ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2014, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (7): 987-999.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.00987

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Have A Good Chat with the Brand: The Impact of Personified Brand Communication on Consumer Brand Attitude

WANG Tao;XIE Zhipeng;CUI Nan   

  1. (Department of Marketing and Tourism Mangement, Economics and Management School, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, China)
  • Received:2013-07-15 Published:2014-07-25 Online:2014-07-25
  • Contact: XIE Zhipeng


The SNS (social networks) based personified brand communication not only differentiates the given brand from its competitors, but also alters the way the consumers perceive the brand. This study thus examines the outcomes of personified brand communication based on the theories of psychological reactance, which predicts that consumers are more willing to make shopping decision on their own, and thus avoid any possibilities of exterior interference. This paper proposes that the effects of personified brand communication are mediated by consumers’ perceived sense of freedom, which eventually leads to enhanced consumer attitude. Last but not least, this study examines the impact of regulatory focus on personification effectiveness. For the pre-test, the researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 21 participants randomly selected from Wuhan University. The purpose of the pre-test was to establish theoretical stability of personified communication. In Study 1, the researchers conducted 3 separated experiments to test the impact of personified communication on participants’ perception of a brand. The purpose of having multiple test groups was to eliminate the possible influence of brand name on consumer attitude. 91 participants participated in this study. The researchers used different versions of brand advertisement to manipulate the perception of personified/ non-personified brand communication style. 132 participants participated in Study 2. The study adopted a 2 (personified communication vs. non-personified communication) × 2 (promotion focus vs. prevention focus) between-subject design. The purpose was to determine the moderating effect of regulatory focuses. The researchers adopted Wan, Hong and Sternthal’s (2009) method to prime consumers’ different focuses (entertainment company vs. insurance company). Study 3 followed similar procedures as previous tests. The purpose of Study 3 was two-fold: firstly, it replicated the results of previous studies using different means to control the regulatory focuses (Hagtvedt, 2011); secondly, it tested the mediating effect of sense of freedom. The results of this study were three-fold: to start with, irrelevant information is a key dimension in personified brand communication; secondly, personified brand communication can give rise to consumers’ perceived sense of freedom, which then can enhance their attitude towards the brand; in addition, such effect is moderated by consumer regulatory focuses that is comparing to consumers who had prevention focus, personification has a more positive effect for consumers who have promotion focus. The results of this study enrich the theoretical value of personification in marketing in three ways: firstly, it focused on the key dimension of brand personification instead of treating personification as a single dimensional concept. In doing that, this study not only identified the mechanism underneath the personification effectiveness on consumer brand attitude based on psychological reactance theory, but also the circumstances where personification is most suitable (promotion focus). In addition, this study implies the importance of sense freedom in sustaining long-term consumer-brand relationship. Finally, this study provides feasible guideline for companies to personify their brands.

Key words: personification, regulatory focus theory, promotion focus, prevention focus, psychological reactance