrelevant to theconstruct of interest (n = 67; e.g., artisticallysensitive, fickle, hypochondriacal).iiThus, the resultof this stage was the identification of 100 attributes.ParticipantsTo enhance generalizeability, a sample (n =1495) that represented the Japanese population withrespect to five demographic dimensions was used(gender, age, marital status, education level, andoccupation; Japan Statistics Bureau and StatisticsCenter, 1996). To illustrate, 51% of the sample wasfemale, 14% of the sample were 20-30 years of age,56% of the sample were married, 46% of the samplehad a college or graduate school education, and 13%of the sample were professional or technicalworkers. iiiThe participants in each of the brandgroups were selected to have the same profile as thetotal sample (n ranged from 243 to 253 in each of thesix brand groups), and belonged to a Japanesenational mail panel.ProcedureParticipants, who were paid 500 yen, wereasked to participate in a study about people’simpressions toward particular brands (names ofcommodity goods or services). To communicate thebrand personality construct and enhance theimaginability of the task (Lannon 1993; Plummer,1985), participants were asked to think of the brandas a person. Specifically, they were told, “If I askedyou to give me your impression of a particularperson, you might answer with a set of personalityattributes. Now, lets think about brands in the sameway. For example, you may be asked to rate theextent to which a set of attributes describes Porsche.Please ask yourself, ‘If Porsche was a person, howwould you describe him/her?’, and then circle anumber between to “not at all descriptive” (1) to“extremely descriptive” (5) for the subsequent set ofattributes”. Then, participants were asked to rate theextent to which the 100 personality attributesdescribe a specific brand. Participants repeated therating task for the four additional brands in theparticular brand group. Thus, six sub-samples ofparticipants rated five brands (Coca-Cola beingcommon in each group), a task that tookapproximately 50-60 minutes. To illustrate, Group 1contained Chanel fragrance, Yomiuri Shimbunnewspaper, Nintendo toys, Kuroneko Yamatodelivery services, and Coca-Cola soft drinks. Tocontrol for primacy and recency effects, the order inwhich the attributes were presented for each brandwas counter-balanced as was the order in which thebrands were presented in the questionnaire.Results and DiscussionFirst, to assess the variation of perceptions ofpersonality attributes for a given brand, we examinedthe mean ratings of Coca-Cola across the groups. Nosignificant differences were found, suggesting highlevels of agreement of the human characteristicsassociated with a particular brand. Second, toexamine the systematic individual differences inperceptions of brands in general, the correlationmatrix for the brand personality traits (n = 100)across individuals’ ratings of each brand was
CARRIERS OF CULTURE 7subjected to a principal component analysis followedby Varimax rotation. The first ten eigenvalues fromthe 100 x 100 inter-item Pearson correlation matrixwere 28.2, 9.5, 5.7, 3.7, 2.9, 1.3, 1.1, .8, .7, and .6.The moderate break after the fifth latent rootsuggested that a solution with five components wasplausible. The adequacy of this solution wassupported by the following criteria: (a) shape of thescree plot, (b) stability of the solutions in separateprincipal components analysis with distinct sub-samples (e.g., males vs. females, older vs. youngerindividuals), (c) meaningfulness of the dimensions (atleast nine traits loaded on each of the first five factorswhereas only one trait loaded on the sixth component(“family-oriented”), (d) amount of variance explainedby the five components (78%) relative to dimensionssix through nine (under 2% each). The five-component solution is reported in Table 1.ivLabelsfor all the dimensions were selected based on theattributes emphasized within each component. Toprovide English translations, a six-person back-translation team translated each of the personalityattributes. First, a three-person translation team (onenative Japanese speaker, one native English speakerand one bilingual speaker) discussed the linguisticmeaning of each attribute before final translation intoEnglish. Then, the three-person back-translationteam followed the same process, translating theattributes back into Japanese to ensure accuracy(Brislin, 1970). Inter-coder agreement was high(94%). That is, for 94 of the 100 traits, the Japanesetrait was back-translated as the same word as theoriginal. When discrepancies existed, all six codersdiscussed them until consensus was formed.A close look at Table 1 reveals that all but one ofthe Japanese brand personality dimensions are highlyisomorphic to the American dimensions reported inAaker (1997): Dimension I clearly representsExcitement and is primarily defined by attributessuch as funny, contemporary, young and energetic.Interestingly, several of these terms are also markersof Excitement in the American brand personalitystructure. Dimension II (Competence) is defined byattributes such as responsible, reliable, confident andtenacious – consistent with the markers ofCompetence in the U.S. Dimension III(Peacefulness), on the other hand, is defined by aunique blend of attributes (e.g., shy, peaceful, naïve,dependent) reflective of an allocentric and harmony-fostering orientation (Schwartz, 1994). Dimension V(Sincerity) includes warm, thoughtful and kind,markers that are in line with those found in the U.S.for Sincerity. Finally, Dimension IV (Sophistication)is defined by terms such as elegant, smooth, stylishand sophisticated markers that are consistent withthose found in the U.S. for Sophistication.Identification of Facets and MarkersBecause the full set of 100 attributes may betoo lengthy to manipulate and measure in subsequentresearch, a more limited set of attributes that reliablycaptures each dimension was desired. To achievethis, we first identified the different facets subsumedby each component via separate principal componentanalyses of the attributes within each brandpersonality dimension (see also, Costa McCrae,1992). Adopting this process, Aaker (1997) found adistinct set of facets that provided a structure tojustify which attributes to select to represent eachdimension as well as texture to understand thedimensions in greater detail. To illustrate, theAmerican Sincerity dimension consists of four facets:Down-to-earth, Honesty, Wholesomeness andCheerfulness (see Figure 1).The separate principal component analyses ofterms within each dimension yielded a total of 12facets: four for Dimension I, three for Dimension II,two for Dimension III, one for Dimension IV and twofor Dimension V. Within each facet, we thenselected the three attributes with the highest item-to-total correlation. Each of the resulting 36 markers(three attributes for each of the 12 facets) had highitem-to-total correlations within its correspondingthree-item facet and dimension (range from .80 to.94). Cronbach’s alphas calculated for each of thefive dimensions using the 36-item scale indicatedhigh levels of internal reliability, ranging from .80(Dimension III) to .90 (Dimension I). The final set of36 Japanese brand personality markers and theircorresponding facets and dimensions are depicted inFigure 2.To further ensure high levels of reliability, asmall sample of Japanese participants (n = 60, 50%female, mean age = 31.3) were asked to complete thesame questionnaire approximately 8 weeks aftercompleting the original questionnaire. A total of 15participants each rated four groups of five brands(Groups 1-4) over the two time periods. Test-retestcorrelations for the five dimensions defined by the 36final markers were high, ranging from .81(Dimension III) to .88 (Dimensions IV).In sum, the results of Study 1 suggest that thebrand personality space for Japanese individuals isorganized in terms of five dimensions representingExcitement, Competence, Peacefulness,Sophistication, and Sincerity. Although four of thesedimensions appear to have overlapping meaning withthose identified in the United States using NorthAmerican stimuli (Aaker, 1997), a fifth dimension(Peacefulness) appears to be relatively indigenous toJapan. In Study 2, we empirically test this premiseby directly comparing Japanese and North Americanbrand representational structures.
8 AAKER, BENET-MARTÍNEZ AND GAROLERASTUDY 2Overlap between Japanese and AmericanBrand Personality DimensionsStudy 2 was conducted with the primaryobjective of assessing the conceptual overlapbetween the Japanese brand personality dimensionsidentified in Study 1 and American brand dimensions(Aaker, 1997). A secondary objective was to test therobustness of the five Japanese brand dimensions ona different sample of Japanese participants. Toaccomplish both objectives, an independent sampleof Japanese individuals rated a subset of brands usingthe Japanese attributes (English-translated) identifiedin Study 1, as well as the attributes that represent theAmerican dimensions.MethodParticipantsTo gain confidence that the results found inStudy 1 were driven by culture-based perceptions ofbrands rather than linguistic differences (Enriquez,1979), the questionnaire was administered entirely inEnglish rather than Japanese. Therefore, a slightlydifferent profile of participants was used, one inwhich the participants were pre-selected to bebilingual. The sample of 114 Japanese participantswas recruited from two sources: (1) Japanese studentsenrolled at a graduate business program at a largeJapanese university (n = 56); (2) Japanese exchangestudents at a large U.S. western university, affiliatedwith the Center for East Asian Studies (n = 58). Thelatter sample had lived in the United States anaverage of 1.8 years (SD = 2.04). Participants werepaid 500 yen (or $5) for their completion of thestudy. Participants who scored less than 4.0 whenrating their written English knowledge (“1” =extremely limited, “5” = extremely good) wereeliminated (n = 15), as were those who were not bornin Japan (n = 9), leaving a total of 90 Japaneseindividuals (50% female, mean age = 31.9).vTominimize the problems that often arise from thecultural differences in the meaning and use ofpersonality attributes, all Japanese words were givento participants in personal attribute form (listed in“Kanojo/Kare-wa......da,” which corresponds to “Itis......”).ProcedureThe cover story and structure of Study 2 wasidentical to that of Study 1 with two exceptions.First, participants rated each of the brands on 70attributes, 42 markers of the five American brandpersonality dimensions and the 36 markers of theJapanese dimensions identified in Study 1 (minus 8overlapping attributes: confident, contemporary,friendly, masculine, reliable, smooth, spirited andyoung). Second, only 10 brands were used; thesebrands were randomly selected from those used inStudy 1 (Levi’s jeans, Mercedes automobiles, Chanelfragrance, Coca Cola soft drinks, Mizuno sportsapparel, McDonalds restaurants, Sony walkman,Nintendo toys, Seven Eleven stores, and Kleenextissue). The order in which the attributes werepresented was counter-balanced, as was the order inwhich the brands were presented in the questionnaire.Results and DiscussionWhat is the overall degree of content overlap orspecificity between the indigenous Japanese brandpersonality dimensions and the imported Americandimensions? To address this question, we firstexamined the correlations among the indigenous andimported components. Scale scores representingeach participants’ rating of each brand on everyimported and indigenous dimension were computed.The validity correlations between the conceptually-related dimensions were as follows: Sincerity (Japan)and Sincerity (U.S.) = .63; Excitement (Japan) andExcitement (U.S.) = .75; Competence (Japan) andCompetence (U.S.) = .80; Sophistication (Japan) andSophistication (U.S.) = .81. The size of theseconvergence correlations (mean = .75) contrastedmarkedly with the average off-diagonal discriminantcorrelations (mean = .29), suggesting bothconvergent and discriminant validity.The correlation patterns for the culture-specificRuggedness (U.S.) and Peacefulness (Japan)dimensions were as follows: The highest correlationbetween Ruggedness (U.S.) and any Japanesepersonality dimension was .39 (with JapaneseCompetence), and the highest correlation betweenPeacefulness (Japan) and any American dimensionwas .41 (with U.S. Sincerity). Using Fisher’s Ztransformations, a statistical comparison of these twooff-diagonal correlations with the validitycorrelations revealed that the two correlations,although sizable, are significantly smaller, suggestingthat Ruggedness and Peacefulness are constructs thatmainly capture culture-specific meaning.A question to bear in mind when evaluating theconvergent and discriminant correlations reportedabove is the extent to which they reflect sharedmeasurement error, shared meaningful (i.e.,conceptual) variance, or both. One way to addressthis issue is to explore the latent structure of thevariance shared by the indigenous Japanese andimported American scales via confirmatory jointfactor analysis (CFA). viRelying on thismethodology, we investigated the fit for a model withsix latent components. Four of these six dimensions
CARRIERS OF CULTURE 9represented brand personality constructs common toJapan and the United States (i.e., Competence,Sophistication, Excitement, and Sincerity) and theother two represented culture-specific brandpersonality constructs (i.e., Ruggedness andPeacefulness). viiThis model yielded adequate fitindices: χ2(20, N = 900) = 163, p .001; CFI = .91,GFI = .92. Next, we compared the fit of ourhypothesized six-component model against a moreconservative four-component model that did notinclude culture-specific dimensions and insteadrepresented American Ruggedness and JapanesePeacefulness as variations of Competence andSincerity respectively (as suggested by the off-diagonal correlations for Ruggedness andPeacefulness reported above). This four-componentmodel yielded unsatisfactory fit indices, χ2(26, N =900) = 325, p .001; CFI = .71, GFI = .79, and asignificant decrease in overalO ILW χ2(6) = 626.These results support the idea that two culture-specific and four common latent dimensions may bestrepresent unique and shared variance underlying theJapanese and American scales.In sum, the convergent-discriminant validitypatterns derived from the correlational andconfirmatory factor analyses suggest that there isconsiderable overlap between the dimensionsorganizing the American brand perceptual space andthose representing the Japanese brand perceptualspace. Specifically, moderate to high convergencewas found between the Japanese and Americandimensions representing Sincerity, Excitement,Competence and Sophistication. Two otherdimensions, however, appeared to be more culture-specific: the Japanese dimensions of Peacefulnessand the American dimension of Ruggedness. In otherwords, although Japanese perceptions of brandsinclude meaning associations related to Peacefulness,Americans perceive brands to carry meaning relatingto Ruggedness. These differences are in accordancewith research suggesting that attributes and behaviorsrelated to assertiveness are not as likely to beendorsed and nurtured in East Asian cultures (Church Katigbak, 1988); rather, such associations are oftendevalued and discouraged (Wierzbicka, 1991). Thepresence of the Peacefulness dimension, on the otherhand, may reflect the visibility that obedience,maintaining harmony, and interdependence has inAsian cultures (Triandis, 1989). Indeed, “wa”(loosely translated into harmony or peace) is“undoubtedly the single most popular component inmottos and names of companies across Japan”(Wierzbicka, 1991; pg. 354), whereas “ruggedindividualism” is a common theme found amongmany popular American brands (Solomon, 1986;Vacker, 1992).The patterns of cultural overlap and differencesobtained in Study 2 are consistent with theorizing inthe consumer behavior literature (McCracken, 1986)suggesting that the creation and nurturance of certainmeaning associations in brands (e.g., Excitement) isoften culturally-general, although other brandmeaning associations may prove highly specific (e.g.,Ruggedness). In Study 3, we examine the robustnessof this finding by replicating the process adopted inStudies 1 and 2 in a new cultural context: Spain.STUDY 3Identification of Indigenous SpanishBrand Personality DimensionsThe objective of Study 3 was to test thegeneralizeability of the dimensional structureuncovered in Study 1 in a different cultural context.Specifically, we are interested in the followingquestions: To what degree will the perceptual spaceof brand personality in Spain also be organizedaround five dimensions? More importantly, giventhe Spanish culture’s emphasis on interdependencevalues and allocentric beliefs, should a dimensionsimilar to the Peacefulness construct uncovered inJapan also be expected? Finally, what is thelikelihood that culture-specific Spanish brandpersonality constructs will emerge given Spain’sunique cultural idiosyncrasies (Crow, 1985;McVeagh, 1990)? To address these questions, twostudies that relied on emic and combined emic-eticmethodology similar to that used in Studies 1 and 2were conducted.MethodStimuli SelectionA set of 25 well-known global brands wasselected based on the identical criteria and processused in Study 1. The only difference was the specificbrands in the set. For example, one group of brandscontained Chanel fragrance (symbolic), Arieldetergent (utilitarian), NH and Melia hotel(symbolic/utilitarian), Volkswagen automobiles(symbolic/utilitarian), and Coca-Cola (constantacross all brand groups).Personality Attribute SelectionPersonality attribute selection was also guidedby the criteria used in Study 1. A free associationtask was conducted where Spanish participants whowere economics or business undergraduate andgraduate students (n = 36, 55% female, mean age =25.1) were asked to list the personality attributes thatfirst come to mind when thinking about the mostsalient brand in 10 randomly selected productcategories identified in stimuli selection process (and
10 AAKER, BENET-MARTÍNEZ AND GAROLERAbased on the same overall profile as in Study 1),yielding 128 attributes. Next was the addition of 64attributes compiled from three sources that rely onbrand personality research in Spain (Spanishadvertising agency, client company, and researchsupplier), 44 markers that were representative of theBig Five personality markers (John et al., 1991), and30 personality descriptors representative of Benet-Martinez’s (1999) indigenous Spanish personalityconstructs. Finally, from the total set of 266personality attributes, three groups of attributes wereeliminated because they were redundant (n = 79),ambiguous (n = 16), or relatively irrelevant to theconstruct of interest (n = 94).viiiThus, the result ofthis stage was the identification of 77 attributes.Participants and Procedure.To enhance generalizeability, a sample (n = 692)was selected that represented the Spanish populationwith respect to five demographic dimensions: gender(62% female), age (mean = 31.5), marital status (35%married), education level (30% of the sample had acollege or graduate school education) and occupation(48% of the sample were professional or technicalworkers). The participants in each of the six brandgroups were selected to have the same profile as thetotal sample (n ranged from 108 to 131 in each of thesix brand groups). Participants belonged to a Spanishnational mail panel and were entered into a drawingfor a set of electronic products (five televisions andtwo VCRs). The identical procedure used in Study 1,including counter-balancing, was followed in Study3.Results and DiscussionAs in Study 1, no significant differences werefound in the mean ratings of Coca-Cola across thegroups. To identify the individual differences inperceptions of brand personality dimensions, thecorrelations among the personality traits (n = 77)across individuals’ ratings of each brand were factoranalyzed using principal component analysis andvarimax rotation. Replicating results from Study 1, afive component solution proved to be the mostadequate to organize the covariance among the 77Spanish brand personality descriptors. The choice ofsolution, like in Study 1, was based on the followingcriteria: (a) Scree plot (the first ten components were:21.2, 6.8, 4.1, 3.2, 2.0, 1.3, 1.0, .9, .8, .6), indicating amoderate break after the fifth latent root, (b) stabilityof the solution in separate principal componentsanalysis with distinct sub-samples, (c)meaningfulness of the dimensions (at least seventraits loaded on each of the first five factors; only onetrait loaded on the sixth component (“ruggedness”),and (d) levels of variance explained (the first fivedimensions explained 78%; dimensions six throughnine explained under 1.2% each). The five-component solution is reported in Table 2. Labels forthe five dimensions were selected based on thecontent of the dimensions.As can be seen in Table 2, Dimension I(Excitement) include markers such as outgoing,daring, young, unique, several of which are terms thatalso serve as markers of Excitement in the Americanand Japanese brand personality sets. Representativemarkers of Dimension II (Sincerity) includeconsiderate, thoughtful, real and sincere, which areconsistent with the markers of Sincerity in the U.S aswell as Japan. Dimension III (Sophistication) isdepicted by good looking, glamorous, upper class andstylish markers, which are consistent with thosefound in the U.S. for Sophistication. However,interestingly, another facet of Sophistication includedconfident, successful and leader (markers ofCompetence in the American model), which appearto be unique to Spain. Dimension IV (Peacefulness)includes markers such as affectionate, peaceful, naïveand dependent, which are consistent with the markersrepresenting Peacefulness in the Japanese culturalcontext. Finally, Dimension V (Passion) includesfervent, passionate, spiritual and bohemian asrepresentative markers, consistent with the culture-specific findings highlighted in Benet-Martinez andWaller (1997).ixIdentification of Markers and FacetsTo identify a smaller set of personality attributesrepresentative of each of the Spanish fivedimensions, a facet analysis identical to that adoptedin Study 1 was conducted. Second, five facetanalyses identical to those in Study 1 wereconducted. This analysis yielded a total of 11 facets:three for Dimension I, two for Dimension II, two forDimension III, two for Dimension IV and two forDimension V. To maintain high levels of reliability,three attributes with the highest item-to-totalcorrelation were selected from each facet, leaving 33attributes (three attributes for each of the 11 facets).Each attribute had high item-to-total correlations onthe facets and dimensions (range from .70 to .84),thereby ensuring high internal consistency. Further,Cronbach’s alphas that were calculated for each ofthe five dimensions using the 33-attribute scaleranged from .80 (Dimension III) to .91 (DimensionI), suggesting high levels of internal reliability.Finally, as in Study 1, an independent set ofSpanish participants (n = 58, 60% female, mean age= 21.3) were asked to complete the samequestionnaire approximately 7 weeks aftercompleting the original questionnaire. Four versionsof the questionnaire were used (n = 14-15 in eachcell). The average Pearson correlation of the five
CARRIERS OF CULTURE 11dimensions as measured at Time 1 and Time 2 was.80 (ranging from .77 to .83).In sum, the results of Study 3 suggest that fivedimensions representing Excitement, Sincerity,Peacefulness, Sophistication, and Passion organizebrand personality attributes in Spain. Three findingsappear particularly noteworthy. The first was theemergence of several components that conveymeaning similar in nature to those previously foundin the United States (i.e., Excitement, Sincerity) andJapan (i.e., Excitement, Sincerity, Peacefulness).Second, one dimension that appears to carry culturespecific meaning emerged, Passion. Third, there wasa blending of Competence associations into theSophistication dimension in Spain. Study 4 wasconducted to determine the degree to which thesefindings are robust across stimuli and participants,and to explicitly examine the degree of overlapbetween these indigenous dimensions and thosefound in the United States.STUDY 4Overlap between Spanish and American BrandPersonality DimensionsIn Study 4, we compare the Spanish and NorthAmerican brand representational structures byassessing their conceptual overlap at the dimensionlevel via correlational and confirmatory joint factoranalysis.MethodParticipantsAs in Study 2, a sample of 101 Spanishindividuals was recruited from two sources: (1)Spanish students enrolled at a graduate program inSpain (n = 42) and (2) Spanish individuals living inthe United States, affiliated with the AssociationEspañola de Silicon Valley (n = 59). The averagetime that the latter sample lived in the U.S. was 2.8years (SD = 2.66). Participants were paidapproximately $5 for their participation. Like inStudy 2, participants who scored less than 4.0 whenrating their written English knowledge wereeliminated (n = 12), as were any participants not bornin Spain (n = 3), thereby leaving 87 Spanishindividuals (39% female, mean age = 25.3).ProcedureA total of 10 brands from the overall set used inStudy 3 were randomly selected (Rolex watches,Chanel fragrance, Marlboro cigarettes, Armani suits,Coca Cola soft drinks, Nintendo toys, Unicef, SonyCD player, Kodak film). Participants rated each ofthese 10 brands on 65 attributes (33 markers of theSpanish dimensions and 42 markers of the Americandimensions), minus the 10 overlapping attributes(daring, young, spirited, unique, real, sincere, downto earth, good looking, upper class, tough, leader).The final set of Spanish markers was back translatedthrough the process outlined in Study 1. Inter-rateragreement was 89%; discrepancies were resolvedthrough discussion. For the purposes of assessing theconvergent validity, we also included the threemarkers of Peacefulness (Japan) that did not appearin the Peacefulness (Spain) dimension (childlike, shy,dependent). Finally, attribute and brand order werecounterbalanced.Results and DiscussionFirst, we assessed the conceptual overlapbetween the indigenous Spanish and importedAmerican brand personality dimensions (plus theJapanese Peacefulness dimension) by examining thepatterns of inter-correlations among all the scalesrepresenting these constructs. Correlations betweencorresponding dimensions were as follows: Sincerity(Spain) and Sincerity (U.S.) = .85; Excitement(Spain) and Excitement (U.S.) = .87, Sophistication(Spain) and Sophistication (U.S.) = .83. Thecorrelation between the Spanish and JapanesePeacefulness dimensions was .78. These validitycorrelations (mean = .83) contrasted with the off-diagonal correlations (mean = .32), suggestingmoderate-to-high levels of convergent anddiscriminant validity. A close examination of the off-diagonal correlations revealed that their relativelylarge absolute mean value was mostly driven by thepresence of a large (.79) correlation betweenSophistication (Spain) and Competence (U.S.). Thisresult supports our previous comment thatSophistication in Spain appears to comprise a uniquemixture of Sophistication and Competence attributes(i.e., Competence in Spain appears to be a facet ofSophistication instead of defining a separatedimension).The correlation patterns for the culture-specificPassion (Spain) and Ruggedness (U.S.) dimensionswere as follows: The highest correlation betweenRuggedness (U.S.) and any Spanish personalitydimension was only .42 (with SpanishSophistication), and the highest correlation betweenPassion (Spain) and any American dimension was .51(with American Sophistication). Comparisons usingFishers Z transformations revealed that these twooff-diagonal correlations are significantly smallerthan the four validity pair-wise correlations.Like in Study 2, we also examined the latentstructure the Spanish and American scales (plus theJapanese Peacefulness scale) via confirmatory jointfactor analyses. We first examined a model that
12 AAKER, BENET-MARTÍNEZ AND GAROLERAspecified seven latent dimensions: Three dimensionsrepresenting brand personality constructs common tothe United States and Spain (i.e., Sophistication,Excitement, and Sincerity), one dimensionrepresenting the one brand personality constructcommon to Spain and Japan (Peacefulness), and twodimensions representing Spain- and US-specificbrand personality constructs (Passion andRuggedness, respectively). This seven-componentmodel fitted the data adequately, χ2(23, N = 870) =111, p .001; CFI = .92, GFI = .91. We also tested amore conservative four-component model wheredimensions not shared by the United States and Spainwould load as follows: Ruggedness and Competenceon Sophistication, Passion on Sophistication, andPeacefulness on Sincerity (reflecting the patterns ofoff-diagonal correlations discussed above). Thisfour-component model yielded unsatisfactory fitindices, χ2(43, N = 870) = 392, p .001; CFI = .55,GFI = .74, and a significant decrease in overall fit,χ2(20) = 281. These results corroborate that fourculture-specific and three common dimensions areneeded to capture the major sources of varianceunderlying the Spanish and American data.GENERAL DISCUSSIONThe overarching goal of our studies is to gaininsight into how cultural meaning is represented inindividuals’ perceptions of symbolic objects such ascommercial icons. Findings from Studies 1 and 2identified a set of brand personality dimensions thatshare similar meaning in Japan and the United States(Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, andSophistication), as well as relatively culture-specificJapanese (Peacefulness) and American (Ruggedness)dimensions. Studies 3 and 4 extended this set offindings to Spain. Results from these studies alsorevealed brand personality dimensions that sharedsimilar meaning in both Spain and the United States(Sincerity, Excitement, and Sophistication), plus non-shared Spanish (Passion) and American (Competenceand Ruggedness) dimensions. Consistent with thepremise that individuals in Japanese and Spanishcultures are more likely to embrace harmony-orientedvalue types than individuals in the United States(Schwartz, 1994), Peacefulness emerged in Spain asit did in Japan.These results are consistent with the propositionthat consumption symbols such as commercial brandsmay carry both relatively culturally-common and -specific meaning. Consider, for example, themeaning of the Japanese and Spanish Peacefulnessdimensions. Considerable research has demonstratedthat members of East Asian and Latin cultures tend toplace greater weight on cooperation and harmonyrelative to members of North American cultures, whogive more value to mastering the social environmentthrough self-assertion and independence (Hsu, 1983;Marín Marín, 1991; Triandis et al. 1984). Theemergence of Peacefulness in Japan and Spain isconsistent with these countries’ significantly higherscores relative to the U.S. on Harmony values (seeTable 7.3, Schwartz, 1994). The consequences ofthis cultural variance in value endorsement rangefrom preferences in persuasion appeals that conveyharmony (e.g., Kim Markus, 1999), to subjectiveassessments of one’s happiness that covary withperceptions of harmony in one’s relationships (e.g.,Kwan, Bond, Singelis, 1997), to preference forconflict resolution strategies that involve mutualcoordination of feelings (e.g., Gabrielidis et al., 1997;Markus Lin, 1999). In contrast, individuals in theU.S. value self-assertion and personal achievement,as demonstrated in both preferences towardpersuasive appeal (Han Shavitt, 1994) andcorrelates of life satisfaction (Oishi et al. 1999). Ourresults indicate that another potential consequence ofcultural variations in the emphasis placed oncooperation and harmony relative to individualismand self-assertion involves the emergence of uniqueconfigurations in the meaning embedded incommercial brands. For example, the culture-specific status of Ruggedness, with its associationswith institutionalized American values such asstrength, masculinity and toughness (Solomon,1986), seems to align well with the findings on valueendorsement, whereby the United States hasrelatively higher scores on Mastery and lower scoreson Egalitarian Commitment as compared to Japanand Spain (Schwartz, 1994).Let’s now consider the meaning of the Passiondimension. The emergence of this dimension inSpain is supported by recent findings from culturalstudies suggesting links between Latin cultures’characteristic higher levels of felt and communicatedemotions (Basabe et al., 2000; Zummuner and Fisher,1995) and several socio-cultural and psychologicalfactors such as honor- and Catholic-related values(Rodriguez, Manstead, Fischer, 2000; Zubieta etal., 1998), differences in temperament development(Axia, Prior, Carelli, 1992) and personality (Benet-Martinez, 1999). Portrayals of Spaniards and Latinindividuals as ‘intense and passionate’ abound notonly in the social sciences, but also in the popularmedia. Spain is frequently advertised to the visitor asa land of intense and pleasurable experiences; acountry that not only celebrates gastronomy, art,socializing, and risk-taking, but also performs themintensely (e.g., www.cyberspain.com/passion/; seealso McVeagh, 1990). Novelists (Hemingway,1926), travel journalists (Gibson, 2000), film experts(Pally, 1991), and sociologists (Crow, 1985; Hooper,1987; Shubert, 1990) call attention to the centrality of
CARRIERS OF CULTURE 13passion in Spanish culture. Further, supporting ourpremise that cultural values penetrate the creation andperception of commercial symbols, we found severalSpanish companies that engage in branding effortsand marketing campaigns where the construct of‘passion’ is central (e.g., Osborne Group, 2000).A particularly interesting feature of Passion ishow affective experience (e.g., fervent, passionateand intense) and spirituality (e.g., spiritual, mysticaland bohemian) are combined in a single construct, anassociation that, according to anthropologists ofreligion (Mitchell, 1990), is commonly found inSouthern European, Catholic cultures. In Spain, forinstance, the association between affective-sensualexperiences and religion is captured in the followingquote: “Religious events in Spain are celebrated withwine and dance and every excess that goes hand inhand with merriment” (McVeagh, 1990; pg. 73). Thetwo components of Passion (emotional intensity andspirituality) can also be interpreted in light ofSchwartz’s values, particularly in relation toAffective and Intellectual Autonomy. The uniqueemphasis on unrestrained affect captured by Passiondenotes an orientation towards the enjoyment andexploration of one’s emotional life that, according toSchwartz’s value theory, is at the core of AffectiveAutonomy. Not surprisingly, Spain has a remarkablyhigh score on this value dimension, one that issignificantly above Japan and United States’ scoresand close to other Mediterranean societies such asFrance and Greece (Schwartz, 1994). The otheremphasis of Passion, spirituality and worldly lifestyle, on the other hand, seems particularly related toIntellectual Autonomy, another value orientation forwhich Spain scores quite highly, and above Japan andthe United States. Note that the emergence ofPassion can not be interpreted as an indication thatAffective and Intellectual Autonomy are emphasizedin Spain only, given that Excitement, which alsoseems to relate to Affective Autonomy needs (see p.8) emerged in all three cultures. Most likely, theemergence of Passion reflects culture-specificmeanings and needs related to Excitement (i.e., inSpain, fulfilling one’s needs for novelty andexcitement may be largely achieved by havingintense emotional and spiritual experiences) that arepowerful enough to define their own dimension andthat may help to explain Spain’s remarkably highscores on Autonomy.In contrast to Peacefulness, Ruggedness andPassion, the Sincerity, Excitement and Sophisticationdimensions appear to be more similarly construedacross cultures. This suggests that, in addition topotential cultural variance in consumer needs,commercial brands may reflect more universally heldindividual needs. However, despite the cross-culturalstability of the above dimensions, the results of thecross-cultural correlations in Studies 2 and 4 indicatethat the correspondence is not unitary. To illustrate,Excitement is associated with being young,contemporary, spirited, and daring across the culturalcontexts. However, it also conveys imaginativeness,uniqueness and independence in North America andSpain. In contrast, in Japan, it contains a“talkativeness” facet (e.g., talkative, funny andoptimistic). This idiosyncratic meaning is consistentwith the relativist argument that constructs shift inmeaning when examined in different culturalcontexts (Shweder, 1990). This implication isparticularly important in the context ofSophistication, where there is considerable overlap incertain attributes across the cultures (e.g., glamorous,good looking, stylish, smooth). However, unique toSpain was a secondary facet that contains attributesmore closely associated with Competence in Japanand the United States. This finding indicates thatSophistication takes on a different meaning in Spainthan it does in North America or Japan. In otherwords, the interpretation of the meaning of acommercial brand must take into consideration theparticular cultural lens through which the brand isbeing seen. This result highlights the notion thatabsolute equivalents and universals may not be asuseful as understanding and investigating the idea ofpartial equivalents and partial universals(Wierzbicka, 1991). In other words, the dimensionsthat emerged in these four studies appear to simplyvary in the degree to which they contain universalmeaning relative to culture-specific meaning.Our findings also have implications for theunderstanding of human personality. As discussedearlier, our culture-specific brand personalitydimensions (Ruggedness, Passion, and Peacefulness)can be related to particular patterns of humanpersonality traits, emotions, and value orientationscharacteristic of American, Spanish, and Japanesecultures respectively. These links between brand andhuman personality differences are to be expected ifone acknowledges the inseparability of culture andpsyche (Markus Lin, 1999) and the largelysocially-constructed nature of personality (Hampson,1988). Namely, culture can be see as a network ofshared meaning that influences how social perceptionis organized, from the way commercial symbols areseen to how human personality is described and evenexperienced. Furthermore, it is interesting to notethat our work shows that, as with human personality,brand personality appears to be consistentlyorganized around five dimensions. The robustness ofa five-dimensional structure across these two kinds ofpersonality perception suggests that, functionally,social perception may be influenced by cognitive-economy processes similar to those affecting memory(Miller, 1956), where information is best organized
14 AAKER, BENET-MARTÍNEZ AND GAROLERAand retrieved around seven ‘chunks’ of information(plus or minus two).Caveats and Future ResearchThe contributions of this research involve asubstantive focus on identifying and examining theculturally-similar and culture-specific meaningcarried and conveyed in consumption symbols, aswell as the methodological emphasis on a combinedemic-etic to compare this approach. However,despite these contributions, there are limitations thatreveal areas for future research. First, from amethodological perspective, this research relied on alimited number of attributes and commercial brandsto create the perceptual space of brands. Futureresearch is needed to determine the degree to whichthe results found in the current research aregeneralizeable across contexts, persons and brands.Second, the current research took a single pictureof individual’s perceptions of the meaning ofcommercial brands at a static point in time.Therefore, although the conceptualization of cultureput forth in this research is dynamic, the nature ofthis dynamism was not explored. Future research isneeded to determine the degree to which exposure tothe constructs represented by the indigenousdimensions, and market globalization efforts morebroadly, makes all of us psychologically more similar(Hermans Kempen, 1998). Shore (1996), forexample, comments that as Coke and Pepsi quicklymake their way to the recently liberated South Africa,“a global mass culture with Western commodities atits heart was created” (pg. 9). To what degree dothese Western commodities subsequently shape thenew culture in which they are distributed? Theanswer may depend not only on the meaning of thoseWestern brands (e.g., Coca-Cola), but also on thenature of the interaction between the brand andindividuals in the culture (e.g., South Africa). Ifmeaning construction is an ongoing process, one thatinvolves the active interaction with people (Kim Markus, 1999; Shweder, 1990; Shore 1996), thedistribution of these Western commodities may not infact lead to psychologically more similar individuals.Rather, it may lead to individuals who are exposed tomultiple cultural models, and a commercial brandwhose meaning is jointly created by advertisers andindividuals in the culture.Finally, the current work is a first step towardsunderstanding the link between the culture andpsyche in the context of commercial symbols;however, it remains exploratory in nature. Futureresearch is needed to elucidate the specificmechanisms by which commercial symbols areimbued with meaning, as well as how that meaningcharacterizes perceptions of human attributes andvalues (Roccas et al. 2000). In this way, the moredynamic nature of culture may be taken intoconsideration, and the movement of meaning fromculture to the individual may be explored moredirectly. Conducting longitudinal research is oneway to address this question; another is to examinethe process of frame-shifting. Recent research onbiculturalism has shown that individuals have theability to “frame shift”, that is to view things fromdifferent cultural vantage points (Hong et al., 2000).In this light, the culture-as-a-lens metaphor(McCracken, 1986) is extended to one wheremultiple glasses with different color lenses can be puton and taken off. Given this perspective, the questionarises, to what degree does a particular perceptualrepresentation of brands in consumers’ minds lead todifferent evaluations of brands? That is, whathappens when a consumer holds a Japaneseperception of the structural space of brands? Whatare the consequences of holding such a mentalrepresentation, particularly as it compares to whenone holds the American (or Spanish) mentalrepresentation of brands? To address these questions,a set of priming experiments that manipulate thesalience of one cultural frame over another may beconducted. For example, in Japan, kanji is perceivedas a relatively traditional Japanese writing system,whereas katakana is perceived as more modern orwesternized. Therefore, one might examine thedegree to which brand names or personality attributeswritten in kanji (katakana) may evoke a Japanese(American) perceptual structure, thereby leading topotentially different sets of consequences. In thisway, the more dynamic nature of culture may betaken into consideration, and the movement ofmeaning from culture to the individual may beexplored more directly.In conclusion, the work presented here showsthat the study of consumption symbols, such ascommercial brands, is a useful approach to theunderstanding of how cultural beliefs and values arerepresented and institutionalized. In accordance withan ethno-psychological perspective (Wierzbicka,1991), our results indicate that the meaningembedded in commercial brands has both culturally–specific and –common elements. Above all, ourstudies underscore the mobile quality of culture andthe bi-directional relationship between the individualand culture.
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