In spite of the ubiquity of brand personification (BP) in advertising, research that examines it effects directly is limited. This study explores the effect of verbal BP on consumer response and the underlying mechanisms involved. In addition, we identified the conditions under which BP has no effect. Unlike prior research, this study focuses on the two types of verbal BP images: internal (“kind”) and external (“good-looking”). Specifically, Study 1 tests the moderating effect of Brand Knowledge (BK) between internal verbal BP and consumer’s evaluation of brand and the underlying mechanisms (brand intimacy and psychological discomfort). Study 2 validates the effect—in particular, that of the need-for-cognition on the attitude toward a BP advertisement—of external verbal BP on the evaluation of advertisements and the underlying mechanisms (perceived novelty and cognitive resistance). This research could provide marketers developing headline copies and slogans for BP advertisements with useful guidelines through a better understanding of the boundary conditions and mechanisms determining the impact of BP.
Advertisers have frequently created novel advertisements to gain more attention of, and impressions for, the brand’s target consumers (Batra, Lehmann, Burke, & Pae, 1995; Eastlack & Rao, 1986; Cornwell, Lipp, & Purkis, 2016; Taylor & Costello, 2017). Brand personification (BP) strategy is a branding tool that cultivates a unique brand personality and brand differentiation (Fleck, Michel, & Zeitoun, 2014). It shapes consumers’ brand image (Islam & Rahman, 2016); imbuing the brand with human-like traits encourages target consumers to have affective associations with the brand, thereby increasing emotional attachment toward it (Fleck et al., 2014; Aaker, 1997; Fournier, 1998; Park & Kim, 2015). Brand-elicited human-like traits and emotions affect brand preference, while strengthening the brand-consumer relationship (Delbaere, McQuarrie, & Phillips, 2011; Fleck et al., 2014). BP is “the use by a brand of a character with human-like characteristics in packaging, promotion, public relations, or other marketing related purposes” (Cohen, 2014, p.3). Imbuing the brand with humanlike characteristics, motivations, intentions, and emotions is the essence of BP. Therefore, it creates favorable consumer responses, such as positive brand outcomes and advertising outcomes (Epley, Waytz, & Cacioppo, 2007).