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.
In late 2012 researchers published a study in the journal Nature that asserted breast cancer was not a single disease, but rather an umbrella for ten genetically distinct diseases. This finding was significant because it revealed the need for nuances in treatment. One genetic type of the disease will respond to a protocol in a very different way than another. By understanding the fundamental differences, scientists have a richer understanding of how to treat each variant, to save more lives, and to reduce the trial-and-error approach that leads many women and men to suffer agonizing paths to wellness.
Marketers would do well to learn from this breakthrough in the science lab. In the same way “breast cancer” is not homogenous, “brand” is a blanket term that encapsulates increasingly diverse subtypes. Yet, managers and consultants generally approach brand development and management uniformly. Survey the landscape of branding and marketing agencies and you will find some differences in the semantic language used to express essentially the same framework for brand strategy: a positioning or promise statement, followed by an articulation of values (or pillars that define differentiating behaviors) and some collection of descriptive attributes that are variously referred to as “personality,” “voice,” and/or “DNA.”