Call it the Pillsbury Doughboy effect, or blame the Kool-Aid Man — a new study published in the Journal of Marketing suggests that as consumers, we’re more likely to feel strongly toward a product’s price increase or reduction if we associate that brand with human-like qualities.
“Brand anthropomorphization increases the perceived unfairness of price increases and the perceived fairness of price decreases,” the researchers suggest, not least because we project human characteristics and traits on a brand, and the company behind that brand.
Whether prices go up or down, anthropomorphization, or the humanization of a product, makes us take those changes a little more personally than we would from a faceless company, with which we have less of a perceived relationship.
Interestingly, these results differed based on the kind of consumer. Agency-oriented consumers, “who tend to maximize their own self-interests,” perceived price increased unfairly, while communion-oriented consumers, “who generally consider the needs of others,” perceived fairness in both increases and decreases.