Anthropomorphic branding: When my beer talks to me!

anthropomorphismWhen was the last time your beer gave you some good advise? Or maybe you had a chat with your tea bag? Well, if you think that evidently Monday mornings isn’t the right time for me to write blog posts, think again. Do you like brands on Facebook? If you do, the chances are that you have seen anthropomorphic branding in action.

What Antropomorphism means is that “human like” characteristics are attributed to non-human things. In Literature for example, you can find many examples of animals “masquerading” as humans – George Orwell’s Animal Farm for example. Related to marketing, anthropomorphic branding is really an evolution of concepts such as brand personality, where marketers try to establish “personality traits” of a particular brand. Within the context of social networks in particular, reflecting a certain personality has evolved beyond the previously quite distinct spaces in which brands “acted” (such as commercials) into a blurred space of human to human interaction and human to brand interaction. While it is true that many brands are still using a “sales” approach in social networks, i.e. telling you about the advantages of a particular product, many other brands are using more ambiguous techniques. For example, many brands are avoiding direct sales pitches, instead focusing on status updates like the following:
peroniHow does that look like to you when you see that in your news feed? You probably did not answer “like Peroni trying to sell me some beer”. Rather it seems (at least at first glance) like just another friend posting an inspirational quote. That it happens to be posted by a beer brand is quite secondary.

In other words, the marketers appear to be creating the impression with their status updates that the brand is not about the beer, but is actually about a particular lifestyle, and almost acts like a “real” person (in case you wonder, this particular brand also has status updates about going skiing, going to the opera etc – not usually activities usually associated with a beer as the main “actor”). In other words, it seems very much that some marketers are actively encouraging the consumer (or at least their fans) to see them as almost human, hence anthropomorphic branding.

Anthropomorphic branding raises a couple of interesting questions: For example to what extent do consumers exposed to anthropomorphic branding start to attribute human-like intentions and behaviour to brands? Do all consumers eventually start to attribute these?
What is the effect on persuasion knowledge? Is anthropomorphic branding a way to undermine the “protection” from persuasion knowledge? To what extent is it effective in doing this?
And to what extent is it effective in building a brand image and purchase intention? Does it lead to almost human like emotional connections? Or will the lack of persuasive arguments to buy a product have a negative effect on purchase intention? Moreover, is there a balance of anthropomorphic branding and sales pitch that is likely to be the most effective?

What do you think? Do you follow “anthropomorphic brands”? Is this technique effective?

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