ⓘ Jennifer Aaker


ⓘ Jennifer Aaker

Jennifer Aaker is an American social psychologist, author, and General Atlantic Professor of Marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Best known for her research on time, money, and happiness, Aaker also focuses on the transmission of ideas through social networks, the power of story in decision making, and how to build global brands across cultures. She is the recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award from the Society for Consumer Psychology and the Stanford Distinguished Teaching Award.


1. Early life and education

Aaker was born in Palo Alto, California to Kay Aaker and David Aaker, a professor and brand consultant. Aaker attended the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied under social psychologist Philip E. Tetlock and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 1989. In 1990, Aaker began postgraduate work at Stanford Graduate School of Business, earning a Ph.D. in marketing with a minor in psychology in 1995. Her dissertation on brand personality led to the publication of three academic papers in Journal of Marketing Research and Journal of Consumer Research and won several awards.


2. Career

Aaker began her academic career in 1995 as an assistant professor at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. In 1999, she returned to the Stanford Graduate School of Business as an assistant professor, was promoted to associate professor in 2001, and earned a full professorship in 2004. In 2005, Aaker was named General Atlantic Professor of Marketing. Her work has been published in scholarly journals in psychology and marketing and has been highlighted in The Economist, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, BusinessWeek, Forbes, NPR, CBS MoneyWatch, Inc., and Science. She serves as an advisory board member for several private companies.

As a social psychologist and marketer, Aaker began her research career by proposing a "Dimensions of Brand Personality" framework to describe and measure the "personality" of a brand, defined as the set of human characteristics associated with it. The five core dimensions are Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication, and Ruggedness. In a global analysis of brands, Aaker and her colleagues revealed two novel brand personality dimensions. In Japan, individuals viewed brands as Peaceful, and in Spain, individuals viewed brands as Passionate. Aakers model showed that brand personality dimensions influence consumer preference and choice and provided a framework that illuminated how to build strong global brands that meet multi-cultural needs.

In 2002, Aaker shifted her research focus to understanding time, money, and happiness. In this work, she suggested that time is a resource that, like money, is not only important but more subjective than we think. In 2010, she published two papers with Sep Kamvar and Cassie Mogilner on the dynamic meaning of happiness. Prior research had suggested that the meaning of happiness is either similar across individuals or highly subjective and idiosyncratic. Aaker and her colleagues show that the answer lies between the two and that there is in fact a predictable shift in the meaning of happiness and how it is experienced over ones life and even within the day or week. The research also showed that the meaning of happiness that one holds impacts the choices people make.

Aaker has also examined questions such as why people give to others, how small acts create significant change, and how those effects can be fueled by social media.

In 2010, Aaker and her husband, startup advisor Andy Smith, authored the book The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change. With a title inspired by the dragonflys unique ability to propel itself in any direction when its four wings worked in concert, the book examined the manner in which synchronized ideas can be used to create rapid transformations through social media. A literary award winner, The Dragonfly Effect has been translated into over 10 languages. In 2013, Aaker, Smith, and McCarthy published The Power of Stories, a companion to The Dragonfly Effect, which further explored social media through psychological insight and provided a hands-on tool to help companies put the model to work.

In a real world demonstration of the Dragonfly Effect, Aaker and her students founded 100K Cheeks, an organization dedicated to registering 100.000 South Asian donors in the National Bone Marrow Registry. In addition to utilizing social networks, Aaker ran the first ever cheek swab in India. As a result of these efforts, 100K Cheeks exceeded their goal by registering more than 115.000 potential donors. "Social media is not inherently meaningful," Aaker said in an interview on the subject. "Yet the power of social technology, when fully engaged, can be nothing short of revolutionary."


3. Books

  • Aaker, Jennifer December 2013. "Text". Devon Made It: One Boys Journey in NYC. By Smith, Devon. CreateSpace. ISBN 9781494400811.
  • Aaker, Jennifer November 2013. "Text". Keep Calm, Play Hard: One Players Journey in New York City. By Smith, Cooper. CreateSpace. ISBN 978-1494278342.
  • Smith, Andrew; McCarthy, Barbara; Aaker, Jennifer April 2013. Dragonfly Effect Workbook: The Power of Stories. CreateSpace. ISBN 978-1-4841-8438-7.
  • Aaker, Jennifer December 2013. "Text". Tea Sloanes Adventure: A Sparkly Tale of Whimsy and Meaning Found in NYC. By Smith, Tea Sloane. CreateSpace. ISBN 9781494471064.
  • Aaker, Jennifer; Smith, Andy September 2010. The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways To Use Social Media to Drive Social Change. Jossey-Bass. ISBN 978-0-470-61415-0.

4. Selected publications

  • Baumeister, Roy F.; Vohs, Kathleen D.; Aaker, Jennifer; Garbinsky, Emily N. 2013. "Some Key Differences between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life". Journal of Positive Psychology. 8 6: 505–516. doi:10.1080/17439760.2013.830764.
  • The Shifting Meaning of Happiness 2010 Mogilner, Kamvar and Aaker, SPPS
  • Non-Profits Are Seen as Warm and For-Profits as Competent 2010, Aaker, Vohs and Mogilner, JCR
  • When Good Brands Do Bad 2004, Aaker, Fournier, and Brasel, JCR
  • The Happiness of Giving: The Time-Ask Effect 2008, Liu and Aaker, JCR
  • Dimensions of Brand Personality 1997, Aaker, JMR
  • Consumption Symbols as Carriers of Culture 2001, Aaker, Benet-Martinez, and Garolera, JPSP
  • If Money Doesnt Make You Happy, Consider Time 2011, Aaker, Rudd, and Mogilner, JCP
  • Awe Expands Peoples Perception of Time and Enhances Well-Being 2012, Rudd, Vohs, and Aaker, Psychological Science.
  • The Time versus Money Effect 2009, Mogilner and Aaker, JCR
  • How Happiness Impacts Choice 2012, Mogilner, Aaker and Kamvar, JCR
  • Can Mixed Emotions Peacefully Co-Exist? 2002, Williams and Aaker, JCR


5. Honors and awards

  • Citibank Best Teacher Award, UCLA, 1999
  • MBA Professor of the Year, Poets & Quants, 2019
  • Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, Society for Consumer Psychology, 2014
  • Early Career Award for Outstanding Research, Society for Consumer Psychology, 2003
  • George Robbins Best Teacher Award, UCLA, 1998
  • Distinguished Teaching Award, Stanford, 2000
  • Robert K. Jaedicke Silver Apple Award, Stanford, 2011