What’s This Thing Called Love? Exploring the Relationship Between Brand Love, Personality, and the Propensity to Anthropomorphize

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Abstract:

As the value of brands represents enormous amounts of money to companies, understanding how to influence what drives consumers in their brand selections and brand loyalties is a matter of great importance. The present study, conducted through an online survey amongst 410 students between 18 and 26, contributes to a further understanding of this by examining the influence of personality (as measured by the big five), the propensity to anthropomorphize and product type grid on brand love. For the latter the BAB model of brand love, as developed by Batra, Ahuvia and Bagozzi in 2012, was selected because it is the first empirically constituted grounded prototype in the field.

The first goal, as expressed in RQ1, was to find out to what extent personality influences the BAB prototype and its seven antecedent elements? This study found no evidence for hypotheses one and two that both extroversion and neuroticism are positively associated with brand love. Instead the results showed the personality factor of openness to significantly predict towards the brand love prototype and some of its facets. The second goal was to study the role of anthropomorphisation (ATP) as a mediator between personality and brand love as correspondingly formulated in RQ2, to what extent does the propensity to anthropomorphize mediate the influence of personality on the brand love prototype? This study found no mediator influence of ATP. Hypotheses three, the relation between the independent variable personality and the dependent variable brand love is mediated by the propensity to apply ATP, cannot be supported therefor. Instead a highly significant direct effect of the propensity to anthropomorphize on the brand love prototype was found. The higher this level is the higher are the brand love scores. This is potentially valuable information both for practitioners and the world of academia since it is the first time that the influence of anthropomorphisation on brand love was empirically demonstrated. The third and final objective of this study was to investigate the influence of the product category, on the brand love prototype scores. This was presented in RQ3, to what extent does the consumer’s categorization of products directly influence the brand love scores.

This study demonstrated that the level of involvement as well as whether a product belongs to the informational or transformational category does indeed influence the brand love scores directly. Transformational as well as high involvement products receive higher scores on brand love than informational and low involvement products. Hypothesis four that brands that belong to the high involvement category and hypothesis five that transformational brands receive higher scores on brand love than, respectively, low involvement brands and informational brands are therefore supported. Additionally, and finally, this study demonstrated the applicability of the brand love prototype in the Netherlands, the shortened scale used to measure this, the validity of the RP grid as well as the applicability of the new brand anthropomorphisation scale, which can all be added to the body of knowledge.

The realization that anthropomorphisation increases the personal value of products takes place automatically and non-consciously, can potentially lead to automatic behaviour, as well as the findings of this study will hopefully lead product managers to apply ATP towards the architecture of their brands by design. People will apply ATP automatically by their own, non-conscious, choosing anyhow. If practitioners do not actively manage this process it might lead to non-desirable outcomes for their brands as well. Why not apply it consciously then? Several suggestions for this are presented. Further studies into the role of the big five and brand love in other cultures, the influence of needs and motivational structures on brand love as well as further investigations into how ATP can be successfully manipulated by practitioners to increase brand love are suggested. Additionally the development of a reliable shorter brand love item scale will be helpful since other constructs could then be added in future studies to further investigate what contributes to brand love.