Consumer-brand relationships in Private Cars – Factors determining how brand personality influences customer-brand relationships

Brand personality influence on customer-brand relationships is largely due to the congruence between the perceived image and the customer personality. Azevedo and Farhangmehr (2005) for instance assess how clothing brands personality and its congruence to the self-concept influences youth advertising. Congruity is the match (“exactness”) that exists between two facets, thus consumers assess their self-image congruence to a particular brand by cognitive matching of self and brand images (Azevedo & Farhangmehr 2005). To persuade consumers of the likeness of the brand attributes to their self-image, advertisers employ a transformational advertising approach that establishes a link between a brand’s value-expressive attributes and users’ self-concept attributes (Azevedo & Farhangmehr 2005). The alternative advertising approach – the informational approach – only seeks to establish a link between brand-performance (utilitarian) attributes and users’ referent attributes (Azevedo & Farhangmehr 2005). Analyzing the link between self congruity perception (the perception of a match between  human personality dimensions and brand personality attributes) and customer loyalty on the clothing industry, Azevedo and Farhangmehr (2005) found out that style – a personality construct – was the main determinant of customer clothing purchases with quality, physical characteristics and price affecting purchase decisions to a respective lesser extent. Brand personality dimensions noted in the clothing industry included excitement, excitement-sophistication, sophistication-excitement and ruggedness (Azevedo & Farhangmehr 2005). Demographic factors such as age and sex and involvement with the brand were noted to influence the degree of self-concept and brand personality congruence (Azevedo & Farhangmehr 2005). Brands perceived as feminine for instance elicited higher self-congruity among the female users but in the male subjects, involvement experience was suggested to lead to enhanced rating of a brand with female model-promoters (Azevedo & Farhangmehr 2005). Such congruence between brand personality and self-concept could thus result into enhanced satisfaction thus enhance the consumer loyalty to a product. This relationship is also noted in another study where self-congruity influenced the extent of socio-psychological barriers that a customer was presented with thus positively affecting their satisfaction levels with current providers (Magin, Algesheimer, Huber & Herrmann 2003)

Such findings can be related to the private car industry. The comparison between Mercedes and Toyota on the basis of JDpower customer satisfaction rating for instance provides a detailed account into how customers perceive the two brands. Toyota’s customer-brand relationship may for instance lie primarily with a perception that it’s a reliable brand. In the customer satisfaction surveys conducted in JDPower.com, the brands dependability rating is rated above average when compared with brands such as Mercedes (J.D. Power and Associates 2010). This is despite the higher rating on quality, performance and design, and sales satisfaction for Mercedes as compared to Toyota (J.D. Power and Associates 2010). The satisfaction indexes thus also indicate that customer-brand relationships for Mercedes could also arise out of the perceived high quality of the brand.

Finally, how real a brand mirrors the personality it claims to represent may be the main determinant of the extent to which brand personality fosters customer-brand relationships. To exemplify this a case scenario of poor practice is presented here. Oldsmobile, another GM brand, provides a case scenario of worst practices. The brand’s customer profile was aging and the company attempted to revitalize the brand by targeting it towards the younger generation (Martin & Eccles 2001). The brand run advertisements campaigns featuring William Shatner (a Canadian actor) and her daughter sharing a commitment to the brand with an advertisement tagline “It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile” (Martin & Eccles 2001). Despite such attempts, the brand’s popularity waned and it was phased out in 2004. Its dismal performance not resulting from poor advertising but that the brand did not present a personality it was trying to hijack (Martin & Eccles 2001). For a brand to be a tool for creating strong customer relations, it thus must provide a justification of what the communications of the company presents it as being. Such justification could be in offering quality and attributes it promises to deliver Go to part 7 here.

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