The calculated and sensitive approach to the management of a brand’s image is essential in maintaining a competitive edge and reversing the volatile and diminishing tide of brand loyalty. The basic meaning of a product has a bearing on the consumer’s choice. A brand’s personality referrers to the human attributes that a brand cultivates in the minds of the consumer. It is a branding concept that embraces the dynamics of the non-utilitarian brand attributes (Aaker and Joachimsthaler 2000). It serves as a communication vehicle that transports and sells the product to the consumer in a more personalized package allowing the consumer to relate with such a product. Marketers therefore use the perceptions of the consumer in formulating their market strategies and maintaining key interest in the consumer. In the modern-day marketplace, consumers relate commercial goods by their social identity and categorize them by their functional qualities (McCracken1986, p 71-84). Like all others, the consumers in the motor vehicle market heavily rely on the brand personality analysis besides other factors in making a decision as to their chosen model. This paper examines the place of brand personality in the motor vehicle industry with specific regard to three organizations Hummer, Toyota Corolla and Mazda.
Several attempts have been made at exploring the theory of brand personality based on the premise that the brand is analogous to the consumer. The historical antecedent of brand personality benefits from the writings of the 20th century C.G Jung who introduced and elaborated a theory of psychological types. He discussed type theories as having borrowed heavily from behaviouralism and suggested that only traits of interpretation in his introversion and extraversion approach were measurable. Others such as Hans Eyasenck suggested a model that relied on the dimensions of personality as a basis of the formulation of the introversion extraversion scale.
A tentative construction from these theories points towards the conclusion that the axes of brand personality are continuums. The majority of marketers choose to narrow down the scales to matrices. In the end however it really does not matter whether one is an introvert or extravert since no one really falls on either side. The use of personality models and by extension type theories has gained credence from the validity and preciseness associated with the use of scales as a form of analysis.
A lawyer is considered by many as conservative and obscure owing to the nature of their work and how they deliver their services. However at one point or another one needs the services of such an individual. It, therefore, falls upon that person to look for certain relationship traits in the lawyer besides the professional qualification. The degree of conservativism and trustworthiness that the specific lawyer has will therefore influence the choice of the consumer. This is an example of the relationship approach to brand personality as the relationship between the consumer and the brand and vice versa. This relationship is characteristically analogous to the interpersonal relationship that exists between two individuals.
This approach like the personality theories suggests that nobody really lies on either end. It is therefore considered as a systems interaction approach that signifies the relationship between the consumer and the brand in an active system. These approaches have focused on imbuing specific brands with human-related characteristics that are more or less based on everyday human traits and values. Brands have been characterized as sincere, outgoing, trustworthy, stylish as well as pretentious. These traits are not self-existent. They require a social setup that comprises more than one individual participant for them to be revealed.
Due to the competitive forces of demand and supply there is a wide range of symbols and brand significations in the market. The consumer therefore needs heuristics in order to effectively make a decision as to the non-utilitarian character of the brands. The obligation, therefore, lies with marketers who should ensure that their branding efforts are in line with the existing interests of consumers.
Brand personality has been historically used as a justification for consumer study allowing the organization to formulate a guide for its brand meaning. The creation of a brand’s personality requires a robust descriptive and realistic picture of the fundamental yet abstract impression that the brand has on the consumer. It is therefore an attempt at simplifying the rather complex and intricate brand picture to the consumer in the contemporary context.
Toyota Corolla (Competent)
Consumers tend to describe products using adjectival descriptions of specialized personality traits. The Toyota Corolla is part of a line of subcompact and compact cars that were introduced in 1966 by the Japanese auto manufacturer Toyota. Over the years it has grown to market leadership being the best selling nameplate by 2007 with over 35 million units being sold worldwide. This in effect translates to at least one unit every 40 seconds. The market is characteristically aggressive and demanding. This has caused the company to redesign the model several times to suit the consumer’s needs. The brand has undergone ten generations of rebranding to date. It has risen to be the second best-selling model in Australia with up to 200,000 Americans from all walks of life making a purchase every year.
Toyota corolla created a brand meaning of competence. The competence of the model and brand goes to its level of efficiency, reliability, convenience and inexpensiveness. The car only requires occasional oil change and this will guarantee transportation up to the 100000-mile mark. All the makes come with a 1.8-liter tank and 132 horsepower four-cylinder engine. The transition is sent to the front wheels through a five-speed manual transition and in the alternative a four-speed automatic transition. Any reliable car must provide safety to its driver.
The Toyota Corolla comes with an enhanced safety pack that is improved with a full-length curtain and driver’s knee airbags. Safety is of paramount importance to the consumer and therefore the consumer will definitely be influenced by the ability of the car to guarantee it. The market base for the products is diverse and condition-specific. Some consumers come from areas with extremely cold conditions and therefore require a product that will provide service to them even in these conditions. Others come from areas with hot temperatures and coarse grounds. The Toyota corolla has been tried and tested for reliability in these conditions. The results as indicated by a motor vehicle review suggest that “….Toyota is on top of its mass manufacturing game” (Torr 2008- Toyota Corolla).
The car offers a refined driving experience with a six-speed gearbox that is decidedly easy to shift. The engine is smooth and responsive to acceleration and has a standardized 4.5-meter long length that is easy to park without much help. The Toyota corolla is definitely a famous and consumer-oriented product that has worked for different categories of consumers that range from students to retirees. This is due to its fuel effectiveness that allows small and medium-income earners to effectively fit the vehicle into their budget. The car also has a greater interior space that allows for more comfort for the legs and shoulders.
Entertainment wise the car comes with a CD stereo system that can read mp3 music and has an FM station as well as AUX option. This allows the consumer to coo enjoy the basic entertainment options. As it is, driving this vehicle has been likened to eating pudding. The cost of the vehicle falls within the reach of most average citizens with its most recent make going for a price between $15200 and $20,990. The fuel consumption of the car stands at 7.3/l for every 100 km. This ratio means that it is the most efficient short-distance automobile whose carbon emissions rate stands at 172g/km.
The brand personality of the Toyota corolla subscribes to the theory of consumption symbolism. The car is affordable and readily available to the average consumer (McCracken 1986, pp 71-84). The symbolism theory suggests that the consumer readily associates with the product that falls just above or within their financial social and status boundaries so that they do not feel inferior by using the product and on the other they feel comfortable with the idea of purchasing the product. Toyota corolla is therefore the everyday reliable comfortable and convenient alternative for the average income earned (Torr 2008- Toyota Corolla).
Hummer (Sophisticated and Exciting)
Brand personality is a market and consumer-oriented mechanism that can be expressed from a theoretical perspective through the consumption symbolism theory. The meaning of a brand is therefore developed from the everyday stories of the consumer in their encounter with the product, which in most cases depend on the various contexts in which the product exists. The meaning and personality of the brand will therefore be constructed on the basis of the various contexts. This stands along with the trait-based approach to the product meaning that suggests that the consumers derive a meaning from the product according to the traits that it offers and such traits are inner related to the psychiatric characteristics of the human being (Kates 2002, pp383-399). The conceptual analysis of the brand personality can therefore not be entirely based on a single faculty such as psychology. It should embody an interdisciplinary approach to the brand that includes all factors concerning the brand. An interrogation of the Hummer illustrates this application of brand personality.
The hummer has been considered sophisticated and exciting. The car has been associated with wealth style and pretentiousness. Its prominence among the young has made it fun and fashionable to own and has been associated with a person you definitely want to spend an evening with. The hummer is that wealthy uncle who is ready to spoil you each time you visit them. It is the powerful boss who commands a distinct level of respect among the high and mighty. It is the big brother who is standing and fights for you when your peers make fun of you and keep them away. The car was an attempt by the General Motors Company to offer the consumer a more practical rather than exotic product that does not subscribe more to the modernist versions but rather to the military Humvee-inspired styling that stands out like a heavyweight prizefighter attending a Friday knitting class
In as far as style is concerned the hummer has great flexibility and room for customization using factory and dealer options that can be used to adjust the car to suit on and off-road conditions. It has been said to be the rogue brother of the SUV based on these merits. The car has undergone two rebranding stages since its initial H1version. This has been a response to the cost and structural concerns that were associated with the earlier versions. The model handles off-road terrain better than any other model with a 239 horsepower 3.7-liter inline five-cylinder engine that is served by a five-speed transmission with hill-start assistance. This basically is the engine found in midsize pickups.
These traits are followed by a high cost that falls in the range of up to $30000 supplemented by its fuel inefficiency. The product is therefore wealthy spoilt and stylish leaving it at the high end and out of reach for the average income earners. It is however a necessity for the consumer who lives in areas with rough terrain since it stands up to 9.1 inches above the ground with oversized tires that are suitable for all-terrain. It can basically take on any terrain without taking damage. It has two versions- the alpha and base versions. The alpha version is more stylish and suitable for urban cruises since it has a 5.3-liter with a rear camera and slide curtain airbags. The hummer can therefore have different meanings depending on the context in which the meaning is interpreted. Among the urban folk the hummer is a high-end product that is spoilt wealthy stylish and spendthrift. On the other hand those from the army and areas with rough terrain consider it as a competent, common, reliable and resourceful product that serves them appropriately (Torr 2008- Hummer H3).
The most reliable and effective approach to brand personality is one that employs the contextual as well as the consumer orientation approach in examining the consumer’s perception of the brand. This multi-method approach allows for the explanation of symbols that are within the marketplace that are projected to brands with the appropriate metaphors that represent the majority of the consumers. It embraces the consumer’s interpretation of the brand meaning as well as the contextual understanding of the brand (Aaker 1997, p 347-356). Based on common definitions the approach defines the conceptual boundaries of the brand meaning and incorporates all the human characteristics that define the brand. An investigation of the brand personality of Mazda as a brand narrows down the approach into actual structural components that are based on consumer perception of brand personality.
Mazda is considered an enterprising brand. It is trustworthy and sincere and can readily be associated with an outgoing and classy in-law who is always at the right place at the right time. It is that funky, zippy and aggressive relative who is fairly stylish and is quite impressive although not the very best. Since its launch the Mazda has improved its appearance to subscribe to the modern trends and improve performance. The body is quite impressive with a refined engine that is supported by sophisticated suspension and interior. It has higher trims that allow the car to have better zip and convenience. Mazda speaks to all walks of life since its prices are friendly and its quality and social status are impressive. It commands respect among the members of its class with a high level of convenience and safety. The 3i version employs a 2.0 four-cylinder engine that supports up to 148 horsepower and 135-pound height torque.
Newer versions such as the 3s sport provide more power to the driver through a 2.5litre engine with different front and rear fascias, 17-inch alloy wheels along with dual exhaust tips and a rear spoiler. The interior of the car stands over and above the other models such as the Toyota Corolla and the Honda with upgraded upholstery and leather-wrapped steering. The front seats are aggressively bolstered and the driver enjoys the convenience of using a trip computer and electroluminescent gauges. In as far as safety is concerned the Mazda is fitted with stability and traction control as well as disc brakes and active front restraints. It has front and side curtain airbags that guarantee ultimate safety. The model earned the highest qualifications achievable in a crash test of five stars.
The vehicle has impressive road manners that are supported by the minimum body roll and healthy grip that falls above that of the Toyota corolla. This creates a higher driver confidence and allows for a better cruise for the urban road. It has a beefed-up 2.5-liter engine that offers equal power as the Mazda 6 and is an appropriate fallback for persons who are downsizing from more powerful cars. In as far as traits are concerned the Mazda passes with an average mark. It is therefore considered as the better option if compared to the Honda and the Toyota corolla. Consumers from all walks of life and contexts perceive the product in equal measure irrespective of their status. (Stevens 2009).
The three organizations have made attempts at maintaining an effective and convincing brand image. Hummer and Toyota corolla have managed to make the best use of this image to maintain consumer loyalty and increase their sales. The brand personality of their product has positively affected the organization by maintaining a positive image and increasing their goodwill. The Mazda has however not effectively managed to utilize the potential of brand personality since it remains known to few people and therefore needs to invest more in their personality.
The three organizations have several loopholes that need to be filled to completely utilize the benefits of brand personality. The Toyota corolla for instance needs to make several adjustments to its brand. All its competitors have made an effort at inspiring their brands with a sense of futuristic flair. The organization, therefore, needs to inspire its brand to allow for a more trendy and stylish version that suits the urban driver.
The model also lacks the standard cruise control and therefore reduces the comfort that the driver has by requiring them to be more attentive on the road. This has worked both ways in ensuring safety. Some have found it riskier as opposed to competitor models while others have found it a better driving experience. The organization should therefore provide versions with the cruise control option to cover both ends of the coin.
The organization also needs to incorporate Electronic Stability Control technology in their brand. The technology improves the level of safety in the car and guarantees driver safety and reduces incidents of accidents. The model needs improvement in the fine details that entice the consumer and create an image.
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