Many brands work on strengthening brand bonds and building interpersonal relationships with consumers via anthropomorphism. However, different characters of brand anthropomorphism attract different consumers, and researches on this issue are rather limited. This study explores how a consumer’s subjective status influences his/her buying intention over two types of the anthropomorphic brand: “brand as a servant” and “brand as a partner”. Through three experiments, we find that:（1）The “servant brand” makes consumers feel that they have higher status than the brand, whereas the “partner brand” makes consumers feel relatively equal with the brand.（2）Consumers’ purchase intention to anthropomorphic brands is moderated by their subjective status: individuals with lower subjective status have significantly higher purchase intention to the “servant brand” than the “partner brand”; while individuals with higher subjective status have no significant difference in the purchase intention on the two types of anthropomorphic brands.（3）The moderated mediator analysis shows that individuals with lower subjective status perceive that the “servant brand”（vs. the “partner brand”）provides significantly stronger sense of status which in turn increases their purchase intention; this compensation mechanism does not exist among consumers with higher subjective status — they do not perceive the difference in the sense of status provided by the two anthropomorphic brands, and therefore show no significant difference in the purchase intention.（4）The actual change of the consumer status by anthropomorphic brands does not affect the purchase intention, what really matters is consumers’ perception of the “sense of status provided” by anthropomorphic brands.（5）Such compensation mechanism is independent of the product type, that is, no matter the product is a hedonic or a utilitarian one, individuals with lower subjective status have significant preference on the “servant brand”（vs. the “partner brand”）. Theoretically, this paper focuses on the social attributes of brand anthropomorphism and its impacts, and the results provide new evidence for the social interaction effect brought by brand anthropomorphism. Moreover, this study not only extends the research on status consumption from the field of material consumption to service experience and brand relationship, but also extends the research on status management of consumers from luxury products to ordinary products. In practice, this study points out that the focus in consumer status management is to provide a sense of status, rather than bringing an actual change of the consumers status. Moreover, when marketers design brand anthropomorphism strategies, the “servant brand” will benefit more in the middle- or lower-class markets, in the second- or third-tier cities, and when consumers are in the situation of status threat.
Status Compensation: The Effect of Brand Anthropomorphism “Brand as a Servant” on the Purchase Intention
Foreign Economics & Management Vol. 42, Issue 02, pp. 43 - 58 (2020) DOI:10.16538/j.cnki.fem.20191112.001
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Cite this article
Zhou Yijin, Mao Shiman, Chen Xiaoyan. Status Compensation: The Effect of Brand Anthropomorphism “Brand as a Servant” on the Purchase Intention[J]. Foreign Economics & Management, 2020, 42(2): 43-58.