If doughnuts could talk they'd tell you to take the elevator instead of the stairs

Jan 17, 2012

Humanizing a brand can influence consumer behavior in a healthy or unhealthy direction—depending on how they envision the brand, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"This research suggests that people's behavior will be influenced by the brands they have been asked to think about," write authors Pankaj Aggarwal (University of Toronto) and Ann L. McGill (University of Chicago).

The authors conducted three laboratory studies where they asked half of the participants to imagine well-known brands as coming to life as a person (anthropomorphizing). Other participants were not instructed to think about brands in human terms. Anthropomorphizing participants considered some brands to be partners (working along with the consumers to achieve benefits) and others to be servants (the brand did work on behalf of the consumer).

After thinking about Kellogg's or Krispy Kreme, participants were asked to do a second study where they were asked about day-to-day judgments. They were asked if they would take the stairs (healthy behavior) or the elevator (less healthy behavior) in their building. "Those who had earlier been thinking about a humanized Kellogg were more likely to take the stairs, consistent with the Kellogg's image, but those thinking about Krispy Kreme were more likely to take the elevator, consistent with the Krispy Kreme image, provided they liked the brand," the authors write.

For a "servant brand" (like Volvo, known for safety), people behaved in opposite ways from the brand's image. "People who thought about the humanized Volvo took on more risk [in gambling], accepting less and less advantageous gambles, behavior that is the opposite of the brand reputation."

"Whether or not people's behavior was affected by the brand depended on how they had been asked to envision the brand, specifically, as coming to life as a person or not," the authors write. "Then whether they acted like the brand's image or the opposite depended on whether the brand seemed to play a role more like a partner in their lives or a servant to them, and whether they liked it or not."

Explore further: Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

More information: Pankaj Aggarwal and Ann L. McGill. "When Brands Seem Human, Do Humans Act Like Brands? Automatic Behavioral Priming Effects of Brand Anthropomorphism." Journal of Consumer Research: August 2012 (published online November 11, 2011).

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Seeing brands as people

Dec 02, 2011

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 ...

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

drel
not rated yet Jan 17, 2012
"If doughnuts could talk they'd tell you to take the elevator instead of the stairs"

WRONG - If doughnuts could talk they'd tell you to "EAT ME"!
Shelgeyr
not rated yet Jan 17, 2012
If doughnuts could talk they'd tell you to take the elevator instead of the stairs


Thus spake "Science!"

Would somebody please explain in what possible way this belongs on a science site? And yes, I read it.

...where they asked half of the participants...


I'd like to see some numbers, and also how they structured their controls ("not being asked to think in human term" is a bit vague).

More news stories

Clippers and coiners in 16th-century England

In 2017 a new £1 coin will appear in our pockets with a design extremely difficult to forge. In the mid-16th century, Elizabeth I's government came up with a series of measures to deter "divers evil persons" ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...