The Point of Attachment Podcast: Anthro-po … what?

Run Time: about 23 minutes

It. Is. Alive!

At least, that’s what marketers want you to think. Some of the most successful brands of all time win consumer trust and affection by seeming human. Academics call it anthropomorphism, which is a really horrible word to describe a phenomenon that leads consumers to perceive human qualities and characteristics in inhuman things.

In this all-new episode of THE POINT OF ATTACHMENT, we explore new insights and research on anthropomorphism. We start in conversation with Professors Ann McGill and Maferima (Rima) Touré-Tillery, who recently co-authored a study that was published in the Journal of Marketing. It explored whether anthropomorphic brands were more persuasive than non-anthropomorphic brands.

An example of an anthropomorphized product. Lily is a drone camera. She has a human name ... and a face.

An example of an anthropomorphized product. Lily is a drone camera. She has a human name … and a face.


Should I have a human being talk to you and tell you about what’s great about this dental floss or should the dental floss tell you itself?


Low-trusters, the people who don’t trust other people, have a tendency to be a lot more comfortable and be a lot more persuaded by talking objects. The reason for this is that low-trusters don’t trust people.

Next, we wonder how one creates an anthropomorphic brand. We went to a reliable source. J.J. Sedelmaier, is a legendary animator who has created work for Saturday Night Live and MTV. He has also animated personas for many consumer brands. He describes how he recently “re-animated” the scrubbing bubbles.


There is a definite soft spot in people’s DNA for animation, whether it’s CG, whether it’s cartoon. Your guard is let down so much, and you let the thing in because you have this background…

Clucking Chicken parody piece animated by JJ Sedelmaier for SNL

Finally, we talk to Julia Hur, a graduate student at Northwestern University who co-authored a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research that found an interesting new insight about anthropomorphized brands: they might lower our self-control.


People feel less responsible for the outcome or situation when there are other people around them…In our case, the others [were] anthropomorphized products instead of actual people. Consumers [felt] less responsible for their consumption of how many cookies they [ate] or how much money they [spent].


Featured Guests

Ann L. McGill

Ann McGill is the Sears Roebuck Professor of General Management, Marketing and Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Her research has focused extensively on product and brand anthropomorphism. McGill won the 2005 McKinsey Award for Excellence in Teaching at the University of Chicago.

Maferima Toure-Tillery

Maferima Touré-Tillery is an assistant professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She studies consumer behavior with emphasis on motivation and persuasion. Her work has been published in major business and psychology journals such as the Journal of Marketing and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

J.J. Sedelmaier

J.J. Sedelmaier is the President of J.J. Sedelmaier Productions, which has produced some of the most memorable animated comedy productions of the past two decades, including the launch season of MTV’s Beavis and Butt-Head, SNL’s Saturday TV Funhouse (Ambiguously Gay Duo, X-Presidents, Fun With Real Audio), Cartoon Network/Adult Swim’s Harvey Birdman–Attorney at Law, and the Tek Jansen/Alpha Squad Seven for The Colbert Report. He has also animated and produced numerous projects for corporate brands such as The Chicago Tribune, Nickelodeon, SC Johnson, Alka-Seltzer and Converse.

Julia Hur

Julia Hur is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Management and Organizations from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She graduated from Yonsei University with a B.A. in Psychology. Her research centers on the process of goal pursuit, and examines how various environmental factors, from one’s organizations to temptations, facilitate or impede goal pursuit.

The Point of Attachment’s theme music is by Daniel Munkus

The Point of Attachment is a podcast series developed and produced by UTA Brand Studio. It focuses on what draws people to brands through the lens of culture, design and storytelling. It is hosted by Larry Vincent and produced by Frances Harlow.

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