Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Seeing brands as people

02.12.2011
When people see brands as people they tend to change their behavior depending on how they feel about the brand

From the Michelin Man to the Pillsbury Doughboy, anthropomorphized brands have often been used by companies eager to put a personal face on their products. Now new research shows that thinking about brands as people can make you either take on the brand's characteristics or display the opposite characteristics, depending on how you feel about the brand.

Pankaj Agggarwal, a professor in the Department of Management at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) untangled some of the complexities in an upcoming paper in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Aggarwal, along with Ann L. McGill of the University of Chicago, looked at an effect called behavioral priming. Previous research has shown that you can affect people's behavior by reminding them about a social group. For instance, if you talk to people about the elderly, those who feel positively about the elderly will unconsciously mimic them by walking more slowly; people with negative feelings about the elderly will walk more quickly. Without realizing it people are trying to either show social affinity to the elderly or reject them.

Other research has shown that the same behavior happens with brands, even when they don't have a human-like mascot like the Doughboy. In one previous experiment, participants exposed to the Apple brand behaved more creatively, and those exposed to the Disney brand behaved more honestly than others. The brands were exerting a "quasi-social" influence.

But Aggarwal and McGill found that it's not as simple as merely liking or disliking a brand. In a series of experiments they confirmed the social priming effect, but also showed that the social role that the brand represented also had an effect on behavior. Specifically, they looked at the difference between a brand that was perceived as a "partner," and one that was perceived as a "servant."

For instance, in one part of the experiment the researchers used questions about the Volvo automobile, which is perceived as extremely safe. They manipulated whether participants saw the Volvo as a partner ("Volvo. Works With You. Helping You Take Care of What's Important.") or a servant ("Volvo. Works For You Taking Care of What's Important.") Participants were asked to think of the brand as a person, and then were asked questions about what risks they would take in a gambling situation, and finally how likeable they found the Volvo brand.

People who saw the brand as a partner and liked it said they would take fewer risks; people who saw it as a partner and disliked it said they would take more risks. The opposite was true when the Volvo was seen as a servant: those who liked it said they would take more risks, and those who disliked it said they would take fewer risks.

What was going on? Aggarwal and McGill explain that the two different roles, partner and servant, elicit different goals. In partners we like we want to show our affinity by behaving like them. In partners we dislike we want to drive them away by behaving differently. With servants we like, however, we want to show that we need them -- in the case of Volvo, participants showed they were careless and needed Volvo to perform the role of safety provider. People who disliked Volvo behaved carefully, to show they didn't need Volvo's services.

No one had these thoughts consciously, Aggarwal says. Rather they were the effect of automatic social behaviors which participants unthinkingly applied to brands once they started to imagine them as people.

"Prof. Aggarwal's research explores how cognitive mechanisms that evolved in humanity's distant past interact with our 21st Century world, often in surprising ways. His research promises to help us understand how and why we behave the way we do in our modern consumer culture," says Malcolm Campbell, UTSC vice-principal, research.

The next step, Aggarwal says, is to explore other roles that brands can take on and see how those affect our willingness to take on their characteristics.

For more information please contact:
Pankaj Aggarwal, professor, UTSC department of management
416- 287-5614
aggarwal@utsc.utoronto.ca

Pankaj Aggarwal | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.utoronto.ca

More articles from Business and Finance:

nachricht Microtechnology industry is hiring – positive developments of past years continue
09.04.2018 | IVAM Fachverband für Mikrotechnik

nachricht RWI/ISL-Container Throughput Index with minor decline on a high overall level
20.03.2018 | RWI – Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung

All articles from Business and Finance >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Excitation of robust materials

Kiel physics team observed extremely fast electronic changes in real time in a special material class

In physics, they are currently the subject of intensive research; in electronics, they could enable completely new functions. So-called topological materials...

Im Focus: Electrons in the fast lane

Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.

Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....

Im Focus: The lightest electromagnetic shielding material in the world

Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.

Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...

Im Focus: Gentle wall contact – the right scenario for a fusion power plant

Quasi-continuous power exhaust developed as a wall-friendly method on ASDEX Upgrade

A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...

Im Focus: ILA Goes Digital – Automation & Production Technology for Adaptable Aircraft Production

Live event – July 1, 2020 - 11:00 to 11:45 (CET)
"Automation in Aerospace Industry @ Fraunhofer IFAM"

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM l Stade is presenting its forward-looking R&D portfolio for the first time at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Contact Tracing Apps against COVID-19: German National Academy Leopoldina hosts international virtual panel discussion

07.07.2020 | Event News

International conference QuApps shows status quo of quantum technology

02.07.2020 | Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

On-chip spin-Hall nanograting for simultaneously detecting phase and polarization singularities

08.07.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Engineers use electricity to clean up toxic water

08.07.2020 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Atomic 'Swiss army knife' precisely measures materials for quantum computers

08.07.2020 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>