PHOENIX (Aug. 24, 2023) Zion & Zion, a full-service, global marketing agency, released part five of its multi-part study that explored the relative brand personalities of 45 top U.S. brands. The brands were selected based on a variety of established rankings. In the fifth study, the Zion & Zion research team explored the topic of negative brand personality.

“While brand personality is an oft-discussed topic in marketing, ‘negative brand personality traits’ are seldom mentioned, but extremely important,” said Zion & Zion CEO Aric Zion.

In this study, the Zion & Zion team investigated the dark side of brand personality and assessed 45 major U.S. brands on the negative brand personality (NegBP) scale developed by Haji (2014). In the NegBP scale, unfavorable brand perceptions are captured on four dimensions: egotistical, boring, socially irresponsible, and crude. Each dimension consists of multiple traits.

Brands such as Facebook and Wells Fargo were found to be perceived in a more negative light compared to others. However, most brands exhibited low levels of negativity associated with their personalities.

The Zion & Zion researchers saw low levels of NegBP across the 45 brands, so it might seem like negative perceptions are not an issue for America’s leading brands, however, the study’s regression analysis revealed otherwise. In fact, three out of the four NegBP dimensions ranked among the top five dimensions in impact, surpassing positive dimensions such as originality, sophistication, excitement, and ruggedness. Being perceived as egotistical or socially irresponsible was found to substantially lower brand performance, while being viewed as crude or boring actually improved brand performance.

The study highlights the importance of understanding the dark side of brand personality, as the regression coefficients of the four dimensions of NegBP had a one-third higher impact on perceptions of brand performance than did the the non-negative brand personality traits. Although major U.S. brands scored low on NegBP, even small variations in negative perceptions can have a disproportionately large impact on brand performance.

View the full research report here.