The importance of individual difference : examining anthropomorphic tendency and responses to spokes-characters

Letheren, Kate (2013) The importance of individual difference : examining anthropomorphic tendency and responses to spokes-characters. In QUT Colloquium, 13 September 2013, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD. (Unpublished)

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Anthropomorphism is a cognitive bias, which occurs when individuals see human characteristics in a non-human agent, object or animal. Anthropomorphism is especially interesting to marketers, because once anthropomorphic bias has been triggered, it can lead to a greater feeling of connectedness to a non-human agent (Tam, Lee and Chao, 2013), the emulation of behaviours (Aggarwal and McGill, 2012) or greater attribution of brand personality and brand liking (Delbaere, McQuarrie and Phillips, 2011). Importantly, research now shows that levels of this tendency vary between individuals (Waytz, Cacioppo and Epley, 2010), but research to date has failed to focus on how anthropomorphic tendency influences individual responses to marketing communications messages.

Spokes-characters present an ideal context through which to examine this gap, given that they function as personified brands, designed to trigger consumer anthropomorphic tendency. Further, little is understood about how spokes-characters operate and which consumers will prefer them to their human counterparts. Like anthropomorphic research, much empirical work to date has focused on design and outcomes, examining the sender’s encoding process and the feedback generated, but ignoring the individual decoding process that is so important to understanding individual differences and message effectiveness.

The current research employs three experiments using an online survey with stimulus exposure to show that anthropomorphic tendency, personality similarity and spokes-character type all have relevance to the understanding of this complex relationship. Study one and two indicate that while a human spokesperson is still preferred by many, higher levels of anthropomorphic tendency increase likeability of cartoon spokes characters. Study three highlights the importance of personality similarity, which further increases likability. Additional analyses provide key findings concerning the nature of anthropomorphic tendency as an individual difference and trait.

This research contributes to a greater understanding of anthropomorphism theory and fills existing gaps in the consumer psychology and marketing communications literature.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 62984
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Refereed: No
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 The Author
Deposited On: 03 Oct 2013 02:50
Last Modified: 26 Nov 2013 16:06

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