All brand elements are built around the brand essence, which is the heart of the brand and represents the brand promise. The whole construct finally constitutes the brand identity. Bennett (1988) introduced intangible elements and Ambler (1992) even went one step further by suggesting that the attributes that form a brand may be real or illusory, rational or emotional, tangible or even invisible. The brand identity is the basis of the brand strategy that should be holistic and longeve (Wood, 2000). According to Kapferer (1992) brand identity consists of different facets that can be illustrated as a six-sided prism including physique, personality, culture, self-image, reflection, and relationship. This study mainly concentrates on the brand personality and brand experience. Brand personality, which is rarely researched in the wearable tech category, is defined as “the set of human characteristics associated with a brand” (Aaker, 1997, p347). It represents the appearance (visual and tangible elements) and tonality (communication style and atmosphere) of the brand identity. Thus, it provides more symbolic benefits to a consumer (Wysong et al., 2002). Aaker (1997) classified it into five dimensions: Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication and Ruggedness. Literature suggests that brands with strong and positive personalities provide many benefits (Freling and Forbes, 2005).
Brand Experience, on the other hand is defined as “subjective internal consumer responses (sensations, feelings and cognitions) and behavioural responses evoked by brand related stimuli that are part of a brand’s design and identity, packaging, communications, and environments” (Brakus, Schmitt and Zarantonello, 2009, p53). According to Fromm and Garton (2013) consumers are looking for experiences and adventures. Therefore the perceived brand experience may be a crucial factor for building their brand preference, and in turn, repurchase intention.
Brand Personality and Brand Experience
Evidence suggests that people can associate human characteristics with brands (Aaker, 1997). Thus consumers imagine brands similar like a celebrity or relate them to themselves (Rook, 1985; Fournier, 1994). Thereby brands become living persons, i.e. intangible assets can be visualized and become tangible. As a result consumers can interact with brands as if they were human beings (Toldos-Romero and Orozco-Gómez, 2015). Consumers form their perception of a brand’s personality based on memories through direct and indirect contacts with the brand (Plummer 1985) and based on characteristics related (e.g. packaging, price, and category of the product) or unrelated (e.g. style of advertising, company’s image and the user’s imagery) to the product (Aaker, 1996). The formed associations of a brand’s characteristic traits tend to be relatively enduring and distinct (Aaker, 1997). According to Saavedra (2004) these associations help consumers recover information to make purchase decisions. Consequently, a distinct brand personality facilitates the creation of a set of unique and favourable associations in the consumer’s memory that builds brand equity (Keller, 1993). As consumers mostly make buying decisions based on their own formed brand images instead of the original attributes of the product itself, brand personality is an important issue in marketing (Dick et al., 1990). Thus, brand managers try to connect a brand with personality dimensions in order to get the consumers’ attention and to enable their brand preference (Mulyanegara et al., 2009).
Evidence suggests that the influence of the brand personality dimensions is even stronger for hedonic products (Lim et al., 2003). Emotional bonds that are created through the brand personality are even more important for a “feel” product, because emotions highly influence the buying process in such a product category (Ratchford, 1987). Thus a strong and unique brand personality may help to support this relationship with the brand.
Particularly for the younger generation who are identified as emotional consumers with high involved with technology (Bergh and Behrer, 2013), brand personality seems to be really critical for effective branding of wearable techs; such consumers are highly susceptible to a strong brand personality (Gur?u, 2012).
Brand Experience is also really important to consumers, when building their brand preference (Bergh and Behrer, 2013). Evidence suggests that consumers seek for products or services including emotional experiences (Ratneshwar and Mick, 2005), because they have a higher impact than product features and benefits, which can lead to long-lasting memories, enhancing deeper meaning and brand trust (Schmitt, 1999). They tend to build their product judgement based on experiences of first-hand or their peers rather than on information or traditional advertising (Williams and Page, 2010). In order to enhance a positive effect, brand experience must be unique, distinctive and consistent in all touch-points with the brand (Shaw and Ivens, 2002; Schmitt, 2003). Furthermore it should connect the functional and emotional elements of a brand (Berry et al., 2002).
Brand experience occurs whenever consumers get in contact with a brand (Ambler et al., 2002). This contact can be direct and physical or indirect through the product presentation via advertising (Hoch and Ha 1986). It can appear in form of product, service and shopping or consumption experience (Brakus, Schmitt, and Zhang, 2008). Product experience is created through interaction with the product or through examining and evaluating it during the consumers’ search for the brand (Hoch 2002). It can also occur when consumers talk to others about the brand (Ambler et al., 2002). Apparently it is similar to the experience that is created through consumers’ consumption of the product. Service and shopping experience is created through consumers’ interaction with a store during the purchase of the product (Kerin, Jain and Howard 2002). In summary brand experience can be expected or unexpected, positive or negative, short-lived or long lasting and it can vary in strength and intensity (Brakus Schmitt and Zarantonello, 2009).
Brakus, Schmitt and Zarantonello (2009) suggest that brand experience is exposed by brand related stimuli, which are part of the brand identity. Thus, as being part of brand identity (Kapferer, 1992), brand experience may influence brand personality. Although both concepts deal with managing emotional benefits of a brand and occur as reaction of consumers’ contact with a brand, many differences exist. Brand personality represents consumers’ reflection or judgement of a brand by projecting some personality traits on a brand. Hence, it is a highly inferential process (Johar, Sengupta, and Aaker 2005). In contrast, brand experience represents the consumers’ subjective internal and behavioural responses on a brand contact. Thus, it is not only a perception of the brand, but mainly a feeling or behaviour that consumers develop because of the brand. This can have four different outcomes, which are the sensory, affective, cognitive and behavioural dimension of brand experience (Brakus, Schmitt and Zarantonello, 2009). The sensory dimension includes the consumers’ senses (vision, smell, taste and touch). The affective dimension represents the consumers’ emotions and inner feelings towards the brand. The cognitive dimension stands for the consumers’ creative thinking of the brand. Finally the behavioural dimension refers to the consumers’ physical experiences with the brand (Brakus et al., 2009; Schmitt, 1999). Consequently emotions are just one outcome of brand experience, while brand personality primarily focuses on emotional relationships. However it is obvious that brand experience has a strong and positive effect on brand personality.
Aaker (1997) classified five dimensions of brand personality: Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication and Ruggedness. Bergh and Behrer (2013) created a branding model according to which the following five denominators enhance the success of brands: Coolness, Realness (Authenticity), Uniqueness, Self-Identification with the brand and Happiness. These aspects build the so-called CRUSH- model. Though the single aspects provide an orientation for brands, they also give a wide scope of interpretation. Furthermore the importance of each factor depends on the product category. Additionally the model points out many parallels to Aaker’s (1997) five dimensions of brand personality.
One fundamental aspect of the CRUSH-model that supports the theory that brand personality significantly influences decision-making process is the Self-Identification with the brand. Consumers tend to identify with brands based on their self-concept and image (Malhotra, 1988), as they provide a feeling of comfort and facilitate expressing themselves (Park & John, 2010). They seek for brands underlining the identity aspects they want to represent and fitting with the crowd behaviour of their peers (Bergh and Behrer, 2013). In sum, this means their favourite brands’ personality must support their lifestyle and values and accentuate the consumers’ uniqueness. But at the same time it has to be in line with the expectations of their friends and family. Many aspects of the CRUSH-model suggest that the brand personality must be primarily exciting, because Brand Coolness and Uniqueness highlight personality traits that are really close to the Excitement dimension (Bergh and Behrer, 2013; Aaker, 1997). According to Bergh and Behrer (2013) positive Brand Uniqueness encourages consumers talking about the brand and buying it on recommendation. But it is difficult convincing them of a brand’s Uniqueness. Therefore it is important that they perceive the brand’s major claim and positioning as consistently implemented for every brand element. Furthermore, the unique selling proposition must be perceived as relevant to them. The brand personality traits unique and independent that are part of the Excitement dimensions have the same meaning (Aaker, 1997).
The Excitement dimension also includes the trait cool. According to Bergh and Behrer (2013) Brand Coolness is particularly important to consumers and enhances their loyalty. As “coolness” is a subjective aspect a no distinct definition of what consumers perceive as “cool” exists. Coolness represents a kind of style and appearance that affects the brand personality. Consumers perceive a brand as cool when it has “a clear and consistent brand vision or DNA, a unique cheerful style and create exiting and creative innovations confirming that vision” (Bergh and Behrer, 2013, p66). This definition is in line with most of Aaker’s (1997) personality traits that describe the Excitement dimension, namely exciting, unique, cool, young, imaginative, trendy and up-to-date.
Still, the expectation on coolness is not the same for each product category. In fact the importance of coolness for tech brands is rather high. As it is a high-involvement product the consumers’ brand loyalty is exclusive and not easily shifted or shared (Gur?u, 2012). Therefore smart watch brand personality is critical in terms of differentiation and loyalty (Bergh and Behrer, 2013). On top of this, whilst self-identification with a brand is a critical antecedent of purchase intention, exciting brands help consumers to express themselves (Maehle, Otnes and Supphellen, 2011).
Aaker’s (1997) personality dimension Sincerity also considerably overlaps with some aspects of Bergh and Behrer’s (2013) CRUSH-model, namely with the Brand Happiness and Realness. Brand Realness or Authenticity means consumers expect brands to be honest, credible and transparent. This also points out that they expect brands “listening” to them and “discussing” with them like a friend would do. Furthermore it should stay true to itself and keep its vision central (Bergh and Behrer, 2013). Pattuglia, Mingione and Borra (2015) revealed that Brand Authenticity increases the Brand Image and the consumers’ willingness to pay a premium price. Furthermore, it is strongly linked with Brand Trust (Schallehn et al. 2014), which is an important buying concern for 78% of the consumers (World Economic Forum, 2013). The brand personality traits honest, sincere, real, original, down-to-earth and friendly, which are part of the Sincerity dimension, can represent this description of authenticity (Aaker, 1997).
As consumers are really emotional consumers, emotional branding is required as well, as brands are supposed to evoke positive feelings. Thus, connecting the brand with positive emotions and taking away negative ones is paramount (Bergh and Behrer, 2013). As wearable tech is mostly consumed in context of sensorial gratification or escapism, an emotional loading onto a brand is even more important for enhancing the differentiation of brands and giving consumers incentive to make a purchase (Zarantonello and Luomala, 2011). Brand Happiness also represents a concrete feeling that a brand delivers through experiences and communication. But it is a really subjective feeling that gives wide room for interpretation. Consumers nowadays, especially the younger ones, are constantly seeking for a good work-life-balance, self-improvement, individual fulfilment, freedom and flexibility, meaningful relationships and certainty and control of their life. Brands have the function to support them in reaching these factors of Happiness. These aspects are comparable to the personality traits cheerful and sentimental of the Sincerity dimension. Evidence suggests that brands that deliver meaningful experiences can reflect these on brand personality traits. Thus, consumers may perceive a brand as being, for example, more sincere if they rate the brand experience higher. The same thing applies to all parts of brand experience with consumers that rate brands higher on the experience aspect perceiving brands notably enhanced in terms of personality (Riivits-Arkonsuo and Leppiman, 2016).