When Brands Seem Human, Do Humans Act Like Brands? Automatic Behavioral Priming Effects of Brand Anthropomorphism
This research examines automatic behavioral effects of priming brands that are anthropomorphized. It posits that anthropomorphized brands trigger people’s goals for a successful social interaction, resulting in behavior that is assimilative or contrastive to the brand’s image. Three studies show that consumers are more likely to assimilate behavior associated with anthropomorphized partner brands that they like, consistent with the goal of drawing in the liked coproducer, and servant brands that they dislike, consistent with the goal of pushing the disliked would-be helper away by signaling self-sufficiency. Results also show a contrastive behavior when primed with disliked partner brands and liked servant brands. These effects are observed in contexts unrelated to the brand prime. For example, priming Kellogg’s, a liked partner brand associated with healthfulness, led to greater willingness to take the stairs than the elevator in a purportedly unrelated study. No effects were observed of priming brands that were not anthropomorphized.
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