Humanizing Brands: When Brands Seem to Be Like Me, Part of Me, and in a Relationship with Me

Posted: 27 Dec 2016

See all articles by Deborah J. MacInnis

Deborah J. MacInnis

University of Southern California - Marketing Department

Valerie Folkes

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

Date Written: December 26, 2016

Abstract

We review a growing body of research in consumer behavior that has examined when consumers humanize brands by perceiving them as like, part of, or in a relationship with themselves. One research stream shows that sometimes consumers perceive brands as having human-like forms, minds, and personality characteristics. A second stream identifies ways that a consumer perceives a brand as being congruent with or connected to the self. Finally, a third highlights that consumers can view brands in ways that are analogous to the types of relationships they have with people. We review research in these three areas and point out connections among these research streams. In part, we accomplish this by showing that factors associated with the SEEK model, which are designed to explain anthropomorphic tendencies, are also relevant to other ways of humanizing brands. We identify major propositions derived from this research and several areas for which additional research is needed. We conclude with recommendations for the many opportunities for expanding our conceptual and empirical understanding of this domain.

Suggested Citation

MacInnis, Deborah J. and Folkes, Valerie, Humanizing Brands: When Brands Seem to Be Like Me, Part of Me, and in a Relationship with Me (December 26, 2016). Marshall School of Business Working Paper No. 17-8. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2890236

Deborah J. MacInnis (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Marketing Department ( email )

Hoffman Hall 701
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1427
United States

Valerie Folkes

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

701 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

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