Developing and validating a Symbolic-product-brand-personality-trait Scale
Branding has been part of human existence for several millenniums and has evolved from being a mark of ownership and identification, to a quality assurance and, eventually, to being a bearer of certain symbolic associations. Brand personality has been identified as one of the pivotal components of the symbolic attributes assigned to a brand. Brands have personalities, like humans, that set them apart from competing brands. Brand personality can be defined as all the personality traits that consumers associate with a brand. Brand personality can increase consumers’ preference for and usage of a brand, resulting in stronger emotional ties and loyalty towards the brand. Marketing academics and practitioners have long since been aware of the important influence that brand personality has on consumer behaviour. Consequently, the concept of brand personality has since become an important facet of marketing. A wide variety of scales have been developed to measure brand personality but there is still a lack of research studies available regarding brand personality in South Africa. Furthermore, there is a global paucity of research specifically concerning the measurement of brand personality perceptions of symbolic product brands. This study analyses the development of several brand personality trait scales to derive a method of developing and validating a symbolic-product-brand-personality-trait scale (SPBP-trait scale). The primary research objective of the study was to develop and validate a SPBP-trait scale for the assessment of consumers’ perceptions of the brand personality traits of symbolic products within the South African context. This entailed a series of six steps using both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. The steps included the identification of symbolic brands (Step 1), identification of brand personality traits (Step 2 & 3), reducing the list of brand personality traits (Step 4), developing the SPBP-trait scale (Step 5) and validating the SPBP-trait scale (Step 6). The target population of this study included males and females who are South African citizens. Generally, research studies aimed at developing and validating measuring instruments use student samples from higher education institutions (HEIs). A non-probability convenience sample of 2305 students was taken from a sampling frame of students registered at two South African HEI campuses located in Gauteng province and North West province to participate in the various steps of the study. The study also made use of seven subject experts. The study comprised several steps and therefore utilised various data collection methods (a top-of-mind-awareness survey, a free-association survey, secondary data, an expert focus group and surveys). Statistical analysis of the collected data included frequency distribution, factor analysis, reliability and validity measures, correlation analysis, structural equation modelling for confirmatory factor analysis and descriptive statistics. The findings of this study suggest that the SPBP-trait scale comprises a four-factor structure composed of responsibility, glamorousness, outgoingness and enthusiasm. The SPBP-trait scale represents an important tool for marketing researchers and organisations to gain a better understanding of consumers’ perceptions of brand personality traits associated with symbolic product brands. The developed SPBP-trait scale can be used by marketing researchers or organisations to measure consumers’ perceptions of the brand personality of symbolic product brands. The results may assist organisations to assess the brand personality portrayed by their current marketing efforts and then be used to guide and alter future marketing strategies. Furthermore, organisations planning to enter the symbolic product category, or organisations who would like to rejuvenate their symbolic product brand, could benefit from the SPBP-trait scale by adapting their branding in such a way that they fit in with one of the four dimensions.