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By means of personality traits, brands can be characterized in a concise and comprehensible manner that predestines a brand’s personality for management with the assessment of brand characteristics and comparison with competing brands. To be able to do comparisons, the respective personality model has to be reproducible. The differing measurements must be invariant across brands, time, and, if needed, cultures. This reproducibility, however, is in question for existing brand personality scales. Recent studies could not replicate several of the existing solutions, neither in other countries nor for other brands than those in the respective studies in which the scales were generated. This study examines potential causes for invariance problems and identifies a more stringent application of the psycho-lexical approach as a remedy. The study traces back to Galton’s (Fortn Rev 36:179–185, 1884) thoughts about synonyms. When factor items possess substantially more pairwise synonyms with items within this factor than with traits outside that respective factor, the personality model will turn out to be reproducible. Surveys were conducted in the USA, Germany, and France to test for cross-cultural invariance. Implications, particularly for global branding, will be discussed.
Discussion, limitations and conclusion
The main finding of this article is the positive link between an extended lexical approach by the use of synonyms and an enhanced reproducibility of the emerging brand personality scales in empirical studies within different cultural environments. The pivotal problem underlying this research was the question why researchers perform the second step (incorporating brands to develop a tool to measure brands) before the first, i.e., building valid and reproducible personality models by incorporating the knowledge that is deeply ingrained in human language and thereafter applying these personality models to brands. It was not the intention of this article to criticize Aaker’s (1997) model in general – it worked quite well in the USA. The theoretical and empirical studies in this article, however, showed evidence why personality models may not have been reproducible, and recommendations were given regarding how to improve them. The achieved results encourage researchers and marketers to further make extensive use of brand personality models. As the single most important managerial implication, this method could support the global brand manager. Obviously, globalization has advanced in recent decades. As more nations open their economies to other parts of the world, manufacturers venture into new markets to increase revenues, and these companies take their existing brands with them. Marketers then face the question of how to manage brands in different countries (Douglas et al. 2001). Some international companies, particularly those with convenience goods, leave brand management to their local subsidiaries. However, if global culture is converging, then a homogeneous brand strategy would evidently save time and expense (De Mooij 2003). Aaker and Joachimsthaler (1999) claimed that successful global branding requires a system that measures brand equity in terms of brand personality. Thus, a global brand personality model is required.