Brand personification through music as brand knowledge

Learning from the perspective of consumers of hip-hop music in Sweden on the associations of music in sneaker brands

Master's Thesis, 2011

93 Pages, Grade: A (Pass with distinction)



1. Introduction
1.1. Introduction of the research topic
1.2. Problematization
1.3. Purpose of the study
1.3.1. Research questions
1.4. Perspective of the study
1.5. Structure of the thesis
1.6. Contribution of the study
1.7. Definitions and abbreviations

2. Theoretical Framework
2.1. Defining brand personality (BP)
2.1.1. The function and role of BP
2.1.2. Anthropomorphism
2.1.3. “Brands are like friends”
2.2. Measuring BP
2.2.1. “The Big Five” personality dimensions
2.2.2. Projective techniques
2.2.3. Collages
2.3. Musical-genres as cognitive schemas
2.3.1. Extramusical information
2.3.2. Music-genres as cognitive schemas
2.4. Summary of the literature review

3. Methodology
3.1. Context of the study: hip-hop and sneakers
3.2. Population of study
3.3. Research philosophy
3.4. Research design
3.4.1. Multiple-method research strategy
3.5. Structure and plan for data collection
3.6. Methodological procedure
3.6.1. Phase I: Preliminary study
3.6.2. Phase II: Brand image research
3.7. Limitations of the empirical study
3.7.1. Validity
3.7.1. Reliability
3.7.2. Ethical concerns

4. Preliminary study
4.1. Selection of brands
4.2. Data from interviews
4.2.1. Advertising of sneaker brands
4.2.2. On fashion aspects
4.3. Additional observations
4.4. Chapter summary

5. Brand personification through music
5.1. COLLAGES (session A)
5.1.1. Interpretation procedure
5.1.2. Processing of information of music-genres
5.2.1. Introduction
5.2.2. Results
5.3.1. LACOSTE
5.3.2. NIKE
5.3.3. VANS
5.3.4. Conclusion

6. Analysis
6.1. Brand knowledge obtained through music
6.1.1. Who uses the brand?
6.1.2. Symbolic attributes of the brand
6.2. Evaluation of the methodology and triangulation of data
6.2.1. Differences using BPS by itself or combined with qualitative data
6.3. What is missing to use music to talk about BP?
6.4. Conclusion of the analysis

7. Conclusions
7.1. Music as a source of brand knowledge
7.2. Advantages and disadvantages of the methodology
7.3. Thesis statement

8. Final discussion
8.1. Limitations and recommendations
8.1.1. The perspective of listeners of hip-hop in Sweden
8.1.2. The “sneaker brand” and the “mother brand"
8.1.3. Deeper micro-cultural interpretation
8.2. External implications

9. References


List of tables

TABLE 1 Brand personality scale, dimensions and traits (aaker, J. 1997)

TABLE 2 Summary and overview of methods and data types

TABLE 3 Data collected classified by type

TABLE 4 List of songs used for the associative tasks

TABLE 5 Characteristics of participants of the preliminary study

TABLE 6 Categorization of sneaker brands

TABLE 7 Summary of clippings' content in LACOSTE's collages

TABLE 8 Summary of clippings' content on NIKE's collages

TABLE 9 Summary of clippings' content on VANS' collages

TABLE 10 Sneaker brands scores on the associative task with music

TABLE 11 Summary of frequencies of traits and dimensions of the BPS

TABLE 12 Comparison of scores of traits used on collages and the BPS

List of figures

FIGURE 1 Participants of projective techniques

FIGURE 2 Log os of the three sneaker brands studied

FIGURE 3 Systematic process to identify music schemas on the collages

FIGURE 4 LACOSTE's brand collage

FIGURE 5 NIKE's brand collage

FIGURE 6 VANS' brand collages

FIGURE 7 Visual construction of music associated for each brand

FIGURE 8 Network of brand personality dimensions

FIGURE 9 Triangulation of data for the interpretation of BP

1. Introduction

This chapter presents an overview of the purpose and objectives of this thesis. Firstly, the concept of Brand Personality is introduced and then the academic and practical problematization identified. Following, the purpose, research objectives and structure of the document are presented.

1.1. Introduction of the research topic

This thesis is about Brand Personality (BP), which is defined as the set of human characteristic perceived by the consumer in a brand (Aaker, J., 1997). More particularly, this thesis is interested in the investigation of how through the association of specific musical genres, it is possible to determine the personality of a brand.

The literature supporting this study focuses on the measurement, identification and comprehension of BP. On the other hand, literature regarding musical preferences, music-genres as cognitive schemas, stereotypes of artists, musicians and music-fans; is examined for further comprehension of how can music communicate meaning and how can it be useful for branding purposes.

The investigation of how BP operates and how it happens is a relevant aspect of branding that impacts academics’ and practitioners’ understanding of consumer behavior. BP is a decisive element of branding that contributes to the explanation of why a brand is preferred among others and helps practitioners to differentiate their products (Freiling & Forbes, 2005a). Knowing how a brand is perceived is essential brand knowledge to compete in the marketplace and to strengthen the consumer-brand relationship.

In addition, the personality of a brand is a powerful source of self-expression for the consumer. It gives consumers reasons for why to keep loyal to a brand and benefits obtained. For some consumers, the benefits of using or wearing a brand is equivalent to the benefits obtained of having influential friends (Hayes, 2006; Wilson & Liu, 2009).

The investigation of the BP phenomenon helps to understand humans’ tendencies to attach human characteristics to non-living objects and the way we “interact” with non-tangible and non-mortal partners, for example the quasi-real bond between movie-stars and their fans (Freiling & Forbes, 2005a).

1.2. Problematization

Before developing further the presentation of the research goals, some reflections regarding the gaps and opportunities for research on brand personification and brand image research are presented. Firstly, it is important to recognize that this research is one of the few approaches in the literature on BP that seeks to investigate what and how information about the personality of a brand can be drawn using music as a non-systematic form of language.

The study conducted herein regards BP as an academic and practical problem that needs to be investigated, illustrated and understood further. In particular, what it refers to the investigation of the role that music plays in the image of a brand. Investigating how a brand is perceived is a critical issue. Brand managers and practitioners must know how their brands are perceived in order to design branding strategies and campaigns. Not knowing how stakeholders perceive a brand, it is as flying an airplane and not having information on speed, position and weather (Koll et al., 2010). On this regard, a “brand architect” has no excuse to lack of brand knowledge due to the existence of diverse methodology available to measure BP and brand associations. On the literature, one can find techniques that range from operationalized constructs based on questionnaires (Aaker, J., 1997); to experimental, less rigid, interpretive methods (i.e. projective techniques, qualitative in-depth analyses) (Hofstede et al., 2006, Choi & Rifon, 2007). However, there are still important opportunities to develop creative and insightful ways of gaining brand knowledge. For example, the majority of studies on brand image are quantitative and strictly focused on verbal questioning (Herz, M., 2010). Several methodologies have been developed in order to obtain a clear projection of a perceived personality of a brand, nevertheless yet there is much to learn about how BP occurs and operates in consumer behavior (Freling & Forbes, 2005a). A second issue spotted in the literature on BP and brand image research (BIR); is the existence of a gap in the use of music as a source of brand knowledge on how consumers perceive a brand. Moreover, while a great body of previous research made use of animals, celebrities, colors, professional occupations, etc. as metaphoric channels to identify the personality of a brand (Brown, 2010; Hofstede et al. 2006), there are still conceptual blind spots when it comes to understand how music can be used for brand personification purposes.

Musical styles, musicians and music in general; represent a set of rich information that can be used as a medium or language to operate a metaphor on how a brand is perceived. The existence of shared cultural cognitive schemas pertaining to fans of particular musical styles is proved in our society (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2007; Shevy, 2008). These shared cognitive schemas can provide useful information on people’s meanings of what is of value.

A third issue spotted is also that current literature on branding, music and marketing; centers much of its attention on music’s role as a stimulus in advertising campaigns and music as a background element used in advertising tactics such as TV ads and radio (Gorn, G. J. 1982, Park, C. W., & Young, S. M., 1986; Zander, M. F., 2006). There are also several studies available that approach music’s impact from a retail perspective (Wilson, S., 2003; North, A. C., Hargreaves, D. J., & McKendrick, J.; 1999). However, little to almost nothing can be found in previous research done to identify how music interacts and operates in the core of the image of a brand: the brand personality.

If current research proved the existence of genre-specific and accurate music stereotypes, which suggests that people develop music-based personality judgments on others (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2007); and brands can convey characteristics of human personality (Aaker, J., 1997); then this thesis suggests that consumers can stereotype a brand as if it was a fan or musician of specific music genres. In other words, this research project, suggests that music can help understand how a brand is perceived when information of existent music-genres as cognitive schemas are used by consumers to talk about the personality of a brand.

1.3. Purpose of the study

The purpose of this study is to use and interpret existent cognitive schemas (CS) of a selected population regarding musical styles, in order to produce the brand personification metaphor.

This study employs methodology to illustrate, measure and identify brand personality (BP), therefore:

The purpose of this exploratory research is to investigate what type of brand knowledge can be obtained through the personification of a brand using stereotypes of musicians, music-fans and lifestyles in musical-genres.

The context of the study puts its attention on the investigation of the brand personality of salient brands of sneakers (tennis shoes) available in the market in Sweden. This category of brands was selected because of the popularity and awareness that the international brands of sneakers have. It is expected that consumers have already acquired experiences of usage and exposure to advertising of the brands that will facilitate the use of music as associative theme. Further information on the context of the study is explained in section 1.4 and the chapter number 3.

1.3.1. Research questions

The research questions of this study are split in two groups; the first is factual and the second is interpretive. The factual questions aim to provide concrete information on the consumption of brands of the population studied. While this research is not centered on consumption, it will broadly identify consumption preferences and existent brand-consumer relationships for a better understanding of the personality of the brands.

- What are the preferred brands of sneakers among fans of hip-hop in Sweden? And, what brands do they tend to disdain?
- Is it possible to identify former associations of musical genres and lifestyles to some brands of sneakers?

The second group of research questions aims to address the interpretive nature of the research, which is to determine through the perspective of the population study how to use music genres as brand knowledge, in particular:

- How do consumers’ shared CS on music-genres help understand brand personality?
- In which way the combination of projective techniques and the Aaker (1997) scale can use music-genres as CS to draw conclusions on the personality of a brand? What limitations and opportunities can be identified within this methodology?

1.4. Perspective of the study

The theoretical problematization and the purpose of research are addressed through the perspective of the population studied in the empirical research. This study suggests how consumers can identify and use extramusical information to reveal important brand knowledge.

Initially, the population studied was classified as “consumers of sneakers in Sweden”. However, through the development of this study, the author noticed that these consumers shared a connection with the consumption of hip-hop music. Moreover, it is acknowledge that the “hip­hop culture” and sneakers share a tight cultural background (Cunningham, C, 2008). Therefore, the population studied was defined as consumers of hip-hop and sneakers in Sweden.

This context of study represents a scenario in which (a) sneakers and music provide self­expression to the consumers, (b) consumers studied have great exposure and knowledge of sneaker brands in the market and (c) consumers have clearly defined musical preferences and hip-hop fans comprehend a segment of consumers with particular cognitive schemas on hip-hop and other musical styles.

Additionally, it is important to remark that this study centers its investigation on the brand personality of three major brands only on their sneaker product line. For instance, two of these firms have wide scope of brand extensions. These range from branded products for golf to perfumes and clothing.

1.5. Structure of the thesis

In the “Theoretical Framework” chapter it is presented first, existent knowledge on what BP means and how and why it happens in the consumer and marketplace. Secondly, this chapter also presents the knowledge on the literature that suggests how BP should be measured, illustrated and identified. The third section of the literature review is related to the existent knowledge on how stereotypes exist in the society when it comes to talk about the personality of fans of specific music-genres. This topic is connected also with the understanding of what function has music as an element of self-expression. Lastly, a revision of music-genres as cognitive schemas and the role it has played in advertising and marketing is presented in order to construct a guideline to interpret the projective techniques employed in the empirical study.

After this chapter follows a brief presentation of the “context of study” in order to give the reader a clear idea of the reasons and limitations in which the empirical study was developed.

The operationalization of the empirical study is developed] in two phases. Firstly, on Phase I, a preliminary study consisting of face-to-face interviews will help gain enough background information to determine what brands to study and the consumption issues on the adoption of fashion goods. Phase II, helps to obtain through the use of brand image projective techniques, musical associations and the personification of each brand.

The research project combines qualitative and quantitative methods in order to produce the personification of the three brands of sneakers, using music genres as the cognitive schemas that provide the input to interpret how a brand’s personality is perceived by consumers (Hofstede et al., 2007; Aaker, J., 1997). Visual collages containing clippings of musicians representing musical styles (i.e. hip-hop, reggae, rock, pop, etc.) are used as stimuli to generate the personification metaphor in the projective techniques. Information regarding the research design, paradigm and operationalization of the study, is presented in the same chapter, named “Methodology”.

The next chapters present the findings and results obtained. Chapter number four gives detail of the information obtained in the Preliminary study. In this chapter it is possible to understand how and why the brands chosen for the projective techniques resulted The last section of this dissertation paper closes with two chapters: Analysis and Conclusions. On the Analysis chapter, a review of the findings is discussed in the light of existent theory on brand personification and cultural cognitive schemas in musical styles. The Conclusions chapter summarizes the research project and presents opportunities for further research.

1.6. Contribution of the study

The objective of the study was to use musical genres as a medium/language to interpret BP. In addition, knowledge on musical styles is used to broaden the interpretation of BP.

This research can be seen as introductory step of using music to investigate BP on brand image research. It aimed to open the possibilities of thinking in creative and insightful ways to investigate brand personality (BP) and its interaction with consumers’ acquired shared cognitive schemas of music and culture. It is in addition, an example of how existent methodology can be used and complemented, either with qualitative or quantitative approaches, to measure and illustrate BP.

In addition, this study represents an invitation for further research on brand personification that attempt to use diverse themes and methodology for brand personification.

1.7. Definitions and abbreviations

Abbreviations. Throughout the whole document, one can note the use of abbreviations that aim to simplify and unify the terminology used. For that purpose, in this chapter the most important of these abbreviations are:

- “BP” means “brand personality” or “brand personification” and also a short version for “personality of a brand”
- “BIR” means “brand image research”
- “CS” means “cognitive schemas”

Hip-Hop. When used in capital letters “Hip-Hop” refers to the aggregated life-style and concept as a cultural unit. When referred as “hip-hop”, it is merely by the purpose of mentioning the musical style. Further explanation on the context of the study, which is the personification of brands through the perspective of hip-hop fans in Sweden, one can be found in the “Methodology” chapter of this document.

Personification metaphor/anthropomorphization of the brand: These terms refer to the brand image construct of brand personality.

Musical associations/associations of music: In this paper, those concepts will refer to any cognitive schema connected to a brand in terms of musicians, artists, musical genres, stereotypes of music fans, musical instruments, etc.; these associations consider anything musical and “extramusical” connected to the brand in consumers’ mind.

Musical genres/music-genre/musical style/music style: All these terms refer to the classification of music according to rhythmic and melodic styles.

User imagery/User of the brand/User profile: The set of human characteristics related to the user/consumer of the brand (Aaker et al. 2001).

Brand knowledge. In this research Brand Knowledge is the one that the firm, brand managers and practitioner have over the brand image, associations or brand personality; it can also refer to the information on consumer. Important: In this paper, Brand Knowledge should not be considered at any time as knowledge that the consumer has.

2. Theoretical Framework

This chapter is composed of three major sections: First, the theory behind Brand Personality (BP); second, the theory behind the existent measurement of BP and the third corresponds to the theory that supports the operationalization of music as a language to interpret BP.

2.1. Defining brand personality (BP)

Brand Personality (BP) conveys the accumulation of human descriptors associated to the brand. BP can be seen as a non-physical piece of product knowledge that shapes and influences consumers’ perceptions (Freiling & Forbes, 2005b).

BP can also be constructed out of the characteristics of the “type” of person who uses the products or services of the brand. That for instance, could be demographic characteristics that refer to age, race, occupation, etc.; or psychographic characteristics which refer to lifestyles and habits; that are intentionally or accidentally associated with a brand (Keller, K. L., 2001).

The personality of a brand is compound by brand associations. The difference is that the brand associations that BP contains are those that communicate personality with human characteristics. BP is a specific type of brand associations (BA). We can refer, BA as considered anything linked to the brand in mind’s consumer (Aaker, D., 1991; Low, G. S., & Lamb Jr., C. W.; 2000).

Anything related to “a human’s life” can be used as an association to the personality of a brand. For instance, consumers associate brands with experiences they have had of people wearing a brand. This can be product usage, product spokesperson, price, quality, product performance, etc. (John et al., 2006). Caprara et al. (2001) suggests that the image of a brand is composed of (a) the image of the provider (i.e. manufacturers: NIKE, Inc.), (b) the user (i.e. fans of Hip-Hop, athletes) and (c) the product itself (i.e. NIKE® Air Force 1). All of these cognitive links in branding are known as “brand associations”. The measurement of associations is a prominent activity for brand managers, academics and researchers. Research in this regard is known as “brand image research” (BIR). It primarily aims to measure brand perceptions through the development of scales with enough validity and reliability (Aaker, J., 1997).

A wide range of literature has studied how brand associations are formed in consumers’ memory, often represented as a mapping of concepts or network of associations (John et al., 2006). According to the associative network theory, we know that the consumers’ mind is composed of a network of concepts, ideas and cognitive schemas (nodes) that through the experience and exposition to products get to develop linkages or associations (Martínez, E., Montaner, T., Pina, J.M., 2009).

2.1.1. The function and role of BP

The attributes of personality in a brand help differentiate the brand from competitors and help branded products establish a price premium (Low, G. S., & Lamb Jr., C. W. 2000). On the other hand, Aaker, J. (1997) suggests that practitioners consider BP an effective way to distinguish a branded product from others in a product category.

Wilson & Liu (2009) suggest that a brand is similar to the Pinocchio story. Pinocchio is a fictional character. He was created as a wooden puppet, by Geppetto, a skilled woodcarver; where both wished the puppet became a real boy. Using this analogy, the brand as the puppet relies on the support and guidance of others to become more human. Like Geppetto did, brand architects should focus their strategies helping the brand to become more human. This in turn, will make consumers more open to interact and perceive the attributes in the brand that makes them feel identified, as if it was “human”.

A favorable BP impacts positively on the equity of a brand and produces an affective consumer­brand relationship. The product of this relationship is often the development of higher levels of preference that can generate loyalty towards the brand.

The efforts of the firm and practitioners to differentiate their brands from others in market or competing product categories are the main reasons why brand personification results fundamental on the marketplace. Nevertheless, definitions of BP are still on the way. The literature demonstrates that a unique and universal definition of BP has not been agreed. There is still confusion on branding terms that yet share the meaning of existing associations and cognitive links towards brands. A clear delineation from other constructs such as “Brand Image” has not been done (Caprara, G. V. et al. 2001).

For a consumer, a brand with a strong, defined and charismatic personality represents value and benefits. Freiling & Forbes (2005a) distinguish four important benefits for the consumer:

- (1) superior experiences and feelings evoked,
- (2) aid for self-expression,
- (3) facilitation of choice and
- (4) alleviating social interaction

Leading brands often are impeccable in projecting these four benefits to its consumers. If we think of Apple® for instance, its personality communicates it is a brand that provides entertainment and superb experiences to its users, that helps consumers express themselves as creative people. It makes it easy for the consumer to be chosen among other brands as its quality, performance and design attributes attached to the brand facilitate heuristic processes; and of course social benefits are obtained by displaying an Apple laptop at the café downtown.

2.1.2. Anthropomorphism

Existent literature can provide answers to the how and why Brand Personality occurs on consumer behavior. Broadly, it can be explained first, from the operation of cognitive processes on consumers’ memory and secondly, due to the anthropomorphic tendency of people to humanize non-human objects (Freiling & Forbes, 2005a).

All of these observed behaviors have turned the thinking on brand management towards social sciences and humanities to obtain methodological support (Wilson & Liu, 2009).

On the Social Sciences anthropologists have long studied the phenomenon of humans adding meaning to objects; in particular when objects are attached with attributes of human personality, this is referred as: anthropomorphism (Freiling, T. H., & Forbes, L. P., 2005).

Moreover, considering Freiling, T. H., & Forbes, L. P., (2005) standpoint, the anthropomorphic tendency results provocative to understand, because if we uncover underlining reasons, one can realize that behind this:

- Consumers seek familiarity by trying to make more human what is not human
- Consumers pursue comfort justifying the use of a brand, and
- Consumers aim to reduce risk by decreasing uncertainty in a complex and ambiguous world.

Regardless of being just a mere perception of how a brand could be in terms of human personality; BP it is a source of knowledge for the consumer. It is fundamental in the purchase process as it will reduce and facilitate the need to think and investigate what brand is the best option. The nature of the human beings often reflects our need to reduce ambiguity. Decision­making is also a daunting task when it comes to choose a branded product and even more if we talk about luxury items or moments in which the consumer presents a high purchase involvement.

The phenomenon of anthropomorphism can be identified in contemporary and ancient cultures. On the world of the artistic literature, it is plagued of fictional characters that are described using human characteristic. Mythological characters of ancient cultures were animals and meteorological phenomena that were conceived as gods, this fact represent other examples of how the anthropomorphization tendency has been part of our history. With regards to branding, many examples of brand anthropomorphism can be spotted for instance using animals. The mascots used in Olympic Games or international competitions such as the FIFA World Cup, present extraordinary examples of how bears, chilies, dogs, etc.; had been used to commercialize and communicate the spirit by which the spectacle is produced (Brown, S., 2010).

2.1.3. “Brands are like friends”

For the consumer, a brand represents intangible benefits such as the ones that humans obtain by having popular friends or those who occupy privileged positions; thus from a consumer behavior perspective, those attractive brands bring “relationship advantages” than those with a less attractive personality (Hayes et al., 2006).

For the consumer, Brand Personality (BP) conveys a bundle of associations that are sources of meaning and information retrieval. Researchers of consumption theory have focused on the understanding of how BP allows them to express her or his own self, an ideal self or some dimensions of the self (Aaker, J. 1997).

Consumers hardly make decisions thinking purely on economic and practical issues (Levy, S. J., 1959; Batra & Ahtola 1990). The selection of a brand is attributed to symbolic rather than utilitarian benefits. Part of those symbolic benefits, is the aid to the consumers to express themselves, when for instance they would like to look like their favorite celebrities. The personality that brands possess can be attributed most of the time to the known profile of the user or celebrities that have endorsed the brand. For this matter, the consumers’ preference of a brand can be attributed to the charisma and personality it projects.

Some literature approaches the BP phenomenon from the line of understanding that “Brands are like friends” (Hayes et al., 2006). Consumers choose brands as we choose friends: by our affinity on their skills, physical characteristics, taste, etc. (Schlesinger & Cervera, 2008). Then a logic question to ask is “What is the most appealing personality of a brand for a consumer?” In sociology, it is noted the existence of charismatic leaders which are people who provide high levels of motivation to the masses. Therefore, like people, products and brands have the attribute of charisma (Smothers, N., 1993).

On the literature is widely recognized the effective power of celebrities to enhance the image of a brand, this phenomenon is explained by the credibility that the unique characteristics and personality of the celebrity provide to the branded product and in turn, to the consumer (Choi, & Rifon, 2007). This in consumer behavior is known as the credibility of the source (Solomon, 2007); and reflects how successful artists can be thought of effective brand managers or also known as “brand ambassadors” (Schroeder, 2005).

Brands possess the ability to communicate cultural meanings - some authors even call them “cultural icons” (Aaker, Benet-Martínez, & Garolera, 2001; Phau & Lau, 2000). The culture- specific meaning of commercial brands goes beyond utilitarian attributes and physical characteristic: which indeed the BP can represent.

Wilson & Liu (2009) say that culture has a significant effect on consumers’ decisions, and further research should focus on the impact and potential that consumers’ cultural framework has on branding. A brand itself is nothing. It is just a symbol. The social sciences can explain the phenomenon of the meaning that symbols have for people throughout: Semiotics. With a perspective from the marketplace, all the objects, brands and commodities exchanged within it, are treated as signs that have a meaning for consumer; which this meaning is the “brand image” (Dobni & Zinkhan, 1990).

2.2. Measuring BP

The Personification of a Brand is a technique that can help gain understanding of what “commercial symbols” represent for the consumer. Studies and experiments to describe a brand are not new. Back in 1988, it can already be accounted the intention of identifying in a brand of cold and flu medicine called NyQuil®, the desire of research to identify what in the opinion of the consumers, was that represented and distinguished more the product: the triangular-shaped bottle, the color of the label (red), etc.; surprisingly the “essence” of the product was represented by the heavy and dark liquid content (Durgee, J. F., 1988).

The development of constructs to measure Brand Personality has proliferated during the last couple of decades as an attempt by researchers to reduce ambiguity while interpreting the identity and image of a brand. However, these constructs face the problem of not using a common theory and consensual taxonomy (Caprara et al., 2001). This situation often develops in the lack of credibility and validity of the construct itself.

Some authors argue that findings on existent methodology used to identify BP will often be inconclusive in nature and subjective to different interpretations (Freiling & Forbes, 2005a). Depending on the context of study, making the analogy of a brand having human characteristics might sound a bit strange. Some product categories fit better than others for this purpose. It is less ambiguous to produce this metaphor with well-known consumer branded products that fill symbolic purposes; than with services, events or industrial products. The analogy becomes even more abstract if these brands lack of awareness and a clear position in consumers’ mind. For instance, it sounds more logical to say “Coca-Cola is charming and joyful” than saying “Svenska Handelsbanken is exciting and smooth”. However, if the intention is to connect two concepts of completely different domains, metaphors are excellent methods to do it (Hofstede et al., 2007).

2.2.1. “The Big Five” personality dimensions

Many of the brand personality constructs existent nowadays in the literature (Aaker, J., 1997; Caprara et al., 2001; Opoku et al., 2007) are originated after the development of the “Big Five” human personality structure developed originally for psychological applications by Norman (1963).

One of the most remarkable attempts to define an applicable dimension scale of personalities perceived by consumers is the work of Jennifer Aaker (1997). She used the “Big Five” human personality structure to develop a scale using adjectives that could describe with reliability and validity the perceived personality of a brand. Thus, its relevance relies precisely on the fact that no previous research had systematically developed a reliable, valid and generalizable scale to measure brand personality.

On her study, 37 salient and well-known brands were selected. This set of brands covered a balanced mix of symbolic functions (i.e. clothing, cosmetics), utilitarian functions (i.e. electronics, toothpaste) and those which serve both symbolic and utilitarian functions (i.e. computers, tennis shoes). The aim of her study was to filter out of 309 adjectives, those who can be used to describe the personality of a brand. The result of several filtering stages was 42 personality traits that were grouped in 5 dimensions within 15 facets.

The instrument can be used by simply asking consumers to rate how much they consider that a brand can be described with those personality traits. This Brand Personality Scale (BPS) has been used and adapted by dozens of studies on BP (Azoulay & Kapferer, 2004; Caprara et al., 2001; Choi & Rifon, 2007; Mathiesen K., 2007; Opoku et al., 2007). Many of them aimed to validate the BPS within several product categories, or how the scale develops in the context of goods that serve utilitarian, symbolic or mixed purposes. For instance, Davies et al. (2001) suggest that there is not theoretical reason why BP should be limited to five dimensions. On their study, they found out that the applicability of the Ruggedness dimension is weak in both reliability and number of items. Some other studies have used the BPS in a manner that can support other methods for the measurement of BP (Hofstede et al., 2007)

Aaker, J. (1997) acknowledges that although research has shown that characteristics of human personality are considered almost the same in any culture, this might not be applicable for BP.

Schlesinger, M. W., and Cervera, A. (2008) expose that Aaker’s (1997) brand personality dimension scale has been subject to adaptation according to more relevant and adjusted cultural properties. For instance, studies have been done applying these (five) dimensions, but they have inevitably changed to represent accurately the cultural ideas of the country of research.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

TABLE 1 Brand personality scale, dimensions and traits (aaker, J. 1997)

For example in countries with a Latin background, such as France, Spain, Mexico; the consideration of gender traits (e.g. feminine or masculine) contribute to better description of brand personality. Thus, results fundamental to use exclusively those human characteristics that are applicable to brands (Azoulay, A., & Kapferer, J.-N., 2004).

On a similar fashion to Aaker, J. (1997), the work by Choi & Rifon (2007) suggests a set of dimensions to measure the personality of celebrities that can be used to describe brands. The scale developed resulted in 4 dimensions: Genuineness, Competence, Excitement and Sociability.

Aaker’s (1997) BPS has also used within specific business contexts. For instance, some studies use the scale to measure the perceived BP of corporation among employees and consumers; or resulting perceptions of brand extensions (Opoku et al. 2007; Davies et al. 2001, Mathiesen, K. 2007).

2.2.2. Projective techniques.

The literature on projective techniques enumerates more benefits for BIR and consumer psychology than quantitative, straightforward methods (Donoghue, 2000; Hofstede et al., 2007). For instance, the data and information that projective techniques provide are rich and accurate if a research is attempting to understand beliefs, values, motivation, personality and behavior. Projective techniques allow participants express themselves with more freedom than a structured questionnaire, and helps individuals to project their opinions even without the use of a vocabulary. The Brand Image Research (BIR) technique used in this project is built upon Hofstede et al. (2007) study on the personification that they developed based on four brands of beers in the Netherlands using two projective methods to identify celebrities and prototypical job occupations that participants thought matched the beers’ BP.

People often find difficulties writing or expressing what they think of things. Therefore, the use of unstructured task gives the consumer the opportunity to externalize whatever they feel it is appropriate to describe the object. Even if the consumer feels that “there is no sense” in the connection with a brand and an animal for example, deeply rooted cognitive information is used to express what they think. Often, if the person is asked to explain why they associated “A” with “3”, they encounter difficulties on giving a sounded reason (Herz, 2010).

On BIR it is also known the existence of other methodology to measure and identify brand associations. For example, brand concept maps (BCM). This is a useful tool that visually represents the links of associations to a brand, and it is possible to distinguish which ones are more relevant or strongly present in consumers’ mind. Mapping brand association networks it’s a useful technique to visualize relevant associations (John et al. 2006).

Hofstede et al. (2007) mention the existence of 5 different types of methods of projective techniques, which are: associations, completion tasks, construction, choice ordering and expressive.

The projective methods using associations, makes participants connect the object of research with words, images and thoughts. It can be whether a specific theme or a completely open topic.

Completion tasks often involve finishing sentences, stories and arguments. Projective techniques using construction obtain information out of the input of information that the person uses to describe feelings or situations, an example of this is writing the dialogues of speech bubbles in a cartoon. Choice ordering it is helpful to understand the ranking of product benefits. Lastly, expressive tasks provide situational information on role-playing, story-telling, drawing and other creative activities (Hofstede et al., 2007).

2.2.3. Collages

The use of visual collages on BIR is appropriate for the development of associative tasks where consumers project their perceptions of the brand through activities that connect the brand with themes of diverse domains.

Collages are projective methods that help to obtain brand knowledge on the perception that the consumer has over the price and perceptions of the brand’s products and services. They are helpful to know what perception of quality the consumer has over the brand. In addition, one can obtain information on what perceptions the consumer has towards the image of the brand, the personality and for instance, the type of person who they think wears or buys that brand (Koll et al., 2010).

The “collage method” on brand image research (BIR) offers benefits that other methods don’t. The collage is of qualitative nature and it helps to obtain implicit and unconscious perceptions in consumer’s mind (Herz 2010; Hofstede et al., 2007). The collage technique is essentially a projective technique that results extremely useful to bypass the conscious defenses of respondents. Marc Herz (2010) suggests that the implications of data collection through the collage technique can be evaluated by:

1. Study topic (Open V.S. Focused)
2. Specifications on collage (Open V.S. Pre-specified)
3. Study setting (Field situation V.S. Laboratory situation)
4. Collage creation task (Actively created V.S. Passively used)
5. Input material (Random, external V.S. Pre-selected, Self-created)

As seen, collages used for BIR can range from completely unstructured studies were the aim is to spot “whatever” associated to the brand, or they can be instrument to obtain information on a specific topic. On this regard, the empirical study conducted for this study, uses collages to personify brands of sneakers on a focused topic: music-genres as cognitive schemas. However, this will be explained further. The following section of the “Theoretical Framework” chapter, presents literature on cognitive schemas related to music, and then the “Methodology” chapter explains how the collage technique employed was designed.

2.3. Musical-genres as cognitive schemas

As mentioned early in this chapter, existent methodology makes use of animals and fictional characters as metaphors to express how a brand is perceived by consumers (Brown, S., 2010). However, music represents a communication tool that has been ignored and not used for brand personification.

Even though, there is a line of research that has already investigated the interaction of music and the formation of attitudes towards a brand, a product or the advertising itself. For example, adding music of a particular musical genre to a TV-Ad may prime schemas (i.e. pre-conceived beliefs and attitudes), which in turn will influence audience’s perception and interpretation of the material (Shevy, M., 2008). It is recognized in the literature how relevant is to carefully choose the music, that will be used within an advertising campaign. According to Zander (2006), music conveys information of the brand that words can’t tell. Music is the language that has the strongest power of communication and force of persuasion to consumers, while its main purpose is to evoke emotions.

Fulberg, P. (2003) claims that the potential for music to become a trigger for emotion-based consumer’s reaction has never been investigated properly. For instance, Wagner, M. (2008) doctoral work aimed to test brand/music congruency, firstly developing a scale to know how people describe music (i.e. sophisticated, dark, calm, etc.) and then comparing how participants matched the description of a brand’s personality with that of the music used. Dann, & Jensen (2007) developed a qualitative analyze of a construct of brand personality dimensions derived from Aaker’s (1997) brand personality scale, and determined the applicability of each dimensions for personalities of musicians in different musical genres.

2.3.1. Extramusical information

Research done attempting to use music as the language to explore and interpret brand associations and BP is scarce, thus it represents a field in a development phase where no established guidelines can be identified. Other research has projected BP through occupations. Among popular occupations such as secretaries, managers, politicians, lawyers, doctors, etc.; it has been used the personalities of artists, musicians or celebrities. However, the generalization over the personality of an artist or musician is too broad.

Music itself is a very broad concept. The concern of music in this research is the cognitive information that is communicated through specific musical styles in a particular cultural context. However, let’s first start to define what “music” is. Music according to the Oxford English Dictionary is:

“that of the fine arts which is concerned with the combination of sounds with a view to beauty of form and the expression of emotion; also the science of the laws or principles of melody, harmony, rhythm, etc., by which this art is regulated”.

Therefore, music is not only about a piece of music or a melody. Music is also an “expression of emotion. Unarguable music in its acoustic form can communicate technicalities such as tempo, rhythm, melody and tone. But, on the other side, music also communicates intangible aspects, such as emotions, attitudes, values, etc.

As stated by Rentfrow & Gosling (2007): Music preferences can say much about a man. Judgment of appearance and stereotypes exist within the musicians and performers of the music. Music somehow has to be performed and at some point “consumed” by someone; thus the performers of particular musical styles have become emblems of “how you should look like” or “how your lifestyle should be” if you perform within specific musical genres; on our society, the personality of a musician of Classical music differs from that of Heavy Metal, the same can be seen on the stereotype of Reggae musicians and Country. (Griffiths, N. K., 2010).

Musical genres can be considered a form of non-verbal communication when it is considered the inherent “extramusical information” and its psychological impact. Music is a carrier of meaning and particularly what Mark Shevy (2008) calls: cognitive schemas.

The concept of “cognitive schema” (CS) it is not new, however, philosophers have varied in their definition. For instance, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant already talked about CS by referring that every person’s experiences get stored in brain’s memory, forming thus a highly structured order of concepts. A definition that helps to understand the concept of CS is the one that Garro (2000) suggests:

“Schemas are generalized collections of knowledge of past experiences that are organized into related knowledge groups; they guide our behaviors in familiar situations. Cultural schemas do not differ from other schemas, except that they are shared by certain cultural groups rather than individual. Schemas unique to individuals are created from personal experiences, whereas those shared by individuals are created from various types of common experiences”.

Examples of studies that aim to understand the CS that are communicated through music, are those studies that have identified stereotypes that people has towards listeners of particular musical styles. Shevy, M., (2008) developed an interesting study on the cognitive schemas elicited in the personality of someone who listens Hip-Hop or Country styles of music. His experiment confirmed that a generalized stereotype of people who listen Hip-Hop music is perceived to wear tennis shoes (sneakers) and belong to a youth age group. In stark contrast to the association stimuli scores of people related to Country music, those on Hip-Hop were associated significantly more with minority ethnicity, urban locations and liberal political ideologies

2.3.2. Music-genres as cognitive schemas

Music genres as CS further can communicate where a person comes from, for instance if it is an urban neighborhood or if it comes from a small rural-village. On the other hand, music-genres can also help us know what the political positions of a musician or listener of a music-genre are.

Let’s say for example a musician of Punk-Rock, one might imply that the musician has some anarchistic tendencies towards political institutions, rejects racism and definitely radical political postures (Hebdige, D., 1979).

Recently, research on music psychology has been interested in the understanding of how music and particularly musical preferences, is used to get an idea of how a person is. The result is the identification of stereotypes of people who listen to specific musical genres. On their research Rentfrow and Gosling (2007) examined the validity of 14 music genres stereotypes (e.g. rap, rock, jazz) and dug on how this music fans were perceived in terms of their personality “Big Five” dimension (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and openness), personal qualities (i.e. political beliefs), attitude toward social values (i.e. peace, wisdom) and alcohol and drug preferences (i.e. beer, marihuana); this in the United Kingdom and United States. For instance, Rap (which is a musical style of hip-hop) was considered energetic and rich in rhythm. In addition, Rap fans were described as high in extraversion, moderate in agreeableness, politically liberal, athletic in appearance and low in conscientiousness. Moreover, the stereotype perceived in them is that they value self-respect and social recognition (Rentfrow, P. J., & Gosling, S. D., 2007).

People choose music and particular genres for their external meaning and the social symbolism they provide. On the other hand, musical preferences can help understand values, attitudes and feelings (North, A. C., 2007; Schwartz, K., & Fouts, G. 2003). These choices can be understood as taste. Taste begins with the notion of the role music should play in life (Jourdain, R., 1997). Taste and the expression of life-styles (for example musical preferences), from a sociological perspective represent an instrument of differentiation to distinguish our preferences from what they are not (Bourdieu, P, 1979).

On their study, Rentfrow & Gosling (2003) defined four dimensions to measure music preferences; which in addition, also reflected the association of political beliefs, demographics, attitudes and cognitive abilities.

1. Reflective & Complex (comprised of classical, jazz, folk, and blues music) tends to emphasize positive and negative emotions and the compositions are often perceived as complex.
2. Intense & Rebellious (rock, alternative, and heavy metal music), emphasizes negative emotions, with themes of disobedience.
3. Upbeat & Conventional (pop, country, soundtracks, and religious music), emphasizes positive emotions and contains music that is less complex than other genres.
4. Energetic & Rhythmic (hip-hop, rap, soul, and electronic music), emphasizes energy and often involves themes of self-gratification. These factors are reliable and generalize across independent samples and methods of assessment.

View reviewing the literature on what is communicated through musical styles and musical preferences (Shevy, 2008; Rentfrow & Gosling, 2007); one can summarize that the cognitive schemas in musical-styles tell valuable extramusical information that either help us for self­expression, or can help us know to get to know something about the personality of a person.

In general, the extramusical information provided by music-genres as cognitive schemas can be:

- Stereotypes of fans of specific musical genres
- Stereotypes of musicians of specific musical genres
- Styles of life endowed to musicians on particular musical genres
- The affiliation to cultural groups
- Political positions (i.e. anarchist, conservative, left-wing)
- Social-class (i.e. High-class, middle-class, working class)
- Consumption profile (i.e. Beverages, food, media)
- Ethnic profile of the listener or musician (i.e. White, African-American, Latin)
- Demographic characteristics (i.e. geographic location, occupation, education, age)

This list represents what in this study will be used to understand and interpret the information obtained in the projective techniques. The review of the knowledge on musical preferences and music-genres as cognitive schemas; opens the possibility of using music as a language to conduct brand personification.

2.4. Summary of the literature review

The review of literature followed a sequential discussion that starts on the theory that has already been developed on BP by firstly introducing the existing knowledge on why BP is an important concept in current brand image research. Following, some theoretical perspectives on how BP operates and originates in consumer behavior was discussed.

The second section of the literature review correspond to existent methods used to identify and measure BP. Lastly, a discussion of what is communicated through musical styles was presented as the closing section of the theoretical framework.

The research proposal of this study is to understand “how music genres as consumers’ cognitive schemas can help understand BP?” Even though it was not possible to spot studies done considering both, music genres as cognitive schemas and the measurement of brand personality, this thesis aims to explore what possibilities there are to let consumers use music to tell us what is the personality of a brand?

After analyzing all the literature contained herein, it is possible to identify a connection in between the measurement of brand personality using music-genres with their extramusical information. Brands possess charisma and brands are associated with artists and celebrities (Hayes et al., 2006; Smothers, N., 1993). Those artists or fans depending on the musical style they belong to; communicate clearly aspects of who they are and what they like (Shevy, M., 2008; North, A. C., 2007; Rentfrow & Gosling, 2007). Therefore, this thesis suggests that if it is possible to map what type of music-styles or musicians are associated to the brand, then it will be possible to obtain brand knowledge on BP.

The conduction of the empirical study will help additionally to verify if the extramusical information can be used to talk about BP. In particular, from the list above mentioned, what types of extramusical information derived from cognitive schemas is useful to describe BP and what is not? Also, the empirical study aims to explore what information can be drawn out of combining projective techniques with the brand personality scale.

Therefore, the “Analysis” chapter (number 6) will continue from the perspective of the results obtained; what useful brand knowledge can be drawn from music-genres as cognitive schemas. Although this proposition could be seen as adventurous when no particular research can confirm the validity and reliability of music styles as cognitive schemas to draw BP; this project would like to open the discussion and possibilities for future research on music and the construction of BP.

3. Methodology

This chapter presents the methodology used for the empirical study. It introduces the context of research and following the research paradigm and design are explained.

3.1. Context of the study: hip-hop and sneakers

This study centers its empirical study on the perceptions of the brand personality (BP) that consumers and listeners of hip-hop music have over brands of sneakers. The aim of studying fans of hip-hop responds to the need of investigating a population that could allow us to speak of BP in terms of music.

The interpretive character of this research requires the perspective of the population studied to develop the personification metaphor. Moreover, for the hip-hop culture, sneakers represent a fashion good or symbolic item that fills symbolic purposes.

It can’t be ignored the utilitarian benefits obtained of a tennis shoe. They satisfy our needs of protecting the skin of our feet when we walk. However, rarely someone will think of that way when buying a pair of sneakers. Nowadays a consumer buys products not for what they do, but for what they mean (Levy, S. 1959).

Sneakers represent a product category that endows cultural meaning, speaks about the personality of who wears it and communicates aspects of social-class. Sneakers give consumers a sense of value; for the youth sneaker brands represent a way of self-expression that often goes beyond reasonable parameters; where in some places people is assaulted for wearing new or exclusive sneaker models (Smothers, N; 1993).

During the last 3 decades, sneakers gained a dramatically different place in post-modern culture. They surpassed purely functional purposes and have earned a cult-like attitude in many consumers (Cunningham, C., 2008). Sneakers and the Hip-Hop culture share somehow the urban-spatial and chronological dimensions in which they appeared on our modern society. Hip-Hop culture is since its origins plagued by the characteristics of a urban cultural movement, that saw the light for the first time in the blocks of New York, and particularly in the United States, it evolved from a “youth culture” to a proper dominant cultural fact (Dimitriadis, G., 2009, New York). Hip-Hop originates in the United States in the 1970’s as a cultural scene that then in turn developed in a musical style which broadly integrates DJing/scratching, sampling, rapping and beat boxing as stylistic elements (Randel, D., M., 2003). However, Hip-Hop artistic culture takes Graffiti writing, MCing, DJing and brake-dance as the key artistic elements that forged a face-to-face social contact and interaction. Literature on the Hip-Hop culture in Sweden is scarce and due to language-barrier could not be examined further. However, it can be accounted that the overall elements of the Hip-Hop culture from the United States have permeated young local demographic groups (Sernhede, O. 2002).


Excerpt out of 93 pages


Brand personification through music as brand knowledge
Learning from the perspective of consumers of hip-hop music in Sweden on the associations of music in sneaker brands
Jönköping International Business School
Consumer Behavior
A (Pass with distinction)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
2012 KB
consumer behavior, brand personality, sneakers, projective techniques, brand knowledge, cognitive schemas, music-genres, hip-hop, symbolic consumption
Quote paper
José Leyva (Author), 2011, Brand personification through music as brand knowledge, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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