Universal Brand Personalities: A Cross-cultural Examination of adidas Brand Managers and Consumers in Italy and Germany

Cecilia Angelika Wiesböck & Francesca Galli

Student thesis: Master thesis


The field of brand management has long dealt with "brand equity" as a way to measure a brand's success. Brand managers will try to increase brand equity through tactical measures. The concept of brand personality, assigning human attributes to brands, is a way brand managers can influence consumers to form brand description and ultimately influence brand equity. This research focuses on brand personality and its challenges.
Brand managers attempting to apply the brand personality instrument will run into applicability and ambiguity challenges. The first is that managers and consumers will often have differing expectations and realities for the same brand. The second is that culture moderates the embedding and perception of brand personalities. This research thus explores how culture influences brand personality perception, using brand personality (Aaker J. L., 1997) as one theoretical concept, the cultural models of Hofstede (2001) and Schwartz (1992, 2004) as the cultural lenses, against the background of two angles and the apparent "manager-consumer gap" in brand management.
Qualitative case study research is employed as an ideal theory-building method that also addresses the lack of qualitative research in brand personality research. Eight brand managers from Italy and Germany at the global sportswear brand adidas, and twenty adidas consumers, were interviewed. Answers were qualitatively explored using theory-infused coding techniques and a qualitative research analysis tool.
The research revealed that adidas received similar brand personality profile assessments from all participants, regardless of country and angle (manager / consumer). Due to a unique constellation of Schwartz value types at adidas, and based on recent research on the subject matter, we argue that adidas has the characteristics of a "Universal Brand Personality", i.e. a brand personality that potentially works across multiple cultures. With high-impact implications for the global-local dilemma, the research closes with suggestions on how to further pursue the proposed concept.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2018
Number of pages131
SupervisorsJesper Clement