代写sustainability ISSN 2071-1050
代写sustainability ISSN 2071-1050
Sustainability 2015, 7, 12322-12339; doi:10.3390/su70912322
Self-Brand Personality Differences and Attitudes towards
Ingrid Moons and Patrick de Pelsmacker *
Department of Marketing, Faculty of Applied Economics, University of Antwerp, Prinsstraat 13,
Antwerp 2000, Belgium; E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed; E-Mail: Patrick.email@example.com;
Tel.: +32-3-265-40-22; Fax: +32-3-265-40-87.
Academic Editor: Marc A. Rosen
Received: 23 June 2015 / Accepted: 3 September 2015 / Published: 9 September 2015
Abstract: In two representative Belgian samples, by means of an online survey, we
investigate the effect of self-brand personality differences on car brand evaluation, the
evaluation of an eco-friendly branded electric car extension and the evaluation of car brands
after electric extension. We show that self-brand personality differences influence the
attitude towards car brands. The relative importance of personality dimensions that drive
extension judgment and parent brand attitudes after electric extension is different from that
of brand evaluation without extension. More particularly, perceptions of a brand being more
responsible than one’s self is a much more important driver of brand evaluation after electric
extension than without extension. Car personality characteristics, such as activity and
sophistication, drive brand evaluations before, as well as after electric extension.
These effects are moderated by brand ownership in that the relative importance of brand
personality dimensions is different for brand owners than for consumers who do not own a
specific brand. Car manufacturers can fine-tune their marketing approach when launching
eco-friendly extensions, taking into account that, in this context, partly different
self-brand personality fit considerations are used by consumers than for car brands without
Keywords: self-brand personality differences; electric cars; line extension evaluation;
parent brand feedback effects
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1. Introduction and Purpose of the Study
Electric cars may be an environmentally-friendly answer to the ecological consequences of personal
mobility. Nowadays, forced by environmental and sustainability issues, major car brands, such as Nissan
(Leaf) and Opel (Ampera), have developed fully eco-friendly electric car alternatives. The introduction
of a technological innovation such as an electric car may fail because of a lack of acceptance by the
consumer. Consumer acceptance is critical to the successful introduction and diffusion of more
sustainable alternatives to mobility [1–3]. Therefore, insights into consumer perceptions are important
for a successful introduction of the electric car.
When an established car brand launches an electric variant, it is extending its product line. The success
of extensions depends, amongst others, on the perceived fit between the extension and the parent
brand [4–9]. However, not only the fit between a brand and its extension, but also the symbolic fit
between the brand and the individual consumer may play a role in consumers’ brand evaluations.
Consumers, valuing products for their self-expressive properties, use symbolic brand meanings to define
and signal their actual or desired identities [10–13]. Brands carry symbolic meanings . Brand
personality is an important component of symbolic brand meaning [15,16]. It is a multidimensional
construct defined as the set of human personality traits that are associated with brands  and that
differentiate brands in the minds of people, even in the case that there are few differences in attributes
and benefits between brands. Self-brand personality differences may thus be an important determinant
of evaluative judgements of brands and their extensions.
Consumers may take self-brand personality differences into account in different ways, depending on
the context (e.g., the nature of the extension) [18,19]. In their evaluative judgement of car brands and
brand extensions, some personality characteristics may indeed be more important than others .
In the context of electric car extension evaluation, the importance of some personality characteristics to
judge a brand after an eco-friendly extension may thus be different from those used to judge the brand
in general. Self-brand personality differences have not been studied often as a factor in brand extension
studies or in the context of sustainable products [7,16].
The main purpose and first contribution of the present study is to investigate how self-brand
personality differences determine brand attitudes and whether the relative importance of personality
dimensions differs between the evaluation of a brand without or after an eco-friendly electric extension.
Additionally, we also explore to what extend brand ownership moderates these effects. Brand owners
have already made a decision to buy a particular brand and may therefore be less susceptible to
self-brand personality differences and branding contexts. On the other hand, self-brand personality
differences may be more salient for brand owners, since the brand they own themselves may be more
important for their self-concept.
In previous research on self-brand personality fit, researchers have used two main approaches. The
first approach measures perceived actual or desired self-brand personality fit directly. The second
approach measures individual and brand personality separately and constructs a distance measure
between the two as an indication of the difference between the actual or desired self and brand
personality [21–23]. The latter approach then constructs one measure of self-brand personality fit by
weighing the different personality dimension scores with their relative importance [21,22]. Several
authors suggest that researchers should examine individual brand personality dimensions to determine
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if particular dimensions are more predictive of attitudes than others, depending on the context [22,24,25].
However, very few studies have attempted to do this (e.g., Rojas-Méndez et al. ). Our second
contribution is that we measure individual and brand personality on five dimensions and enter each of
these dimensions separately into the explanatory model. In that way, we are able to assess differences in
the effects of self-brand personality differences on brand attitudes across contexts in a more precise way.
The study informs brand managers, advertisers and public policy organizations on how to position
and communicate eco-friendly extensions of existing car brands.
2. Literature Review and Research Questions
Product categories and brands can either be predominantly functional (e.g., lawnmowers) or
symbolic (e.g., cars). A functional product possesses mainly product-related or concrete, functional
associations [26,27]. Products with a symbolic positioning usually entail non-product-related or abstract,
image-based associations [26,28]. In this study, we focus on the symbolic meaning that cars carry .
Brand personality is an important component of this symbolic meaning and, as such, is a major
component of brand identity and brand image [15,16]. In the minds of people, brands can
have multidimensional personalities that are similar in their characteristics to individuals’
personalities [19,29,30]. The concept of brand personality attributes human characteristics or traits to a
brand on the basis of a consumer’s perception of that brand [29,31,32]. These personalities differentiate
brands in the minds of people. Brand personality can build unique and (un)favorable associations in
consumer memory [16,33]. Consumer behavior is often significantly affected by symbols, rather than
functionally-oriented attributes. Symbols may have a closer link to the consumer self-concept .
This is particularly important for publicly-consumed products, such as cars .
Individuals often use symbolic brand meaning for personal expression and social
communication [22,35–37]. Consumers strengthen their own self-concept by means of being associated
with brands whose symbolic images tend to be congruent with their own selves . The self-concept
is defined as the cognitive and affective understanding of who and what we are and can take two forms:
the actual self and the desired self . Self-brand congruity is the match between a consumer’s actual
or desired self-concept and brand image . Self-congruity theory suggests that brand attitudes are
partially a function of the similarity or dissimilarity of a brand’s image and their own self-image or
self-concept [22,38,39]. Self-brand congruity positively affects the brand in terms of the attitude towards
the brand , brand purchase intention [41,42] and brand loyalty .
Consumers use this symbolic meaning of brands, and more particularly, brand personality, in different
ways. Whether consumers desire brands that reflect their actual or desired self depends on their
self-motives. Self-congruity can be guided by either the need for self-consistency and self-uncertainty or
the need for self-esteem and self-enhancement [29,40,43,44]. Often, the motivation to express one’s own
actual self drives brand evaluation and use [40,45–47]. Consumers use brands to define, signal, sustain
and manage their identity towards themselves and others. To satisfy this need for self-consistency
and self-continuity, consumers tend to prefer brands that have a set of personality traits similar to
their own [35,48–50].
Berger and Heath  and Bhattacharya and Sen  state that, besides self-continuity, also
self-distinctiveness and self-enhancement drive brand identification and brand appreciation of consumers.
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Consumers may prefer brands with appealing personalities to enhance their selves [10,53,54].
Self-enhancement is the motivation to maintain or increase the positivity, or decrease the negativity, of
the self . It is an individual’s desire for increased status and a positive self-concept . The brand
may then have a positive effect on their self-perception and self-esteem in line with the brand’s
personality [41,57]. Much consumer research refers to the important role of self-enhancement in
consumers’ affinities towards brands (e.g., [11,12]).
In sum, the evaluation of brands may be guided by the motivation to maintain (actual self) or to
enhance (desired self) the sense of self [37,58,59]. Personality is an important component of self-brand
congruity. Cars are for most people value expressive and symbolic. For symbolic products or brands, such
as cars, evaluative responses are expected to be strongly driven by self-brand personality considerations.
In the present study, we first investigate whether the evaluation of a brand is determined by actual
self-brand congruity or rather by the aspirational (desired) differences between brand personality and
the personality of the individual. For value-expressive products, like cars, it is expected that the latter
will be more relevant than the former .
The self-concept is relatively stable over time and so are brand personalities. For instance, research
shows that extensions that are non-fitting in terms of brand personality often do not lead to parent brand
dilution effects [7,16]. Parent brands may be immune to such dilution effects when these brands have a
high familiarity and well-established brand personalities . On the other hand, to evaluate brands,
consumers may take self-brand personality differences into account in different ways, depending on the
context . Individuals often adjust their appreciation structure when faced with new brand
information. The relative importance or salience of different personality dimensions for brand evaluation
may thus depend upon this new information, such as the nature of the extension [20,61]. More
particularly, launching an electric car may trigger brand personality associations (e.g., inspired by the
environmental friendliness of an electric car) that are different from the associations evoked by the car
brand without the electric extension and may make some personality characteristics more important than
others for brand attitude formation. Parent brand attitudes after an extension are often found to be partly
driven by the attitude towards the extension (parent feedback effects [16,62,63]), but additionally,
different self-brand personality differences may also be more important when evaluating a brand after
an eco-friendly brand extension (such as an electric car) than when judging a car brand without
The present study tries to answer the following research questions (RQ):
RQ1. How do self-brand personality differences affect the attitude towards car brands?
RQ2. Do self-brand personality differences affect the attitude towards car brands after an electric
extension differently than the attitude towards brands without an electric extension?
RQ3. Are these effects different for owners and non-owners of car brands?
The research design is presented in Figure 1. In the upper part of Figure 1, RQ1 is depicted. In the
lower part, RQ2 is shown: self-brand personality differences have an effect on electric extension
attitudes, which, in turn, have an effect on brand attitudes after electric extension. Additionally,
self-brand personality differences may also affect brand attitudes after an extension directly. The attitude
towards the extension thus (partly) mediates the effect of self-brand personality differences on brand
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attitudes. The moderating role of car ownership on these effects (RQ3) is represented both in the upper
and lower parts of the Figure.
Figure 1. Research design. RQ, research question.
We conducted two pretests. The purpose of the first pretest was to select four car brands that are
substantially different in terms of brand personality, in order to be able to draw conclusions across brands
with different personalities. In the first stage, we composed a list of 39 brands. Twelve respondents
participated in an individual interview. The sample consisted of different age categories, six male and
six female respondents. The respondents categorized the brands on the basis of their personality, using
the five personality dimensions as proposed by Geuens et al. : responsible, active, bold, simple and
emotional (see Section 3.3 for details). We selected twelve brands that were associated most often with
predominantly one of these personality traits for further consideration: Alfa, Audi, BMW, Ford,
Mercedes, Nissan, Opel, Renault, Saab, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo.
The purpose of the second step in this first pretest was to narrow down the list of 12 brands to a list
of four car brands that were as different as possible with respect to their brand personalities. A sample
of 38 car drivers (45% men) received an online questionnaire. The sample consisted of respondents of
different age groups (11% 18–25 years; 18% 25–35 years; 26% 35–45 years; 42% 45–65 years;
3% >65 years). We asked them to indicate for each brand the most and the least fitting of the
Geuens et al. brand personality dimensions. The four most differentiated brands in terms of brand
personalities were Alfa, BMW, Toyota and Volvo. The respondents most frequently associated Alfa
with an emotional brand personality (35%) and least with the personality dimension “simple” (53%).
BMW is most strongly associated with the brand personality dimension “bold” (49%) and least with the
personality characteristics “simple” (73%). The participants most strongly associate Toyota with
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“simple” (58%) and least with “bold” (46%). Volvo is strongly associated with “responsible” (75%) and
least with “bold” (23%). These four brands are used in the remainder of the study.
We set up a second pretest to develop and visualize an electric car concept. We formed groups
between 6 and 10 participants (all master students in product development). One or two groups worked
on each of the four car brands. We organized six brainstorming sessions to search for product attributes
for an electric car, using the “idea to market” toolkit , to stimulate the creative process. This phase
resulted in between 100 and 195 items per group. Next, we assigned these items to four categories on
the basis of two dimensions: which of these items are actionable (implementable in the near future) or
not and which of the items are original (breakthrough) or evolutionary. We only took into consideration
those attributes that were deemed to be both original and actionable in the near future. Based on the six
most often mentioned attributes, a professional product designer made concept cards with graphical and
verbal stimuli, showing (pictures) and explaining (text) the six attributes, similar to the approach of Lau
and Phau . Car brands and models sometimes have very distinctive characteristics. Since the concept
cards had to be used with different car brands, we used a generic, neutral car model, without any brand
identifiers. To that end, we did not use a picture of an existing car, but a drawing of a generic car.
3.2. Main Study: Samples and Procedure
In the main study, two samples were selected. In the first one, 30 participants scored the personality
of one of the four selected brands, as well as their own personality. The total size of Sample 1 was thus
120 (30 for each of the four brands). In each of these subsamples of 30 participants, half of the
respondents owned the car brand they had to evaluate, while the other half owned another car brand. The
second sample consisted of 480 participants, 120 per tested brand. In all subsamples of this second
sample, again, half the respondents owned the car brand they had to evaluate, while the other half owned
another car brand. The participants in this second sample saw eight pictures of the electric car concept
developed in the pretest: one general picture of the car with the six characteristics, six pictures visually
and verbally highlighting the details of each of the six characteristics and the general picture again. They
were told that Brand A (the brand they had to evaluate later on) was going to launch this electric
extension. They then had to evaluate the extension (their attitude towards the extension), their perception
of the personality of the extension, evaluate the parent brand (attitude towards the parent brand after the
electric extension, without explicitly mentioning this extension again) and their perception of the
personality of the parent brand. Finally, they had to score their own personality. We collected the data
by means of online questionnaires, administered to a selection of panel members of a professional online
data collection agency. The samples are representative of the Belgian population of owners of a driver’s
license, males (55%) and females between 18 and 65, in terms of gender and age. In both samples, 6.5%
of the respondents are between 18 and 25, 23% between 26 and 35, 24% between 36 and 45 and 46.5%
between 46 and 65. Forty one-point-four percent had a lower education or a high school diploma, while
58.6% received a higher education.
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As the dependent variable, in the first sample, we measured the attitude towards the car brands by
means of a 3-item, 5-point Likert scale (“I am positive about the brand”, “The car brand shown is a good
car”, “I like the car shown”) (alpha = 0.93). In the second sample, we measured the attitude towards the
branded electric extension by means of the same scale, but now with reference to the electric extension
(“I am positive about the electric car brand shown”, “The electric car shown is a good car”, “I like the
electric car shown”)  (alpha = 0.92). The attitude towards the brand after extension was measured
using the same scale as in Sample 1 (alpha = 0.94). The work of Aaker  inspired the majority of the
research on brand personality to date [18,29,66,67]. However, this brand personality structure may not
be universal . One of the major criticisms of the Aaker scale is that it is a mixture of personality and
other image dimensions. Geuens et al.  developed a scale that consists of only personality dimensions
and that is a purer representation of the brand personality concept. Therefore, the present study uses the
Geuens et al. 12-item 5-point scale brand personality dimensions to measure the independent variables
of brand personality . The scale consists of five personality dimensions: responsibility (responsible,
down to earth, stable; alpha = 0.86), activity (active, dynamic, innovative; alpha = 0.85), boldness
(aggressive, bold; alpha = 0.80), simplicity (ordinary, simple; alpha = 0.79) and emotionality (romantic,
sentimental; alpha = 0.91). We used the same scale in both samples to also measure the personality of
the participants. Per scale, we averaged all scores across items for further analysis.
In the present study, we partly follow the approach by Rojas-Méndez et al.  in that we do not
construct one single measure of actual or desired self-brand personality fit, but we calculate measures
per personality dimension. Moreover, we do not measure “ideal” individual personality, but in our
analyses, we test the effect of the difference between actual individual personality and perceived brand
personality on brand attitudes. In that way, we are able to better assess the direction and nature of the
effect of each personality dimension on consumer responses. To that end, on the basis of the brand and
consumer personality scores, we calculated ten additional variables. First, we subtracted the consumer
personality scores for each of the five personality dimensions from the brand personality scores for each
of the five dimensions. This resulted in five scores. A positive score means that, in the perception of that
individual, the brand possesses this personality characteristic more than the person himself.
A negative score means that the individual possesses more of this personality characteristic than the
brand (s)he evaluated. We then calculated five more variables (one per personality dimension) as the
absolute value of the previously calculated difference scores. For these variables, a higher score means
that there is a larger difference (in absolute terms) between an individual’s score and the brand’s score
on this personality characteristic.
4.1. Effects of Self-Brand Personality Differences on the Attitude towards the Brand without
RQ1 and part of RQ3 are investigated in the first sample of 120 participants. First, we checked to
what extent the four selected brands had different personalities as anticipated in the pretest. Table 1
shows the results of five ANOVA analyses in which the scores per personality dimension are compared
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across brands. The results show that the four brands have distinctly different personalities. Alfa Romeo
is more strongly associated with “emotional” and “bold” and less often with “simple” and “responsible”
than the other three brands. BMW is more often referred to as responsible, active and bold than the other
brands, but less than Toyota and Volvo as simple. Toyota is described as simpler and less active, bold,
responsible and emotional than the other brands. Volvo’s distinct characteristic is responsibility and not
active, bold or emotional, especially compared to Alfa and BMW. The brands in the study are thus
substantially different in terms of their brand personalities.
Table 1. Perceived differences in brand personality between Alfa, BMW, Toyota and Volvo.
Alfa BMW Toyota Volvo p
Responsible 3.58 4.27 3.90 4.45 0.006
Active 4.11 4.45 3.51 3.75 0.001
Bold 3.50 3.24 2.44 2.28 0.001
Simple 1.50 1.65 3.24 2.44 0.000
Emotional 3.07 2.76 2.68 2.13 0.074
Cells are mean personality scores on 5-point Likert scales. p-values refer to ANOVA tests and indicate the
significance of the difference in personality scores across brands.
In case individuals evaluate brands more positively the higher their actual self-brand personality fit
is, brand attitudes should be more positive the smaller the absolute difference between brand personality
and individual personality. This should result in a negative effect of the absolute difference personality
variables on brand evaluation. Alternatively, individuals may evaluate a brand more positively or
negatively when it possesses certain personality characteristics more or less than the individual himself.
If, for instance, the perception of a consumer is that a car that is more active than himself is a better car,
this reflects an aspiration or desire, i.e., an evaluation that this brand is more valuable because it has a
personality characteristic that is better than his own personality. If that is the case, brand attitude should
be more positive or negative as a function of the non-absolute differences between brand and consumer
personality. The results show that, as expected, the explanatory power of the models with non-absolute
brand-consumer personality differences is substantially higher than those for absolute differences. This
signals an aspirational judgment of brands in terms of personality fit.
In Table 2, the results are shown of two regression analyses in which the attitude towards the brand
is predicted by non-absolute self-brand personality differences, one for non-owners of a brand and one
for brand owners. Non-owners evaluate a brand more positively if it is more active and more
sophisticated (less simple) than themselves. The relationship between brand personality and brand
evaluation is less important for brand owners. Only the dimensions “active” and emotional’ have a
marginally significant effect on brand attitudes.
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Table 2. Brand attitude as a function of the difference between the brand scores and the
individuals’ scores on the five personality dimensions (Sample 1: brands without electric
extension) (regression analysis), for non-owners and owners of a brand.
Personality Characteristic Non-Owners Owners
Responsible 0.160 (0.210) −0.036 (0.813)
Active 0.552 (<0.001) 0.273 (0.077)
Bold −0.200 (0.106) −0.041 (0.759)
Simple −0.320 (0.013) −0.157 (0.216)
Emotional −0.121 (0.295) 0.239 (0.053)
R2 0.432 0.174
N 60 60
Cells are standardized betas (significance levels). Sample composition: equal number of respondents per brand.
4.2. Effects of Self-Brand Personality Differences on the Attitude towards the Brand after
RQ2 and part of RQ3 are investigated in the second sample in which we presented an eco-friendly
electric extension for each brand and measured extension attitude and parent brand attitude after electric
extension. These analyses were all performed on non-absolute personality differences, as also in this
case, they proved to have substantially more explanatory power than the absolute differences. The effect
of self-brand personality differences on the attitude towards the brand after electric extension is carried
out in two steps, by means of regression analyses . In the first step, we predict the attitude towards
the electric extension by means of self-brand personality differences. In the second step, we predict the
attitude towards the brand after extension by means of the attitude towards the extension (parent brand
feedback effect) and the personality differences. In that way, the mediating role of the attitude towards
the extension can be assessed. Each of these two regression analyses is carried out for owners and
non-owners of the brands, in order to explore the moderating role of brand ownership.
Table 3 shows the results of two regression analyses (one for brand owners and one for non-owners
of a brand) in which self-brand personality differences predict extension attitudes. For non-owners, the
extension attitude is significantly influenced by the personality dimension “responsibility” and
marginally by “activity”. If the extension is perceived as more responsible and more active than the self,
extension attitudes are more positive. Based on the beta coefficients, for owners, again, the personality
dimension “responsibility” has the strongest impact on extension attitudes, but also “simplicity” and
“activity” have a significant effect. The more an extension is perceived as more responsible, active and
sophisticated (less simple) than the self, the more positive the attitude towards the extension. Besides
the generally aspired car characteristics, such as activity and sophistication, the evaluation of electric
extensions is also driven by the personality characteristic “responsibility”. This can be explained by the
fact that this extension connects the brand to the category of “environmentally-friendly” products and
makes certain ecological associations more salient. This is the case for both non-owners and owners of
the brand. As to the latter, presenting an electric extension cue is apparently meaningful extra brand
information that primes them to reconsider self-brand personality criteria for evaluative judgement of an
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Table 3. Attitude towards the electric extension as a function of the difference between the
brand scores and the individuals’ scores on the five personality dimensions (Sample 2:
brands with electric extension) (regression analysis), for non-owners and owners of the brand.
Personality Characteristic Non-Owners Owners
Responsible 0.369 (<0.001) 0.268 (<0.001)
Active 0.146 (0.056) 0.178 (0.006)
Bold 0.101 (0.106) 0.080 (0.160)
Simple −0.019 (0.768) −0.228 (<0.001)
Emotional 0.034 (0.589) 0.065 (0.220)
R2 0.249 0.274
N 240 240
Cells are standardized betas (significance levels). Sample composition: equal number of respondents per brand.
Table 4 shows the results of two regression analyses (one for brand owners and one for non-owners
of a brand) in which the attitude towards the extension and self-brand personality differences predict
attitudes towards the brand after electric extension. For non-owners, the attitude towards the extension
significantly positively influences parent brand attitudes after the electric extension. This confirms the
parent brand feedback effect of extensions. The attitude towards the extension is the most important
determinant of the attitude towards the parent brand after extension. The brands are also more positively
evaluated when they are more responsible, more active and less simple than the individual. The analyses
for brand owners show largely similar results, although in this case, the personality dimension
“responsibility” is a more important predictor than the attitude towards the extension.
The conclusion is that the attitude towards the electric extension partly mediates the effect of selfbrand
personality differences on brand attitudes after extension. Especially, the personality dimensions
“responsibility”, “activity” and, to a lesser extent, “simplicity” have both a direct and an indirect effect
(through extension attitudes) on brand attitudes after extension. There is a moderating effect of brand
ownership, but not to the extent that it fundamentally affects the basic conclusion. Both for brand owners
and non-owners, there is a mediating effect of extension attitude and a direct and indirect effect of
responsibility and activity. For owners, also simplicity is an important determinant of extension attitude,
and thus, it has both a direct and indirect effect on brand attitude. For non-owners, the effect of simplicity
is only direct. Further, the relative importance of personality dimensions is to a certain extent different
for brand owners and non-owners.
The effect of self-personality differences on parent brand evaluation after extension is thus largely
similar as in the case of extension evaluation. Again, the addition of an eco-friendly extension apparently
makes specific personality considerations (more particularly “responsibility”) salient and important for
brand judgement. Additionally, as anticipated, a clear parent brand feedback effect is present: extension
evaluation strongly determines parent brand attitudes after extension.
Comparing the results of Tables 2–4, the conclusion is that being perceived as more active and to a
lesser extent more sophisticated (less simple) than the self are significant drivers of brand attitude, but
their impact is substantially smaller after electric extension than without electric extension. Being more
responsible is a substantially more important driver of brand evaluation after electric extension than
without extension. The mean brand attitude scores in the two samples were not different. Two t-tests
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show no significant differences between the mean brand attitude in the two samples (non-owners:
t = 0.634, p = 0.528; owners: t = 01.442, p = 0.150). However, the brand attitude formation process as a
function of self-brand personality differences is substantially different in the two contexts.
Table 4. Attitude towards the parent brand following electric extension, as a function of the
attitude towards the extension and the difference between the brand scores and the
individuals’ scores on the five personality dimensions (Sample 2: brands with electric
extension) (regression analysis), for non-owners and owners of the brand.
Personality Characteristic Non-Owners Owners
Responsible 0.216 (<0.001) 0.318 (<0.001)
Active 0.221 (0.002) 0.173 (<0.001)
Bold −0.004 (0.950) 0.010 (0.866)
Simple −0.153 (0.007) −0.135 (0.014)
Emotional 0.072 (0.200) 0.043 (0.399)
Attitude towards extension 0.378 (<0.001) 0.222 (<0.001)
R2 0.415 0.318
N 240 240
Cells are standardized betas (significance levels). Sample composition: equal number of respondents per brand.
The extent to which a brand is perceived to possess certain personality characteristics more than
oneself is more predictive of brand evaluations than the mere absolute difference between a brand’s
personality and one’s own. This means that, when evaluating brands, consumers do not so much have
actual self-brand congruity in mind, but rather desired self-brand congruity [51,52]. This is in line with
research that demonstrates that brands are mainly used for self-enhancement, especially for publiclyconsumed
products, such as cars [25,35]. Malär et al.  found that brand personality fit with the actual
self is more important than desired personality fit, especially for high involvement products. The authors
explain this by arguing that, when a brand represents something that is out of reach, this need for
distancing could result in a decreased emotional brand attachment. However, this may be true for, say,
cosmetics, but is probably less true for cars or electric extensions of car brands, as these are usually more
realistic and less out of reach than the positioning of certain other products.
The relative importance of dimensions of the self-brand personality difference for brand evaluations
is different in an eco-friendly electric car context than for car brand evaluation in general. This lends
support to the claim that different aspired personality characteristics can be important depending on the
context in which judgments are formed [14,19], as people tend to take different personality dimensions
into account in different contexts. Graeff  already mentioned that contextual cues may evoke other
aspects of the role that self-brand personality congruity may play. Introducing the electric extension as
a new contextual cue may evoke ecological personality fit dimensions, since it connects the car category
to the category of environmentally-friendly products. The electric car may thus make the “responsibility”
personality dimension more salient, as it may serve to expose a more ecologically-responsible
personality [4,7,27,70]. Consequently, the personality dimension “responsibility” drives post-extension
attitudes to a greater extent than pre-extension attitudes. An extension triggers different personality fit
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priorities. This indicates that consumers in their relation to brands are “malleable” . The electric
extension has thus self-enhancement possibilities in offering a responsible personality profile.
Both without and after an electric extension, a number of self-brand personality differences are
important for judgement formation, namely activity and simplicity: generally speaking, car brands are
judged more favorably when they are more active and less simple than the individual. These results seem
to point to a predominantly car category-driven desired personality effect [61,71]. Apparently, in general,
people aspire for a car that enhances their activity and sophistication, no matter the context.
The fact that people own a certain car brand has an effect on how they take self-brand personality
differences into account. In a “contextless” situation (Sample 1), owners do not seem to take personality
dimensions into account so much. This is not surprising. These people already own the car brand they
had to evaluate. They probably went through the process of considering self-brand personality fit (or
other buying criteria) when they purchased the car. Consequently, they may have a stable attitude that is
not easily reconsidered without any extra triggers to reevaluate their attitudes. Indeed, attitudes are
relatively stable, especially without meaningful extra information . Non-owners, on the other hand,
are confronted with a brand that they are less familiar with, and therefore, they may elaborate more on
their evaluation of such a brand, leading them to the conclusion that a car brand that they perceive as
more active and sophisticated than themselves is more desirable.
Remarkably, the situation is different when owners are confronted with an electric car extension.
Presenting this extension cue is apparently meaningful extra brand information and a prime to scrutinize
and re-evaluate self-brand personality criteria. Besides considerations of activity and simplicity, also
extension evaluations and especially considerations about self-brand responsibility differences drive
brand attitudes after extension. This is not so much different from the attitude formation of non-owners.
Furthermore, the latter take the same self-brand differences into account, be it that in their case, the effect
of the personality dimension predominantly works through their evaluation of the extension, while for
brand owners, the responsibility factor predominantly has a direct effect on brand attitudes. Apparently,
the effect of extension attitudes for brand attitude formation is less important for owners than for
non-owners. Again, non-owners may have elaborated more when forming a brand attitude, also
including more actively the new extension information.
6. Future Research
In the present study, parent feedback effects were measured shortly after exposure to the electric
extension and questions about the extension itself. This may have biased the results. Future research
should measure parent feedback effects in the longer run.
Self-brand congruity can be measured in different ways, either directly or indirectly, or either on the
basis of personality dimensions or otherwise. Future research should investigate to what extent these
different approaches lead to different outcomes and what the reasons for these differences could be.
The extent to which the effect of self-brand personality differences on brand evaluation changes in
different contexts may partly depend on implicit self-theories of consumers. Individuals who
strongly believe in the entity self-theory perceive personal characteristics as fixed and difficult
to change [18,19,73,74]. Strong entity self-theorists may therefore react more negatively to extensions
that do not fit their own perceived personality [41,75]. Individuals adhering more to the incremental selfSustainability
2015, 7 12334
theory believe that personality traits are malleable and can be developed [18,19]. Strong incremental
self-theorists may therefore be more inclined to develop different personality fit responses in different
contexts. Future research could measure the degree to which consumers perceive their personality in
view of their relationships with brands to be malleable and study the effects of this malleability on
self-brand congruity effects.
Self-brand personality fit effects on brands, extensions and parent brand feedback may differ from
one brand to another. For instance, Jeong and Jung  investigated two dimensions of brand personality,
“sincere” and “prestige”, and concluded that a non-fitting extension of sincere brands may alter brand
personality, as opposed to extending a prestige brand, in which case the extension leaves the brand
personality unaffected. Fournier  and Park and John  state that identification and appreciation is
easier for “warm” than for “cold” brands. Future research could investigate differences in attitude
formation for different brands and what causes them.
Besides brand ownership, other potentially moderating factors of the self-brand personality fit/brand
attitude relation could be relevant, such as the general attitude towards electric cars. Additionally, for
instance, more environmentally-conscious individuals may take different personality considerations into
account than less eco-friendly consumers. An electric car is an innovative product. Strongly innovative
individuals may take personality considerations into account in a different way than less innovative
consumers. Previous research has shown that, in this early stage of the adoption of electric cars, these
factors do not play an important role in the adoption intention process . Nevertheless, as the adoption
process progresses, these factors may play an increasingly important role.
Cars are, for most people, high involvement, publicly-used and self-relevant products. Future research
should test the role of self-brand personality considerations in attitude formation, for less involving, less
self-relevant or less conspicuously-used products.
7. Managerial and Policy Implications
The insights developed in this study can be used by designers and marketers of eco-friendly cars and
public policy organizations. Designers and marketers could design and position electric cars in such a
way that they appeal to the aspirational personality of prospective consumers. Apart from promoting
generic desirable car personality characteristics, such as activity and sophistication, emphasizing the
“responsibility” personality dimension will make this eco-friendly line extension even more appealing.
Car marketers should realize that, whatever the current personality associations and aspirations with
respect to their brands, adding an eco-friendly alternative to their product line will enrich the
attractiveness of their brand with an extra aspirational personality dimension (responsibility).
The eco-friendly association of adding an electric car to the product line triggers eco-related personality
dimensions when evaluating both the extension and the parent brand after extension and makes this
personality dimension more salient. Public policy organizations who wish to promote sustainable
mobility by advocating the adoption of electric cars should realize that car buyers are still triggered by
aspirational motives of activity and sophistication. However, appealing to the aspiration of responsibility
is also an important buying motivation that could be used in awareness campaigns.
Sustainability 2015, 7 12335
Self-brand personality differences are significant predictors of attitudes towards car brands. A car
brand that is perceived as more active and less simple than the self is more positively evaluated, both
without and after an electric extension. Most strikingly, the relative importance of self-brand personality
differences for brand attitudes is different after electric extension than without this extension. After
electric extension, brand attitudes are predominantly determined by the extent to which a person
perceives a car as more responsible than himself, while the personality dimension “responsibility” does
not determine brand attitudes without extension. This basic conclusion holds for both brand owners and
non-owners. However, the relative importance of certain personality dimensions is different for both
groups. In the formation of brand attitudes without extension, owners are hardly driven by self-brand
personality differences (except, marginally, by “activity” and “emotionality”), while the attitude
formation of non-owners is significantly driven by differences in self-brand activity and simplicity.
Self-brand differences in responsibility strongly drive electric extension attitudes for non-owners of a
brand, while for owners, the effect of responsibility differences is smaller, and contrary to non-owners,
they are also driven by self-brand differences in simplicity. The attitude towards the electric extension
partly mediates the effect of self-brand personality differences on car brand attitudes after extension. For
non-owners, the attitude towards the brand after electric extension is strongly driven by extension
attitudes, while for brand owners, the effect of self-brand differences in perceived responsibility has the
strongest effect. Overall, responsibility perceptions are important for both owners and non-owners of a
brand after electric extension, but in the case of non-owners, this effect works predominantly indirectly,
through extension attitudes, while for owners, the effect of responsibility is more direct. For owners, also
self-brand simplicity difference is an important determinant of extension attitude and, thus, has both a
direct and indirect effect on brand attitude. For non-owners, the effect of this self-brand simplicity
difference is only direct.
The authors have each contributed equally to the research design, the analysis of the data and the
writing of the manuscript. Both authors have read and approved the final manuscript.
Conflicts of Interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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