November 20, 2020

Often in tourism we are very distracted by the shiny and the new.  So as part of TTRA’s 50th anniversary, it has been not only enormous fun to go back over articles from the Journal of Travel Research over that time but an important reminder that the past still has a great deal to teach us. 

It was a hard choice on which paper to review. But I chose to look at Ekinci and Hosany’s 2006 consideration of how valid it is to apply brand personality to tourism destinations and whether using the lens of brand personality does provide a useful way to drive behaviours.  It’s particularly interesting to do that in the age of Byron Sharp’s How Brands Grow with a focus on distinctiveness via assets as a key driving factor for brands. 

This wide-ranging paper provides a great general introduction to the concept of brand personality and its role in destination marketing including considering: 

  • The different ratings scales for measuring brand personality including a useful summary of the published measures in the academic literature. In evaluating further, using David Aaker’s Brand Personality Scale is well chosen because of both its thoroughness and its wide recognition. This also provides a useful point of context against broader consumer goods where these scales are more widely used.  It also considers which attributes are most effective within this and finds that there are 3 core attributessincerity, excitement, and conviviality.  These are particularly valid for the type of beach holidays it measures (and is honest that this might need to be reconsidered for other types of experiences. It also provides some tantalising glimpses of cross-cultural relevance of measures in the literature review.  The paper seems to indicate that whilst some variation exists, there are generally a core of measures that can be used across different cultures which would be useful ‘enough’ for those of us in more applied research.  
  • Whether there are useful distinctions between brand personality and brand image.  Its conclusions support the importance of considering brand personality as a distinct element within brand image and will thus be useful for any tourism researcher who has faced this question 
  • Whether affective or cognitive image is a more effective measure for brand personality.  Both are seen to be valid, although affective seems to have a stronger impact in terms of the measured outcomes. 
  • The impact of brand personality on willingness to advocate for a destination.  This for me was the crux of the paper and the paper showed evidence that a stronger brand personality does increase the likelihood of advocacy.   

Initially I was disappointed by the focus on advocacy over choice and on short haul ‘sun’ holidays, this actually proved to be a strength of the paper for me.   

Advocacy remains a key driver of destination choice and it one where the decision to advocate is a far simpler one than that of destination choice making it easier to understand the effects.  

Similarly, short haul sun destinations are often ones where there is a high degree of substitutability. This makes the value of identifying a role for brand personality greater. 

So revisiting this paper really provided some useful validation of my own practice – and passion for the role of brand personality. 

It also fueled my interest to explore further the archives of Journal of Travel Research. Often I tend to focus on more recent papers, so a reminder to self to check older documents was a valuable reminder. 

Submitted by:  Carolyn Childs

Editor Note: The study the author is reflecting upon is available free to the public until September 2021 as a part of the Tribute to TTRA’s 50th anniversary from the Journal of Travel Research.