Current Issue Summary
June 2021 (Vol. 61, Issue 2)
How Anthropomorphized Brand Spokescharacters Affect Consumer Perceptions and Judgments: Is Being Cute Helpful or Harmful to Brands?
This investigation demonstrates the advantages of brands creating their own endorsees, and thus avoiding the marketing trauma associated with spokesperson celebrities getting caught up in scandals. As part of their methodology, the researchers—Chun-Tuan Chang (National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan), Xing-Yu (Marcos) Chu (Nanjing University Business School-Nanjing, China) and Shih-Ting Kao (Unilever Food Solutions, Shanghai)—conducted three studies with two types of spokescharacters: one with cute facial and bodily features, the other mature. There were also different types of advertising language (assertive vs. nonassertive) and two different relationship types (communal vs. exchange). Chang, Chu and Kao found that “a cute anthropomorphized spokescharacter has the advantage when nonassertive language is used in the advertisement and consumers perceive their relationship with the brand as communal.” As such, the communal norm allows consumers to infer the warmth of the brand.
Among the other takeaways:
- Using a mature character and assertive language has the opposite effect: “When consumers consider their relationship with the brand as one of exchange, using assertive language in the advertisement can cause the cute, anthropomorphized spokescharacter to backfire,” the authors warn.
- Although different types of spokescharacters can work well for companies, “a cute, anthropomorphized spokescharacter more likely will backfire than a mature (one) when persuasion knowledge is present.”
- When deciding on the use of spokescharacters, marketing managers must know what relationship norm is most easily invoked. If it is communal, cute will work. If it is exchange, mature is better.
Read the full article here.