From Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications VOL. 5 NO. 2
Humanizing a Brand: Consumer Relationships Through an Anthropomorphic Lens
Though they may not be right for every brand, this study shows that spokescharacters have an undeniably positive effect on brand personalities. The results indicated that having personality traits that the target demographic associates with an ideal self-concept or social identity is not always enough to guarantee the brand’s success. Intelligent and clever use of spokescharacters can personify a brand so effectively that consumers will develop a real relationship with the brand, perhaps one that results in brand love. Spokescharacters support the abilities of consumers to interact with, identify to, and aspire to be what the brand chooses to represent. Marketing professionals should not underestimate the power of spokescharacters and the integration of ideal traits in their own communication strategies or in the strategies of their competitors. Future research will permit the advertising industry to better understand how this personification technique can help elevate brands’ success.
Suggestions for Future Research
While current research proves that the anthropomorphism of brands through spokescharacters strengthens the consumers’ resistance to negative information about brands, little research exists that directly supports the enhancing effect of spokescharacters on brand identification this study examined. Possible follow-up studies could include research that quantifies this effect spokescharacters seem to have on brand identification, as well as further examine the role that specific personality traits play in the brand experience.
Due to the limited scope of this study, its results are subject to dispute. The process of selecting the brands and their traits was subjective. Gender may have played a role in respondents’ brand preference due to the masculine associations of beer and the classification of the body washes as a men’s product. Subjectivity of the traits is also a culpable limitation. Synonyms of the words may have elicited a different response; for instance, being mysterious versus and enigmatic may have differing effects, even though in essence both words share the same definition.
The traits chosen for each brand do not have the support of quantitative data; other traits may have been a stronger representation of the brand’s personality depending on constituent’s perceptions. Lack of demographic information was also a limitation, which did not allow me to account for gender bias, among other demographic related factors. Since women are already making more than half of all body wash purchases, gender may not have been a factor in the Old Spice and Dove Men+Care comparison, but it may have played a larger role in beer brand appeal (“Old Spice,” n.d.).
Watching the commercials embedded in the survey was also not mandatory and it was impossible to determine how many respondents viewed them. If not all of the respondents viewed the same commercials, their brand experience will vary, along with their relationship with the brand and their perception of the brand.
This author is thankful to Dr. David Copeland at Elon University for his supervision and advice, without which the article could not be published. The author also appreciates numerous reviewers who have helped revise this article.
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Appendix A: Survey
Title: Capstone Survey
Description: The purpose of this survey is to identify which traits should be incorporated into brand identity to build brand loyalty.
I. Select three characteristics that you believe are apart of an ideal personality.
a. Laid back
II. Section Header: Please watch the 30-second commercial spots before selecting your brand preference.
III. Embedded Video: “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” Old Spice Commercial (Old Spice, 2010).
IV. Embedded Video: “Outer Layer Care” Dove Men+Care Commercial (Benim, 2013).
a. Select your preferred body wash brand.
V. Embedded Video: “Shoes” Corona TV Commercial (SpotTV, 2014).
VI. Embedded Video: “The World’s Most Interesting Man” Dos Equis TV Commercial (LovePinkCouture, 2010).
a. Select your preferred imported beer.
Appendix B: Survey Results