TitleWhen Humanizing Brands Goes Wrong: The Detrimental Role of Brand Anthropomorphization Amidst Product Wrongdoings
Publication TypeJournal Articles
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsPuzakova, M, Kwak, H, Rocereto, J
JournalJournal of Marketing
Date Published2013
KeywordsMarketing, MBA

The brand relationship literature shows that the humanizing of brands and products generates more favorable consumer attitudes and thus enhances brand performance. However, the authors propose negative downstream consequences of brand humanization—that is, the anthropomorphization of a brand can negatively affect consumers’ brand evaluations when the brand faces negative publicity caused by product wrongdoings. They find that consumers who believe in personality stability (i.e., entity theorists) view anthropomorphized brands that undergo negative publicity less favorably than non-anthropomorphized brands. In contrast, consumers who advocate personality malleability (i.e., incremental theorists) are less likely to devalue an anthropomorphized brand from a single instance of negative publicity. Finally, the authors explore three firm response strategies (i.e., denial, apology, and compensation) that can affect the evaluations of anthropomorphized brands between consumers with different implicit theory perspectives. They find that entity theorists have more difficulty in combating the adverse effects of brand anthropomorphization than incremental theorists. Furthermore, they demonstrate that compensation (vs. denial or apology) is the only effective response among entity theorists.