Brand anthropomorphism, brand attitude and purchase intention in a social media context

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
65 + 1
Business management has attached humanlike traits and attributes to their brands to make them more attractive to consumers for as long as there have been brands. When a brand is perceived by consumers as humanlike, the phenomenon is called brand anthropomorphism. The general idea has been that humanlike products and brands are more relatable, affectionate and attractive to consumers. However, due to the complexity of anthropomorphism as a phenomenon, its outcomes can often be unexpected and i.e. the often-assumed connection between brand attitude and purchase intention can be interrupted. As consumers grow weary of online advertisement and consider social media branding efforts an intrusion to consumers’ domain, it becomes increasingly important for brands to adapt. Brand anthropomorphism could by definition make consumers consider brands more humanlike, and thus a less intrusive agent in this context. However, the downsides of the phenomenon lack in academic research. To answer this academic and managerial need, this thesis explores three research questions: Does brand anthropomorphism affect purchase intentions? Does brand anthropomorphism affect the relationship between brand attitude and purchase intentions? What kind of anthropomorphic social media behaviour can affect brand anthropomorphism? This thesis proposes a research framework for which it develops a measure for anthropomorphic social media behaviour of brands, and uses measures from existing literature for measuring brand anthropomorphism, brand attitude, purchase intention and social media participation. The interrelations of these measures are analysed through multiple linear regression analyses. The results indicate that: brand anthropomorphism in a social media context does not have significant effect on purchase intentions; brand anthropomorphism is a valid predictor for improved brand attitude, but this attitude is not translated into purchase intentions; and rather than the behaviour of a brand, exposure and interaction with a brand on social media increases brand anthropomorphism. The results support the claim that brand anthropomorphism does have positive impact on brand attitude, but does not necessarily result in the desired outcomes for purchase intentions. Managerial implications and avenues for future research are provided.
Thesis advisor
Kajalo, Sami
brand anthropomorphism, purchase intention, social media, branding
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